According to data from the Entertainment Retailers Association (ERA) of the UK, British turned to digital music, video and games in amazing numbers in 2020, increasing entertainment revenues by 16.8% to an unprecedented £9.05 billion.
Games overtook video to become the UK’s biggest entertainment sector as long ago as 2013, when sales reached £2.3 billion. In 2020, revenues were £4.2 billion, a leap of 14.5% on 2019, and the first time it has breached the £4 billion threshold.
Digital games business (which ranges from mobile and streamed games to downloads) grew by 16.3% to £3.6 billion in 2020, driven by increasing numbers of gamers buying direct to console games, digital subscriptions and downloadable content. This specific niche was worth more than the entire video market and twice as much as the music market. While physical games enjoyed a return to growth in 2020, with revenues up 4.6% to £598.5 million, despite the impact of lockdowns on the high street. Increased game purchasing during lockdown, as well as new gaming consoles in November, were driving this progress.
The ERA also published its top 10-selling games in the UK of 2020 list, complete with sales figures that combine physical and download sales. The biggest selling game was FIFA 21, with sales of 2.18 million units. Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War was second, with 1,127,222 copies, followed by GTA 5, which also sold over a million copies in 2020. This seven-year-old game sold even more than new releases like Animal Crossing: New Horizons (810,462 units), Assassin’s Creed Valhalla (665,815) and The Last of Us Part II (539,247).
The increase in sales shouldn’t come as a complete surprise. Last week, Valve smashed its own record for the most concurrent users on its Steam platform twice in a single day, recording 25.42 million simultaneous users, 7.2 million of which were actively playing at the time.
Kim Bayley, CEO of ERA, declared: “If there was ever a year in which we needed entertainment, it was 2020. The trend towards an increasingly digital entertainment market may be long established, but no one could have foreseen this dramatic leap, as digital services filled the gap left by shuttered cinemas, concert halls and retail stores. With much of the country shut down, ERA’s members provided a welcome revenue stream for thousands of musicians, actors, directors and countless backroom staff.”