Video game makers battle to boost bottom line

November 28, 2008 7:52:35 PM PST
Video game makers are facing an uncertain shopping season. The game business is now bigger than Hollywood and last year the nation's largest game seller racked up over $2 billion in holiday sales, but it's a fairly expensive product line to push and the industry is battling to boost that bottom line.

Black Friday marks the beginning of a holiday season where sales growth is not expected to cover inflation, but that hasn't stopped shoppers, looking for a bargain, from turning out.

At a Best Buy in Emeryville, flat screen TV's, the latest technology in cell phones, and digital cameras are still hot ticket items. However, video games like the Sony X-Box and the Play Station 2, once the holiday season's must have items, are heavily stocked and aren't moving.

"This is the first holiday where we haven't had a major launch. They've settled in and the units may be out there and there's not that high demand for them," said Chris Strange, a Best Buy store manager.

With no hot item this season and a tough economy to deal with, a father of two lets his kids tryout a Guitar Hero system, but says money is tight and video games are just not a priority.

"It's real tight this year, you know, it's not a lot of money going out, a lot of layoffs, so you got to kind of watch your money this year," said Sergio Duran, a holiday shopper.

The National Retail Federation is predicting that holiday sales will rise 2.2 percent, but that's the slowest growth since 2002.

According to C-Net, the industry magazine dedicated solely to all things electronic, the Nintendo Wii has sold more than 13 million units, making it the top selling home system in the country. Shoppers at the Stoneridge Mall in Pleasanton were encouraged to stop and give it a try.

"That was my first time doing it, I really liked it. It probably will be a must have item for this year," said Lisa Rohner, a shopper.

But are there enough shoppers like Lisa to make Nintendo and other gamers forget about this dismal economy and return to the days of their systems flying off of the shelves? Lisa, by the way, did not buy the Nintendo Wii, but continued to try it out.


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