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43 million games sold in the UK in 2020 | UK Annual Report

Nintendo Switch dominates retail, Ubisoft scores big in digital, and PS5 makes a strong start

Almost 43 million games, over three million consoles and nearly 10 million game accessories were sold in the UK last year.

This is according analysis of GSD market data. GSD covers all physical retail sales, as well as download sales from most major games companies (see bottom of the article for full details).

Across both physical and digital, 42.7 million games were bought, which is a 34% increase over 2019. The majority of the games, 24.5 million, were downloaded (which is up 74% over 2019).

FIFA 21 was the best-selling game of the year, with almost 2.2 million copies sold. This is ahead of Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, which achieved 1.42 million.

"As a franchise more Call of Duty games were sold in 2020, than in 2019, despite weaker-than-usual sales of the big Christmas release"

Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War sold 19% fewer units in 2020 compared with its predecessor in 2019. However, as a franchise more Call of Duty games were sold in 2020 than in 2019, due to strong sales of the previous year's Modern Warfare game. Overall, almost 13% more Call of Duty games were sold in 2020 than the year prior. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare was the fifth biggest game of 2020, with 897,000 games sold during the 12 month period.

It's similar for FIFA, where the previous year's game sold very well in 2020 -- 904,000 units (putting it at No.4 for the year). As a result, nearly 16% more FIFA games were sold in 2020 than the year before.

The physical chart is full of games released in previous years, with Grand Theft Auto 5 also doing well at No.3 (1.13 million). The sales figures were released by retail trade body ERA, which is quoting the same GSD data.


A big topic of discussion is around how AAA video games are being bought -- how many are being bought in boxes and how many are being downloaded? Not every publisher submits digital data (Nintendo and Bethesda are missing), so to better gauge how the market is shifting, we will discount those publishers from this analysis.

The transition is certainly increasing. Two thirds -- 67% -- of games sold in the UK last year were bought via Xbox Live, PSN, Nintendo Eshop and Steam. That's a big jump on 2019, when 52% of games sold were via download stores. The market was transitioning towards digital before 2020. However, the COVID-19 pandemic may have accelerated the move towards downloading, with many High Street retail stores being closed for extended periods during the year.

"Two thirds -- 67% -- of games sold in the UK last year were bought via Xbox Live, PSN, Nintendo Eshop and Steam"

Nevertheless, the physical games market remains hugely lucrative, and actually grew last year. 18.2 million games were sold in boxes in 2020 in the UK, which is an increase of 2% over 2019. If we include all physical items -- including consoles and accessories -- the physical games market in the UK is worth over £2.1 billion, which is up 28% over 2019.

One thing to factor in is that 2020 is a 53 week sales, whereas 2019 was a 52 week sales year, so there is an extra week of sales in this year's data.


Typically, the majority of game sales take place in the second half of the year, with Christmas a key time to release titles. In 2019, 62% of games sold took place after June. In 2020, the second half of the year was still dominant, but by a smaller margin (56.5%). This can be explained by the first COVID-19 lockdown over March and April, which caused a spike in UK game sales both physically and digitally.

The most successful boxed games publisher was Nintendo, which accounted for 20.5% of all physical games sold in 2020 (EA is in second place with 12.4%). The biggest digital games publisher of the year was Ubisoft, with an 18% market share (again, followed by EA with 15%). If we combine physical and digital together, Ubisoft was No.1 with a 14.3% market share, followed closely by EA (13.7%). However, as already stated, Nintendo digital sales are not included.

In terms of games sales by consoles, PS4 was the top-performing platform, with 39.6% of games being bought on Sony's last-generation device. Of course, the absence of Nintendo games from the digital data does skew the overall figure. In terms of purely retail sales, PS4 was still No.1 with a 37.4% market share, but Nintendo Switch was close behind with 35.1%.

If we purely look at digital sales, PS4 had a 41% market share, ahead of Xbox One's 26%. This is just for full game download sales, so Xbox Game Pass isn't included in this.

Over 36% of the games bought in the UK last year were rated 18+, which is in line with previous years. However, 3+ games did perform a little better than usual (26.4% market share). This was boosted by the success of certain Nintendo titles. Mario Kart 8: Deluxe sold more in 2020 than it did in 2019, meanwhile Animal Crossing: New Horizons was a big hit, selling over 810,000 copies in the UK last year.

