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Are video game consoles set for a bumper Black Friday?

PS5, Xbox Series S and X and Nintendo Switch set to go head-to-head over Black Friday

On the surface, it looks like it's been a banner year for video game console sales.

Overall in every major market, video game console sales are up. PS5 sales are up over 100% in some European countries, while Nintendo Switch sales are incredibly up year-on-year, despite it approaching its seventh anniversary.

But as is often the case, topline numbers hide some other concerning trends.

The global market growth on consoles is driven by PlayStation 5, which has grown exponentially over 2022. This is because PS5 was largely missing from store shelves due to severe stock shortages last year (although the US market appeared to fare better than others). PS5 is delivering record-breaking numbers right now, but that is partially due to pent up demand caused by a lack of availability in 2022.

The success of the Switch is impressive, but the growth is mostly localised in Japan and other export territories. In the US, Switch sales have dropped 21% this year, while sales have slipped 7% across Europe.

As for Xbox, it's been a tough year for Microsoft's platform as it's declined in sales during its third year on sale in most major markets.

"The entertainment sector should take heed of overall economic uncertainty"

Dorian Bloch, GfK

According to GfK, in the UK PS5 had a 43% share of all console sales over the last 12 months (November 2022 to October 2023), but over the last six months (May 2023 to October 2023) that has risen to 51%.

"Recent PS5 highlights coming from unrestricted sales on the standard PS5 hardware model, aggressive price promotions in July and August, and the recent EA Sports FC 24 bundle," explains GfK games boss Dorian Bloch.

"Over the same measures the Xbox Series consoles have dropped from 26% market share over the last 12 months to 23% over the last 6 months, but the biggest decline has been Switch, down from 34% to 25%."

So although there is growth in consoles this year, there are also signs of dropping interest in some quarters.

This Holiday sales period, and Black Friday in particular, is an interesting one as it is the first Black Friday where all three current consoles are in fully supply. Nintendo Switch has largely had Black Friday to itself over the past three years, with a lack of available stock for its competitor platforms.

We are already seeing some planned activity from the platform holders. In Europe, Nintendo appears to be focusing on the Standard and Lite Switch models, with a Nintendo Switch Sports and Animal Crossing bundle offer taking centre stage. The OLED model, which targets more core players, is also getting a special version for Black Friday in the US (OLED Switch sales are up worldwide, including in the US and Europe).

PlayStation is launching a new, slightly smaller model of the PS5. It also has Spider-Man, Call of Duty and FIFA bundles. With a high target for PS5 to hit this year, we should expect Sony to be particularly aggressive over the sales window.

A new PS5 model is released this month

Black Friday and the whole Holiday period is going to be a crucial moment for all three platforms, but in an industry where costs are being cut, platform holders might be mindful of eroding its margins too heavily. However, GfK warns that consumer confidence is low and that they are being more cautious over what they're spending this year due to the high cost-of-living, which is something that may impact higher priced items like consoles.

"Q4 traditionally accounts for around 50% to 55% of hardware units, so there is still a lot to play for at the time of writing," Bloch continues.

"Console hardware year-to-date is currently +8% ahead in the UK, but only due to a surging PS.

"However, the entertainment sector should take heed of overall economic uncertainty. GfK recently revealed that the consumer confidence index fell by nine points in Oct23 to -30 and that the major purchase index fell 14 points to -34 in the run-up to the festive season.

"The sharp falls remind us that the cost-of-living crisis exerts acute pressure on many consumers: heating homes, filling petrol tanks, surging mortgage and rents and a slowing jobs market, coupled with a new conflict in the Middle East, all contribute to growing unease.

"Not having enough money to make ends meet means juggling expensive gifts during the festive season – many consumers will look at major purchases carefully – consoles qualify – and whilst it may seem that entertainment is a priority, 48% of respondents in Oct 2023 said that they were either just managing, using their savings or running in to debt. We also saw that 39% of respondents in said that they felt their household’s financial position will worsen over the next 12 months."

More details on hardware sales in the UK can be obtained on subscription with GfK.

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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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