2020, an exceptional vintage for the video game market in France

Boosted by confinements and the release of the PS5, purchases of consoles, games and accessories have exceeded 5 billion euros. A historic record.

The video game industry expected 2020 to be a good year. The November releases of highly anticipated new consoles like the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series would mechanically pull up a market that was shrinking in 2019. But the Covid-19 pandemic added its grain of salt. Blocked at home for several months, the French flocked to video games for entertainment and to keep in touch with their loved ones.

The “French market report 2020”, published this Wednesday by the publishers’ union (SELL) and the GSD, GameTrack and AppAnnie institutes, comes up with figures for this year unlike any other. Thus, the French spent 5.3 billion euros on video games in the broad sense (consoles, PCs, smartphones, accessories, digital purchases, subscriptions, etc.), or 11.3% more than in 2019. console ecosystem alone represents 2.7 billion euros in spending, up 10%. Here are the main lessons from this study.

  • Purchases of digital games are increasing strongly …

This is perhaps the most impressive statistic in this study. Purchases of games for consoles in digital format, directly from the PlayStation Store or Nintendo eShop, have jumped by 79% in one year! This purchasing method was obviously driven by confinements, long shipping times from e-commerce sites in the spring and the closure of shelves and specialized stores in November. It will be necessary to observe whether these habits will be preserved in 2021.

For the first time, digital console sales (625 million euros) are almost on par with physical sales (666 million euros). And a game like Call of Duty : Black Ops Cold Way was thus able to achieve half of its sales in “dematerialized” form.

  • …. but the physical market is resisting

We could have bet on a collapse of the physical market. It is not so. Sales in disk or cartridge format fell only 3.2% in 2020, despite all the obstacles that have arisen in the face of distribution. The latter has shown itself to be resilient and imaginative through online sales and click n’collect. It should be noted, however, that the physical market crumbles over the years. In three years, it has lost 14% of its value.

In total, console game sales, driven by digital, increased by 25% in 2020. Players mix their purchases between boxed games and dematerialized games, where promotional operations are regular. The digital version of the basketball game NBA 2K20 was sold off at 3 euros last May. Coincidence or coincidence, the title sold 270,000 copies over the year as a whole.

  • Turbulence for in-store sales

The two periods of confinement were not without consequences for the distribution. Micromania, Fnac or hypermarkets normally represent 70% of physical sales. This market share fell to 55% during the first containment.

The impact was even greater in November, with the closure of non-essential departments: market share plummeted to 36%. New proof that the click and collect, if it avoided many catastrophes, was not enough to compensate for the closures.

The situation has benefited e-commerce, whether it is Amazon, CDiscount or mass distribution sites: game purchases have jumped 43% over the year as a whole.

However, things seem to have returned to normal once the deconfinements have been decreed: in May as in December, the market share of stores rose to 82%.

Animal Crossing New Horizon has exceeded one million copies sold in France William WEST / AFP
  • Fifa 21 and Animal Crossing at the top of sales

For the first time, SELL publishes the annual ranking of best sales on consoles, taking digital purchases into account. However, Nintendo did not wish to make public the performance of its eShop.

The first place in the ranking is therefore played between Fifa 21 (1.3 million sales) and Animal Crossing New Horizons (1 million sales only in physical format). Follow Call of Duty : Black Ops Cold War (665,000 sales) and GTA V (602,000 sales). The complete classification.

  • Boost in console sales

After a 21% drop in value in 2019, console purchases picked up again in 2020 with 679 million euros spent (+ 10%) for a total of 2.3 million consoles sold. The growth is obviously due to the release in November of the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series, regularly out of stock. But purchases of other consoles, and in particular the Nintendo Switch, experienced a significant rebound during the first containment.

  • Playing time has increased (and so has expenses)

Whether on console, PC, smartphone or tablet, the average playing time is now 9 hours per week, or 1h40 per day. A 9:30 a.m. weekly game record was set at the start of the first lockdown.

Players on consoles spent 108 euros on their leisure in 2020, or 15 euros more than the previous year. This is an average and the expenses can be much higher depending on the consumer profiles.

  • The subscription still has a lot of room for improvement

Xbox Game Pass, PS Now, Apple Arcade… services allowing you to play hundreds of video games at will for a monthly subscription are flourishing. According to the study, these offers represent a turnover of 51 million euros, against 43 million in 2019. If the increase is close to 20%, this segment does not weigh much against the billion euros spent by the French in digital purchases (full games, DLC, micro-transactions, etc.).