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GTA V tops UK boxed chart again - what does that tell us?

Predicting the sales of Resident Evil 7 will prove challenging

Grand Theft Auto V has just secured its second No.1 of 2017, almost three and a half years since it was first released.

It's a fascinating phenomenon. GTA V has sold well over 6m copies in a box, putting it in a league of its own in terms of game sales. And this doesn't include digital figures, particularly sales of the PC version, so the true scale of its popularity is unknown.

Its continued success is remarkable, although it is the third consecutive January that GTA V has found itself near the top of the sales charts.

In fact, the boxed Top Ten is looking awfully familiar. The Top Five this week includes the triple threat of GTA V (No.1), FIFA 17 (No.2) and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare (No.3), EA's Christmas shooter Battlefield 1 (No.4) and then Ubisoft's big Q4 release, Watch Dogs 2 (No.5)

The same week in 2016: Call of Duty (No.1), FIFA 16 (No.2), GTA V (No.3), Ubisoft's Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Siege (No.4) and EA's big shooter Star Wars Battlefront (No.5).

And 2015: GTA V (No.1), FIFA 15 (No.2), Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare (No.3), Far Cry 4 (No.4) and Minecraft at No.5 (EA didn't have a shooter that year).

The order changes slightly, but the UK boxed chart in January is perhaps one of the most predicable things in video games. Even the success of Rocket League at No.6 and Steep at No.7 reflects previous January successes from years gone by (such as Minecraft, Terraria and The Crew).

Yet despite the charts looking predicable, UK retail is proving to be a real headache for any publisher trying to forecast their game sales.

On the one hand, FIFA 17's performance is pretty much exactly as you'd expect - the same as FIFA 16. Then there's Watch Dogs 2, which started very poorly, but is now tracking ahead of last year's Assassin's Creed by quite a distance. We've had the likes of Dishonored 2, Titanfall and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare fall well short of expectations, whereas Forza Horizon 3, Pokemon, Mafia III, Rocket League and Skyrim have smashed their estimates.

Overall, boxed games sales in January are down by 8.9% in revenue and 7.8% in units, although considering the rather disappointing Christmas, that's not too surprising. And until new games start to launch, those figures are relatively meaningless at this point.

It's worth looking at game pricing, although even this is inconclusive. The average selling price of Watch Dogs 2, Mafia III, GTA V and Steep are well below their initial launch costs. However, FIFA 17, Battlefield 1 and Overwatch are still selling strongly at over £40.

So with so much conflicting evidence, what exactly does this mean for someone like Capcom that is releasing Resident Evil 7 this week? The publisher can't even really use the previous game as a barometer. Resident Evil 6 sold ok during its first week, but suffered a critical mauling, was released late in the Xbox 360 and PS3 lifecycle, launched in October (a busier period for game sales) and was actually a very different title to the one that's arriving this week (whereas 6 was more of an action game, 7 is in keeping with the franchise's horror roots).

Recent horror games haven't exactly set the charts alight (Alien Isolation and The Evil Within in particular), however, products that evoke 1990s nostalgia appear to be selling strongly (Pokemon, NES Mini, Final Fantasy XV).

The truth is Resident Evil 7 next week could do anything from 50,000 to 120,000 units. If the game can live up to its billing as being a return-to-form for the IP, then it will stand a good chance. My feeling is that its first week might be on the lower end of that estimate, but with only a smattering of releases on the schedule in February, it should enjoy a longer-tail than what you'd usually expect from a single-player game.

Whatever the result, next week's UKIE/GfK UK boxed chart will be a lot more interesting.

Here is this week's:

Last Week This Week Title
1 1 GTA V
2 2 Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare
3 3 FIFA 17
4 4 Battlefield 1
6 5 Watch Dogs 2
7 6 Rocket League
9 7 Steep
5 8 Forza Horizon 3
18 10 Overwatch
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Christopher Dring avatar

Christopher Dring

Head of Games B2B

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