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How well did UK games retail perform in 2016?

Consoles, accessories and boxed games drop 15.8% to £1.78bn

The full year figures from GfK show that the UK physical games market fell 15.8% to £1.78bn in 2016, can reveal.

That number includes combined sales of physical games, console hardware, accessories, digital points cards and toys-to-life figurines. It does not include TV consoles such as the NES Mini.

It was console hardware that suffered the biggest drop. Sales of PS4, Xbox One, Wii U, 3DS and legacy devices generated £503m in 2016, which is down 27% compared with the £689.5m made in 2015. Despite the release of PS4 Pro and Xbox One S, almost every console dropped in sales (in terms of units and revenue) year-on-year - with the exception of Nintendo's 3DS family of consoles, which were boosted by the huge success of Pokemon Sun and Moon.

It suggests that the accelerated console cycle is causing a steeper drop off in sales than would usually be expected at this point.

In more pleasing news, the money generated by gaming accessories in 2016 actually grew by 1% to £501m. It's an impressive achievement when you consider this includes toys-to-life figures, a sector under pressure following the cancellation of the Disney Infinity brand. One of the key reasons for this growth was VR, with PlayStation VR in particular proving a strong seller in the category. If PlayStation VR had not been released, the accessories market would have declined in 2016.

GfK supplied us with the below Top 20 UK Accessories of 2016. Note, the firm has stripped out PlayStation VR, toys-to-life and digital content from the chart.

1Xbox One Black Wireless Controller
2PS4 DualShock 4 Controller - Black
3PS4 DualShock 4 Controller V2 - Black
4Xbox One S White Wireless Controller
5Xbox One Chat Headset
6Ear Force Recon 50X Headset Black (Turtle Beach)
7Xbox One Play and Charge Kit - Black
8Ear Force XO One Headset (Turtle Beach)
9Xbox One Twin Docking Station Black (Venom)
10Ear Force Recon 50P Headset (Turtle Beach)
11Nintendo 3DS XL Power Adapter
12Xbox One Stereo Headset Adapter
13PS4 DualShock Controller - Wave Blue
14PS4 DualShock Controller - Magma Red
15Ear Force Recon 30X Headset (Turtle Beach)
16Xbox One Elite Wireless Controller
17Xbox One Twin Battery Packs - Black (Venom)
18Guitar Hero Live: PS4 Guitar Controller
19Sony PS4 Camera V2
20Wireless Stereo Headset 2.0 Black (Sony)

Yet the biggest area of interest is the software market. UKIE/GFK figures show that £776m was generated by boxed software sales (including toys-to-life starter packs) in 2016, a drop of 16.4% compared with the £927.6m of 2015.

The figure is disappointing, with some big titles failing to deliver and a severe drop off in Xbox 360 and PS3 software sales. However, not everyone will be disappointed with the results. UKIE provided with additional information over publisher and platform performance, so that we can better understand the trends impacting the UK physical games sector.

PS4, Xbox One and 3DS dominate

In terms of platforms, it's no surprise to see the newer Microsoft and Sony consoles dominate in terms of software market share. Almost 80% of all boxed games sold last year were either on PS4 or Xbox One, while in 2015 that number sat at 66%. PS3 and 360 games accounted for just 8.1% of sales, whereas in 2015 that number was closer to 20%.

A lack of games on Wii U saw the software market share of that device drop to 2.5%, but Nintendo will be delighted by the performance of 3DS. That machine increased its software market share year-on-year, an impressive achievement when you consider the machine is over five years old. Nintendo's success there was down primarily to the performance of Pokemon Sun and Moon, which were the 21st and 23rd best-selling games of the entire year.

Software Share by Platform - Units

Last YearThis YearPlatformSoftware Market Share (Units)
22Xbox One34.1%
53Nintendo 3DS7%
34Xbox 3605.2%
76Wii U2.5%
109PlayStation Vita0.4%
910Nintendo DS0.1%

In terms of software revenue (as opposed to units), the top platforms are largely the same, although the split between the growth machines and the rest of the chart is pronounced. Once again PS4, Xbox One and 3DS all grew, and all three accounted for 90% of the entire boxed software market - this is due to the generally higher priced software on current generation machines.

Software Share by Platform - Revenue

Last YearThis YearPlatformSoftware Market Share (Revenue)
22Xbox One36.3%
53Nintendo 3DS6%
34Xbox 3603.3%
65Wii U2.1%
99PlayStation Vita0.2%

EA now accounts for over 22% of all boxed games sold

Another year, another dominant performance from Electronic Arts in terms of the number of boxed games sold. The company increased its share for yet another year by almost 3% and now accounts for 22.1% of the UK physical software market.

