PC games walk off the shelves

In computer gaming, it really is all about the software.

Customers have swamped games retailers nationwide as two of the biggest PC titles hit the shelves this month. Neverwinter Nights and Warcraft 3 made their long-awaited market debut and the popularity of the titles has driven game software sales to an all-time high.

"It was our best day ever in sales," said Rob Beaumont from Berlin Wall Software Supermarket in Adelaide. "Customers queued for 30 minutes for both titles and the shop never slowed down all day. We went home knackered! The next morning was much the same."

The excitement has provided a welcome shot in the arm for the games sector, which traditionally records its best sales around the Christmas period.

"It was a very crazy day," said Stephen Paddon, managing director of Melbourne-based Pulsar Computers. "Generally this time of the year is not a peak time for us, but these two titles are really driving business. If the momentum keeps up, it will be a phenomenal month for us."

The games channel is being recognised as an industry in its own right. This month, the Interactive Entertainment Association of Australia (IEAA) broke away from the Australian Visual Software Distributors Association (AVSDA). The IEAA will focus on the issues surrounding computer and video games software, hardware and accessories.

Paddon, who this year travelled to the renowned E3 show in Las Vegas, said he wasn't surprised by the move because computer entertainment was becoming mainstream.

"The industry is predicting 25 per cent growth each year for the next five years. There are not many sectors experiencing that sort of growth. So there are certainly a lot of positives."

It has been an extraordinary year for games -- the launch of two new consoles and a high-profile price war has centred the spotlight on the industry. The irony is that although the hype has centred on the console market, most of the recent sales are actually in the PC games sector, and that's not a bad thing say retailers.

"The hype has been good indeed," said Beaumont. "It stimulates sales. The release of the two titles started a chain reaction of other sales for consoles because a lot of people seem to have more than one platform."

Neverwinter Nights distributor OziSoft sold out of stock on presale orders, such was the demand for the title.

Pulsar Computers sold almost 150 copies of Midwinter Nights in the first day's trading and with OziSoft already out of the title, the retailer was lucky enough to get additional stock from a sub-distributor. Additional stock is due this week.

Stocks of Warcraft 3, which is distributed by Vivendi Universal Publishing, remain at good levels.

"There was also no shortage of customers willing to pay the extra amount for the Collector's Edition of Warcraft 3," said Beaumont.

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