Sunday, July 6, 2008

Game console sales in slo-mo

More than 25 million of the video-game industry's most sophisticated and family-friendly consoles have been sold in the United States in the past 2 1/2 years.

But there are only marginal signs that the machines - designed to foster games as a mainstream pastime in a majority of homes - are making any inroads with households that traditionally have been without consoles.

The game industry's signature event, the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), takes place this month in Los Angeles in the midst of booming hardware and software sales, driven heavily by interest in Nintendo's Wii, Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Sony's PlayStation 3. The industry is on pace to top last year's record $18 billion in sales by $3 billion to $5 billion, according to the market research firm NPD.

The robust spending, however, seems mostly to be coming from consumers who owned a previous generation of console, such as the PlayStation 2 or original Xbox. Some industry insiders hoped the new consoles, led by the populist appeal of the Wii, would dramatically expand the pool of game-playing Americans. But that appears to remain down the road at best.

Research companies calculate that 40 to 42 percent of U.S. households are using at least one game console. According to some sets of research, that represents little or no growth in recent years.

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