Games v. Movies: The Numbers

December 28, 2010 -

Update: We mistakenly attributed the post in the story below to David Bordwell. It was actually written by Kristen Thompson. Corrected story below.

Kristin Thompson picks apart the numbers in the November 15 issue of Newsweek, which compares sales of the movie industry with the video game industry. The article appears in "Back Story," the one-page article that comes at the end of each issue. The article, "How Super Is Mario?," puts a brave face on the video game industry. We have heard analysts and research firms say that the video game industry has surpassed movies.

Thompson dissects the numbers in the article and finds that the, while the video game industry is catching up to the movie industry, it still has a long ways to go:

"But in fact the Newsweek analysis just repeats the conventional wisdom it claims to overturn and makes the same old invalid comparison that entertainment-business journalism has been making since video games started making real money. A cursory glance at the pie charts makes it seem as if the gaming industry is not all that far behind films: the games total is $60.6 billion vs. $77.1 billion for movies. But let’s take a glance that isn’t cursory."

However, here is where the truth comes out. If you take hardware and accessory sales out of that impressive number and look solely at software - video games don't come anywhere near the levels that movies are currently at:

"The figure includes the consoles and other equipment people buy in order to play games. But the pie chart of movie-industry income doesn’t include hardware. What would happen if the sales of theater and home projectors, DVD and Blu-ray Players, iTouches, and all the other gadgets used to watch movies were factored into the film-income figures? As we know, there have been a lot of digital theater projectors and 3D systems sold in recent years, not to mention all those portable media players. The games industry would fall farther behind than it already is. (And let’s not forget that most of those gaming consoles also play movies, so an indeterminate part of their income should go into the movies column. Since last January, the Wii even comes with a Netflix connection installed.)"

"Consoles are listed at $18.1 billion and accessories at $6.6. Take them away, and games software brought in $35.9 billion in the period covered (January 1, 2008 to September 30, 2010). There’s nothing to take away from the film pie, since it consists entirely of software rentals and sales. So film still brings in more than twice as much, $35.9 billion vs. $77.1. DVD and Blu-ray sales, at $34.2 billion, make nearly as much as all games."

You can read the rest of the post here. Thanks Gus Mastrapa.

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