Big-business gaming: playing to win

Newsroom 19/09/2007 | 15:25

Video game sales have increased in the last years despite a high national piracy rate for each type of software. Personal computer games as well as console-based games have begun to sell beyond the expectations of local distributors. This is due to an increase in purchasing power as well as a change in the retailers' business model by introducing special offers and price cuts. A successful business model recently adopted by sellers such as Game Outlet includes bringing the best sellers from recent years together with prices as low as EUR 5 to 10. Using this method, games such as Unreal Tournament, Mafia and Deus Ex: Invisible War, which create strong, emotional connections with gamers, are being rapidly sold at basement-level prices which accounted for more than 10,000 games sold last year.
“The typical video game buyer in Romania is between 18 and 35 years old, with above average income, who spends a certain amount of money on what they consider to be a hobby. Lately in this budget the latest generation consoles are included, besides the software,” said Octavian Dunare, marketing manager of TNT Games, the official importer of Nintendo, Wii and DS Lite consoles in Romania.
The use of pirated versions of video games is due to Internet access, purchasing power and the culture of gamers who are in the habit of buying pirated games. Mihai Stegaru, marketing manager of Best Distribution, says that software buyers have at least an average level of studies and an increased interest in technology and what is new in the field.
The value of video games in Romania was about EUR 6.5 million last year and is expected to surpass EUR 7 million this year, considering the fact that Romania is only beginning to come in line with European and international trends in the field. Compared to other European countries, the local market has one of the biggest growth curves, with 15 to 30 percent each year, Stegaru said. This brisk pace may cause the big production studios to pay more attention to the Romanian market. Leaders of the international market such as Electronic Arts, GameLoft and Ubisoft have already opened production and testing studios in Bucharest, while local producers like Fun Labs work for large international distribution studios. Although there is potential, in terms of a specialized work force, it is hard to find Romanian games on the market. The exception to this is 2Bad Design and their 'Romanians in Space' title, but largely the Romanian production of video games is close to zero. “Independent local producers with international success have small chances to develop now owing to the current structure of the market. But once the direct online distribution develops more, local producers will have new ways of staying independent and developing games, especially for the alternative distribution channels,” Stegaru said.
The local market is atypical compared to mature markets with PC games leading the charge ahead of consoles, says Dunare. About 70 percent of games sold are for the PC and only about 20 percent for the various consoles on offer. Meanwhile, Romanians go for sports simulators, strategic and online games like the massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG), World of Warcraft, as well as auto simulators.
However, the latest generation of consoles like Nintendo Wii, Sony PlayStation 3 and XBox have generated an increase in sales for console games. Furthermore, the latest Nintendo Wii console needs only hours to be completely cleared from local store shelves, showing that 2007 will see consoles gain ground. But it will still be a difficult task to knock PC games off the top of the block.
“This year will bring a new definition to the gaming concept with the new generation of consoles creating a huge impact. Without neglecting the value of Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, Wii seems to be the engine of change,” Dunare says.
At Nintendo Wii, the interaction with the games is revolutionary compared with its predecessors and lets go of the traditional gaming controller. All the real moves of the player are translated into the virtual reality of the game. The game addresses a new category of users with ages reaching 50 and above, who have not been specifically targeted by producers so far.
TNT Games estimates a EUR 1.5 million turnover for 2007 which is three times more compared with last year's results. Diverta is also expecting significant sales increases in 2007 with 220,000 units, compared to the approximate 150,000 units sold in 2006.
Overall, the market is continuously growing and starting to follow international trends, where console games sell better than PC ones.

Roxana Mihul

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