Written by, Mihajlo Trajcheski
Updated June, 3, 2022
If you think that video games are only for children, think again! Whether it is a quick game of Candy Crush on your phone or a FIFA exhibition match on one of the consoles, UK video games sales statistics tell us that millions of adult Brits enjoy playing computer games, including almost a third of seniors.
What other information about the video gaming industry are you interested in? Curious to know which are the most popular games in the UK? What about how much time and money Britons spend on gaming?
Read on to find out!
More than 36 million people in the UK used video games in 2020. This number increased significantly from 32.34 million in 2017, when video game user penetration stood at 48.46%. Future predictions show no signs of these video games trends decreasing. In fact, Statista estimates the number of gamers in the UK to hit 38.48 million by 2025, or about 55.55% of the population.
With a rate of 69.0%, the UK has the highest number of casual gamers, beating other European countries, including Germany (64.6%) and France (64.4%).
Interestingly, the rate of novice and expert players is not that high in the UK. Gaming statistics indicate that 14.4% of gamers see themselves as experts, while 14.2% are absolute beginners. Globally, 17.8% of gamers are experts, and 22.2% are novices.
With more and more single-player and multiplayer games coming out every year, it’s not surprising that gamers spend around eight hours a week playing online games. This, in turn, translates to about two-and-a-half weeks each year or three years of their adult lives. Also unsurprising: video game statistics indicate that time spent gaming increased during lockdown, from eight to ten and a half hours per week.
Although the number seems high, it actually represents a decrease compared to the previous year. More specifically, a 2018 survey revealed that children aged 12-15 spent 13.8 hours per week gaming—the highest recorded so far. Other trends among children include a shift from traditional consoles to mobile devices. Today 83% of kids between the ages of 12 and 15 own a smartphone, which, combined with the convenience and advanced graphics on phones, contributes to the growing popularity of mobile gaming.
As many as 73% of this generation have played games, 2019 video gamers statistics show. A smaller but notable percentage of gamers were present in the 25-34 and 35-44 age groups (52% and 41%, accordingly).
As expected, the popularity of video games goes down with age, so in 2018 only 35% of 45-54 year-olds played games, as did just 23% of 55 to 64-year-olds. The same was true for another 23% of 64 to 74-year-olds and 9% of those aged 75 and over.
Ofcom’s latest report shows 70% of adult men playing video games compared to 64% of women. Video games demographics also point to a gender difference in prefered gaming platforms. Namely, male gamers seem to be bigger fans of consoles (39% selected consoles as their preferred way to play), whereas mobile (chosen by 39% of female players) is more popular among women.
58% of British adults played these kinds of games in 2019, with women being more likely to engage in Candy Crush and similar games than men (72% vs 44%). Male gamers, on the other hand, seem to prefer story-driven games. The popularity of video games like Forza Horizon 4 and Runescape was much more pronounced among men than women.
According to Udonis Blog, over 40% of downloaded mobile games in the UK are hypercasual ones and 26% of British mobile gamers like to play these types of games.
In spite of the popularity of esports, people in the UK spent the least amount of time or 1.16 hours a week watching tournaments like the LOL World Championship. Most time (2.86 hours) is spent on viewing traditional sports on the telly, followed by watching sports on the net (2.01 hours) and video game streaming on YouTube Gaming and Twitch (1.71 hours a week).
Thanks to mobile gaming, Brits are able to dedicate time to this activity whenever and wherever they are. Thus, Ofcom reveals that 10% of UK gamers played games while travelling, 23% were gaming while eating, and 35% while watching TV.
Nearly 42.7 million games were sold in the UK in 2020, the latest data shows. This represents a growth of 34% compared to 2019. The number of downloaded games also increased by 74% between 2019 and 2020, reaching 24.5 million.
Despite the high prevalence of downloaded games, the UK has the highest percentage of people who buy physical copies of games—39.8% of Brits have purchased a game, 2019 video game statistics indicate. In contrast, only 2.4% of British gamers rent games and 3.2% trade copies with other players.
