4. The march to digital distribution: Even though Sony's digital-only PSP Go portable was a wretched failure (with sales drifting down to PS2 levels after it made PSP users' library of games useless), the push toward online networks and even "cloud" gaming continues. Though the numbers for 2009 aren't in yet, Microsoft says nearly 60% of its users paid a $50 annual fee to join its Xbox Live Gold online service in 2008. Meanwhile, Sony said last month that its PlayStation Network has 33 million registered users worldwide. At the same time, EA laid off 1,500 employees from its brick-and-mortar sectors last month, while GameStop announced plans to enter the digital arena after same-store sales fell 7.8% last quarter and Goldman Sachs (GS) removed it from its "conviction" buy list.
5. The death of peripherals: What did we learn about plastic peripherals in 2009? If you have a Guitar Hero or Rock Band instrument set, you're not buying another one. Overall, peripheral sales are down 6% from last year, according to NPD, with music games like The Beatles: Rock Band and Guitar Hero 5 pulling in just $53 million in October, compared with the $137 million made by their predecessors during the same month last year. Activision salted the wound nicely when its $100-plus DJ Hero and turntable peripheral scarcely cracked 100,000 sales in its first month and its $120 Tony Hawk: Ride and skateboard accessory was roundly panned before its release last month.
-- Reported by Jason Notte in Boston.