"Across all devices, including handhelds, 3.16 million games machines were sold in 2020"

The most popular genre was 'general action shooters' (28.5% of sales), which is ahead of 'first-person shooters' (15.2% of sales). First-person shooters lost market share year-on-year, with these games accounting for 21% of sales in 2019.


Now onto the sales of the consoles themselves. Across all devices, including handhelds, 3.16 million games machines were sold in 2020. That's a big rise of 29.4% over 2019.

The winner of the year was Nintendo Switch, which was the best-selling games console in the UK for 11 of the 12 months in 2020. Switch sales are up 52.2% last year compared with 2019, which offset the 35.3% drop for PS4 and the 42.3% drop for Xbox One.

The second best-selling console of 2020 was the PlayStation 5, despite only being on sale since mid-November (and with Sony struggling to supply the demand). The PS5 very narrowly outsold the PS4, which is in third position.

In terms of the single most successful console version, that was the normal Nintendo Switch with the Neon joy-con controllers.


Onto the accessories market (including sales of toy-to-life products), over 9.6 million controllers, headsets and more were sold in the UK during 2020. That's an increase of 16.4% over the year previously. The most popular accessory was Sony's DualShock 4 controller for the PS4, followed swiftly by Microsoft's Xbox One controller.

Points and top-up cards also sold well last year, with over nine million of these being sold over the course of 12 months. That's a rise of 5.5% over the previous year, driven by Xbox Live gift cards (the No.1 points card) and PlayStation Store top-up cards (No.2).

This is all UK data, supplied by GSD.

GSD Annual 2020 Top 20 Video Games (Digital + Physical)

Position Title
1 FIFA 21 (EA)
2 Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War (Activision Blizzard)
3 Grand Theft Auto 5 (Rockstar)
4 FIFA 20 (EA)
5 Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (Activision Blizzard)
6 Animal Crossing: New Horizons* (Nintendo)
7 Assassin's Creed Valhalla (Ubisoft)
8 The Last of Us Part 2 (Sony)
9 NBA 2K20 (2K Games)
10 Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege (Ubisoft)
11 Red Dead Redemption 2 (Rockstar)
12 Mario Kart 8: Deluxe* (Nintendo)
13 Spider-Man: Miles Morales (Sony)
14 Monopoly Plus (Ubisoft)
15 Marvel's Avengers (Square Enix)
16 Ghost of Tsushima (Sony)
17 Cyberpunk 2077 (Bandai Namco/CD Projekt)*
18 Assassin's Creed Odyssey (Ubisoft)
19 Minecraft (Microsoft)
20 Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order (EA)

*Digital data not available

GSD Annual 2020 Top 10 Video Games (Digital)

Position Title
1 FIFA 21 (EA)
2 Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War (Activision Blizzard)
3 Grand Theft Auto 5 (Rockstar)
4 Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (Activision Blizzard)
5 FIFA 20 (EA)
6 NBA 2K20 (2K Games)
7 Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Siege (Ubisoft)
8 Monopoly Plus (Ubisoft)
9 Red Dead Redemption 2 (Rockstar)
10 Assassin's Creed Valhalla (Ubisoft)

GSD Annual 2020 Top 10 Video Games (Physical)

Position Title
1 FIFA 21 (EA)
2 Animal Crossing: New Horizons (Nintendo)
3 Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War (Activision Blizzard)
4 Mario Kart 8: Deluxe (Nintendo)
5 Assassin's Creed Valhalla (Ubisoft)
6 Cyberpunk 2077 (Bandai Namco/CD Projekt)
7 The Last of Us: Part 2 (Sony)
8 FIFA 20 (EA)
9 Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (Activision Blizzard)
10 Grand Theft Auto 5 (Rockstar)

Digital data includes games from participating companies sold via Steam, Xbox Live, PlayStation Network, Nintendo Eshop. Participating companies are Activision Blizzard, Anuman, Bandai Namco, Capcom, Electronic Arts, Focus Home Interactive, Koch Media, Konami, Microsoft, Milestone, Nacon, Paradox Interactive, Sega, Sony, Square Enix, Take-Two, THQ Nordic, Ubisoft and Warner Bros. Notable missing companies include Bethesda and Nintendo.

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Christopher Dring avatar
Christopher Dring: Chris is a 17-year media veteran specialising in the business of video games. And, erm, Doctor Who
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