As the initial benefits of the Covid epidemic faded, the titans of the video gaming industry suffered a decline in their sales in the second quarter.
Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo all reported underwhelming performance in their respective gaming industries for the three months that concluded in June.
The figures show a general decline in consumer expenditure on video games. According to market research company NPD, Americans spent $12.4 billion on games in the second quarter, a decrease of 13% from the same period last year.
The easing of pandemic restrictions is only one of several variables to blame for people choosing outside activities over indoor entertainment.
It hasn’t helped that semiconductor equipment continues to be in short supply.
“The growth of the overall game market has recently decelerated as opportunities have increased for users to get out of [the] home as Covid-19 infections have subsided in key markets,” on the business’s earnings call last month, Sony’s CFO, Hiroki Totoki, stated.
In the June quarter, Sony’s gaming division reported a 2% year-over-year revenue loss, while operational earnings fell over 37%. Additionally, the corporation provided a sombre prognosis, reducing its full-year earnings prediction by 16%.
What is the key reason? Less time is now spent playing video games and more time is now spent socialising.
Much less than the firm had anticipated, the PlayStation player base’s overall gameplay time decreased by 15%.
The ‘Covid effect’ has disappeared
The Covid epidemic had a major positive impact on the gaming industry, with publishers seeing explosive growth as consumers spent more time indoors.
However, the industry is suffering as a result of consumers’ changing purchasing patterns following the shutdown and rising inflation.
Overall gaming revenue at Microsoft fell 7% over the previous year. Xbox console sales for the corporation decreased by 11%, while income from gaming content and services dropped by 6%.
According to Microsoft’s chief financial officer Amy Hood, the declines were “driven by lower engagement hours and monetization in third-party and first-party content” on the company’s earnings call last week.
The troubled gaming publisher Activision Blizzard, which Microsoft is buying, reported a 70% decline in net profit and a 29% drop in revenues.
The creator of the popular shooter franchise, Call of Duty, attributed the downturn on the latest game’s underwhelming sales.
The company that created Assassin’s Creed, Ubisoft, reported a 10% fall in net bookings.
Wedbush Securities’ managing director, Michael Pachter, claimed that comparisons to the “outsized performance” of a year prior were a major factor in the poor results. In other words, businesses were unable to match the absurdly high results they reported in 2021.
“Everyone saw record numbers during shelter-in-place, with catalog sales of older titles leading the way,” Pachter told. “That set up an impossible comparison, and the year-over-year declines were well telegraphed and were expected.”
One of the few businesses to defy the gaming recession was Electronic Arts, which reported a 50% increase in profits and a 14% increase in revenue.
There is still a console shortage
The ongoing competition for important console hardware is a significant issue impeding performance in the gaming industry.
Operating profit for Nintendo fell by 15% between April and June. The Super Mario franchise’s developer attributed the underwhelming sales to a global scarcity of semiconductors that prevented it from manufacturing and marketing as many Switch consoles as it desired.
Nintendo’s portable Switch console sold 3.43 million units in the third quarter, a 23 percent year-over-year decline, while 41.4 million units of software were sold, an 8.6 percent decline.
In comparison to the 2.3 million systems sold during the same period last year, Sony sold 2.4 million PlayStation 5 consoles in the quarter. The company is expecting that the removal of lockdown restrictions in Shanghai, a key production base, and a holiday sales push will help it achieve its goal of selling 18 million PS5 systems in 2022.
“The slow rollout of hardware is one of the biggest contributors,” Pachter said. “New hardware purchasers tend to buy a lot of software, and PlayStation and Switch sales have been supply constrained.”
The number of new games that can be purchased has been reduced as a result of the trend toward remote working. For instance, Microsoft postponed the launch of its eagerly awaited sci-fi epic Starfield until early 2023, while Ubisoft postponed the release of a game based on the Avatar movie series.
Possibly more pain in the future?
Rising prices for everything from groceries to gas and worries about a coming recession could cause more problems for the industry.
According to research from Ampere Analysis, the global market for games and services is expected to shrink 1.2 percent annually to $188 billion in 2022, the first annual fall in more than a decade.
“The cost of living squeeze means added pressure on household budgets,” Ampere’s research director, Piers Harding-Rolls, told CNBC.
“The impact is likely to be felt on high ticket items which could include console hardware, although limited availability and pent up demand especially for the higher-end consoles means impact will be minimal at present.” Harding-Rolls further said, “There could also be some additional pressure on high in-game spending as gamers adjust their discretionary spending.”
A shift toward subscription offerings, according to some businesses, will help offset the impact of declining game sales.
Microsoft claims that the expansion of the organization’s Xbox Game Pass subscription programme helped soften the blow of weaker demand for consoles and video games. Microsoft does not provide an updated user count for the service, but as of January, there were more than 25 million subscribers overall.
Sony recently updated its PS Plus membership service in an effort to address the current decline in gaming activity. Sony’s quarterly report shows that there were 47.3 million PS Plus customers overall, a small decrease from the prior quarter.