Console delays damage sales at 'PC Zone' publisher Future

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The Independent Online

Sales of some of the publishing group Future's most popular magazines, such as PC Zone, slumped by over a fifth in the second half of last year, according to trade estimates.

Official ABC audited figures due out next month are expected to confirm that its computer games magazine division, which makes up over a third of Future's profits, is struggling.

FTSE-Small-Cap-listed Future warned last week at its annual shareholder meeting that current market conditions are "challenging". Chairman Roger Parry said that profits for the run-up to Christmas, when sales are usually at their highest, will be "considerably less significant" than in the previous year.

According to trade estimates, PC Zone sold just over 29,000 copies on average every month between July and December last year, down 28 per cent on the previous year. GamesMaster had an average monthly circulation for the same period last year of around 50,000, down 24 per cent. Future's biggest selling computer game title, PlayStation 2, the official magazine for the Sony games console, had monthly sales of around 148,000 in the last six months of last year, a 14 per cent fall on the previous year.

Computer games magazines rely on new games, whose releases are timed to coincide with the launch of new consoles to boost sales. But the circulation of most gaming magazines has been hit by the delayed launch of consoles, and by supply shortages when they reach the shops.

Microsoft said last week that it would not supply as many of its new Xbox 360s as it had planned, while Sony is not expected to launch its long awaited new PlayStation until the end of the year at the earliest.

Greg Ingham, the chief executive of Future, said that magazine publishing was a cyclical business and he expected this year's sales to improve on 2005.

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