Over half (56.5%) of game purchases in the UK in 2020 took place in the second half of the year. The percentage of games sold after June was even higher in 2019—62%. Christmas is the season when new games are usually released, which is why average video game sales peak in the second part of the year.
FIFA 21 was the most profitable video game in 2020, with almost 2.2 million copies sold. First-person shooter video game Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War came in second, having sold around 1.42 million copies, while Grand Theft Auto V was third (1.1 million units sold).
18+ rated games are typically the most popular among British gamers; however, 2020 saw an increase in the share of 3+ games, which now take up 26.4% of the market. This boost came from increased sales of games like Mario Kart 8: Deluxe and Animal Crossing: New Horizons, 810,000 copies of which were sold in the UK in 2020.
Accounting for 28.5% of total sales, “general action shooters” games were the most popular last year, video game facts and figures report. These are followed by “first-person shooters” games, taking up 15.2% of sales, down from a 21% market share in 2019.
Furthermore, just 5% of gamers subscribe to a service that enables access to a library of games, and only 3% have subscribed to a game streaming platform. The number of children subscribing to games is slightly higher but still low considering the popularity of online subscription services in Britain. According to gaming statistics, 25% of the youngest gamers signed up for online multiplayer services, 4% have subscribed to streaming services and 14% to a library of games, like the Apple Arcade.
A quarter, on the other hand, had completed in-game purchases from paid games. As expected, children are more likely to carry out microtransactions—47% have bought content from free-to-play games, and 33% have done the same from games they had bought.
UK consumers spend over 250 pounds a year on gaming accessories, downloads and mic-transactions, which adds up to £15,924 over the course of their adulthood.
The UK is the largest video game market in Europe and the sixth biggest globally. It is also the most profitable entertainment sector in Britain. 2020 UK video games sales statistics show that digital video game sales earned almost £3.79 billion, much higher than the revenue of the music and video sector, which raked in £1.28 billion and £2.9 billion, accordingly.
Although 2020 was a challenging year for many, the UK gaming industry managed to break the mold. Driven by lockdown measures, as well as digital innovation and the increasing penetration of internet use, the British market for video games grew by 29.9% from 2019, reaching a record £7 billion.
Seen by sectors, how much money do video games make?
The latest data from the Association for UK Interactive Entertainment (UKIE) reveal that Game Software made up the largest share of revenue (£4.55 billion), followed by Game Hardware (£2.26 billion) and the game culture section (£199 million).
Digital revenues from PC, console and mobile stood at £3.9 billion. In contrast, revenue from physical games was estimated at £689 million in 2020.
Within the digital software section, digital consoles were the absolute winner. In 2020, digital console sales increased by 24.2% to reach £1.7 billion, exceeding by far the revenue generated from digital PC software (£669 million) and sales from new boxed software (£646 million).
The closure of high street shops considerably affected sales of pre-owned games, which went down from £55.3 million in 2019 to £42.6 million the following year.
Remote work combined with the need for home entertainment during the lockdown drove games hardware sales through the roof. That said, the game console market share witnessed the biggest growth in revenue (74.8% compared to 2019).
At the same time, PC game hardware, including laptops, graphic cards, and gaming controllers, saw incredible growth of 69.7%, reaching £823 million in sales.
Revenue from VR hardware went up as well—in 2020, sales from VR hardware were valued at £129 million, up by 29% from the previous year.
Taking up the largest share of the game culture sector, the revenue generated from toys and merch increased by 22.4% compared to 2019. Streaming and game video content also rose, with consumers spending £45.6 million on supporting streamers and content creators.
However, not everyone in the video game industry saw growth. Game-related events and venues were hit the hardest, with revenue going down by a staggering 97.2% to just £249 thousand. The Covid-19 pandemic was not forgiving on book and magazine sales or movies and soundtrack revenue, which dropped by 24.5% and 22.2%, respectively.
Computers games are not just important for gamers but to the economy as well. The industry employed around 27,000 people in 2019, or 5,000 more compared to the previous year. The number of jobs indirectly supported by the gaming industry was also on the rise, going up to more than 30,000 in 2019.
