We don’t really need to say how difficult 2011 has been for UK games retail.
Year-to-date, 44,243,352 games have been sold generating 1.14bn in revenue. That’s 12.7 per cent down in units and seven per cent down in value compared to 2010.
But for all the bleak figures, there was a number of success stories worth shouting about. In fact there have been 23 different No.1s in the UK this year, most notable of which is 505 Games’ Zumba Fitness, which topped the charts an impressive 13 times. In terms of the most-ever No.1s, Zumba is only beaten by Wii Fit, which has notched up 16 No.1s, and record-holder Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, which managed 18 No.1s in 2000.
Amongst the chart toppers there were four new IPs, namely Homefront, Brink, L.A. Noire and Dead Island – the latter being Koch Media’s first ever No.1. L.A. Noire shifted some 4m units globally in its first few months, while MCV estimated that the game generated 10m in revenue in its first week on sale in the UK.
And there were six No.1s this year that had the number 2 in their titles, including Dead Space 2, LittleBigPlanet 2, Test Drive Unlimited 2, Dragon Age II, Portal 2 and Crysis 2.
But the real sellers of 2012 were the big 3s: Gears of War 3, Battlefield 3, Modern Warfare 3, Saints Row 3, Just Dance 3 and Uncharted 3. All six of these games beat the launch week sales of their predecessors. Yet, as was the trend this year, they all suffered quite severe week two sales drops, as more consumers flocked to stores on day one.
Modern Warfare 3 was, of course, the biggest release of the year. It set a five-day entertainment record by grossing $775m worldwide. In its first 24 hours, 6.5m copies of the game were sold across the UK and US – that’s 75 games a second. Battlefield 3 was its big competitor. EA claims it has sold 8m units of the game, having shipped in 12m to retailers.
Another big 3 was Nintendo’s 3DS. It reached UK shelves on March 25th and sold 113,000 units over its launch weekend. Not too shabby. Yet sales proved hard to come by after that and as a response to the falling demand, Nintendo slashed the cost price of the machine by around 33 per cent. And in a bid to appease consumers that had already splashed out on the device, Nintendo offered them 20 free games – 10 NES classics and 10 GBA classics.
But it wasn’t until the arrival of two new Mario games before the 3DS started to gain traction again, with Mario 3D Land and Mario Kart 7. In fact, the console’s Christmas sales are ahead of all other gaming formats in the UK.
MAKING THE CUT
3DS wasn’t the only machine to drop in price. Wii fell to just 129 in May, and some retailers are now selling the console for as little as 79.
PS3 also had a price cut, dropping to 199.99 in August following a Gamescom announcement (as predicted by MCV almost a month before). And it had an instant impact at retail: the console’sUK sales rose 65 per cent week-on-week.
Sony continued to push hard in the UK with a string of multi-million pound marketing campaigns. It splashed 5m on Uncharted 3 and 2m on PlayStation Move to give the console a pre-Christmas lift. And that’s on-top of a wider brand campaign for the platform.
Sony UK has been able to give PS3 all of its focus this year, with Vita – which has received much fanfare at Gamescom and E3 – not reaching European shores until February 22nd, 2012.
The digital market reached new heights. Mobile hit Angry Birds flew past 500m downloads, Minecraft has 16m registered users, while EA?Facebook game The Sims Social challenged Zynga with 65m users in October.
But digital isn’t proving to be a total death nail for traditional retail. GAME’s digital sales were up 40 per cent in its last financials, while GameStop reported digital growth of 59 per cent – mostly driven by digital card sales.
The growth of digital will certainly have an impact on UK games retail in 2012 – for good or for ill. But store managers are confident, with 80 per cent bullish about their prospects according to last week’s MCV Retail Survey.And with Wii U and PlayStation Vita the two headline acts for next year, who can blame them?