UK video game sales drop for the first time since 2012

Physical sales plunge as digital growth slows

The physical sales of video games in the UK dropped by 19.8% last year.

17.6 million boxed games were sold by retailers, according to GfK. In total, these games generated £602.5 million in revenue, which is a drop of 21.7% year-on-year.

Digital sales fared better, but growth was just 1.1% to £3.17 billion (IHS estimates). The data has been compiled together by the Entertainment Retailers Association (ERA)

Combined together, UK video game sales generated £3.77 billion in 2019, which is a drop of 3.4% over 2018. It is the first time that the UK games software market has seen a drop in revenue since 2012.

It's not completely surprising considering 2019 was the final full year of the console cycle, where sales tend to slowdown (just as it did in 2012 in the year before the PS4 and Xbox One arrived). 2019 was also notable for a lack of many major game releases -- out of the ten best-selling boxed games in 2019, only six were actually released last year.

ERA CEO Kim Bayley said: "The key message from the games business in 2019 is we need those two new consoles from PlayStation and Xbox -- and soon."

The best-selling boxed game was FIFA 20, which sold 1.5 million copies -- a significant drop on the 1.9 million copies sold for FIFA 19 over the same period the year before. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare at No.2 fared better with 1.192 million games sold, a slight improvement over Black Ops 4's 1.172 million. It's worth noting that Black Ops 4 was on sale for longer in 2018 than Modern Warfare was in 2019.

There was no other million-selling games. Mario Kart 8: Deluxe is at No.3 with 465,062 games sold. The 2017 Nintendo Switch game sold more in 2019 than it did in 2018 by 7,000 copies.

EA Christmas action game, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, is at No.4 with 438,465 games sold, which is better than last year's Battlefield V (which did 313,100 over the same period).

Meanwhile Red Dead Redemption 2 is at No.5. Take-Two's game was the No.2 best-selling game of 2018, and manages to hang around with 306,392 games sold during the last 12 months.

However, the game would have been at No.6 if GfK combined the sales of Pokémon Sword and Shield, which would have just been narrowly behind Star Wars with just under 430,000 games sold. Instead, Pokémon Sword comes in at No.7 with 273,991 games sold.

The other notable performer is Grand Theft Auto V, which is still in the Top Ten six years after it was first released.

This is all boxed games data.

PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X are due for release at the end of 2020.

Here is the 2019 (physical) UK Top Ten (GfK data via ERA):

1FIFA 201,502,191
2Call of Duty: Modern Warfare1,192,211
3Mario Kart 8: Deluxe465,062
4Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order438,465
5Red Dead Redemption 2306,392
6FIFA 19278,417
7Pokémon Sword273,991
8Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled267,285
9Grand Theft Auto V247,357
10Tom Clancy's The Division 2237,226

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Latest comments (2)

Evtim Trenkov Founder, Playright Games2 years ago
Does that also include spent in-game and DLCs? Or is it just the sales of whole games?
Having a read at the other article it seems its just that players were spending more of their money on in-game purchases and it adds up well to what you are saying here - not many big releases in 2019 in comparison to 2018 which was packed with big launches. I think the new decade starts very positive. I hope we will soon see sales data for long tail of GaaS titles.
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Nick Parker Consultant 2 years ago
As described above, this is not surprising as we come to the end of one hardware technology cycle and start the next. 2012 was the year before PS4 and Xbox One were launched in Q4 2013, just as 2019 is the year before the launch of PS5 and Xbox Series X in Q4 2020.
Furthermore, one would expect boxed retail sales of sequels of individual titles to decline (the above comparison of FIFA 20 over FIFA 19) as digital downloads eat into the overall sales of these titles year on year. So nothing to worry about unless you're a physical games retailer.
A footnote for December: Xbox One outsold PS4 in the UK for the first month since November 2017.
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