A stronger lineup of console titles this year means core gamers are spending more time playing than ever, says Lazard Capital Markets -- but new business models and a changing product mix mean the less active players are migrating away from the traditional space toward newer and less expensive gaming.
"The bad news for the console market is that the number of casual or infrequent gamers outnumber core gamers, resulting in a slight tilt toward less time spent overall playing console games," says Lazard in a report.
The group highlights several trends it believes its survey feedback supports: "Mainstream/casual gamers lost interest in Wii and music titles, and are now more inclined to play browser and mobile games," the analysts say. "Moreover, we believe these trends could continue to weigh on sell-through trends for second-tier console games."
There's still "strong interest" in core games like Call of Duty: Black Ops, Red Dead Redemption, Halo Reach and Gran Turismo, Lazard says. 25 percent of the consumers overall in its survey plan to purchase Black Ops, "a strong response, in our view."
The analysts found it surprising, giving the audience overlap, that even alongside this figure, 17 percent of the respondents plan to buy Medal of Honor. "Importantly, given the broader interest and timing with gift purchases, we expect Call of Duty will still sell at least [three times] the number of units as Medal of Honor, although game reviews remain a key variable in determining core gamer interest."
The analyst group was also surprised by the volume of response it saw to the new motion solutions, Kinect and Move, which it had expected to be tempered by those devices' price points at $149 and $99, respectively. "We believe that Sony’s Move is off to a good start at retail, with limited supplies, and our survey also bodes well for the launch of Kinect," says Lazard.
Specifically, the analysts predict Microsoft could sell 4 million Kinect units by year-end. Such a strong market reaction could cement another three to four years before a full hardware refresh in the current console cycle, they add.
Lazard's results are derived from 314 console owners (Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii), many of whom own more than one console. 73 percent of the respondents identified as being active console players who also displayed a high correlation to other types of gaming platforms.