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CD-ROMs Hit Stride

Christmas 1994 appears to have been the bonanza for CD-ROM sales analysts had predicted. Retailers are reporting that consumers lined up to buy educational, entertainment and reference material on CD-ROM, tripling sales figures from last Christmas.

“Part of the reason for much larger sales was that the amount of product was much broader than a year ago,” said Tom Quinn, general merchandising manager for the Egghead Software national chain.

While exact figures are not yet tabulated by PC Data, retailers and analysts say early indications show December was one of the strongest months on record for CD-ROM sales. Personal computer sales also were very strong.

Packard Bell proved to be the leading home PC seller, with an estimated 700,000 PCs sold in the fourth quarter of 1994. And 90% of those PCs had multimedia capabilities, according to Intl. Data Corp., a Massachusetts-based computer sales analyst. IDC said about 2 million Packard Bells were sold by the end of 1994.

In addition, IDC says there are close to 6 million PCs in U.S. homes.

“Vendors were happy,” said Richard Zwetchkenbaum, an IDC analyst.

Tops floppy

Christmas ’94 marked the first time that computer games sold predominantly on CD-ROM as opposed to floppy disk, marking a trend that is fairly new and is likely to grow in the market.

“We’ve been seeing CD-ROMs take the lead over floppies for the past six months,” said Ann Stevens of PC Data. “CD-ROMs have been outselling floppies 60% to 40%.”

CD-ROMs are able to offer more sophisticated material because of their expanded memory capacity.

In fact, games on CD-ROM have quickly taken over a sizable share of the overall games market. Analysts are predicting that when final numbers are compiled for Christmas, CD-ROM games will account for nearly 50% of the interactive games market.

“What all this means is that there are a lot of CD-ROM drives out there already,” said one analyst. “And the sales will continue after Christmas because people will be looking for software for their new CD-ROM players.”

This past Christmas also was the first time such major retailer chains as Target and Price Club put CD-ROMs on store shelves, in anticipation of the platform hitting mass-market status. Store execs are reporting that they are pleased with the results.

“We did very well with CD-ROM sales, although no figures are yet available,” said a Target executive.

And while games have traditionally dominated the cartridge market – for players made by Nintendo, Sega and 3DO – in the CD-ROM platform, sales were well distributed among entertainment, educational and reference materials. Egghead Software, which has 174 stores nationwide, reported that Microsoft’s Encarta – a multimedia encyclopedia – was one of its top-selling titles.

Other top sellers in CD-ROM form were “Myst,” “Doom II” and “Wing Commander III.”

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