Gamers buck bleak shopping trend

The economy is down, but things are thumbs up for the video game industry.


Ray Weatherford, 34, said he plans to buy five video games this Christmas for his three children.

"I've got my eye on Guitar Hero and Halo 3 ," said Mr. Weatherford, who shopped Tuesday at Play N Trade on Washington Road.

Also shopping at the store was Sue Bruss, a mother of two children, ages 11 and 13. She was checking on her order for two copies of Animal Crossing , a Nintendo Wii game.

"This is my third time in here this week," Ms. Bruss said.

Her teenage son plays video games religiously, and so does her husband, who loves World of Warcraft .

"Left to their own devices, that's all they would do for the whole weekend," Ms. Bruss said.

The U.S. gaming industry has experienced an 18 percent growth in sales from this time last year. In October, retail sales in the U.S. reached $1.31 billion, according to the NPD Group, a New York-based market research firm.

Walter Kohler, a co-owner of Play N Trade, said sales are up.

"Most of it is from software, but even the hardware systems have been selling quite well," he said.

In October, Play N Trade sold $10,000 more than last year, a 30 percent increase. The store experienced some difficult months earlier this year, but Mr. Kohler believes he "will break even" with the recent surge in business.

Sales have also increased at Kmart on Washington Road, manager James Klugh said.

"We're probably double above the national average. We can't keep merchandise in," he said.

He attributes the record sales to the store's layaway program. The Martinez store has Kmart's largest toy and game department in the Southeast, he explained.

Mr. Klugh believes the video game industry is recession-proof because it's the new form of entertainment.

"It's taking the place of people going out to a movie. The kids can stay at home now," he said.

Target on Robert C. Daniel Jr. Parkway is experiencing the same high sales, said Brandon Jensen, a team leader. A few weeks ago, the store had a buy-two-get-one-free sale on Wii games.

Many of the shoppers were parents buying gifts for their children, he said.

"We were completely out of most of the games that we had," Mr. Jensen said. "Sales have heavily increased, and we're expecting a huge demand on all systems, but specifically the Wii and the PS3 in the next few weeks."

Mr. Kohler said his store relies on sales from November, December and the first two weeks of January. More than 60 percent of his sales are made during this 10-week period, he explained.

This holiday season, the Wii is the No. 1 video game system, and the Nintendo DS Lite is the top hand-held system, Mr. Kohler said.

Sales for Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Sony's PlayStation 3 are also up. There are some games Play N Trade "can't keep on the shelves."

"I'm reordering some of the games every other day," Mr. Kohler said.

Reach LaTina Emerson at (706) 823-3227 or


- The U.S. gaming industry reports an 18 percent increase in sales from last year.

- In October, consumers spent $1.31 billion on hardware, software and accessories.

- Hardware sales reached $494.7 million, led by the Nintendo Wii, which sold 803,000 units in October.

- Microsoft's Xbox 360 sold 371,000 units in October. Sony's PlayStation 3 sold 190,000 units.

- Software sales grew 35 percent, with $696.8 million in sales.

Source: The Associated Press