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Games mag market dips, but Future dominates again

Future's UK portfolio once again dominates the market for gaming magazines, despite a year on year dip, the latest ABC circulation figures for Jan-June 2003 seem to indicate.

Future's UK games magazine portfolio suffered a year on year dip of 3.8 per cent, the company revealed today, as the latest ABC circulation figures for Jan-June 2003 emerged ahead of schedule in an announcement to the City this afternoon.

Overall, its portfolio of 13 UK games titles experienced a drop of 3.8 per cent year on year at 661,539 copies per month, "reflecting a relatively quiet period for new game launches."

On the bright side, it maintained its 65 per cent market share of the UK games magazine market by volume and 70 per cent by value.

Its flagship title the Official PlayStation 2 Magazine surprisingly dropped by 3.7 per cent to 188,079, some way short what would have been hoped for at this stage of the PS2's life cycle given the massive near-five million installed base.

Despite the drop, OPSM2 is still 123,000 ahead of its nearest competitor. At a similar stage in the life span of the original PlayStation, Future's Official PlayStation Magazine was tracking around the 400,000 mark. The Bath-based publisher will be looking for a marked improvement in the second half of the year.

Future's other official title, Xbox Magazine, however, bucked the trend with a 108 per cent increase year on year to 80,179, and is officially the fastest growing consumer magazine in the UK. In comparison to the PS2 market, the magazine has a vastly improved attach ratio. The company's Xbox Gamer (previously XGamer) title is also the best selling unofficial Xbox title on the market.

The news was less impressive in the rest of its games division, with most titles reporting dips - in particular PC Gamer which dropped by nearly 11,000 since the last audit period to 65,573 - its lowest ABC for years. Elsewhere Edge posted 27,315, GamesMaster 59,222 NGC 32,253, Official PlayStation Magazine 31,774, PS2 Gaming Max 23,596, PlayStation 2 Special Edition (bi-monthly) 25,117, PlayStation 2 Official Tips 19,235, PSM2 58,527, Official Xbox Special (quarterly) 15,959, Xbox Gamer 34,710, and Microsoft Windows XP: The Official Magazine 61,163.

Rival titles in the games sector showed similar performance. Play posted 64,686, PowerStation 34,054, P2 19,048, PSW 53,349, Cube 31,735, Nintendo Official Magazine 47,013 (which no doubt falls so low due to a lack of covermounted demos), C&VG 32,069 and PC Zone 50,050.

Titles which didn't submit an ABC - never a healthy sign - included XBox World and PC Gaming World, both of which are Computec titles.

Meanwhile Future's US division reported a 61 per cent year on year rise, and posted the following figures: PSM 403,617 (+18 per cent), PC Gamer 300,271, Official Xbox Magazine 344,731 MaximumPC 315,739 and MacAddict 182,543

Future CEO Greg Ingham was upbeat, although admitted the UK market was suffering in places: "Overall, these are satisfactory figures, particularly on Xbox in the US and UK and despite the slight weakness in some UK circulations. The UK games market has had a quiet few months, which has impacted copy sales. Elsewhere there have been good results for our other audited titles in the UK."

"Our business is historically weighted to the second half - particularly the fourth quarter - and we expect this trend to continue this year," he added. Future will be announcing its interim financial results on 16 September 2003.

The full ABC figures are to be published on Monday and will subsequently be available here.

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