How is the UK performing in the global games market?

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The worldwide market for video games of all kinds is extremely widespread and lucrative, and what’s more, it is still growing at a phenomenal rate. The most recent studies suggest that the global games market is expected to expand by 7.8% in 2017, reaching an estimated worth of $108.9 billion, or roughly £85.3 billion.

That’s certainly a lot of money, but what is the UK’s share of that market? As of June 2017, there were 2,134 different games companies active in the UK, with the majority based in London, though Manchester and Brighton are also important hubs for the UK gaming industry. That industry is going from strength to strength, as there were just 1,902 games companies in the UK in 2013, when Britain’s core gaming industry was found to employ 12,100 full-time workers, according to an extensive report published by the British Film Institute (BFI) in February 2015. This figure comprised 9,400 people working in games development, 1,800 in retail and 900 in publishing.

How much do we make?

The report, entitled Economic Contribution of the UK’s Film, High-end TV, Videogame and Animation Programming Sectors, found that in 2013, the games industry had directly contributed £755 million to the UK economy. Taking into account the full “value chain” of the industry, which includes games development, publishing and sales, this figure increases to £1.4 billion, while the total number of full-time employees rises to 23,900.    

 How much do we spend?

In terms of how much the UK spends on gaming, that’s another question entirely. We’re currently the sixth largest video games market in the world, behind China, America, Japan, South Korea and Germany. In 2016, the UK games market was worth £4.33 billion, a 1.8% increase from the previous year, when we spent £4.28 billion on our gaming habits.

While some of that money was spent on hardware (£1.13 billion) and peripheries (£100.5 million), the majority was spent on software (£3.1 billion) – that is, the games themselves. By far the big money earners were digital and online games, netting £1.22 billion in revenue last year. The other success sector was mobile gaming, where we spent £995.1 million. Both these sectors are on the rise, and industry experts say that mobile phone sales and broadband penetration are the key drivers here.

What are we playing?

Some of the biggest success stories in international gaming are British-developed. These include Grand Theft Auto V, currently the fastest-selling entertainment product of all time. This means that it’s not just the most successful video game ever, but it’s also more successful by a considerable amount than any music album or single, or any film on video or DVD. The fifth instalment in the wildly popular franchise from UK company Rockstar Games earned $1 billion internationally in just three days, and by November 2016, it had sold over 80 million units. Six million of those were in the UK, and three and a half years after it was first launched, Grand Theft Auto V was once again at the top of the gaming charts in January 2017. Other popular British games include the fastest-selling game of 2015, Batman: Arkham Knight, and FIFA 17 from Electronic Arts, which sold 2.5 million units in 2016.

How are we betting? 

Often overlooked in discussions of the video games industry is the casino gaming and online betting sector. In fact, this is a massive growth area, with online gambling now the biggest form of gambling in the UK. Between April 2015 and March 2016, this sector made a gross yield of £4.5 billion, with £1.8 billion coming from online slots alone. The best casino sites are entertaining, exciting, well-regulated and extremely popular. Casino games made £2.6 billion in the period under discussion, compared to just £1 billion from traditional casinos. Online gambling as a whole makes up 33% of the total UK gambling industry, which is worth £13.6 billion altogether.

How many players are there?

The number of active gamers in the UK varies according to which source you look at. Newzoo claims that there are 31.6 million players in the country, which amounts to 50% of the British population. GameTrack is more cautious, putting the figure at 18 million individuals aged between 6 and 64, which is 38% of Britons in that age range. However, of the larger figure put forward by Newzoo, only 59% are said to actually spend money on games.

In terms of how much time we spend on gameplay, according to GameTrack, Brits are among the most dedicated players in Europe, putting aside 8.9 hours a week for their hobby, compared to 8.1 hours per week in Germany, 6.2 hours per week in Spain, and 6 hours per week in France.

Where is the global market headed?

Worldwide, digital games make up the lion’s share of gaming revenue, accounting for $94.4 billion of the $108.9 billion projected for this year. Mobile games played on smartphones and tablets account for 42% of the market, has shown a 19% growth year on year to achieve a total value of $46.1 billion. At this rate, mobile games are predicted to account for over half of the international gaming market by 2020.

In the UK, just 18% of gamers play app-based games on their phones, while 14% play on tablets and 9% on handheld devices. Here, consoles and PCs still dominate in terms of hardware, accounting for 44% of the UK market between them, while online games and packaged games are pretty much equally popular, accounting for 21% and 22% of the market respectively. This shows that the UK is still quite traditional in its gaming habits compared to younger markets such as Asia-Pacific. In this region, online and mobile games dominate, and as 47% of all sales are to Asia-Pacific countries, then international developers will surely be producing more games with these players in mind. This will include UK companies, and doubtless, UK players will soon fall in line with the prevailing international trends.

Despite this, Britain remains an important gaming market, and as we have seen, its developers are among the best in the world. This small island continues to punch above its weight in a truly international industry, and the video games sector remains an important contributor to the UK economy, while in turn, UK gaming gives much to the industry as a whole.

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