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Multiplayer Gaming Blamed for US Sales Decline

Talking head and industry analyst Michael Pachter is attributing the majority of the decline in US-base software sales to multiplayer gaming. The analysis came after a recent NPD sales report revealed a staggering 15-percent decline in software sales for the month of June--the fourth month in a row to experience a drop in overall sales.

Part of the blame rests on Nintendo's shoulders, as the company is currently bundling two games with the Wii console. Another factor adding to the overall decline is the sale of cheap "clearance" games, racking in only a small percentage of revenue when compared to their original launch prices.

But the biggest culprit to the decline is apparently games like Halo 3 and Call of Duty--those with high replay value. Gamers are purchasing these titles and spending most of their time playing the multiplayer portions rather than going out and buying new games.

"We estimate that a total of 12 million consumers are playing Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 for an average of 10 hours per week on the two platforms' respective networks, and the continued enjoyment of this game (along with an estimated 6 million Halo online players, 3 million EA Sports players, and 5 million players playing other games, such as Battlefield, Red Dead Redemption, Left 4 Dead and Grand Theft Auto) has sucked the available time away from what otherwise would be spent playing newly purchased games," he said.

Pachter said that the problem will continue, and that publishers should start charging for online play--starting with Activision's Call of Duty Black Ops.

"We think that it is incumbent upon Activision, with the most popular multiplayer game, to take the first step to address monetization of multiplayer," he said. "It is too early to tell whether that will be a monthly subscription, tournament entry fees, microtransaction fees, or a combination of all three, but we expect to see the company take some action by year-end, when Call of Duty Black Ops launches."

Honestly, there seems to be something wrong with this picture. Where are the numbers showing that gamers are spending their cash on downloaded content? While they may be focusing their time on certain titles, they're also purchasing the content associated with the games. Of course, this extra revenue may not equal to the full amount of another game, but it lifts the currently purchased title to an overall higher price point than its original launch price.

Perhaps then the decline in software sales isn't indicative of the amount of time gamers focus on certain titles, but rather the current crop of new games sitting on the shelf. If they're not appealing, then they're not going home with the customer.