There are two very good reasons for this - FIFA and Battlefield. FIFA 17 sold 2.5m boxed units during 2016 (almost double it nearest competitor) whereas Battlefield 1's impressive performance meant EA published two of the three games to shift over 1m copies in 2016. In terms of revenue, EA's dominance was even more significant - accounting for more than 26% of the money spent on boxed games.

Warner Bros dropped out of the Top Five publisher rankings due to a lighter release slate in 2016 versus the year before. Bethesda also dropped down the list slightly, although that shouldn't come as a surprise considering 2015 featured the massive success of Fallout 4. Bethesda still enjoyed some success with the HD remake of Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Doom, which both charted within the Top 20 for the year.

Meanwhile, all three platform holders increased their share of the UK boxed software market year-on-year. Nintendo, primarily due to Pokemon Sun and Moon, returned to the Top Five with a 1.6% market share growth. Sony increased its share by 1.4% on the back of Uncharted 4, while Microsoft stays at No.8, but increased its software share by 0.3% thanks to the surprise performance of Forza Horizon 3. That game was the tenth best-seller of the year, and the only racing game to make the entire Top 40 (its nearest competitor is F1 2016 at No.41).

An additional note on the publisher rankings is that these only factor in physical sales. So PC-focused publishers such as Valve do not appear in the charts as that market is almost entirely digital (furthermore, companies such as Sega may well have appeared higher if PC download data was included).

Top 20 UK Games Publishers - Units

Last YearThis YearCompany NameSoftware Market share (Units)
11Electronic Arts22.1%
22Activision Blizzard12.1%
37Warner Bros6.4%
1110Square Enix Europe3.3%
1011Bandai Namco1.7%
1712505 Games1.5%
1513Koch Media1.2%
1414TellTale Games1.1%
2120Little Orbit0.3%

If you ever needed proof of the predictability of the sales charts, then look no further than the 2016 Top 50. FIFA 17 at No.1, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare at No.2 and Battlefield 1 at No.3.

It is another chart utterly dominated by major sequels. There are just five new IP in the All-Formats Top 50 - Tom Clancy's The Division, Overwatch, Rocket League (which was released digitally in 2015), No Man's Sky and Steep. However, two of those new brands did make it into the Top Ten, with The Division in particular reaching No.4 (it was the fastest selling new IP in UK chart history when it launched in March).

Another remarkable achievement is Grand Theft Auto V. Rockstar's opus may have been three years old last year, but it was still the fifth best-selling game of 2016. It has now sold well over 6m copies at UK retail.

The highest charting exclusive game was Uncharted 4: A Thief's End at No.6. The PS4 game was heavily bundled with consoles and was comfortably the top exclusive of the year. Officially, Microsoft's Forza Horizon 3 was the second best-selling exclusive game at No.10. However, it wouldn't have been if the sales of Pokemon Sun and Moon on 3DS had been combined.

In not so positive news, it was a tough year for toys-to-life. LEGO Dimensions, released in 2015, was the best-selling game in the genre at No.38, Disney Infinity 3 was at No.43, while Skylanders Imaginators scrapes in at No.49.

Outside of the Top 50, notable games include Pro Evolution Soccer 2017 (No.57), Homefront: The Revolution (No.59), Dead Rising 4 (No.62), Football Manager 2017 (No.63 - and the best-selling PC boxed game of the year), Quantum Break (No.65), The Last Guardian (No.68), Battleborn (No.73), Street Fighter V (No.79), Mirror's Edge Catalyst (No.80) and Yo-Kai Watch (No.89).

There were six Pokemon games in the Top 100 and six LEGO games.

