There can’t have been a year we needed games more than the one we’ve just had and, unsurprisingly, the data reflects it. In between developing parasocial relationships with our YouTube fitness instructors and thinking up clever names for our sourdough starters, it seems a whole lot of us spent much of 2020 in the digital realm, be that on a tropical island, in the gloomy villages of Anglo-Saxon Wessex, or in San Andreas (again!)
Games Sales Data, an initiative of the Interactive Software Federation of Europe, reports that UK games players bought 42.7 million games in 2020, which is 34% more than 2019. Significantly, a striking 24.5 million of those were digitally downloaded, having been purchased through the likes of Steam, PSN, Xbox Live and Nintendo’s eShop.
While it’s impossible to make a completely accurate assessment of the market (Nintendo and Bethesda choose not to publicly disclose their digital sales,) it’s nonetheless clear that digital downloads are now comfortably the most popular way of purchasing games in the UK. GSD estimates digital purchases might account for as much as two thirds of all sales, a considerable step up from the slim majority of 52% in 2019.
Undoubtedly the potentially life threatening risk of popping down the shops to pick up a boxed game will have hastened this shift, but like many other trends we’ve witnessed during the pandemic, it seems likely this change in consumer behaviour will stick around.
Speaking of things sticking around, the future looks promising for the new consoles, but especially so for the PS5. Despite recording only one full month of sales in 2020, the PS5 was the second best-selling console, while overall console sales were up 30%.
As for the games themselves, the big winners – as with perhaps any year in the last decade – were the FIFA, Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto and Assassin’s Creed franchises. Probably the biggest success story of the year however was Animal Crossing becoming an unexpected crossover hit. It landed at number 6 on the overall games chart, and that’s without including digital sales. 2020 may have been a horrid year for most decent people, but rest assured that Tom Nook is rolling in it.
In with the old
Somehow, the seven-year-old Grand Theft Auto 5 ended the year at the number 3 spot, perhaps thanks to the quiet but enormous ongoing popularity of GTA Online. Even as whispers around GTA VI are graduating to more of a muffled natter, there’s a very good chance that Rockstar could have a best-seller across three generations of games consoles on their hands by this time next year.
Wannabe hipster cynics, like this writer, will despair at the fact that only one of the top 20 titles was not part of an existing franchise – that being Ghost of Tsushima, which placed 16th. Interestingly, CyberPunk 2077 (the next closest thing to an original IP), placed just below Ghost at 17th, despite being on sale for only 21 days and pulled from PSN after just seven of them. Clearly the most aggressive marketing campaign in recent memory worked a treat.
GSD Annual 2020 Top 20 Video Games (Digital + Physical)
|1||FIFA 21 (EA)|
|2||Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War (Activision Blizzard)|
|3||Grand Theft Auto 5 (Rockstar)|
|4||FIFA 20 (EA)|
|5||Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (Activision Blizzard)|
|6||Animal Crossing: New Horizons* (Nintendo)|
|7||Assassin’s Creed Valhalla (Ubisoft)|
|8||The Last of Us Part 2 (Sony)|
|9||NBA 2K20 (2K Games)|
|10||Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege (Ubisoft)|
|11||Red Dead Redemption 2 (Rockstar)|
|12||Mario Kart 8: Deluxe* (Nintendo)|
|13||Spider-Man: Miles Morales (Sony)|
|14||Monopoly Plus (Ubisoft)|
|15||Marvel’s Avengers (Square Enix)|
|16||Ghost of Tsushima (Sony)|
|17||Cyberpunk 2077 (Bandai Namco/CD Projekt)*|
|18||Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (Ubisoft)|
|20||Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order (EA)|
*Digital data not available
For more analysis of UK games sales in 2020, you can read a breakdown of the report here.