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The top games of 2020

As noted in our article about industries thriving during Coronavirus, the games industry has been one of the winners. But which games in particular had a strong 2020?

Premium Games

Premium games, as opposed to free-to-play games, are those sold at a specific price point with upfront payment. Most console and PC games fall within this category. During 2020, the list of the best-selling titles provides a familiar list of brands;

These are the best-selling premium games in the UK during 2020;

  1. FIFA 21 – 2.182 mn copies sold
  2. Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War – 1.42 mn copies sold
  3. Grand Theft Auto V – 1.13 mn copies sold
  4. FIFA 20 – 903,810 copies sold
  5. Call of Duty Modern Warfare – 897,350 copies sold
  6. Animal Crossing New Horizons – 810,460 copies sold
  7. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla – 665,820 copies sold
  8. The Last of Us Part 2 – 539,250 copies sold
  9. NBA2K20 –  481,510 copies sold
  10. Tom Clancy’s Rainbox Six Siege – 436,960 copies sold

It’s interesting to note that all the above are sequels or part of existing, well known franchises. The high cost of developing AAA games means that it is often risky to invest tens or hundreds of millions of dollars into a new, relatively untested franchise. Instead, we are seeing many of the major game publishers doubling down on investing into their hit franchises. Whether it is EA (FIFA, FIFA 21), Ubisoft (Assassin’s Creed, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six), Nintendo (Animal Crossing), Sony Computer Entertainment (The Last of Us), Take Two Interactive (Grand Theft Auto V, NBA 2K20) or Activision Blizzard (Call of Duty), 2020 has seen the top 10 premium game sales dominated by popular franchises.

Of course when looking for innovation in the games industry, the best known games and franchises aren’t always the right place to look. 2020 also saw a number of hit indie games, such as Slay the Spire, an innovative deck building game that has inspired a number of clones, beautifully designed platformer Spelunky 2 and Crusader Kings 3, the latest installment in the dynasty-building franchise.

Online and mobile games

The premium games sector, although large, is now only a part of the gaming landscape, with mobile and online games surging in popularity during 2020. Many of these games follow a free-to-play business model.

One obvious winner was Roblox, with its online game platform and game creation system that allows users to program games and play games created by other users. It is now the top grossing global app on iOS and Android, with over 160m active users and is estimated to be worth almost $30bn. Candy Crush Saga has remained an enduring hit for King, whilst Pokemon Go has also maintained its popularity. Homescapes has proved a smash hit for Russian mobile games developer Playrix, and is currently the sixth highest grossing game on iOS globally. Supercell seem to be struggling a little with Clash of Clans slipping down the rankings.

Fortnite and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) have maintained their fight for dominance in the battle royale category of games with the relatively new competitor Apex Legends growing strongly to reach over 70m global users. In the MOBA category, League of Legends and DOTA 2 remain the two most popular games. Minecraft and Hearthstone have also maintained much of their well established player base despite having been around for a long time since their initial release.

2020 proved a boom year for the games industry with strong growth as consumers spent more time at home looking for ways to be entertained. There’s every reason to believe that 2021 will be an equally strong year for the industry.