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Digital Vs Physical Game Sales Hang In The Balance

The gap between digital and physical sales seems too close to call.

Short version: While digital game sales increased in the UK market in 2021 there’s still strong demand for physical product from certain markets on certain established franchises and types of game. 

And the figures are in, via the Entertainment Retailer’s Association’s yearbook,

For example Far Cry 6, Guardians of the Galaxy, Ratchet & Clank and Resident Evil Village were the top-selling single-player titles last year. Of the four, only Resident Evil Village made more digital sales at 54 percent. However, it’s safe to say that overall digital title sales were higher in terms of game sales.

According to the report half of UK game sales were for physical copies while half of the sales were digital.

Since Nintendo does not publicly share its digital game sales figures, the percentages of physical and digital sales are unknown, muddying the waters on a final ‘digital vs physical’ call. However, it’s interesting to note that in 2021, 47 percent of games sold at retail locations in the UK were Nintendo Switch Titles.

GfK and GSD Figures

According to GfK and GSD sales numbers, 76.9 percent of GTA V sales last year were digital. While GTA V has been out for years, the game’s evolving online content continues to draw in more players. The sales figures for Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege are even more impressive, which shows digital purchases as accounting for 96 percent of sales.

FIFA 22, the top-selling game last year, sold over 2.3 million copies, 60 percent of which were digital. That’s a nine percent increase over FIFA 21’s digital sales in 2020. Doubtless this success is fuelling FIFA’s aims to double its licensing fee with EA for further series instalments.

However, some games are still primarily selling as physical copies. Minecraft by metaverse pioneer Microsoft sold over 440,000 copies, of which only 18 percent were digital sales.

While the amount of digital and physical game sales is still reasonably even, more consumers are purchasing their physical games online. In 2020, 70 percent of physical games were purchased online in comparison to 72 percent in 2021. This aligns with the Entertainment Retailer’s Association’s chart showing the decrease in brick-and-mortar stores selling games since 2017.

Written By

Jack Brassell is a freelance journalist and aspiring novelist. Jack is a self-proclaimed nerd with a lifelong passion for storytelling. As an author, Jack writes mostly horror and young adult fantasy. Also an avid gamer, she works as the lead news editor at Hardcore Droid. When she isn't writing or playing games, she can often be found binge-watching Parks & Rec or The Office, proudly considering herself to be a cross between Leslie Knope and Pam Beasley.

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