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BLACK FRIDAY GAME SALES LAG AS NEXT-GEN CONSOLES CAN’T MEET DEMAND

Worldwide digital game sales over the Black Friday holiday weekend (which includes Cyber Monday) saw a 10 percent decrease year-over-year, Nielsen’s SuperData reports. Overall sales totalled $3.9 billion over the period.

While the holiday delivered an unexpected downturn, worldwide game spending is still on track for a record-breaking year in 2020, but consumer anticipation for next-generation consoles and the growing popularity of subscription services diminished the importance of the holiday weekend as a main revenue driver.

Console earnings fell 13 percent as well, likely due to unmet demand for the newly-released PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S. While both PlayStation and Xbox allow players to purchase a game on an older device before upgrading to the next-gen console, gamers appear to be waiting to upgrade their console before purchasing the new titles.

Does this imply a lack of interest in next-gen consoles and games? Carter Rogers, principal analyst at SuperData, is skeptical.

“This is anything but lackluster next-gen interest,” Rogers tells VENN. “Console gamers may want to experience many of this fall’s biggest games entirely on a PS5 or Xbox X|S. Since console demand is vastly exceeding supply, gamers may be delaying some game purchases until they can find a console.”

Next-gen consoles have been difficult to purchase since release earlier this month for many consumers. Retailers have been unable to keep up with demand, with units from both Sony and Microsoft selling out as soon as they hit the shelves at major chains like Walmart, Amazon, GameStop, Best Buy and more.

Gaming subscription services, such as Xbox Game Pass, which offers hundreds of games to users for a monthly fee, are another possible reason for the decline in game spending. User numbers for Game Pass in October were up 216 percent year-over-year. As such, having access to a broad library of games may have attributed to lower gamer incentive to seek out Black Friday deals, particularly during an ongoing pandemic.

“Even individuals who might have bought physical games at brick and mortar retailers in a normal year are opting for the convenience and safety of downloading games,” says Rogers.

Players did seek out Black Friday and Cyber Monday in-game content deals for titles they have already invested in, however. Grand Theft Auto Online offered sales on vehicles, and players received bonuses when purchasing loot boxes for The Elder Scrolls Online and Apex Legends. Through the end of October 2020, such global in-game content sales accounted for 89 percent of digital games revenue.

In-game item sales and upfront purchases of games grew much faster in the US than the worldwide average in the months leading up to Black Friday — up 32 percent stateside, compared to 13 percent worldwide. Per SuperData’s report, this is attributable to both the COVID-19 pandemic and consumers being more accustomed to spending on digital games than in other markets.

Spending on PC games over the holiday weekend did increase six percent year-over-year and digital games are expected to maintain their momentum through the holiday season.

Looking back at Christmas Day 2019, the amount spent in digital console storefronts was four times the daily average from the rest of the year. Christmas Day 2020 will likely see a similar increase in spending as many gamers will be receiving all-digital consoles as gifts.

Looking past the holiday season, 2021 is poised to see pent-up demand for major releases, as titles such as Halo Infinite and Deathloop will debut after delays resulting from the pandemic.

Photos courtesy of Sony Interactive Inc. and Microsoft

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