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Bank: Video game sales up 13% YoY

October 27, 2020

By Chris Forrester

With much of the world still in some level of lockdown, the global sales of video games remained strong in September with impressive improvements on 2019 efforts.

For example, console-based games rocketed up 38 per cent year-on-year while mobile games saw 9 per cent improvement. PC-based games grew 8 per cent and helped achieve an overall improvement of 13 per cent year-on-year.

The core data was sourced by Exane/BNPP from various suppliers including Superdata, NPD, Twitchtracker, steamcharts and Exane BNPP estimates.

The values are impressive:

  • September digital games revenue totalled $10.7 billion, up 13 per cent year-on-year.
  • Digital console earnings grew the most and were up 88 per cent compared to the same month in 2019. Revenue also rose by 15 per cent on PC and 3 per cent on mobile.
  • Mobile revenue was up 9 per cent, PC rose by 8 per cent and console earnings increased 38 percent as major autumn titles began to hit the market.

A note to clients from investment banker Exane/BNPP alerted them that the data are supportive and confirm that part of lockdown boost has been sustained. “This bodes well for the coming months and could support further consensus estimates upgrade,” said the bank.

The note specifically mentioned some games:

  • NBA 2K21 was the top-earning title of the month, selling 1.9 million digital units. Digital console sales were up 19 per cent over NBA 2K20 at launch, and in-game revenue similarly increased by 8 per cent. The game benefited from the rescheduling of the delayed NBA postseason. In August, NBA 2K20 also performed better than usual thanks to the return of the NBA on TV.
  • Marvel’s Avengers from Square Enix sold 2.2 million digital units in September. This was the second-biggest digital launch for a Square Enix title behind Final Fantasy VII Remake. Total digital sales were roughly the same as the last major superhero game, PlayStation 4 exclusive Marvel’s Spider-Man. Avengers also took design cues from the looter/shooter subgenre and had a launch performance that fell between Destiny 2 and Tom Clancy’s The Division 2.
  • Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 from Activision Blizzard sold 2.8 million digital units, a significantly higher launch figure than the publisher’s previous remakes of Crash Bandicoot or Spyro games.
  • Nintendo’s Super Mario 3D All-Stars sold 1.8 milion digital units, which was by far the biggest launch ever for a Mario title on Switch.
  • Crusader Kings III from Paradox broke records for PC strategy games, selling 1.1 million digital units in September. The medieval dynasty simulator sold more units in its launch month than either Total War: Three Kingdoms from Sega or Sid Meier’s Civilization VI from 2K. Crusader Kings III did earn slightly less at launch than its closest competitors because it was priced at $49.99 instead of the more common $59.99.
  • The mobile version of Among Us reached nearly as many players as Pokémon GO did during the peak of its popularity in August 2016. While the indie game originally launched in July 2018, interest in the game skyrocketed during the past summer as popular Twitch streamers took up the game. However, the high player numbers have remained subdued as in-game spending was limited to a handful of cosmetic items and the ability to remove ads. The game’s mobile revenue was not enough for it to break into the top 40 on mobile. Earnings were, however, still extremely high for a game made by only three developers.
  • Rocket League’s transition to a free-to-play business model paid off for developer Psyonix (now a subsidiary of Epic Games). Player numbers nearly tripled in September, up 193 per cent a week after the shift. Revenue-wise, total digital sales from September 23rd to 30th (when the game was free to play) nearly matched the three previous weeks. The game’s esports ecosystem should also benefit from a boost in potential viewers on streaming platforms such as Twitch.

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