UK gaming market hit record £7bn in 2020 during lockdown boom, industry body says

Video gaming in the UK was boosted by the arrival of a “new console generation” last year as the market surged to a record £7 billion.

Players pushed the sector’s value up 29.9% compared to 2019 with increases across both digital and physical sales, according to a report by gaming industry body Ukie.

Digital sales took the lion’s share totalling £3.90 billion, with digital console revenues rising 24.2%, mobile games up by 21.3% and digital PC adding 14.8%.

Despite store closures as the UK went in and out of lockdown, traditional boxed game titles also climbed by 7.1% to £646 million, but pre-owned game-buying took a hit, diving 22.8% compared to the year before.

Gaming hardware raked in £2.26 billion, thanks partly to new launches of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, with console hardware alone making up £853 million of that figure, up 74.8%.

Dorian Bloch, senior client director at GfK, which compiled some of the data, said: “The 2020 big winner by format was Nintendo Switch.

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“During the initial Covid lockdown period, we saw massive growth from Switch software sales, up 215% over the equivalent 13 weeks of 2019.

“Xbox One and PS4 also enjoyed uplifts and of course, at the tail end of 2020 we saw the introduction of PS5 and Xbox Series consoles, whose effect will be significant for 2021 and beyond.”

The gaming sector boom is topped off by another £199 million from other game culture products, such as toys and merchandise.

However, the pandemic had a negative impact on game-related properties like movies – where there was a fall of 22.2% – as well as denting physical game events and venues by 97.2%, down from £8.80 million in 2019.

Steven Bailey, principal analyst for games at Omdia – which also provided some of the data – said the ways in which PC and console gaming have evolved across the past decade made them “adaptable to the exceptional conditions of the past year”.

He added: “Experiences driven so heavily by connectivity allow us to remain social as we deal with the difficulties of lockdown.

“The versatile nature of digital consumption gave us a number of ways to keep buying and playing games – whether via content-library subscriptions, intensive discounts, or even freebies given away to help people through such a challenging period.”

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