A screenshot from Far Cry 3.TRADITIONAL retail video game sales  slumped 23per cent in Australia last year  as consumers  shifted to game apps and digital downloads.

But bricks-and-mortar retailers  say that comparing game apps to full-fledged console titles for the Xbox or PlayStation is like comparing a Happy Meal with a Big Mac.

New data from NPD Group Australia shows  the revenue retailers  made  from console hardware, games software and gaming peripherals was $1.161billion last year.

Ron Curry, the chief executive  of  the Interactive Games and Entertainment Association, said the sector was still ‘‘buoyant’’ despite the 23per cent fall in traditional sales because the figures did not include sales from online retail, downloadable content, digital subscriptions, mobile games and in-game micro-transactions.

The technology analyst company Telsyte predicts Australians will spend more than $730million on digital games this year,  up from $620million last year.

A Telsyte analyst, Sam Yip, told Fairfax Media that with the move to game apps and online subscription games, bricks-and-mortar  games retailers  had to diversify.

“You’ve got online games that are 10 to 20 times cheaper than packaged games and give you the same sort of experience,” he said.

Mr Yip said the quality gap was closing between Xbox and PlayStation games bought on disc and those available online or on devices such as the iPad.

But  the merchandising director at EB Games, Shane Stockwell,  said there was no comparison between game apps and console blockbusters, still mainly sold on disc because of the large file sizes.

“I would consider app gaming more like a $2 Happy Meal at Maccas,” Mr Stockwell said.

“Some people want the  Happy Meal, some people want the Big Mac – they’re not the same  and they have a price difference. I’m playing Far Cry 3  from Ubisoft – there’s no way an app compares to that.”

Mr Stockwell said he had put 30-40 hours into  the game, “and an app doesn’t come close.  But my son, who’s nine, loves playing Minecraft  … so it’s horses for courses.”

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