Three men playing video game in darkened room

UK video games market boomed during 2020

Image credit: Dreamstime

The UK market for video games reached a record £7bn in 2020, with a massive increase of nearly 30 per cent year-on-year as the Covid-19 pandemic took hold.

According to industry body Ukie, software revenue grew by 18 per cent to £4.55bn, with increases across both digital and physical sales.

Game hardware also saw a record year, with consumers buying new consoles, accessories and upgraded PC game components, driving hardware revenues up by approximately 61 per cent year-on-year to reach £2.26bn.

This hefty increase was certainly helped by the release of new Xbox and PlayStation consoles for the first time since 2013. Even the older Nintendo Switch console saw refreshed demand, with limited supplies across the country and a new 'Lite' version making it more affordable to some.

Ukie added that “game culture” revenues, which includes related merchandise and other products, saw a more mixed picture, with a total spend of around £199m in 2020.

Despite store closures as the UK went in and out of lockdown, sales of traditional boxed game titles climbed by 7.1 per cent to £646m, but pre-owned game-buying took a hit, diving 22.8 per cent compared to the year before.

Dorian Bloch, a senior Client Director at Gfk, which helped compile some of the data, said: “The 2020 big winner by format was Nintendo Switch. During the initial Covid lockdown period, we saw massive growth from Switch software sales, up 215 per cent over the equivalent 13 weeks of 2019.

“Xbox One and PS4 also enjoyed uplifts and, of course, at the tail end of 2020 we saw the introduction of PS5 and Xbox Series consoles, whose effect will be significant for 2021 and beyond.”

For the first time in 2020, Ukie’s market valuation also provides a breakdown of digital software revenues across digital PC, console and mobile devices.

With the largest share of digital sales, digital console revenues increased by 24.2 per cent to £1.7bn in 2020, exceeding digital PC revenues by more than double, despite growth of 14.8 per cent in digital PC software to £669m. The smallest screen also proved a welcome distraction, with mobile revenues up 21.3 per cent to £1.5bn.

Another metric included for the first time in 2020 was the money spent on streaming and game video content, which saw consumers spending £45.6m to support content creators.

The UK’s top-selling games of 2020 saw the latest instalment of the perennially popular annual football franchise 'Fifa 21' at the top, followed by 'Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War' and 'Grand Theft Auto V', the latter having been originally released in 2013 and still enjoying continued success.

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