Video games sales have crashed by a third - with shoppers buying seven million fewer games in the first half of this year than they did in 2011.

Industry observers have blamed the sharp year-on-year decline across the entertainment category on publishers ‘back-ending’ releases - timing major launches for the end of the year to target the Christmas gift market.

Value sales of video games (excluding downloads) have plunged from the £480m recorded between January and June last year to £321m in the same period this year - a drop of 33% - while unit sales have fallen from 20.7 million to 13.7 million. The sales data, released this week by trade body the Entertainment retailers Association, also shows half-year video sales (excluding downloads) down 11.4% by value year-on-year to £601m, and music - which is less affected by back-ending - down 6.3% to £408m.

“The figures are disappointing,” said ERA director general Kim Bayley. “We are quite concerned about publishers back-ending their release schedule - we are seeing this more than in previous years.”

Earlier this year, retailers called on games publishers to spread out their launches after Activision announced that Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 will roll out on 13 November, two weeks after Assassin’s Creed 3 and a week after Halo 4. The last three months of 2011 accounted for 50% of the year’s physical games sales, and 42.4% of physical video [Kantar Worldpanel].

Retailers can expect strong sales in the second half of 2012, with major video launches such as The Avengers, Prometheus and The Hunger Games in addition to game titles.

Earlier this week, Kantar Worldpanel data revealed that both Tesco and Asda lost share in the entertainment market in Q2 to Amazon.