The All-Formats UK Top 50 Boxed Chart 2016

1FIFA 17EA/EA Canada
2Call of Duty: Infinite WarfareActivision/Infinity Ward
3Battlefield 1EA/EA DICE
4Tom Clancy's The DivisionUbisoft/Massive
5Grand Theft Auto VRockstar/Rockstar North
6Uncharted 4: A Thief's EndSony/Naughty Dog
7Call of Duty: Black Ops IIIActivision/Treyarch
8Watch Dogs 2Ubisoft/Ubisoft Montreal
10Forza Horizon 3Microsoft/Playground Games
11Mafia III2K Games/Hangar 13
12Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special EditionBethesda
13FIFA 16EA/EA Canada
14LEGO Star Wars: The Force AwakensWarner Bros/TT Games
15DoomBethesda/id Software
16LEGO Marvel AvengersWarner Bros/TT Games
17Star Wars BattlefrontEA/EA DICE
18Minecraft: Xbox EditionMicrosoft/4J Studios
19Far Cry PrimalUbisoft/Ubisoft Montreal
20Gears of War 4Microsoft/The Coalition
21Pokemon SunNintendo/Game Freak
22Fallout 4Bethesda
23Pokemon MoonNintendo/Game Freak
24Final Fantasy XVSquare Enix
25Rocket League505 Games/Psyonix
26WWE 2K172K Games/Yuke's and Visual Concepts
27Titanfall 2EA/Respawn
28EA Sports UFC 2EA/EA Canada
29No Man's SkySony/Hello Games
30Dishonored 2Bethesda/Arkane
31Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: SiegeUbisoft/Ubisoft Montreal
32Ratchet and ClankSony/Insomniac
33LEGO Jurassic WorldWarner Bros/TT Games
34Minecraft: PlayStation EditionSony/4J Studios
35Dark Souls IIIBandai Namco/From Software
36Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2EA/Popcap Games
37Rise of The Tomb Raider: 20th Anniversary EditionSquare Enix/Crystal Dynamics
38LEGO DimensionsWarner Bros/TT Games
39Minecraft: Story ModeTellTale Games
40Just Cause 3Square Enix/Avalanche Studios
41F1 2016Codemasters/Codemasters Birmingham
42WWE 2K162K Games/Yuke's and Visual Concepts
43Disney Infinity 3.0Disney/Avalanche Software
44Assassin's Creed SyndicateUbisoft/Ubisoft Quebec
45SteepUbisoft/Ubisoft France
46Halo 5: GuardiansMicrosoft/343 Studios
47Guitar Hero LiveActivision/FreeStyleGames
48Just Dance 2017Ubisoft/Ubisoft France
49Skylanders ImaginatorsActivision/Toys For Bob
50Deus Ex: Mankind DividedSquare Enix/Eidos Montreal

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Latest comments (4)

Garry Williams Licensing Director, Sold Out Sales and Marketing Ltd4 years ago
“Lies dammed lies and statistics” as Disraeli once put it, let’s be careful of the causality we apply to interpret these figures. Also, as many jobs depend on how we present ourselves to the none gaming world, I really hope we could focus more on what we have rather than the industry sport of trying to strangle the Golden goose.

Many industries would kill for the base line figures we deliver. If you add in digital, VR and other sectors as ever games revenue has grown. Many publishers and developers are in rude health. Even in the click bait headline of UK retail down, surely we could explain why with a more positive outlook.

2016 will be seen as a poor year for boxed product due to the decline YOY but it does not necessarily mean that 2017 will follow the trend. Will sales of COD 2017 be as bad as COD 2016? Will COD 2017 see a return to former glories? 2016 did not have Star Wars or Fallout but did have Battlefield and the underperforming Watchdogs and Destiny so you could argue similar like for like there. WB and Bethesda had a quiet year by what we are used to getting from them so what killer games do they have in 2017 to boost their performances? Will 2017 see the return of Assassin’s Creed? X360 and PS3 bottomed out in 2016 so we have already had that pain but 2017 will see better numbers from VR and then of course we have Switch to look forward to.

A company like Sold Out is happy to “cash cow” “problematic” sectors the more Nay Sayers encourage a move on from retail the greater the revenues we tend to generate…our glass runneth does the growth of the UK games industry...Or we are doomed Mr. Mainwaring, we are all doomed?
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Christopher Dring Publisher, GamesIndustry.biz4 years ago
Garry, everything you've written here, I wrote up there. I observed that the 360 and PS3 market, plus underperforming triple-A releases, were partly at fault for the decline. I also called out all the publishers in good health, plus explained why the likes of Warner Bros and Bethesda dropped.

I also gave plenty of attention to 3DS and the performance of that device.

I appreciate the headline figure at the top of the piece is negative, but for all the will in the world, there's no spinning an almost 16% decline as a positive. Upon saying that, I haven't used 'plunge', or 'collapse' or 'plummet', the language is fairly dispassionate. And you are right – there are plenty of positives and interesting things to call out from the data. Which we did.

This year will be very interesting. What with the arrival of Nintendo Switch, Microsoft's new Project Scorpio plus Rockstar's Red Dead Redemption 2 already on the release slate, there's reason to believe 2017 will be another successful one for retailers.
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Garry Williams Licensing Director, Sold Out Sales and Marketing Ltd4 years ago
Chris, great to see we are all on the same page then and all pulling in the same direction look forward to seeing further positive industry publicity. Unless of course retail really is over, in which case I will see you and most of my other industry mates down the job centre. let's never spin, just keep pointing out the joys of an industry that has managed to keep a "barm pot" like me in a living for most of my life.
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Christopher Dring Publisher, GamesIndustry.biz4 years ago
With the growth happening in digital, mobile getting to new heights almost every year, merchandise and accessories growing and eSports viewership spiking, there's positive growth everywhere. And if £1.8bn is somehow not enough to sustain a retail industry... well then something has gone wrong.
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