The grocery sector faces a difficult task in assessing the sales potential of new games consoles. The launch of Sony's PS2 before Christmas and the Nintendo Gameboy boosted the market, while in June Nintendo's Gameboy Advance hit the streets. Next spring sees Microsoft move seriously into the console game market with the launch of its Xbox while Nintendo brings out its GameCube. Figures from ChartTrack show that around 80,000 Nintendo's Gameboy Advance machines and 90,000 units of software were sold in the first weekend, making it the UK's fastest-selling video games console. "The grocers take games more seriously but they will have to act smarter ," says EUK's trading controller for multimedia products Simon Lee. "These new formats will initially be bought by early adopters who tend not to shop in the supermarkets, but the multiples need to be aware of which formats are proving popular and adapt their stock levels. Tesco has Gameboy Advance in only a handful of its stores but is ready to roll out the format when the time is right." TN Sofres Audio Visual Trak reports the supermarkets' share of spend on computer games is small, up from 1.7% to 2% and from 2% to 2.6% in volume in the year to May. Yet, as with music and video, price is becoming an important weapon to win market share. The average price of a computer game in supermarkets was down from £21.23 to £16.79 over the same period. This compares with £22.02 in the computer specialists and £20.59 on the internet. The grocery trade is helping to grow the entire games market in the UK. Figures published by the European Leisure Software Publishers Association (Elspa) claim that in the first quarter of 2001 volume sales for games software rose by 24% from 8.2m to 10.3m units and was up 5.2% in value from £207.8m to £218.7m. "Booming sales demonstrate the strength of this sector and lower prices enable consumers to enjoy a larger range of games. The original games buyers now have children of their own so we no longer see parents afraid of computer games," says Elspa director general Roger Bennett. Big releases to come this year include driving game GT3 (Sony PS2), Tony Hawks Pro Skater 3 (Activision) while in quarter four the highlight could be Jack & Dexter (Sony PS2). {{FOCUS SPECIALS }}