Say what you will about our drooping economy, 2008 was the year video games sallied forth and did battle with the notion that having "second lives" and wagging remotes at TV screens with brio wasn't merely for the geek chic.
Just check the financials.
According to breaking data from Top Global Markets – a monthly report that integrates retail sales from NPD, GfK Chart-Track, and Enterbrain which cover US, UK, and Japan markets respectively – combined game software sales worldwide grew 11 percent in 2008.
Total units sold? 409.9 million. Compare with 2007's at the time impressive 367.7 million.
That's thanks in part to US and UK expansion, up 15 percent and 26 percent respectively. It's also in spite of a decline in Japanese sales of 13 points, which the report attributes to "a decline in portable software, followed by console software." The report adds Japan's decline doesn't reflect a downturn in current-gen sales, but rather "the shrinking PlayStation 2 software market."
The PlayStation 3 giveth, the PlayStation 2 taketh away...
Top Retail Game Sales, 2008
The report also speculates 2009 will be another banner year for consoles:
"Looking ahead to 2009, a string of star titles are lined up to hit the market, including DS's Dragon Quest IX: Hoshizora no Mamoribito," said Ricky K Tanimoto, Global Marketing Analyst, Enterbrain, Inc. "There are also big console titles scheduled for release in 2009, such as Monster Hunter 3 and Final Fantasy XIII -- leading us to anticipate the console software market will fuel sales of this year’s gaming market."
The UK beat the US for overall as well as category growth in 2008, increasing 38 points in console sales and 6 points for portables. The US grew 22 points and 2 points in respective categories.
"There are some incredible statistics within the Top Global Markets Report that highlight the differences between the three major markets in the world," said Dorian Bloch, Business Group Director, GfK Chart-Track Limited. "In fact, UK console videogame software units are more than double what was achieved in 2003, which just shows how fast the UK market has been growing."
Bloch claims the UK market "has for the first time overtaken Japan" as the second largest market in the world (the first being the US, though that's in part down to major population disparities).
Software sales in the US rose 15 points over 2007, with 268.4 million units sold overall, nearly 36 million more than the prior year.
According to NPD analyst Anita Frazier, "Only two months in 2008 saw a decline in unit sales in the U.S., with one due in large part to the release of 360 Halo 3 in Sept '07 and the other due to an additional week in the Jan '07 retail calendar."
And that's not even counting online sales.
Matt Peckham has high hopes for games in 2009 and beyond. You can follow his sanguine dispatches at twitter.com/game_on.