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The Euro Vision: 'Statistics, Lies And 2006's Sales Figures'

The latest edition of Gamasutra's 'The Euro Vision' column sees journalist Jon Jordan revisiting his predictions on UK game sales in 2006 against the official numbers. He also works out, per head of population, the UK spends twice as much on games as the
The latest edition of Gamasutra's 'The Euro Vision' column sees journalist Jon Jordan revisiting his predictions on UK game sales in 2006 against the official numbers. He also works out, per head of population, the UK spends twice as much on games as the US. "Alongside never working with animals and children, it's generally reckoned to be very foolish to make predictions that can be traced back to you. Still, with the annual game sale figures for the UK finally released, I don't think my 2006 crystal ball was that outrageously off. At least, if you ignore the headline that reads "UK Game Sales Looking Good," around half way down the article you'll see I did write, "my rough back-of-the-envelope calculations put 2006 ahead of 2005 by about 1 percent." And lo, it came to pass. According to the official figures from the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA), sales of interactive entertainment software in the UK in 2006 totalled £1.36 billion ($2.7 billion), an increase of 1 percent per cent over 2005's record figures, or a rise of about £10 million ($20 million) in absolute figures. Strongest selling formats included PSP and DS - PSP software just outsold DS in terms of value thanks to its higher price per unit - while Xbox 360 game sales replaced the collapse of the Xbox market, and PlayStation 2 held up well. At a pinch, I'd even argue a 1 percent rise is pretty good performance anyhow, considering unlike Japanese and North American sales figures, the UK didn't get the added boost of the PlayStation 3 launch and Nintendo only shipped limited numbers of Wii (200,000). In comparison, US software sales were up 6.4 percent to $6.5 million, Canadian software sales were up 10 percent to $481 million, while the combined total of Japanese hardware and software sales were up a whopping 38 percent to $5.2 billion. So as an aside, a quick bit of maths reveals that per head of population, the UK spends double the amount on games compared to the US, and three times as much as Canadians. Reason? Our weather is really bad. Thrashed Or Tickled? But back to ELSPA and those 2006 UK figures. What I found equally significant was the headline it chose for its press release of the wonderful news - "2006 interactive software sales thrash previous years". Now, this must count as a classic case of being economical with the truth. In term of their value, sales clearly didn't thrash previous years. An extra £10 million is chickenfeed, considering software sales in the week prior to Christmas were worth £91.5 million ($180 million). The total number of games sold - 65.1 million units - was up significantly, by 7 percent compared to 2005 however. Whether this counts as 'thrashing' remains open to debate though. OK, so I'm being a bit fussy. I'm a columnist. That's what I do. Nevertheless, I think this behaviour hides a wider issue; that the games industry lacks confidence when dealing with the non-gaming world. Maybe because we're constantly being hit over the head with complaints about violence and addiction, the powers that be only feel safe communicating from a position of strength, which in the lack of any cultural confidence, generally means pride in commercial success. Hence obvious commercial success needs to be manipulated, whether supported by evidence or not. Of course, in this case, all that was needed was a bit of analysis. Both 2005 (where UK software sales by value rose 0.7 percent), and 2006 can be counted as transitional years in which everyone expected sales to be flat, at best. That sales are up, even slightly, is positive, but we can't expect the wider media to understand that if we don't provide the context for them. And if we don't, the result will be stories about games being "bigger than films" and 2006 "thrashing 2005"; both examples of how to lose a kernel of truth in a tissue of white lies." [Jon Jordan is a freelance games journalist and photographer, based in Manchester, UK. 2006 was a record year for him. Well, he bought a LP.]

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