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UK video games market is now 80% digital

However, 75% of AAA game sales are physical

UK video games (excluding hardware) generated £3.864 billion last year, according to the Entertainment Retailers Association.

Digital accounted for over £3 billion of that number, representing 80.1 per cent of the market. Digital grew 12.5 per cent year-on-year, whereas physical sales dropped slightly by 2.8 per cent (as revealed yesterday). Overall, the games software market is up 9.1 per cent.

The numbers are based on data supplied by GfK (physical retail), IHS Markit (digital revenue) and GSD (download figures). Digital data includes microtransactions, subscriptions and add-on content.

It seems a bit negative for the physical market, but these figures do not include hardware. And actually more consoles were sold in 2018 than in 2017. GamesIndustry.biz can reveal over 2.4 million games machines were sold in the UK last year. PS4 was the biggest selling console, with sales flat year-on-year, but Nintendo Switch was the biggest growth area, with Switch console sales up more than 20 per cent.

Indeed, physical remains a strong part of the games retail business. According to ERA, the best-selling game of the year was FIFA 19 with 2.5 million units sold... 1.89 million of those sales came physically. That means when it comes to AAA releases, digital sales only account for around 25 per cent of the games sold. However, that percentage is getting bigger. Last year, 20% of FIFA 18's sales were digital.

It's a slightly disappointing result for FIFA. Last year's FIFA 18 sold almost 2.7 million copies digitally and physically.

Because of digital, video game sales have more than doubled in value since 2007.

ERA has also revealed the Top 20 best-selling physical games (digital not included at the moment) and how well they sold. The data shows that FIFA 19 was indeed the No.1 game, with 1.89 million boxed sales, followed by Red Dead Redemption 2 with 1.757 million.

It's interesting to see Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, no doubt benefitting from strong Switch hardware sales, at No.5. The game sold more copies last year than it did in 2017, with 458,675 physical units sold, besting 2017's 341,531.

It wasn't the biggest exclusive in the charts, however, that honour falls to Spider-Man on PS4. The web slinger made No.4 with 676,621 games sold.

One element worth noting is that Pokemon: Let's Go, Pikachu has been listed separately from its sister product, Let's Go, Eevee. If both games sales had been combined into one, the game would actually have been at No.11.

Although FIFA 19 was the best-selling game, it wasn't the best-selling entertainment product. That honour fell to The Greatest Showman on DVD, Blu-ray and digital, which sold 2.69 million copies in the UK.

However, video games can take solace in the fact that the games market is worth more than the video (£2.34 billion) and music (£1.33 billion) combined.

Here is the UKIE/GfK Top 20 best-selling games of 2018:

Ranking Title Sales
1 FIFA 19 1,889,401
2 Red Dead Redemption 2 1,757,212
3 Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 1,172,855
4 Spider-Man 676,621
5 Mario Kart 8: Deluxe 458,675
6 Far Cry 5 434,133
7 Crash Bandicoot N-Sane Trilogy 430,551
8 God of War 399,395
9 Forza Horizon 4 392,960
10 FIFA 18 351,788
11 Grand Theft Auto V 339,805
12 Spyro Reignited Trilogy 333,725
13 Battlefield V 313,100
14 Assassin's Creed Odyssey 305,937
15 Super Smash Bros Ultimate 284,155
16 Super Mario Odyssey 240,710
17 Call of Duty: WWII 230,576
18 Pokemon: Let's Go, Pikachu 227,767
19 Shadow of the Tomb Raider 226,125
20 Fallout 76 218,534
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Christopher Dring avatar

Christopher Dring

Head of Games B2B

Chris is a 15-year media veteran specialising in the business of video games. And, erm, Doctor Who