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Key markets down 8% in 2009

UK hit hardest with 14% decline, while US falls 7% and Japan 2%

The alliance of retail information providers in the US, UK and Japanese videogames markets made up of NPD, GfK Chart-Track and Enterbrain has released it calendar year numbers for 2009, showing an overall drop of 8 per cent in combined sales.

The UK was hit the hardest, with poor comparable sales on the DS and PlayStation Portable platforms resulting in a 14 per cent decline, while the US dropped 7 per cent and Japan fell by 2 per cent.

Meanwhile the PlayStation 2 platform continued to fall away, as expected, declining by 57 per cent year-on-year.

"For the UK videogame home console software market it is clear that current generation systems suffered slight negative growth overall in 2009, even though PS3 and 360 both enjoyed record volume (and value) software sales for the year, and were the only formats to exhibit positive growth over 2008," said Dorian Bloch, Business Group director at GfK Chart-Track.

"Growth on these platforms did not manage to offset the steep decline in PS2 software units (-67 per cent), which in real terms was close to a decline of 4 million units. Also, the incredible performance exhibited by Nintendo's Wii in 2008 meant that Wii units fell back 10 per cent, although remained the number one format in terms of units sold in 2009.

"Within the portable market, it is clear that this is the reason for the overall console software decline. Nintendo DS volume (and value) sales in 2008 reached a high point brought about by massive, record-breaking DS Lite sales, and the corresponding sales of hit titles such as Dr Kawashima, Mario & Sonic at the Olympics, New Super Mario and Mario Kart DS.

"Rolling on to 2009 saw much lower DS hardware sell-through and no new must-have DS titles at the top of the charts, apart from Professor Layton and Pandora's Box. Sony's PSP suffered a similar fate, with few must-have titles arriving in 2009, and a continued decline in PSP hardware sales, ever since the sweet spot achieved in 2006 with the original PSP."

The picture in the US was somewhat less negative, with more titles released in the territory last year than in previous years - despite some evidence to indicate that the fewer the games released, the greater the average unit sales.

"With the huge investment needed to produce software for this generation's consoles, many publishers talk about releasing fewer titles each year which will allow their teams to better focus on maximising the success of each title," explained NPD analyst Anita Frazier. "The theory is that this will produce more high quality games resulting in better sales. However, the year end data from 2009 shows us that the number of titles entering the market is still growing. 778 new titles were released in 2009, up from the 764 in 2008.

"So, while there has been no noticeable slow down in the number of titles launched each year, we do see some evidence of a converse relationship between the number of titles launched and the average unit sales of a title. When looking back at the past 7 years, we see that 2004 had the lowest number of titles launched, yet the highest average unit sales. On the other hand, 2009 had the most titles launched and average unit sales were lower than they've been since 2005."

Conversely, Japan's market - which has been in decline for some time - benefited from a series of strong DS releases.

"Japan's 2009 game software market was blessed with a string of Nintendo DS software hits during the period, including the trio of double-million-plus sellers, Dragon Quest IX: Hoshizora no Mamoribito, Pocket Monster Heart Gold/Soul Silver, and the year's most successful non-sequel, Tomodachi Collection, which sold 2 million units," said Mitsunobu Uwatoko, manager of global marketing at Enterbrain. "Moreover, Final Fantasy XIII, Wii Sports Resort, and Wii Fit Plus, sold over a million each on top of the long-awaited New Super Mario Bros Wii selling over 2.4 million during its first month at retail.

"However, these titles could not manage to recover the losses experienced during the first half of the year, thus the annual total sales was slightly down."

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