U.K. game sales reach all-time high

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LONDON -- Video and computer games sales in the U.K. are at an all-time high, smashing sales records in 2007 and last week notching the biggest-ever single week of sales. For weeks 1-50, in 2007, the number of units sold was up 16.6% and 25.3% by value.

Chart-Track, which compiles data on behalf of games industry group Entertainment Leisure Software Publishers Assn., reported that current full-year U.K. unit sales will reach about 78 million games sold in 2007, demolishing the previous best year for the U.K. games industry, set in 2006.

Last week, games generated sales of 87.9 million pounds ($174.8 million). U.K. retail has enjoyed a record-breaking third quarter, with software units up 19% on 2006 from 12.6 million to 15 million and revenue up 36% from 233.5 million pounds $464.3 million) to 332.6 million pounds ($661.4 million).

"2007 has been a fantastic year for our industry as all the latest generation of consoles and hand-held devices have become fully established," ELSPA director general Paul Jackson said. "Video gaming is now enjoyed by everyone, young and old, male and female. Interactive entertainment is now truly mass market, and this is just the beginning of a period of real sustained growth."

As predicted, the console market, thanks largely to the success of Nintendo's DS Lite and Wii, plus strong sales of Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, led the way in terms of overall market increase, and units for Q3 have rocketed by 33% from 8.52 million to 11.33 million.

Revenue of consoles shows a 45% increase from 180.9 million pounds ($359.7 million) to 263.2 million pounds ($523.3 million). As such, the console market now accounts for 79% of software revenues and 75% of total software units.

The console proportion of units is the equal highest of any previous quarter and the highest ever for a third quarter. In terms of cash going through the tills, console software is the highest proportion ever for a third quarter.

ELSPA added that the race for this year's No. 1 game for Christmas is set to be one of the most closely contested ever. Sega's "Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games" is narrowly outselling Activision's re-invigorated "Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare" and perennial big-hitter Electronic Arts' "Need for Speed: ProStreet" and "FIFA 08."

"With no major new releases due until next year, all the main contenders for the Christmas No. 1 spot are gearing up for a sprint to the finishing line, and it's anyone's guess as who will land this year's highly prized festive honors, with just 2,500 unit sales separating the top 3," ELSPA said.

For Week 50 (week ending Saturday Dec. 15) on the All Formats Chart, "Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games" for Wii (107,000 units) was still leading "Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare" (106,000) and "FIFA 08" (104,000).

ELSPA, however, tipped "Need for Speed: ProStreet" (94,000), currently in fourth place, and "The Simpsons Game" (93,000) as possible late runners for the top spot.
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