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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Thursday focus: Shopping life

Free is a good price. With Americans tightening their belts, many have turned to free online games for amusement.

While others have seen online ad revenues slide, online gaming sites (not to be confused with online gambling sites) saw display advertising views spike 29 percent in November from a year earlier, according to a report released Wednesday by research outfit ComScore.

That’s primarily because these sites saw more people coming to play.

While overall Internet traffic grew 4 percent in December, the number of visitors to online gaming sites grew 27 percent from December 2007 to 86 million, ComScore said.

They’re also spending more time on the sites, up 42 percent per visitor.

The survey does not include data from massive multiplayer online games such as EverQuest and World of Warcraft, both of which require monthly subscriptions to play.

The top free-to-play gaming sites that posted gains in December include:

•WildTangent up 74 percent

•EA Online up 21 percent

•Yahoo Games up 20 percent

•Addicting Games up 17 percent

•Disney Games up 13 percent.

Even scarier: The nation’s retailers had a rough 2008, but this year will likely be even scarier, according to a sales forecast released Tuesday from the world’s largest retail trade organization.

Retailers are expected to record a 0.5 percent drop in revenue in 2009, the first annual decline in three decades and perhaps much longer, according to a National Retail Federation forecast released Tuesday.

That’s well below the modest 1.4 percent gain they recorded for 2008.

Massive layoffs, slumping home prices and tight credit are keeping shoppers tightfisted.

The NRF estimated that retail sales for the first half of 2009 will fall 2.5 percent.

Then, they’ll show a 1.1 percent decline in the third quarter and rebound to a 3.6 percent increase in the fourth quarter, aided by an anticipated government economic stimulus.

One of the key challenges for the retail industry is the massive layoffs across all sectors that appear to be accelerating.

From wire reports

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