Console sales set for rebound, courtesy of next-gen

Research firm IDC says console sales slumped last year, but will hit new heights in 2013 and 2014 as next-generation consoles launch.

Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
2 min read

Console sales are set to make a rebound in the next couple of years, thanks to the next generation of hardware.

According to research firm IDC, worldwide console sales hit 34 million units last year, representing a 24.4 percent declined compared with 2011. However, IDC believes that the Wii U and the launch of a next-generation Xbox at the end of this year will push console sales up 10.1 percent to 37.4 million this year. In 2014, console sales could rise 19.1 percent to 44.6 million units.

"2011 and 2012 were tough for many console game disc developers and publishers," IDC Gaming research manager Lewis Ward said today in a statement. "With the advent of eighth-generation consoles, starting with the Wii U, historical norms strongly imply that game disc revenue will stop bleeding in 2013 and rise substantively in 2014."

The console market typically goes through cycles. When new consoles launch, sales rise. As the market matures and more people buy the hardware, console makers are forced to reduce prices to prop up sales. The last generation was certainly no different.

However, never before has there been as much competition for the average person's entertainment time. And with mobile gaming's popularity soaring, set-top boxes delivering more entertainment, and Web activities taking up more time in the average person's life, some have wondered if the console's days are numbered. Not so, says Ward.

"It doesn't appear that alternative platforms -- set-top boxes from cable companies, Web-connected smart TVs, and so on -- are positioned to materially disrupt the trajectory of the 'big 3' console OEMs in 2013 or 2014," Ward said.

The main reason for that might be that Microsoft and Sony have new consoles in the works. In an e-mailed statement to CNET, Ward said that he expects the next-generation Xbox to launch at some point in the fourth quarter of 2013. Sony's next PlayStation will likely launch in the first half of 2014, he said. And both consoles will likely boost overall shipments.

Nintendo's Wii U shouldn't be left out. Ward believes that the Wii U's shipments will exceed 50 million by the end of 2016. He didn't say how many PlayStation 4 or Xbox 720 shipments might ship by that time.

One current-generation note in the study: The PlayStation 3 eclipsed the Xbox 360 in total shipments last month, as Sony's console hit a lifetime total of 77 million shipments. The Xbox 360's lifetime shipments ended the year at 76 million, according to IDC.