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Digital sales up 10% year-over-year in July - Superdata

Pokemon Go, Overwatch powering a strong summer for game industry; Clash Royale cannibalizing Clash of Clans

The games industry has had a better-than-expected summer, at least when it comes to digital distribution. Superdata released its monthly worldwide digital game sales numbers today, with July seeing $5.9 billion spent on digital games, a 10 percent jump year-over-year.

Superdata CEO Joost van Dreunen attributed the industry's performance to a number of recent titles exceeding expectations, including The Division, Overwatch, and Pokemon Go, which he noted had the most successful mobile launch in history. On a category basis, the biggest gains for the month were posted by mobile games (16%), digital console games (11%), and the free-to-play PC category (11%), while social gaming, PC DLC, and pay-to-play MMOs all saw declining revenues.

The success of Pokemon Go has been well documented, but van Dreunen also underscored how it has boosted the performance of Nintendo's traditional businesses.

"3DS unit sales rose by over 50% year-over-year, an astonishing feat for underpowered hardware nearing the end of its lifespan," van Dreunen said. "Furthermore, sales of 3DS games boomed. Combined sales of Pokemon Omega Red and Alpha Sapphire and Pokemon X and Y (2015 and 2013 releases) nearly doubled. Pokemon Go is the only factor that can explain jumps in sales of this magnitude. We are optimistic that mobile spin-offs for Fire Emblem and Animal Crossing will have a positive impact on Nintendo's ecosystem."

Not all mobile hits are proving so beneficial to their predecessors. According to van Dreunen, Supercell has another undisputed hit with Clash Royale, but the game's success is coming at the expense of Clash of Clans.

"Clash of Clans revenue initially tumbled 23% from March to April while Clash Royale experienced a similar drop in the same period," van Dreunen said. "The downward trend has continued, with total revenue for the two titles falling 16% from May to June and 12% from June to July. Despite Clash Royale's initial success, aggregate revenue for the Clash franchise has seen little growth overall."

Contrasting that, Machine Zone's follow-up to Game of War, the modern military-themed Mobile Strike, has surpassed its predecessor and was the third highest grossing mobile game in July. That money isn't just Game of War players who are now spending on Mobile Strike instead; van Dreunen noted that both games have been growing their revenues.

"Supercell played it safe by piggybacking off the success of the Clash of Clans franchise," van Dreunen said. "From day one, Clash Royale could draw from a player base already familiar with its theme. However, Clash Royale ended up cannibalizing a significant number of Clash of Clans players without expanding Supercell's larger user-base. In contrast, by re-skinning an old game with a brand new IP, Machine Zone risked Mobile Strike's immediate success in exchange for long-term benefits. Launching a new mobile IP is inherently riskier than leaning on an old one, but is ultimately more sustainable when trying to establish a diverse mobile portfolio."

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Brendan Sinclair

Managing Editor

Brendan joined in 2012. Based in Toronto, Ontario, he was previously senior news editor at GameSpot in the US.