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All eyes on Red Dead as UK games retail falters

LEGO, SoulCalibur and Starlink fail to lift physical sales in poor start to Q4

Hope rests on Rockstar's Red Dead Redemption 2 as the UK physical games market continues to struggle.

UK boxed game sales are down 6.2 per cent this year according to data firm GfK, despite earlier-than-usual launches for AAA sequels Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 and Assassin's Creed Odyssey.

Both games, alongside annual hit FIFA, have all sold fewer physical units compared to their predecessors over the same time period.

Part of this will be down to the growth in digital game sales, which have been steadily rising in recent years (the current market data does not factor in digital downloads), but it will no account for all of the deficit.

There are four new games in the UK Top 40 this week. The highest charting game was LEGO DC Super-Villains, which debuts at No.6. It's actually a slightly lower first week than the previous LEGO game - LEGO The Incredibles (released in July). Games aimed at younger and family audiences tend to sell steadily over a long period of time, as opposed to a first week spike that tails off, so it's too early to judge the game's eventual performance.

Nevertheless, boxed LEGO games aren't quite selling in the numbers they were two years ago. Licensed LEGO titles are typically dependent on the IP that they're based on, with the Star Wars, Harry Potter and Batman series the best-selling products. However, last year's No.1 LEGO game was actually LEGO Worlds - a game that did not tie-in with any movie or brand.

The next highest charting game this week is Bandai Namco's SoulCalibur VI at No.8. The fighting game's launch sales are more than 55% lower than its predecessor. However, SoulCalibur V was released in 2012 when the physical games market was bigger and digital game sales were still in their infancy. 80% of SoulCalibur VI's sales were on PS4, with the remainder on Xbox One.

One game released this week that will have had a physical retail bias is Ubisoft's Starlink: Battle for Atlas, which features tie-in spaceship toys. The open world space game is the only new IP released at retail this Q4 and it has started very slowly, only making No.14. This is also a game that targets kids and families, so sales should hopefully improve as we get closer to Christmas, especially as the critical reception was strong.

However, we can already tell which platform might prove the most popular. 82% of Starlink's launch sales came on Nintendo Switch, with just 10% coming on PS4 and 9% on Xbox One. The Switch version of the game features exclusive toys and characters based on Nintendo's Star Fox series.

However, the best-selling new Switch game out this week was Dark Souls: Remastered.

The only other new release to arrive this week comes in at No.23 and it's the 3DS port of the classic GameCube launch game, Luigi's Mansion.

The new games may not have impressed in their first week, but it was a better-than-expected week for Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 at physical retail. The game's second week sales dropped 39%, which is very good for a major game in its second week on shelves. But the title is still selling almost half of what last year's Call of Duty had managed during the same time period.

FIFA 19 retains No.2 despite a 39% drop in sales, Assassin's Creed Odyssey is still at No.3 (sales down 50% week-on-week), while Spider-Man continues to impress, rising two places to No.4. Forza Horizon 4 rounds off the Top Five.

Last week's other new release, WWE 2K19, plunges 8 places to No.11.

Next week marks the launch of Red Dead Redemption 2. Rockstar's last major game launch was GTA V in 2013, which sold more than two million units in the UK during its first week. Although Red Dead isn't expected to perform to that level, if the Wild West game even manages a third of that, it will be the biggest game launch of the year.

Here is the UKIE/GfK Top 10 for week ending October 20th.

Last Week This Week Title
New Entry 1 Call of Duty: Black Ops 4
2 2 FIFA 19
3 3 Assassin's Creed Odyssey
6 4 Spider-Man
5 5 Forza Horizon 4
New Entry 6 LEGO DC Super-Villains
7 7 Super Mario Party
New Entry 8 SoulCalibur VI
8 9 Crash Bandicoot: N.Sane Trilogy
9 10 Shadow of the Tomb Raider
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Christopher Dring avatar

Christopher Dring

Head of Games B2B

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