Video Games are Hot, Hot, Hot!Record Videogame Sales Seen Roaring Into Overdrive LONDON (Reuters) - Global video game sales are projected to grow nearly 10 percent this year, extending a decade-long surge that has a lot of life left, analysts said in a report on Tuesday. London-based market research firm ScreenDigest and trade association Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA) released their annual forecast, predicting sales in 2003 would hit $18.5 billion, another record. According to the report, the sale of video game and so-called "edutainment/reference" software would grow 9.5 percent in 2003 from $16.9 billion, suggesting that waging a virtual bombing raid or racing a stolen car through city streets now rivals trips to the cinema as a favorite entertainment pastime. Despite the global economic malaise, the popularity of video games continues to soar, a stark contrast to the music industry, which is having increasing difficulties selling compact discs. Major music labels are expected to suffer through a fourth straight year of declining CD sales, blamed in part on rampant piracy. "The market for video games has not peaked yet," said Ben Keen, research director for London-based research firm ScreenDigest. "It will probably peak this year in dollar value terms, reflecting pricing pressures that will kick in in the future. But in volume terms, it will continue to grow," he said. In Europe, sales of video games and entertainment software are expected to top $6.3 billion this year, exceeding the $2.7 billion video game and DVD rental market, according to ScreenDigest. The study also forecasts that 32 million new video game consoles will be sold in 2003. Last year, 30 million Sony PlayStation 2, Microsoft Xbox and Nintendo GameCubes were sold worldwide, the study said. Since 1995, when the top-selling Sony PlayStation first hit the market, nearly three billion video game and leisure software units have been sold globally.