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36 million games and 3.4 million consoles sold in the UK in 2021 | UK Annual Report

Nintendo Switch overtakes PS5 on the final lap, FIFA sales grow, but Call of Duty falls

35.8 million digital and physical games, 3.36 million consoles and 10.6 million accessories were sold in the UK during 2021.

This is according to software data from GSD, and hardware/accessories data from GfK.

SWITCH JUST BEATS PS5 TO NO.1

There was growth in the console space, driven by the first full year of the new PlayStation and Xbox machines. Combined Nintendo, PlayStation and Xbox sales were up 14% compared to the year before, GfK data shows (note, the 2020 data covers 53 weeks, while the 2021 figures cover 52 weeks).

The No.1 console in the UK was Nintendo Switch, which overtook PlayStation 5 in the final weeks of the year. Half a million Switch consoles were sold over November and December alone, helped by a Mario Kart 8: Deluxe bundle that launched during Black Friday, and the new OLED version, which launched in October.

It was the Nintendo Switch's second-biggest year by quite a large margin, but was down over 2020. During that year, the console surged in popularity due to the COVID-19 lockdowns.

Xbox Series consoles were the third biggest platform group. The Series X variety accounted for 43% of all the Xbox Series consoles sold over the year, a figure that varied wildly over the weeks of 2021. For example, during the third quarter of the year (July - September) Series X was just 24% of the total sales, while in the final quarter (October - December), the X variety outsold the S (GfK figures).

Of course, demand significantly outstripped supply of both PS5 and Xbox Series X during last year.

FIFA 22 SALES UP OVER 21

Although consoles grew, software declined. According to GSD, 35.8 million games were sold in 2021 (note: not all games publishers share digital sales, see full list below), which is down 16% over 2020.

It's worth noting that there was an extra week in the 2020 figures. Furthermore, 2020 was an unusual year due to a surge in sales caused by the first COVID-19 lockdown. If we compare the 2021 figures to 2019, the games software market is actually up 38%.

20.5 million games were downloaded last year (down 18% over 2020, up 43% on 2019), while 15.3 million games were bought physically (down 12.6% over 2020, and down 7% over 2019).

Focused purely on new releases (so games only released in 2021), 11.3 million games were sold last year. That represents 31.6% of all games sold. By comparison, 14.3 million new games were sold in 2020, which was 33.5% of all games sold that year.

To work out the digital/physical split, we must discount all publishers who do not share digital sales (so companies like Nintendo and Bethesda). Overall, participating companies saw 30.3 million games sold, of which 9.8 million were bought physically. That means the UK games market is around 32.4% physical. This is a slight improvement on 2020, when retail accounted for just under 32% of the market.

EA was the biggest publisher in terms of digital, while Nintendo was top in physical sales.

FIFA 22 was the best-selling game of the year, and it finished the year 10.3% up over FIFA 21. However, it was a tough year for Activision's Call of Duty. Call of Duty: Vanguard came in at No.2, but sales are down 36.1% compared to the previous year's game (Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War).

Grand Theft Auto 5 was incredibly the No.3 game of the year, eight years since it first launched. The game's sales are 23% down over its performance in 2020, but the fact we're even comparing sales year-on-year for a single game speaks to the title's enduring popularity. One of the reasons for GTA 5's success is in the digital space, with Rockstar running promotional activity around the game's online multiplayer mode: GTA Online.

Rockstar's other hit game, Red Dead Redemption 2, also remains a key seller. It was No.6 in the 2021 charts, with sales down just 5% compared with its performance in 2020.

Another game we can make year-on-year comparisons with is Mario Kart 8: Deluxe. The game is a regular seller alongside Nintendo Switch hardware, and so its not a surprise to see sales drop 20% year-on-year, reflecting the drop in Nintendo Switch console sales.

Outside of FIFA and Call of Duty, the best-selling new release of the year was F1 2021, which narrowly beat Far Cry 6. It was a dramatic year for the F1 racing season, which will have boosted interest in the title. Indeed, the game saw a big surge in sales over December when the season was reaching its controversial conclusion. Codemasters/EA also included the game in numerous end-of-year sales on digital stores.

The only other thing to note is with the new Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Pokémon Shining Pearl. Both games are counted separately, but if sales were combined, they would have charted in 10th position as the best-selling Switch game (note: digital sales are missing for Pokémon as Nintendo does not share digital figures). In the physical-only charts, it would have been No.3 if sales were combined.

SONY COMES TOP IN ACCESSORIES

Finally, accessories sales are down 6% compared with 2020, GfK says. But it was still a huge year with 10.6 million accessories sold, helped by the popularity of PS5 and Xbox Series X and S.

