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What is happening with video game sales during coronavirus

GamesIndustry.biz analyses the latest figures from GSD

Anecdotal reports have been emerging all week of a surge in interest around video games as people around the world enter lockdown due to the coronavirus.

Whether it's a sharp increase in Twitch viewership, a big rise in concurrent Steam users or surprising sales of the new Animal Crossing game, interactive entertainment is one way in which people are keeping themselves occupied and distracted during this difficult time.

GamesIndustry.biz has analysed the latest market data from GSD, which tracks digital download game sales from 16 major games companies in almost 50 European, Middle East, African and Asian countries (full details at the bottom). It also tracks physical sales (hardware and software) in 17 territories, so we can analyse how lockdown measures are affecting both physical and digital markets.

Overall across all tracked markets, 4.3 million games were sold during Week 12 (Monday, March 16 -- Sunday, March 22), which is a jump of 63% over the week prior. Part of this is down to the launch of a major new game from Nintendo, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, which was a popular title in several markets. But even with like-for-like comparisons, the market was still up by 44% compared with the same period a week prior.

So video games sales are certainly spiking as a result of virus outbreak.

DIGITAL IS DOMINANT

Across all 50 markets, 2.74 million games from participating publishers were downloaded during Week 12 (Monday, March 16 - 22), which was a jump of 52.9% over the week prior.

That's despite the fact that digital sales of Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Doom: Eternal -- the big new releases of the week -- are not included in these figures (neither Bethesda or Nintendo share their download figures).

In markets which entered lockdown last week, that digital spike is even more significant. In France, which went into lockdown Tuesday, March 17, digital downloading increased by more than 180% Week 12 (Monday, March 16 - 22). Spain entered lockdown on Saturday, March 14, and during Week 11 (Monday, March 9 - 15) its digital sales rose 142.8% and then rose again in Week 12 by 23.3%.

"In France, digital downloading increased by more than 180% during lockdown week"

Italy is the country that has been in lockdown for the longest, having closed up on Monday, March 9. For that first lockdown week, digital download sales rose 174.9%. During the second week of lockdown, digital download sales fell 11.7% week-on-week, but that is still well ahead of normal levels for the country.

It will be worth checking how Italy's digital game sales fare as the lockdown situation continues, especially as game stores -- including PlayStation -- begin slowing download speeds in an effort to protect online infrastructure.

In terms of markets that were not in lockdown but in the social distancing phase, there was still an increase in digital downloading. In the UK, digital downloading increased by 67.4% week-on-week, and that is before the country went into lockdown (data for that period will be available later this week). Germany saw digital sales increase by 60.2% and Australia posted a rise in download of 26.5%. Neither market is in full lockdown as of this moment.

PHYSICAL IS RESILIENT... FOR NOW

Across all 17 physical retail markets, game sales rose by 82% week-on-week to 1.58 million titles sold during Week 12 (Monday, March 16 - 22). Even when we subtract Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Doom: Eternal from the numbers, physical game sales were still up 10.8% compared with the week prior.

"If you discount Animal Crossing, physical sales in Italy during its second week in lockdown fell by 48%"

Unsurprisingly, the markets that were practising social distancing and not in full lockdown posted the strongest results. In the UK during Week 12, physical game sales increased by 218.2% week-on-week. That was primarily due to the release of Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Doom: Eternal, but even when we factor these games out, physical game sales were still up a significant 83%.

Australia saw similar results, with physical sales up 278.5% with Doom and Animal Crossing, and 86.7% without. It suggests consumers are buying up physical goods in preparation for spending more time inside.

In markets that are in full lockdown, the results are mixed. In France, physical sales are up 70.2% with Animal Crossing data and down 1.5% when that game is removed. Meanwhile, the UK reported stronger-than-usual sales for its lockdown week (Sunday, March 22 - March 28). Although boxed game sales were down compared with the Animal Crossing: New Horizons launch the week before, it is still performing better than usual. Indeed, compared with the week before Animal Crossing, boxed game sales are up by around 100%.

But an indicator of trouble for the physical software market can be seen in Spain and Italy. In Spain, physical sales are down 5.1% week-on-week with Animal Crossing and by almost 50% without it.

Meanwhile, the week before lockdown, Italy's physical games market rose 8.4%. The first week of lockdown (Week 11) sales fell 8.7%. And then the second week of lockdown (Week 12), it dropped again by 21.8%. If you discount Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Week 12 physical sales fell by 48%.

If Spain and Italy's trend is mirrored elsewhere, the first week of a lockdown may be resilient, but during the second week stores may have to brace for a drop in sales of up to 50%.

CONSOLE SALES SURGE

For Week 12 (Monday, March 16 - 22), console sales rose by 155% to 259,169 games machines sold. This was across the board, with significant gains for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

These sales seem less impacted by the lockdown situation. During the first week of Italy's lockdown, console sales jumped 84%. In the second week of the lockdown, console sales dipped only slightly by 1.8%. In Spain, during Week 11 (Monday, March 9 - 15), when it first entered lockdown, sales rose 27.7%. The following week, sales rose again by 66.1%.

"Console hardware sales seem less impacted by the lockdown situation, with big gains in Italy, France and Spain"

And during France's first lockdown period, console hardware jumped by 140.6% week-on-week. It had also seen an increase in console sales of 17% the week before.

In terms of the countries practising social distancing, possibly in preparation for spending more time in doors, console hardware sales jumped even more. In the UK, during Week 11 console sales improved by 126.6% and then in Week 12 it rose by 250%. In Australia, Week 11 saw sales of games machines increase 19.6% and then Week 12 it jumped again by 285.6%.

Such has been the spike in console sales over the last two weeks that the console hardware market has almost entirely bounced back after suffering over two months of severe declines.

The uptick in sales suggests that there are now a large number of new consoles owners as a result of the Coronavirus lockdown.

EMEAA Market Data comes via GSD.

Digital data includes games from participating companies sold via Steam, Xbox Live, PlayStation Network, Nintendo Eshop. Participating companies are Activision Blizzard, Bandai Namco, Capcom, Codemasters, Electronic Arts, Focus Home Interactive, Koch Media, Microsoft, Milestone, Paradox Interactive, Sega, Sony, Square Enix, Take-Two, Ubisoft and Warner Bros.

Digital data includes games sold in Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Kuwait, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, UAE, United Kingdom.

Physical data includes all games, but only those sold in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and United Kingdom.

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