Could UK retail sell 2m games over Black Friday?
This weekend will be a huge period for hardware and software
It's the busiest shopping weekend of the year, and one where video games and consoles will play a major role.
Black Friday is still a relatively new construct in the UK. It began with just a handful of promotions from a selection of retailers in 2013 - primarily ones with US parents, such as Asda and Amazon.
It's now a sales event to rival the US, with most stores participating in the Black Friday weekend.
Going back to 2013, 1.62m games were sold during that week (although not the full weekend), which generated £57m in revenue. There were only a handful of shops taking part at this point, and it was also the year that PS4 and Xbox One launched, so the retail market dynamics were quite different.
The following year was the big one. 1.96m games were sold over Black Friday and the days building up to it, pulling in £62m in revenue. This was the year that took the market by surprise, and those figures have yet to be surpassed (in terms of software). It was also a big year for new launches - note Far Cry 4, and Grand Theft Auto V for PS4 and Xbox One were both launched around the same period.
Things settled down in 2015, when hardware became the focus of Black Friday. 1.78m games were sold over the comparative period, bringing in £56m in revenue. That's a drop of 9% in units and 9.6% in revenue. UK retailers and publishers were beginning to understand the phenomenon in the UK at this point, and were being more selective with its discounting (rather than the more care free price slashing that occurred the year before). However, the annual line-up was still strong with games such as Fallout 4 and Star Wars Battlefront on shelves.
"We are already seeing some key titles receive discounts"
The physical software sector returned to growth in 2016, however. It was here that 1.94m games were sold and £58.4m generated. It was a notable year, with many major titles failing to sell significant units in the build-up to the event as consumers held off their purchases. Titles such as Titanfall 2, Dishonored 2 and Watch Dogs 2 had all under-achieved at this point, and the suggestion at the time was that consumers were holding off for Black Friday.
Indeed, evidence suggests that may have been the case. Dishonored 2's sales rose 45% that week (it was only its third week on shelves), Watch Dogs 2 sales rose 5% (it had only been out a week, and a second week growth for a AAA game is unheard of), while Titanfall 2 sales jumped a massive 239% over the Black Friday week.
In terms of 2017, we are already seeing some key titles receive discounts. The products to watch are the ones that have either faded from view after their initial release, or had a weaker-than-expected launch. Expect to see some significant discounts around Bethesda's duo The Evil Within 2 and Wolfenstein 2 (as we have seen already), Shadow of Mordor and Forza 7 may seem some discounting, while Destiny 2 has already had its price dropped (the game performed well overall, but below expectations in terms of physical units).
There are a few uncertainties. Although Assassin's Creed Origins didn't perform overly strongly in its first week (physically), it has picked up since, so Ubisoft may hold off from being too aggressive on price. EA is unlikely to enter the Black Friday race to the bottom, with the publisher typically avoiding the weekend. However, Need for Speed Payback may makes its way into the discounts, and retailers may take it upon themselves to knock a few pounds off Star Wars Battlefront II and FIFA 18 to draw in customers.
Of course, the weekend is typically a big one for hardware sales, so expect that perennial console seller - GTA V - to be among the discounts this week.
WHAT ABOUT HARDWARE?
Hardware figures are held by GfK, but this weekend will be the biggest week of the year in terms of console sales. Black Friday 2014 and 2015 were the top two biggest weekends for Xbox One sales outside of its launch week, while last year's Black Friday saw more PS4s sold than during any other period outside of the machine's initial release.
"We can expect to see a real price battle between Microsoft and Sony"
It's a big deal, and we can expect to see a real price battle between Microsoft and Sony that will extend well into December. Aggressive bundles are already beginning to emerge, with Microsoft eager to push its Xbox One S primarily. Sony has a wider selection of hardware to discount, with PS4 Pro now in its second Christmas. Expect Xbox One X to hold firm on price, although some stores may reduce the cost slightly, or throw in a free game, as a loss-leader.
The VR industry will be seeing this Black Friday as a key opportunity to boost its numbers. HTC, Oculus and PlayStation will all be adopting aggressive bundles and discounts - and we're seeing that already, with HTC announcing that it will be giving away Doom and Fallout 4 to Vive consumers over Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Don't expect too much from Nintendo Switch. Although, you may seem some small bundles and price drops, particularly from retailers eager to generate extra footfall.
WHAT ABOUT DIGITAL?
Black Friday is perceived to be a physical retail event, in part due to its proximity to Christmas (which is where the physical market performs best). But there are a number of offers being promoted via digital retailers. Considering the growth in downloading during 2017, it's inconceivable to think that digital Black Friday deals won't grow, however, the lack of digital data makes that impossible to quantify.
The growth of digital may be the single element that prevents Black Friday from growing in terms of physical software sales.
To keep track of Black Friday deals, check out our sister publication Jelly Deals. And check back next week, when we'll have all the results from the UK scene in terms of physical sales.
All data courtesy of GfK