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The UK Games Industry in 2018: Winners and Losers

Nintendo and Sony shine as EA falters

Last year was a mixed 12 months for the UK boxed games market.

Revenue from boxed software fell 2.8 per cent year-on-year, which is a modest fall and primarily driven by underperforming AAA games. The actual number of physical games dropped 7.1 per cent.

However, console sales rose slightly, and there were three games released that sold over one million units in physical form.

Now with all the data to hand, courtesy of GfK and UKIE, we can take a closer look at how 2018 was for individual businesses operating in the UK.

PLAYSTATION DOMINATES AS NINTENDO GROWS

This was another year of dominance for Sony. 48% of all boxed games sold last year in the UK were for PS4 (slightly down over 2017), and PS4 console sales topped over 1m (GI sources). The number of consoles sold is on par with 2017, which means PS4 in the UK outperformed the rest of the world, as global PS4 sales dipped slightly year-on-year.

It was also a good year for PlayStation as a publisher. The success of God of War and (in particular) Spider-Man, saw Sony claim 9.6% of the market as a games publisher - 1.7 per cent higher than in 2017. Spider-Man alone sold 676,621, making it the fourth best-selling physical game of the year, while God of War was at No.8 with 399,395 copies sold.

Another big winner of the year was Nintendo. The second year of Switch continued where the first left off, and 16.8% of all games sold last year were for Nintendo's latest console - that's more than double 2017's market share.

Nintendo's was the UK's second biggest games publisher last year as 14.1 per cent of all games sold were published by the company. It meant Nintendo was No.2 in the publisher rankings, just 0.6 per cent behind EA.

Mario Kart 8: Deluxe was the No.1 Nintendo game of the year, with 458,675 units sold. Meanwhile, Pokemon: Let's Go, Pikachu/Eevee sold over 338,270 copies, Super Smash Bros Ultimate shifted 284,155 copies, and Super Mario Odyssey managed 240,710 sales.

Platform Market Share - Units

PositionPlatformSoftware Market share (Units)
1PlayStation 448%
2Microsoft Xbox One30.2%
3Nintendo Switch16.8%
4Nintendo 3DS3%
5PC0.9%
6Xbox 3600.5%
7Nintendo Wii0.3%
8PlayStation 30.3%
9Nintendo Wii U0.1%

TAKE-TWO SURGES AS EA STUMBLES AGAIN

The big third-party winner of 2018 was Take-Two. The publisher saw its market share increased by 5.8 per cent over 2017, driven (of course) by Red Dead Redemption 2. The Western game was the UK's second best-selling title with 1.76 million games sold over the year (in physical form). It saw Take-Two enter the Top Three boxed publishers of the year in the UK, up from seventh the year before.

Take-Two also benefitted from continued sales of GTA V. Although GTA V sales are (finally) starting to slow down, it was still the eleventh best-selling game of the year.

The biggest struggler - although you wouldn't know it from the charts - was Electronic Arts. EA was the biggest publisher of the year again, however, its share of the boxed market fell to 14.7 per cent - it was 17 per cent in 2017 and 22 per cent in 2016. The decline is caused by lower sales of this year's FIFA, although FIFA 19 was still the UK's most popular video game last year. Battlefield V also failed to match the sales of its predecessor.

What isn't factored in here is EA's growth in the digital space. Indeed, FIFA 18's sales were 20 per cent digital, whereas FIFA 19's sales were 25 per cent digital.

Activision Blizzard also saw a drop in market share by more than four per cent. This is due to slower sales for Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 versus Call of Duty: WWII. However, Activision Blizzard does have four games in the Top 20 best-sellers - more than any other third-party publisher (Call of Duty Black Ops 4, Crash Bandicoot N.Sane Trilogy, Spyro Reignited Trilogy and Call of Duty: WWII). Combined, those four games have sold more than two million copies in the UK.

Other companies that struggled slightly in 2018 includes Ubisoft, which posted lower sales of its new Assassin's Creed in physical form, and Bethesda, which saw disappointing results for Fallout 76.

One company we've not talked about is Xbox. The Xbox One saw a dip in market share, but Microsoft the publisher saw a slight rise in market share. This was driven by Forza Horizon 4, the fastest-selling game in the series so far, which shifted 392,960 copies in the UK last year.

For the Top 20 physical UK games chart for 2018, click here.

Top 20 UK Games Publishers - Units

Last YearThis YearCompany NameSoftware Market share (Units)
11Electronic Arts14.7%
32Nintendo14.1%
73Take-Two11.9%
24Activision Blizzard11.6%
55Sony9.6%
46Ubisoft7.7%
67Warner Bros6.5%
98Microsoft5.2%
89Bethesda3.9%
1010Square Enix Europe2.4%
1311Bandai Namco1.9%
1112Capcom1.7%
1513Sega1.6%
2014Maximum Games0.7%
1415Codemasters0.6%
1816Sold Out0.6%
3317Gearbox Publishing0.5%
2118Focus Home Interactive0.5%
1719Team170.5%
1720505 Games0.4%

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