The UK video game market hit a new record high of £7.16 billion last year as the pandemic continued to fuel an unprecedented boom in home entertainment, with gamers rushing to stock up on new consoles and in VR kit even as overall game sales plummeted.
Lockdown conditions have made gambling one of the biggest winners of the pandemic, with the value of the UK market now a third higher than it was in 2019 before the coronavirus crisis hit and is worth more than markets in the UK. music and video streaming together.
The amount spent by game fans — on everything from new consoles, software and mobile games to themed events, toys and magazines — rose 1.9% year-over-year, beating expectations that the market would slide after the gambling gold rush at the height of the pandemic in 2020.
The overall market rose despite a 6.3% drop in video game software sales to £4.28 billion, with the most popular titles being Electronic Arts’ Fifa 22, Activision’s Call of Duty: Vanguard Blizzard and Grand Theft Auto V from Take-Two Interactive.
“The important story here is how successfully the lockdown-related increase seen in 2020 was sustained through the ‘correction year’ of 2021,” said Steven Bailey, senior analyst at Omdia.
The attractiveness of the gaming market – which is worth nearly £1.8bn a year more than in 2019 – has sparked a wave of consolidation with US and Chinese game companies spending over £2bn pounds on UK video game makers over the past two years.
Market growth last year was supported by continued strong gamer demand for new consoles, the PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S and most recently the Nintendo Switch OLED edition, which grew by a third. to reach £1.13 billion.
There was also significant growth in VR hardware, such as headsets, with sales up 42% to £183m as gamers increasingly embrace new technology.
Mobile games revenue maintained its pandemic lockdown level at £1.46bn, while licensed toys and merchandise rose 34% to £159m, largely on the back of the popularity of Pokemon.
“The UK is a nation that loves its video games and we should be proud of the positive contribution this industry makes to the economy, our culture and wider society,” said Jo Twist, Chief Executive. of UK gaming organization Ukie, which publishes the annual report.
The video game lockdown boom has sparked a wave of consolidation with the success of UK game makers making the UK a prime target for deep-pocketed overseas buyers.
In December 2020, California-based EA paid £945m for Southam, England-based Codemasters, the maker of the Formula 1 racing game series.
Six months later, China’s Tencent paid £919 million for Sheffield-based, London-listed video game developer Sumo Group.
And in March last year, Epic, the creator of the global hit Fortnite, acquired British company Mediatonic, the creator of the hit Fall Guys.
In January, Microsoft capped off the latest round of consolidation with a $70bn (£53bn) deal to buy Activision Blizzard, the publisher of mega franchises such as Call of Duty, World of Warcraft and Candy Crush, in his biggest and most important contract ever. – never takeover in the technology and gaming sectors.
Top 10 bestselling video games in the UK in 2021 (physical and digital copies combined)
Grand Theft Auto V
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War
Spider-Man: Miles Morales
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Red Dead Redemption 2
Source: Entertainment Retailers Association