Holiday sees vidgame sales hit $7.2 bil mark

Playstation dominating market; N64, Dreamcast sell well

Strong holiday sales for the Sony PlayStation, Nintendo 64 and Sega Dreamcast gaming consoles helped the vidgame industry hit the $7.2 billion point in hardware and software sales in 1999, inching ever closer to the film industry’s $7.4 billion box office take for the same period.

PlayStation continued to dominate the space, reaping a better-than-expected $1.5 billion in holiday sales alone, due mostly from the sale of 3 million gaming consoles. PlayStation holds 53% of the console marketshare, with 25 million systems in North American homes (one out of every four U.S. homes) and 70 million worldwide.

According to research outfit the NPD Group, PlayStation sold 15 million game titles in December, with Gran Turismo 2 as its top-seller. PlayStation controls 64% of the vidgame software-title market.

Pokemon boosts sales

Pokemon fever helped propel sales of No. 2 Nintendo’s portable Game Boy Color and N64 systems. Over the holidays, it sold 1.9 million players, compared with 2.4 million a year ago. Its consoles hold a 32% market share.

“Even with essentially the same processor it’s used for 10 years, we sold twice as many Game Boy hardware units in 1999 as any other year in history,” said Peter Main, executive veep for sales and marketing, Nintendo of America. “Game Boy hardware sales were up 142% over 1998 and Game Boy game sales jumped 153%.”

Seven of the top 10-selling vidgame titles were produced by Nintendo, with five being Pokemon titles. Three new Pokemon titles are expected to bow this year.

Both Sony and Nintendo slashed prices of their consoles to $99 after Dreamcast bowed at its $199 price.

Squelching fears that No. 3 Dreamcast might not perform overseas after foundering in Japan, the company sold 1.55 million of its consoles by the end of 1999 and 4.5 million games in the U.S. It bowed its system in November, reaching the 1.5 million-unit market in 3-1/2 months, compared with 1 million units in the four months after bowing in Japan.

Sega’s console market share rose to about 15% from 3% a year ago, with titles hitting the 7% mark from 0.6%.

Better than anticipated

NPD estimates that overall vidgames sales grew $700 million in 1999. The figures are expected to continue to rise — and possibly hurt Dreamcast — as next-generation consoles PlayStation 2 and Nintendo’s new Dolphin system (which improve upon Dreamcast’s 128-bit graphics) hit the market, promising to also connect to the Internet and play DVDs and CDs to download music, among other media.

“When planning for 1999, we underestimated the momentum that the marketplace has generated surrounding PlayStation,” said Jack Tretton, veep of sales at Sony Computer Entertainment America. “Through the continued growth of the PlayStation category, our retail partners reported to us that 1999 was a record year for videogame sales.”

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