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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 11 March, 2003, 13:01 GMT
Gaming set for record year
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City screenshot
Vice City: More then eight million copies sold globally
This year is going to be a record one for the gaming industry, with more people buying video games and consoles, says a report.

Sales of games alone are set to hit $18.5bn, while 32 million consoles will be sold, according to London-based market research firm ScreenDigest.

The upbeat forecast reflects the growing popularity of gaming, which is becoming a major rival to other forms of entertainment such as the cinema.

"These figures clearly demonstrate the commercial strength of an industry rich in creativity and entertainment value," said Roger Bennett, Director General of the trade body, the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA), which commissioned the study.

Growing appeal

Sales of computer games and consoles are riding high despite gloomy news on the High Street.

Peter Molyneux
Making a computer game now is incredibly expensive. A few developers are really, really struggling

Last year was a record one for the industry. In the UK alone, sales of hardware and software reached 2bn.

The figures suggest that racing through virtual streets in a stolen car or going on pretend spy mission has become a firm favourite among thrill-seekers.

In 2002 in the UK, more money was spent on games than on video rental or on going to the cinema.

Looking ahead, global video game sales are predicted to grow nearly 10%, said the ScreenDigest report.

And there seems no stopping the appeal on gaming consoles like Sony's PlayStation 2, Microsoft's Xbox and Nintendo's GameCube.

A further 32 million consoles are expected to be sold worldwide in 2003, up from 30 million last year.

Expensive business

"More games are being purchased by more people all over the world," said Mr Bennett.

"It is heartening to acknowledge the contribution made by UK-based development houses to that success.

"In particular, companies such as Rockstar North who developed the phenomenally successful GTA: Vice City which sold over one million units in the UK alone in the eight weeks leading up to Christmas."

But others strike a word of caution, pointing out that the growing costs of developing a game is driving smaller game studios out of business.

"Making a computer game now is incredibly expensive," said Peter Molyneux of Lionhead Studios, one of Britain's leading developers. "A few developers are really, really struggling."

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