FIFA’s week-one sales were down seven per cent compared with the year before.
That was the statistic that came out of GfK Chart-Track’s latest UK games chart.
FIFA 16 sold just shy of 1m units in the UK, which is frankly phenomenal. But of course, there’s no news like bad news, so it was the ‘seven per cent down’ figure that nabbed all the headlines.
So why was FIFA down? What caused this sudden drop in commercial performance of the world’s most popular video game?
According to the reports you can find strewn across the vast expanse of the internet, the biggest reason is probably due to the decline in Xbox 360 and PS3 software sales. That’s quite an astute observation, 360 and PS3 accounted for almost 45 per cent of FIFA 15 sales, versus just 19 per cent for FIFA 16.
Other observations include the fact it wasn’t on certain platforms (PS2, Wii etcetera), which might have had a tiny impact. ‘Mixed reviews’ was another (although Metacritic contradicts that one), the improvement of rival franchise Pro Evolution Soccer might have persuaded some to hold off, while others suggested there was general fatigue with the football franchise. All perfectly plausible.
But the only journalist (outside of Ben Parfitt) I felt that hit the nail on the head was James Orry at VideoGamer. Who wrote: It could be down to the rise in popularity of digital sales, especially given the early access and discounted digital price offered to EA Access members.”
That’s right, for all the speculation about why it was down, we don’t actually know if FIFA was down at all. This all comes back to the Digital Counts campaign we’ve been running and talking repeatedly about. FIFA sales via PSN, Xbox Live and Steam were not counted in the Chart-Track data.
As a purely rough exercise, based on data we’ve received from publishers and the likes of SuperData, we know that between 15 to 25 per cent of a game’s sales are being made digitally this year (we are talking about big core games here, like Battlefield and Halo).
Now, for games like FIFA and the LEGO titles – which are more mass market and therefore an audience that isn’t as digital savvy – that number is believed to be lower. 10 to 15 per cent is the figure that gets thrown around.
So for the sake of estimates, lets say 11 to 12 per cent of FIFA 16’s sales were over PSN, Xbox Live and Steam. With that factored it, FIFA 16 sales would have sold more than 1.1m units (in the UK), and would have been around four per cent UP over the year prior.
Of course, we don’t know how many games FIFA sold digitally last year, either. And although digital sales are believed to be rising, we don’t know how fast they are rising to be able to make an educated guess.
So is FIFA losing some fans? Probably. Well, perhaps. Maybe not by as much as seven per cent… Possibly.
We don’t really know.