According to the latest data from NPD Australia, the Australian Games Industry raked in $1.5 billion at retail in 2011, that's a 12.8 per cent contraction compared to 2010, but that figure doesn't account for the growth in digital sales, says Ron Curry, CEO of iGEA.
“As Australians continue to access video games through a host of different channels, it’s becoming more challenging to aggregate sales data through a single source," said Curry. "Whilst the NPD data has revealed a dip in ‘traditional retail’ sales, which according to our latest Digital Australia report still represents the lion’s share of the games industry, other research has pointed to the growth in digital downloads, multi-player online games, in game purchases and online subscriptions.
“Overall, we’re seeing a lot of evidence point towards a continuing healthy interactive games industry. The incredible success of games such as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 which became the fastest entertainment property to hit the $1 billion milestone globally, eclipsing the previous record set in 2009 by the film Avatar, is only one example of this.”
According to Antony Reed, CEO of the Games Development Association of Australia, digital growth is partly enabled by the hard work of local development studios.
"In 2011, Australian made games featured highly across multiple digital platforms," said Reed. "For example, Brisbane’s Halfbrick Studios recorded over 120 million downloads of their smash-hit, Fruit Ninja, and 11 million for the recently released, Jetpack Joyride, and Melbourne-based IronMonkey Studios won Apple’s coveted ‘Game of the Year’ award with DeadSpace. Into 2012 we will see many more innovative and creative properties made by Australian studios releasing to a global audience.”
But if an increasing amount of cash is now coming through digital sources, why are we still being given figures that don't include digital revenue?
The answer is simple: it's very difficult to collate those numbers.
"We'd love to add the digital numbers," said Ron Curry, "but we can't get them.
"Firstly, the numbers are so vast. With traditional retail we have the retailers to help us and give us the numbers; Secondly, we'd need to be able to break them down, and it can be hard to track who bought what from where. Thirdly there's the Apple factor, and they don't provide the numbers to us.
"Because digital distribution is such a new thing, we find that people are more reluctant to share the data."
It's a strange situation — the games industry as a whole is growing, but publishers typically don't have the numbers that reflect that growth.
"We'd love to have those numbers, because it helps us for a number of reasons, but we don't want to publish them unless we can hand on heart say that it's the truth."