U.K. sets new high score

Games market smashing old records

Video and computer games sales in the U.K. are at an all-time high, smashing sales records and, last week, notching the biggest-ever single week of sales. Through the first 50 weeks of 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 the 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 ($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 $464.3 million) to £332.6 million ($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 moved in the third quarter rocketed by 33% from 8.52 million to 11.33 million.

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

The console proportion of units is equal to the highest of any previous quarter and the highest ever for a third quarter. In terms of cash going through the tills, console software represents 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 Electronic Arts big hitters "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.