The Consumer Makes The Call. Maybe…

Yep, the world economy. Once so beautiful and magnificent, the Gods themselves were held in awe of its majesty (maybe). But now it is currently the scourge of bankers, villain of brokers and curse of creditors, and not immune to all of this is the gaming industry. Many forecasted a bleak future for the gaming industry leading into this year, and many were right with reports from NPD Group showing a drop of 29% for hardware, software and accessories sales for the first six months in North America. But with three quarters nearly gone, the focus is shifting from can the industry survive, to what should the industry do next?

Some reports started to filter through from sources like ChartTrack with how the 360 has risen in sales in the UK by as much as 43% in the last six months, the question on some peoples lips is who will turn out on top come this holiday season, a traditional high stakes market for all players?

Perhaps the consumers should answer the question directly, by using these coming months to try and start a little price war between the two companies that need the sales most. Whilst it is true the 360 has enjoyed a surge in product sales over the last two quarters, it can hardly be called the front-runner of the current Gen market. No, that title is being held firmly in the gloved grip of a certain plumber and his parent company Nintendo. And with the PS3 falling behind with price, software library range and online support, it’s clear who will be pulling out the stops to secure the currently thin wedge of expendable cash consumers have. This is already being proven with the release of the PS3 Slim at a reduced price, and with reporting a total of 500,000 units being sold in the first week.

But this is only the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. It would be unfair to say that the responsibility of the industry rested solely in the hands of the big 3 companies, and it’s software developers. Perhaps now is the time retailers took notice of the decline in software and hardware sales, and offer the consumer something more, rather than expecting to siphon the consumer for all they have.

A simple search on the web will find that a certain gaming retailer is preparing to charge people $59.99USD in the US for the upcoming release of FIFA 10, and the same retailer in Australia will be charging a knee weakening $109.95AUD for the same game. Even with the exchange rate converting the currencies, Australian consumers are set to lose by $30AUD. How can this be justified? It’s exactly the same game in the same packaging. The answer may lie within the ignorance of the consumer. If the general public doesn’t realize what’s happening to their wallets, they will continue to pay whatever is printed on the annoying, staining sticker on the front of the box.

But the blame shouldn’t be laid on the consumer. Hell, they’re the ones that support the artists and professionals in what is still considered to be a novelty industry by the masses. No, the weight of the burden from decline should be shared between the big 3 and the retailers. Retailers for being too greedy and damaging the industry they rely on, and the major video game companies who have yet to realize they would sell more units by going direct to the public.

Nintendo and Microsoft have seen the sales results from Virtual Console and XBLA and both know how successful direct to the public sales can be. Direct to the consumer might be a viable option when releasing games, so why not pursue it?

It really seems that the video game companies are ready to fight amongst themselves about who has the superior system, rather than try to win over an ever increasingly fussy audience. The average buyer will only purchase one console per generation of consoles, and if the developers won’t do all they can to try and rope the buyer in, then perhaps the public is doomed to ever-increasing prices.

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