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Digital downloads jumped 47% across Europe in 2020 | European Annual Report

AAA publishers report that nearly 60% of their game sales in 2020 were digital

211.9 million games were sold across UK & Ireland, mainland Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) in 2020, according to sales tracker GSD. 

GSD tracks games sold in boxes across multiple territories, and also counts digital download sales from most major games publishers (see the bottom of this article for full details).

We have already done a specific analysis of the UK market, so for this analysis we will focus on all European markets where GSD tracks both boxed games and digital games, excluding the UK. These will include Benelux, France, GSA (Germany, Switzerland, Austria), Iberia, Nordics and Poland.  

For these markets, 123.7 million games were sold, which is a 19% jump over 2019. 58.7 million of those games were downloaded, which is a rise of 47% over the year before. Despite lockdown restrictions causing High Street stores to close, 65 million boxed games were sold across the various markets, which is a rise of 0.8%.

In order to get a more accurate reading of the market share between boxed and digital, we have to remove countries that do not count both boxed and digital sales. We also have to subtract companies like Nintendo, Bethesda and CD Projekt, who do not share digital numbers with GSD. After doing that, we can see that 59% of games sold by tracked publishers were downloaded, with the remainder coming via physical sales. In 2019, less than 48% of sales were digital. 

FIFA 21 was comfortably the best-selling game across Europe

As a huge market for football, it's no surprise to see FIFA 21 as the continent's best-selling game. The soccer title comfortably beat second place, which is -- remarkably -- Grand Theft Auto 5. The Rockstar game performed very well during the various COVID-19 lockdowns, as new customers turned to gaming for entertainment. There were a number of older games in the charts (titles released before 2020), with FIFA 20, Red Dead Redemption 2, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare all in the top ten.

After FIFA 21, the next highest charting new release was Animal Crossing: New Horizons at No.3. Nintendo does not share digital download data with the GSD project, so it's possible the game would have charted higher if download numbers could be factored in.

FIFA 21 was No.1 in almost every market bar Finland, where the top seller was NHL 21

In terms of the countries where boxed and download data is available, FIFA 21 was No.1 in almost every one -- Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. There is just one exception: in Finland the No.1 game was NHL 21.

The biggest publisher of boxed games across Europe was Nintendo, with a market share of over 28%, more than double EA in second place. In terms of digital, Ubisoft is No.1 with a nearly 18% market share, again ahead of EA in second place.

In terms of consoles, PS4 was the biggest platform for downloads across the tracked publishers, accounting for 52% of sales -- PC was in second place with 27%. It's worth noting that the majority of the publishers that are sharing digital sales are primarily known for their console releases. It's also worth noting that Game Pass sales are not included with this data.

In terms of boxed games, it is still PS4 at the top with a 43% market share, although it is only narrowly ahead of Nintendo Switch, which has a 41% market share. This does vary across the continent. In France and Germany, Switch is the top performing console for boxed game sales, whereas PS4 is strong in Italy and Spain.

If we look at genre, the action genre was the biggest of 2020, representing 27% of sales, a rise of 30% over the year before. This was boosted by strong sales of Grand Theft Auto, Assassin's Creed and Super Mario. The shooter genre is at No.2, but sales of shooter games dropped 4% in 2020. This is due to a decline in the number of shooters released, with Call of Duty and Rainbow Six the biggest games in that genre over the last year. 

The biggest publisher of boxed games across Europe was Nintendo, with a market share of over 28%

The genre that grew the most was strategy, which saw sales rise 57% over the year before. This is primarily due to the success of Nintendo's Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

32% of games sold across the tracked markets had a PEGI rating of 18, which is exactly the same as in 2019. 

Switch sales jumped 22% across Europe

In terms of consoles sales in Europe, GSD takes in data from Benelux, France, Switzerland, Nordics, Spain and Italy. Across these markets, 5.59 million games machines were sold, which is a slight 1.9% drop over the year before.

It will come as little surprise that Nintendo Switch was comfortably the best-selling console of the year. Nintendo's console spiked in sales by more than 22% over the same period a year before. It sold almost three times as much as the second best-selling device: PS4, sales of which dropped 42% over 2019, which isn't too surprising when you consider the next PlayStation was released in November. PS5 was the third best-selling console of the year, followed by the Xbox Series machines (including both S and X iterations) and then Xbox One. 

Although the number of consoles sold year-on-year declined, the revenue from these devices actually grew 12% to €1.7 billion. This is due to the higher price of the newer machines.

