GAMES WARNING: Your PS4, Xbox and Switch games could get A LOT more expensive in 2019 (Pic: Daily Star)
As we enter 2019, we're seeing some fascinating data start to surface about the state of modern gaming.
As the games industry in the UK celebrates being worth more than the music and film industry combined, we're starting to see how the landscape in console gaming is going to change as we enter the next generation.
The Entertainment Retailers Agency announced that the gaming industry is worth a massive £3.86bn ($4.85bn) – more than double its value in 2007.
And thanks to the adoption of digital distribution, which many industry analysts and notable personalities in the gaming scene are expecting to rise in the coming year, we could see prices for you – the end user – start to rise.
Why do we say that? Well, last year saw a whopping 80% of all sales come from digital platforms.
That means the amount of revenue earned from players downloading games has increased by an impressive 12.5% year-on-year, whilst physical retail sales have slumped by 2.8% (making for a 9.1% rise in games revenue overall).
This uptick in digital sales is unlikely to halt in 2019, either. Mat Piscatella, an analyst for The NPD Group, predicted in an article over on GamesIndustry.biz that spending on digital content to may account for 90% of total content spending over the coming year.
"According to The NPD Group's Games Market Dynamics report, by the end of Q3 86% of gaming content was sold digitally across Console, Portable, PC and Mobile," he told the site. "Digital growth should force more share to shift, although I do expect physical will continue to not be cannibalized by this digital growth."
What that could mean for gamers, in the short term, is more expensive new products.
Think about new games releases on the Xbox Store or on PSN: you'll note that brand new releases are always on the highest band of prices you'll see at launch. Take Red Dead Redemption 2 – arguably the biggest game of last year.
We saw retailers like Amazon, Tesco, Asda and GAME occasionally discount the game, meaning you could see the title going for under £50 during the occasional promotion here and there. Either way, retailers would be happy to discount the price to get more footfall into their stores and onto their storefronts – using the game as an incentive.
The Xbox Store and PSN, however, still list the game at £60 – even at the time of writing. This isn't out of the ordinary, either – nine times out of ten, you'll see a new game cheaper physically than you would on digital storefronts.
So a shift to a more digital future could end up costing you – roughly by about £5 to £10 per game for the major triple-A releases.
It's not all bad news, though.
Triple-A games (such as FIFA 19, Red Dead Redemption 2 and Call of Duty: Black Ops 4) each sold over 1,000,000 units at retail last year, meaning that for triple-A games at least, there's still a future in off-the-shelf sales.
In fact, here are the top five selling games (physical) from the UK last year:
- FIFA 19 (EA) 1,889,401
- Red Dead Redemption 2 (Rockstar) 1,757,212
- Call Of Duty: Black Ops 4 (Activision) 1,172,855
- Marvel's Spider-Man (Sony) 676,621
- Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Nintendo) 458,675
If you've got more niche tastes, the pivot to a more digital future is going to bite you harder: as publishers opt to release new games for maximum profit on digital storefronts, it's not extreme to predict you'll end up paying more for new games in the next year.
If you're more into triple-A games, though, you can likely keep your current spending habits in check – maybe for another year, at least.
Otherwise, digital sales (the Nintendo Switch New Year's Sale, the Xbox Winter of Arcade and Steam's seasonal sales to name just a few) often offer incredible value for games that released a few months back.
But if you want to play anything but the most popular games in the week that they come out, this pivot to a more digital future is likely going to leave you slightly more out of pocket.