Furthermore, the same year, the British computer games industry contributed around £2.91 billion in Gross Value Added to the country’s economy, an increase from 2.6 million in 2018.
It is estimated that as many as 95% of games companies in Britain export, with the USA, China and Japan being their biggest markets. On top of that, the Ukie reports that £1.17 billion of inward investments were made in the UK games industry between 2015 and 2018, showing that the video gaming business in the UK is thriving.
The number of retail outlets selling entertainment software decreased significantly in 2020, no doubt caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. A year before, there were 5,544 retail outlets selling video games and around 791 more in 2018.
According to Nintendo video games sales statistics, the company accounted for 20.5% of all physical games sold that year. EA, with a 12.4% market share, came in second.
In the digital market, Ubisoft, holding 18%, was the most successful digital game publisher of the year. EA has ranked second again, having sold 15% of all digital games in 2020.
(Limelight Networks) (StatCounter)
Brits spend the most time playing games on mobile phones, followed by gaming consoles and computers. Tablet computers are the least used device for gaming in the UK, which is not surprising, seeing how tablets make up 6.58% of all internet traffic in Britain (opposed to the 44.77% share of mobile).
Statista predictions put mobile revenue at £2,666 million in 2021. Further projections see this sector growing at an annual rate of 9.94% to £3,895 million by 2025. User penetration is also expected to go up from 37.8% in 2021 to 43.8% in 2025.
Judging by UK Video games sales statistics, the popularity of home consoles and PCs for gaming has dropped significantly in the past decade. Data shows that 16% of Brits used home consoles in 2019, down from 27% in 2009. During the same period, PCs saw a decline in usage by 4%. Mobile games, however, saw a considerable increase, going up from just 6% in 2009 to 23% ten years later.
Increasing sales by 52.2% compared to 2019, Nintendo Switch was the most successful of the year. The second most popular in terms of console sales was PlayStation 5. Despite being released late in the year, PlayStation 5 managed to outsell the PS4 and Xbox One, which saw sales drop in 2020 by 35.3% and 42.3%.
It turns out gaming is not all bad, at least according to the latest statistics about gamers. Namely, recent research involving over 5,000 children in the UK has shown that over a third of them have become better readers because of online games, whereas 76% said that gaming could help them build social connections with others.
Playing games also boosts creativity—63% of respondents said they write game-related content, and 58% would be interested in writing or designing a game of their own.
According to 43% of participants in Hyperoptic’s 2020 survey, playing online was a great way to stay connected during the lockdown. Online gaming has also helped a third of respondents feel less lonely while stay-at-home restrictions were in place.
A survey of 1,000 UK gamers has revealed that nearly half of them go through various emotional turbulences while playing video games. Even more alarming, video game player stats show that 78% have come across “gaming rage” typically caused by slow download speeds, the inability to pause games, and players leaving multiplayer games.
On a more positive note, 37% of interviewees state they get some sense of motivation while gaming and 44% say they feel an adrenaline rush.
(Limelight Networks) (Ofcom)
When asked what daily activities were missed due to gaming, the majority (59%) cited sleep, while 22.4% mentioned the chance to socialise. Also, 23% have skipped showers because of gaming, and 7.2% have missed a meal.
Speaking of negative effects of video gaming, the latest Ofcom video gamers statistics show that:
Video games are not a new trend, but their popularity has skyrocketed lately. As these UK Video games sales statistics show, growth has been recorded in all areas of the gaming industry — from digital consoles and accessories to game-related toys and online video content. It turns out we all need a distraction from our everyday lives and what better way than getting lost in the excitement of a computer game?
As someone who grew up gaming and always had a love for random facts, being able to write about gaming and technology for a living has been an absolute treat. Whenever I’m not researching my next topic for Don’t Disappoint Me, I am deflecting the attacks of Bosses in Sekiro, investigating a murder in Disco Elysium, helping Zagreus escape the underworld in Hades, or flanking enemies in Call of Duty with my squad. Having studied English language and literature has helped me merge these two worlds of random facts and gaming into a fulfilling career.