Switch dominated European sales, except in the Nordic region. In Denmark and Finland, PS4 was the best-selling console, while in Sweden PS5 was the most popular device.

NHL 21 was No.1 in Finland for 2020

DualShock 4 is top once again

In terms of accessories (controllers, headsets and other add-ons), 18.2 million products were sold across Benelux, Nordics, France, Spain and Italy.


Comfortably the best-selling product was Sony's DualShock 4 controller, which is of little surprise considering the popularity of the PS4 across the regions. Despite the imminent arrival of PS5, the DualShock 4's sales increased 5%. The Switch's Joy-Con controllers increased 32% in sales year-on-year, but was still in second place. The Xbox One controller follows next, with a decline of 37% over the year before. Of course, the Xbox One controller was replaced by the Xbox Series gamepad (which works on older devices), and if we add the two together, it more than makes up for the drop.

In terms of revenue, these products generated €820 million, a rise of 14% over the year before.


Finally, 15.5 million points cards (including online memberships and store points bought on a card) were sold across the regions last year, a drop of 9.5% over the year before. PlayStation Store cards were top despite a 18.7% drop in sales, followed by PlayStation Plus cards, which were up 0.2%. Nintendo eShop cards grew 34% year-on-year, claiming third place. Overall, €353 million in points cards were sold in 2020, a drop of 9% year-on-year.

All data quoted in this article has been supplied by GSD.

GSD Annual 2020 Top 20 Video Games (Digital + Physical)

Position Title
1 FIFA 21 (EA)
2 Grand Theft Auto 5 (Rockstar)
3 Animal Crossing: New Horizons (Nintendo)*
4 FIFA 20 (EA)
5 Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War (Activision Blizzard)
6 Mario Kart 8: Deluxe (Nintendo)*
7 The Last of Us Part 2 (Sony)
8 Assassin's Creed Valhalla (Ubisoft)
9 Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
10 Red Dead Redemption 2 (Rockstar)
11 NBA 2K20 (2K Games)
12 Super Mario 3D All-Stars (Nintendo)*
13 Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege (Ubisoft)
14 Cyberpunk 2077 (CD Projekt)*
15 Minecraft: Switch Edition (Nintendo/Microsoft)*
16 Ghost of Tsushima (Sony)
17 Assassin's Creed Odyssey (Ubisoft)
18 Ring Fit Adventure (Nintendo)
19 Just Dance 2020
20 Super Mario Party (Nintendo)*

*Digital data not available

GSD European Digital 2020 Top 10 Video Games (excluding UK)

Position Title
1 FIFA 21 (EA)
2 Grand Theft Auto 5 (Rockstar)
3 FIFA 20 (EA)
4 Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War (Activision Blizzard)
5 NBA 2K20 (2K Games)
6 Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (Activision Blizzard)
7 Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Siege (Ubisoft)
8 Red Dead Redemption 2 (Rockstar)
9 Assassin's Creed Odyssey (Ubisoft)
10 Assassin's Creed Valhalla (Ubisoft)

GSD European Physical 2020 Top 10 Video Games (excluding UK)

Position Title
1 FIFA 21 (EA)
2 Animal Crossing: New Horizons (Nintendo)
3 Mario Kart 8: Deluxe (Nintendo)
4 The Last of Us: Part 2 (Sony)
5 Super Mario 3D All-Stars (Nintendo)
6 Grand Theft Auto 5 (Rockstar)
7 Assassin's Creed Valhalla (Ubisoft)
8 FIFA 20 (EA)
9 Cyberpunk 2077 (CD Projekt)
10 Minecraft: Switch Edition (Nintendo)

*GSD digital data includes games from participating companies sold via Steam, Xbox Live, PlayStation Network, Nintendo Eshop. Participating companies are Activision Blizzard, Bandai Namco, Big Ben Interactive, Capcom, Codemasters, Electronic Arts, Focus Home Interactive, Koch Media, Konami, Microids, Microsoft, Milestone, Paradox Interactive, Quantic Dream, Sega, Sony, Square Enix, Strelka, Take-Two, Ubisoft and Warner Bros. Nintendo and Bethesda are the notable absentees, alongside smaller studios.

For this report, we focused on digital and physical games and hardware sold across Benelux, France, GSA (Germany, Switzerland, Austria), Iberia, Nordics and Poland. For hardware, GSD data specifically covers Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Finland, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

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Christopher Dring avatar
Christopher Dring: Chris is a 17-year media veteran specialising in the business of video games. And, erm, Doctor Who
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