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2012 UK Sales Post-Mortem: Consoles Slump, Digital Downloads Up

Jonathan Lester
UK retail

2012 UK Sales Post-Mortem: Consoles Slump, Digital Downloads Up

Tablets On The Rise

Before we can fully throw ourselves into 2013, it's time to take one last lingering look at 2012 - which proved to be a challenging year for many hardware and software companies. According to the latest UK sales figures, console and handheld sales decreased by a third, though digital download sales are rising at a healthy pace.

What's more, a record number of iOS and Android tablets were activated on Christmas Day.

UKIE and GfK Chart-Track report that console and handheld sales decreased by 33.1% in 2012 compared to 2011. Specifically, home consoles declined by a steep 34.1%, while handhelds saw a marked decrease of 31.3%. The Wii U and new PS3 4000 model seemed to have made little impact, along with the 3DS XL and PS Vita.

It's broadly unsurprising that home console sales are slowing down since we're at the very end of a hardware cycle, but it's also clear that the relatively new handhelds are facing stiff competition from tablets and smartphones. In stark contrast, a new report from Flurry indicates that a record number of iOS and Android devices were activated worldwide over the holiday season (a maximum of 17.4 million on Christmas Day alone) - the majority of which were tablets such as the New iPad, iPad Mini and Kindle Fire HD. Whether dedicated handhelds will be able to survive against their increasingly versatile - and affordable - rivals will likely become a hot topic over the coming months and years.

Digital downloads also won big this year, whether on PC, console marketplaces or mobile devices. Digital game sales raked in £552 million in the UK over the last year, the highest figure on record, and a full half of the £1bn figure including music and film downloads. However, the Entertainment Retailers Association [via MCV] is keen to stress that physical boxed sales still accounted for three quarters of all games sold, describing traditional and online retail as "resilient."

"“Downloads offer convenience and portability," said ERA director general Kim Bayley, "but people still seem to value the quality and tangibility of a physical product.”

With two new consoles tipped for a 2013 reveal, along with an aggressive PC and smartphone/tablet market, this will likely be an interesting year for gaming. Here we go...

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