So What Do The Numbers Say?
First, let’s look at where the record stands for games and hardware sales year on year. 2015 was a difficult year for the gaming industry. Even though online sales stayed strong, the overall game industry hasn’t gained momentum in the last two years due to a decrease in retail sales. In 2015, Americans spent $13.1B on video games hardware and disc-based software, which was only a negligible increase on 2014. In the UK, things didn’t look much better, with companies like Game Digital reporting an 11.4% fall in sales during the 2015 holiday season. Game Digital pointed to decreasing sales for older console games as the main reason for the decline. Games for new consoles couldn’t make up the difference.
A strong sales recovery this year will help rebuild faith in the direction of gaming. All of this paints a bleak picture for gaming companies. Fortunately, they have a few tricks in their back pocket that should make for an exciting holiday season. Here are the top four trends we’re seeing in the gaming retail for the 2016 holiday shopping season.
Many companies are betting on nostalgia to get consumers to open their pocket book. Nintendo have released an NES Classic with 30 classic games already loaded. Toted as a “nostalgia filled blast to the 80s” by reviewers, the NES Classic will hopefully renew Nintendo’s older fan base. It will also help them introduce the platform to their little ones creating a whole new generation of Nintendo super fans. Pokemon is back too with its release of Sun and Moon for Nintendo 3DS. Pokemon Sun and Moon sold over 2 million copies the first day it released in Japan alone.
Final Fantasy also takes a chance at marketing to nostalgic players with new release Final Fantasy XV – it’s first new installment in six years. Using nostalgia is a proven marketing tactic, especially with millennials, and we expect you’ll continue to see throwbacks to the old days across the gaming scene.
Increased Social Engagement
Gaming is becoming even more social. Jojo Roy, CEO of Sequence, has seen this trend grow enormously in the last year: “We conducted a survey a few months ago that highlights what consumers want in terms of games. In this survey, we found that consumers of all ages, including millennials, want more digital games designed to bring friends and family together. In fact, 81% of millennials wish that more digital games were designed to bring friends and family together.” Jojo points to the overwhelming success of games like Pokemon Go as an example of social gaming. Sequence also found that usage of social multi-player games spike by 110% on weekends, so expect to see your family gaming together over the long holiday breaks!
If Nintendo is looking to the past, Playstation is looking forward with their 2016 releases. The Playstation VR launch in October debuted an affordable, easy to use, VR console that relies on a big brand for it’s appeal.
Jack McCauley, co-founder of Oculus VR, agrees that this is just the start for VR. “It’s exciting to see more people engaging in new, more immersive forms of storytelling,” says McCauley. “The use of VR for gaming, which is where most of the market is focused today, is just an enthusiast market and the tip of the iceberg. A huge untapped market exists in 3D 360-degree video broadcasts of live concerts and sporting events. However, the current technology infrastructure has yet to catch-up to this potential.”
Absolutely – VR is still a new technology, and it hasn’t even found solid footing in the gaming community. For example – following the Samsung Gear VR release earlier this year, only 16% of gamers were aware of its existence. Ouch. Hopefully Playstation’s brand will carry them into the leadership position with serious gamers.
We’re even seeing VR enter the retail world for non-gamers. Earlier this year Neiman Marcus debuted their “memory mirror” which helps shoppers try on outfits, recording a 360 degree video that they can save and send to friends for a second opinion.
Big IP Releases
Tayler Jordan, consumer insights analyst at MaxMedia and professional gamer, points to big IP releases as the main driver of retail patterns for gamers. She’s passionate about the culture of gaming driving big sales – “Gamers are people of community and culture. There’s something rich and satisfying about holding the game you’ve been dying to own. Midnight releases are still hugely popular, people will stand outside in the cold for hours just to get the game as soon as it comes out. This is especially true with deluxe editions of games.” The bigger the hype or the more loved the IP, the more likely gamers will buy physical copies.
Some of the biggest hyped releases this holiday season are Microsoft’s Gears of War 4, Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed and Final Fantasy. Will these classic and loved IPs continue to dominate the charts year after year? Possibly not – we may see less frequent releases of the giants in the future as they look to prevent IP burnout.
With the exception of VR releases, the game industry is heavily reliant on past success to drive current sales. Classic games coming back for a redo and beloved IPs putting out the next release in the series makes it hard for new or indie games to climb the charts. Is it time the next disruptor makes an appearance? We’ll have to wait and see. See you same time same channel in 2017