It cannot be denied that this year in video gaming has been disturbingly lacklustre, with a small handful of the occasional high points that inevitably faded away as if it never happened. In an article written in October by Zacks Equity Research, video game sales have declined for the tenth consecutive month in September. According to market research firm NPD, U.S video game store sales slumped 24.0% year over year to $843.3 million in the month of September. Although the year-over-year decline widened compared with the prior-month level, dollar sales increased from $515.6 million reported in August.
Hardware sales plunged 39% year over year to $210.9 million while total software sales declined 14.0% year over year to $547.3 million. Accessories sales declined 11.0% annually to $139.9 million. The weak retail sales were primarily due to the ongoing transition from physical to digital platform and aging hardware consoles. Microsoft Xbox 360 was again the top-selling console for the 19th straight month with 270K units sold.
As it saddens me to say, video gaming has become increasingly stale and in my opinion, this generation of consoles and general gaming is to blame. While I feel as though some developers are at fault for ignoring creativity and throwing innovation out of the window, we must also look at the other side of the coin; developers could be growing tired with the current generation consoles and are itching for something new to work with. However, that does not excuse the lack of effort in an attempt to produce something innovative or fresh. For example, let's have a look at the line up for next year's releases, being developed on the current generation consoles: Watch Dogs, Beyond: Two Souls, Grand Theft Auto V, Tomb Raider, Splinter Cell: Blacklist, and The Last of Us, to name a few; these are some of the most anticipated titles and they're coming to consoles we already own.
This takes me back to an older blog that discussed the belief that this console generation had lasted too long. When compared to previous generations, it's about the average duration—however, when we take a glance at this past year and notice how stale gaming has been, I believe that this particular generation is basically jogging in circles. Personally, this year in itself was full of hype that did not deliver—I can count on one hand the games that I really had an eye on and completely exceeded my expectations. However, some of them I haven't touched since its completion.
That brings me to my next topic: have video games really become a single-experience thing? Let's have a look at Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls in which its developer basically told us to just play the game once because they're both predominately based towards making choices, with multiple playthroughs defeating the meaning of their consequences. "It’s the same approach as for Heavy Rain: play it once and then don’t replay it. You can if you want, but I think the best way to experience the game is really to make choices and then never know what would have happened if you’d made a different choice." Well, at a $60 price tag, gamers are certainly not going to play the game once—especially if they're achievement/trophy hounds. But is this what gaming has become, without necessarily having to tell it to our faces? Are video games turning into one-off experiences, in which the replay value is so low to nought that we can't see ourselves having another go? If that is the case, why are new games still $59.99?
Coming from an avid gamer, I find this analytical theme disturbing; video gaming has been my number one hobby since I was four years old—fifteen years running now. Over the years I've gotten more and more into gaming, development, the industry, and really getting more involved than simply popping in a disc, playing the game, and going to bed. With that being said, I find it really disheartening to see video gaming not really given the proper attention it deserves, and one can only hope that 2013 brings in a breath of fresh air.