Used Game Sales Soar During Recession

Ever since this so-called "recession" thingy got the media all hot and bothered a few months back, we'd been hearing that more and more individuals were finding ways to stay entertained at home. Now, we finally know what they've been doing at the domicile: gaming.

A new research report published this week by the Nielsen Company shows a sharp uptick in hours spent in front of a game console since the economy as a whole took a turn for the worse. Said stat has been on the rise since 2007, but here lately is has especially shot up. Of course, this totally makes sense--with more people curbing their spending on "going out," it makes sense that dusty consoles are seeing more usage.

The other finding that went along with all of this was the sudden increase in used game buying. In fact, gamers have been snapping up previously loved titles at a record rate, not to mention breaking records for by-mail game subscriptions. Nielsen concludes: "Taken together, these trends point to gamers’ continued engagement with the category even as their budgets have come under pressure. Overall, the recession has not abated the trend of increasing gameplay and may have in fact accelerated it as gamers look to get more value out of the games they own."

To the surprise of many, it's not the hardcore gaming sector that is pushing these figures up. Indeed, it's the casual gamer that has now chosen to play more versus go out more that's doing the damage. Three take-home points are listed below--are you one of those folks who have spent more time in front of a controller of late?

  1. Used game purchasing is at all-time highs in 2009, looking back since 2006. Claims about how many used games are being purchased in absolute terms and as a share of the total (used vs. new) have increased substantially (see graph). This is corroborated by GameStop’s record-breaking first quarter financial results, on the strength of used game sales. Best Buy recently announced it was getting into the used game market as well and Wal-Mart is testing this out.
  2. There has been an uptick in claimed subscriptions to video game rental services by mail, to all-time highs since 2006 (14% of gamers in May). This is a plausible substitute for new game purchasing.
  3. New game sales have been soft compared to last year in part because of unfavorable title comparisons in terms of how popular the releases have been this spring vs. last spring. This is a hit driven business and there haven’t been as many hits. Awareness of new titles, when prompted with their names, has dipped in 2009 to lows not seen since 2007.