Aug 11, 2022 - Technology

PlayStation sales migrate from big cities, following pandemic pattern

Illustration of a PS5 controller and moving boxes in the bed of a pixellated truck.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios. Photo: Bloomberg/Getty Images

Sales of PlayStation products have migrated along with the U.S. population, out of large metro areas to smaller cities, according to a Sony executive who believes the migration is tied to pandemic-related population shifts.

Why it matters: One way to understand what has happened in the country over the past few years is to see where people are buying stuff.

  • But input on that topic from the games industry — as opposed to, say, Shake Shack — is surprising.
  • Game companies are stingy about publicly announcing sales performance in individual countries, let alone sharing insights about movement in U.S. states.

What they’re saying: “There is a geographic shift in sales,” said Sony Interactive Entertainment’s director of business insights Doug Evans, in a webinar with the logistics firm Alloy late last month that has not been previously reported.

  • “I have to attribute that to the migration because of the pandemic."
  • Evans wasn't necessarily talking PS5s here, which he noted are flying off the shelves wherever Sony is able to stock them.
  • But store-level tracking can still be useful for Sony to learn how accessories and other products sell.

His findings: Evans said he compared PlayStation sales data from the first half of 2019 to the first half of 2022.

  • ⬇️ There was a “significant drop” in “New York, Brooklyn, The Bronx, Chicago and Miami” that took increases in 33 other cities to fill. (It was unclear if “New York” means Manhattan; Sony didn’t reply to a request for comment on this story.)
  • ⬆️ This contrasts with an increase in sales in smaller metro areas, “places like Fayetteville and Memphis and Jacksonville and a lot of small cities in Florida and Texas and so on.”

Those shifts match the U.S. Census Bureau’s reports on population migration from 2019 to 2021.

  • The New York and Chicago areas both made the top 10 U.S. regions with the largest domestic migration to other parts of the country.
  • Fayetteville, North Carolina, and Jacksonville, Florida, both made the census' list of regions with the largest net domestic migration.

The big picture: The games industry is increasingly digital as players who once bought games on discs show an increased preference for downloading them.

  • It still plays a big role in physical retail, though, through the sale of consoles, controllers and other devices that just can't be downloaded, no matter your bandwidth speeds.

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