Christmas was rather a dull one for game players and hobbyists such as model train collectors and wargamers, that is if the sales figures for leading game and hobby manufacturers and retailers are to be believed.

This time last year saw a phenomenon, known by some as the "James May Effect", in which sales of traditional games and hobby goods, such as Scalextric, Airfix and model soldiers soared, while computer games retailers saw sales decline.

Hornby, which aside from Hornby trains owns Scalextric and Airfix, said last year that demand for its products during Christmas '09 was so great that it was left with "historically low" levels of stock.

Christmas 2010 proved to be rather less enjoyable for Hornby, which today reported "weaker sales than expected" during the Christmas period, thanks mainly to heavy snow. The lack of sales led the company to say that it now believed its pre-tax profit for the full year ended 31 March 2011 will be "below current market expectations".

Hornby's troubles are just part of a wider picture however.

Games Workshop, which manufactures and sells fantasy and sci-fi miniatures to a substantial niche market also said this month that it expected its full year results to be below market expectations. This was attributed in part to the restructuring of its stores but also to the difficult trading conditions in the run up to Christmas.

In its results for the six months to 28 November 2010, also released today, Games Workshop reported a drop in pre-tax profit from £7.9 million to £6.7 million.

Even in the apparently more popular computer games industry retailers appeared to suffer somewhat.

Game group said its sales in the five weeks to 8 January 2011 were down 4.1 per cent from the previous year (when sales dropped by an even greater 12 per cent from the year before that). Despite this however Game still predicted for itself pre-tax profits of £37 to £35 million, well within current market expectations, but a far cry from the £87 to £93 million it was expecting this time last year.

One of the problems facing Game is not so much that computer games are becoming less popular, but that they are becoming too popular. With computer games titles like "Medal of Honor: Black Ops" starting to attract frenzied crowds usually reserved for blockbuster films or Harry Potter books, everyone is wanting to get a slice of the cake. Gamers can just as easily (and sometimes more cheaply) buy the latest game at the supermarket rather than having to go to a shop that specialises in computer games.

So it seems that hobbyists of all kinds this year could not quite face braving the snow before Christmas to get their latest game/plastic tank/ Scalextric car. Perhaps with government cuts on the way and inflation on the up even the most fantasist of gamers could not bring themselves to spend that much on their hobby. Or was it that, having left Hornby with "historically low" stock levels last year, they had not finished playing with all the goodies they got for Christmas in 2009.