Just when game seemed easy, Japan video games sales fall

An autumn of plunging console and software sales in Japan has stunned the video games sector, prompting worries that the industry may not be quite as recession-proof as previously thought.

Industry veterans have also given warning that the pipeline of new games, particularly the sort that ignite the Japanese market, is looking somewhat anaemic beyond January.

Compared with the first half of 2007, sales of Nintendo's once-must-have DS portable console have dipped by nearly two thirds over the same period this year, sparking fears that the Japanese market may be nearing its natural saturation-point for consoles in the present cycle.

It is expected that the so-called casual gaming market will be particularly vulnerable over the coming months. This sector has boomed over the past two years and at one stage made Nintendo one of the most valuable companies in Japan.

Sony has also benefited from the trend, with strong sales of its handheld PSP machine offsetting the still tepid sales of the PlayStation 3 console.

"Nintendo will never say it, but casual gamers, almost by definition, are happy with just a few games and will easily cut gaming out of their discretionary spending as the downturn hits their wallets. The market seems to be expecting casual gamers to act like hardcore gamers and they just won't."

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