The best-selling accessory was the DualSense White controller for PS5, followed by the Black controller for Xbox.

In the headset space, Turtle Beach's Ear Force Recon series continues to sell well, but it was Sony's Pulse 3D Wireless headset that was top in this area, and the third best-selling accessory of the year overall.

The highest charting Nintendo Switch accessory is the Switch Pro Controller (Black) at No.14.

GSD 2021 Top 25 Games (Digital + Physical)

Position Title
1 FIFA 22 (EA)
2 Call of Duty: Vanguard (Activision Blizzard)
3 Grand Theft Auto 5 (Rockstar)
4 FIFA 21 (EA)
5 Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War (Activision Blizzard)
6 Red Dead Redemption 2 (Rockstar)
7 Spider-Man: Miles Morales (Sony)
8 F1 2021 (EA/Codemasters)
9 Far Cry 6 (Ubisoft)
10 Assassin's Creed Valhalla (Ubisoft)
11 Mario Kart 8: Deluxe (Nintendo)*
12 Animal Crossing: New Horizons (Nintendo)*
13 Resident Evil Village (Capcom)
14 Battlefield 2042 (EA)
15 Minecraft: Switch Edition (Nintendo/Mojang)*
16 Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury (Nintendo)*
17 Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Siege (Ubisoft)
18 Mortal Kombat 11 (Warner Bros)
19 LEGO Harry Potter Collection (Warner Bros)
20 Pokémon Brilliant Diamond (Nintendo)*
21 Minecraft (Mojang)
22 Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy (Square Enix)
23 Just Dance 2022 (Ubisoft)
24 NBA 2K21 (2K Games)
25 The Crew 2 (Ubisoft)

* Digital data unavailable

GSD 2021 Top 10 Games (Physical)

Position Title
1 FIFA 22 (EA)
2 Call of Duty: Vanguard (Activision Blizzard)
3 Mario Kart 8: Deluxe (Nintendo)
4 Animal Crossing: New Horizons (Nintendo)
5 Minecraft: Switch Edition (Nintendo/Mojang)
6 Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury (Nintendo)
7 Spider-Man: Miles Morales (Sony)
8 FIFA 21
9 Pokémon Brilliant Diamond (Nintendo)
10 Grand Theft Auto 5 (Rockstar)

GSD 2021 Top 10 Games (Digital)

Position Title
1 FIFA 22 (EA)
2 Grand Theft Auto 5 (Rockstar)
3 Call of Duty: Vanguard (Activision Blizzard)
4 Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War (Activision Blizzard)
5 FIFA 21 (EA)
6 Red Dead Redemption 2 (Rockstar)
7 F1 2021 (EA/Codemasters)
8 Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Siege (Ubisoft)
9 Resident Evil Village (Capcom)
10 Battlefield 2042 (EA)

GfK 2021 Top 10 Accessories

Position Title
1 PS5 DualSense Wireless Controller - White (Sony)
2 Xbox Wireless Controller - Carbon Black (Microsoft)
3 Pulse 3D Wireless Headset for PS4/PS5 - White (Sony)
4 PS5 DualSense Wireless Controller - Midnight Black (Sony)
5 PS4 DualShock 4 Controller - Black (Sony)
6 Xbox Wireless Controller - Robot White (Microsoft)
7 Ear Force Recon 50X Headset Black (Turtle Beach)
8 Ear Force Recon 50P Headset Black (Turtle Beach)
9 DualSense Charging Station for PS5 (Sony))
10 Ear Force Recon 70X Headset Black (Turtle Beach)

GSD digital data includes games from participating companies sold via Steam, Xbox Live, PlayStation Network, Nintendo Eshop. Participating companies are Activision Blizzard, Bandai Namco, Big Ben Interactive, Capcom, Codemasters, Electronic Arts, Focus Home Interactive, Koch Media, Konami, Microids, Microsoft, Milestone, Paradox Interactive, Quantic Dream, Sega, Sony, Square Enix, Strelka, Take-Two, Ubisoft and Warner Bros. Nintendo and Bethesda are the notable absentees, alongside smaller studios.

Author

Christopher Dring avatar

Christopher Dring

Head of Games B2B

Chris is a 15-year games business veteran. He spent nine years at UK business weekly MCV, including five years as editor. He joined GI in 2016 and oversees editorial, sales and events worldwide. He is the architect behind Best Places To Work Awards and GI Live. And is a tiny bit obsessed with market data. He also writes for Doctor Who Magazine. Because Doctor Who is awesome.

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