Why Gaming Will Survive an Economic Meltdown
Keith Stuart: Our readers are more likely to make sacrifices elsewhere than give up buying games I recently asked a semi-topical question on Gamesblog: with the economic downturn grimly transforming from newspaper scare story to actually bloody scary, when does everyone stop buying games? The answers that came back were mostly of the defiant "I''m not going to stop, dammit" variety. It seems that our readers are more likely to make sacrifices elsewhere (you know, minor things like going out with friends, holidays, eating) than to give up on their game-buying habits. As a games writer, I breathed a small sigh of relief.
And it seems Gamesblog readers are not alone. In the US, console sales are up 27% on the same period last year, while software revenue hit $1bn (£504m) for March, up 63% on 2007 figures. Closer to home, Microsoft just announced that European sales of Xbox 360 have doubled since the price of the console was cut on March 14. Grand Theft Auto IV, out next Tuesday, is expected to make $400m in its first week on sale.
There''s an obvious reason for this recession-proof success - video games represent excellent value for money. If you buy a decent adventure title - a Resident Evil, Metal Gear Solid or Legend of Zelda - you''re looking at between 20 and 40 hours of game play at least, and many times that if you get lost, make mistakes or pause once in a while to admire the scenery. With titles like Call of Duty 4 you can also add in hundreds of hours of online multi player gaming; if you have a headset you can invite your friends and chat while you''re playing - see, you''re also saving on phone calls. And with Wii Fit, you''ll even be getting some exercise in.
Also, for the price of a decent family game - something like Buzz Quiz TV (out next month), Rock Band or pretty much anything on Wii - the whole household is entertained. A game costs £40 - take the family to the cinema, throw in a couple of fizzy pops and a trough of popcorn and you''ll spend more than that in a night. Which will your kids remember in few years? The latest paint-by-numbers animation franchise, or the nights you spent laughing at each other''s Singstar performances?
There''s another important element too - games are empowering. When your life is a runaway train crammed with fear and uncertainty, you can load up Rainbow Six Vegas or Grand Theft Auto IV and be the master of an engrossing, rigidly defined domain; your spec-ops mission against a deadly terror faction won''t end in you being unable to meet the payments on your assault rifle; your downtown crime spree won''t prematurely abort when your car is repossessed. That''s why games will keep selling: they give you a world and put you in control. At times like this, you sometimes have to take the victories where you can find them.