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Video game sales: 2020 was a special year for the games market too

Video games have never generated more revenue than last year. The reasons for this have been obvious for months - and concrete figures are now following. This shows, among other things, that full-price titles in particular were bought much more frequently, but free-to-play games continue to dominate the market.

Social distancing brings video game sales records

2020 was an extraordinary year in many ways. This also applies to digital sales with video games and interactive media. According to analysts at SuperData In the past 12 months, around 139.9 billion US dollars were spent worldwide on digital video game copies, in-game content, microtransactions or on interactive media such as gaming live streams. With an increase of around 12.3 percent - in 2019 the total was 124.5 billion US dollars - this represents a new record, to which the COVID-19 pandemic also made a significant contribution: throughout the year Social distancing and quarantine measures, especially in Europe and North America, led to unusually high numbers of players in almost all categories.

It is noteworthy that sales in January and February 2020 only rose by around 6 percent compared to the same periods of the previous year, but the following 10 months were on average 14 percent above their 2019 counterparts. At 78 percent, the majority of spending was concentrated on free-to-play titles, with the Asian market again accounting for 59 percent of this share. A look at the share of mobile games is also revealing: With a turnover of 73.8 billion US dollars, these once again account for the lion's share of the games market.

Paid games saw the strongest growth

Surprisingly, however, it was above all the market for paid video games - referred to as Premium Games in Superdata - that recorded the highest percentage growth: Compared to 2019, sales rose by 28 percent, with Europe and North America together accounting for around 84 percent of the premium - Take responsibility for sales. Of a total of $ 24.5 billion, the consoles account for $ 17.8 billion, while $ 6.7 billion was spent on paid PC games. In 2019 it was $ 14 billion and $ 5.2 billion, respectively.

Around 34 percent of sales with premium games are accounted for by the 10 best-selling titles. The usual suspects, i.e. the latest offshoots of the Call-of-Duty series as well as various sports games published annually, including, of course, FIFA 20, NBA 2K21 and NBA 2K20, achieved particularly good results. Much more interesting is the fact that with Rockstar Games' GTA V and GTA Online, a game that is now over 7 years old, can still be found among the three top-selling full-price titles. It is also worth mentioning that Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Cyberpunk 2077 (test), Sims 4 and Doom Eternal (test) are also four single-player titles among the top-selling games.

Cyberpunk 2077 stands out insofar as CD Projekt's new open-world action game was only released in the last few weeks of the year after a few postponements - around 13 million copies sold in 10 days nevertheless lift the game to 8th place. Doom Eternal and New Horizons was released at the beginning of the year, while Sims 4 has been playable since 2014.

Free-to-play games continued to grow, but less

The turnover with free-to-play games grew by only 9 percent from 2019 to 2020, so that the total last year was around 98.4 billion US dollars; previously it was $ 90.1 billion. Broken down into the mobile, PC and console segments, it can be seen that mobile games make up by far the largest share, while the contribution from free-to-play console games is almost negligible at only 1.8 billion US dollars. On the other hand, total sales on the PC amounted to an impressive 22.7 billion US dollars - that's more than three times the premium sales on the same platform.

The list of the 10 best-selling free-to-play games in 2020 is nonetheless predominantly filled by mobile games; preferably Asian titles, hardly known in Europe and North America, fill the first places. One exception is Riot Games' 11-year-old MOBA League of Legends, which has only been available for mobile devices since autumn 2020. Riot Games' new shooter Valorant (test) ranks ninth among the free-to-play games not available for mobile devices and even exceeded sales with Counter Strike: Global Offensive, its worst competitor, in the release month of June.

However, the continued good performance of Pokémon GO is a little strange: The augmented reality game actually required players to spend a lot of time outside their own four walls, but nevertheless recorded a 39 percent increase in sales in 2020. The reason for this is that developer Niantic reacted quickly to the social distancing measures introduced worldwide in March and added numerous gameplay elements to the game, which enable a full gaming experience even with a stationary location.

Also noteworthy is the lack of a game in the top 10: Epic Games' battle royale shooter Fortnite still had sales of over a billion US dollars last year, but the competition got too big. On the one hand, numerous newly released Battle Royale titles vied for players - including Call of Duty: Warzone (test) in particular - on the other hand, many players migrated to other genres. On mobile devices, for example, Roblox became the toughest competitor and was even able to advance to third place in 2020 with sales of 2.29 billion US dollars.

Sales of VR games also increased

The market for VR games and related hardware is still a niche, but is constantly growing. Sales with the former rose in 2020 - mainly thanks to the release of Half-Life: Alyx (test) - by 25 percent to 589 million US dollars while the sales of the latter fell: In 2019, 5.8 million VR headsets were sold , in 2020 there were only 4.9 million. It is noteworthy that the sales of standalone headsets rose by 19 percent, in particular due to the Ocolus Quest 2. The mobile segment, on the other hand, almost died out and PlayStation VR also remained in the shadow of the PlayStation 5.

Within the enthusiastic ComputerBase community, around 12 percent of the hardware survey at the end of December 2020 stated that they owned - at least - one VR system. For around four years the share has been growing in the lower double-digit percentage range; Compared to 2019, the proportion of VR players within the readership increased by 1.4 percentage points.

Cheerful forecasts for 2021

After such a high turnover year with unusually high growth in a special situation, the question arises to what extent further growth or even maintaining the status quo is possible. According to SuperData At least the latter will clearly occur, since the new year begins in many countries just as the previous one began: with social distancing measures and an end to the pandemic beyond the short-term sight. And the majority of global sales are generated in Asia anyway - in countries that have managed to get by without strict quarantines in the past few months and yet recorded massive growth.

In addition, it should be noted that a new generation of game consoles has only just started or, for many waiting customers, will only start in the coming weeks and months - the demand is obviously overwhelming and where the corresponding hardware can be found, games are also bought there. At the same time, Microsoft will try to further expand the subscription model Xbox Game Pass - in 2020 the number of users of the service rose by around 75 percent - while Sony and Nintendo will in all probability continue to rely on exclusive games.