'

PS2 games get Electronics Boutique's tills ringing

Sales of video games boomed in the run-up to Christmas, and demand for PS2 software was particularly high

High street retailer Electronics Boutique (EB) has announced record-breaking sales figures for pre-Christmas trading in the UK -- thanks to strong demand for PlayStation2 (PS2) games.

In the five weeks before Christmas, Electronics Boutique stores that had been open more than a year saw a 47 percent increase in total sales compared to December 2000. Overall sales in the UK and Ireland were up by 51 percent.

The popularity of the PS2 with British gamers seems to have been the driving force behind this strong performance. According to Electronics Boutique, 1.7m PS2 consoles have been sold in the UK since the launch in the UK in November 2000. This compares favourably with the take-up of the original PlayStation -- which had a user base of around 700,000 at the same stage.

In a statement, EB's non-executive chairman Peter Lewis expressed his delight at the results, and predicted that the arrival of Microsoft's game console would provide an additional boost to his company's finances. "Our strong year-on-year performance became even better in December. The remarkable sales of PlayStation2 consoles and the coming launch of Microsoft XBox in March will further stimulate our market in the coming year."

According to Lewis, demand for video games has continued into 2002. "Since Christmas, demand for video games to meet the needs of the newly installed console base has continued at record levels. A golden era has begun," he said.

ZDNet UK predicted last year that sales of PS2 software would be high over the Christmas period -- because of the large number of new games that were launched in November 2001.

On Friday 23 November, a massive 12 new PS2 titles hit the shelves -- including Virtua Tennis 2 and the action game "James Bond 007 in .....Agent Under Fire". The week before saw the launches of the Harry Potter computer game and popular football simulation ISS 2.

Some industry figures worried that the launch of so many new games would mean that some titles wouldn't get the attention and sales they deserved -- but it seems that the overall games market has benefited from the flood of new releases.

Electronics Boutique also announced that it is planning to change its name to The GAME Group plc. Currently, some of the firm's UK stores are branded as Electronics Boutique, while the rest are branded as GAME. Across Europe, its stores are known as CentroMAIL in Spain, Scoregames in France and GAME in Sweden.

If shareholders agree, then all the company's stores will be branded as GAME, at a one-off cost of around £6m.

Despite this cost, which has been included in the company's accounts for the year to January 2002, Electronics Boutique has said it will still achieve its profit targets for the year.

For a round-up of the latest tech business coverage, see the Business News Section.

See Gamespot UK's PlayStation2 channel for the latest news.

What's going on in games? For all the latest see GameSpot UK.