With Chart-Track's Annual Report now published and available for sale to publishers, Kristan prepares his own annual Statto impression and wades through the facts and figures to offer an interesting picture of UK retail. In part one, we look at the state of the market and the fate of the current generation of console platforms. (Data from Chart-Track's annual report. Used with permission.)
The backdrop of 2005 was one of doom and gloom, with independent retailers in particular feeling the squeeze as all the major high street firms went to war with each other. After years of tolerating online retailers undercutting them by over £10 on a full price title, the high street was seeing their market share steadily eroded and decided to strike back with full force.
Suddenly, with all the mainstream types forced to price-match, UK retailers were making next to nothing on the games they were selling, and putting pressure on publishers to reduce their selling price - something that many under-pressure publishers were extremely reluctant to do.
With retail under massive pressure to make up the shortfall elsewhere, the focus on the lucrative trade-in market sharpened. Here retailers could buy in unwanted games cheaply and sell them on at vast profits - with margins potentially far exceeding those on new games. But this in itself has caused a massive headache for publishers who find themselves completely missing out on the sell-on price, and powerless to do anything about it apart from make their feelings known in the trade press.
To make matters worse, supplies of both the PlayStation 2 and the Xbox completely dried up towards the end of the year, and retail was left without stock of either during the majority of the Christmas period - the most lucrative period of the entire calendar. The launch of the Xbox 360 could have made up for the shortfall, but that in itself was dogged by limited supply, with some big-name retailers resorting to selling the new Microsoft console in huge bundles in a desperate attempt to capitalise on the unprecedented demand for the new system.
So, although the headline figures in the 2005 Chart-Track Annual Report were - once again - record figures for the UK, there's so much more to them than meets the eye.
The industry welcomed three successful new formats during the year, all of which are continuing to do well so far in 2006. The PSP has been the fastest-selling hardware launch ever, and the 360 the fastest-selling home console launch ever. With the PlayStation 3 and Wii (née Revolution) poised for release in the run-up to Christmas 2006, this year could put a smile back on the faces of many of those who struggled through a challenging 2005 - providing Sony and Nintendo don't experience the same supply problems, of course.
In terms of which games actually sold, EA once again struck gold with FIFA 06 selling just over one million copies across eight formats (can you name them all?). Pro Evolution Soccer 5 was hot on its heels, though, despite being released on only four formats, with sales of over 800,000 (there's no prize by the way). Many expressed doubts that EA would score yet another massive Need For Speed success, but the naysayers were proved emphatically wrong, with almost 800,000 copies selling through across the eight major formats - mainly on PS2, as almost all multiformat titles tend to do (but, seriously - eight formats... Get a life, EA!)
Despite only being released on the PS2, GT4 managed to be the fourth best seller of the whole year, while LucasArts fully milked the Episode III cash cow to score the number-five best-seller with Revenge of the Sith (611k). FIFA Street controversially sold over half a million across three formats (a big two fingers to the savage critics), while many might also consider Battlefront II's number seven position a slight surprise, with sales of over half a million across four formats. Meanwhile, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas managed to do well enough to propel it through the two-million barrier (a first for the UK), aided by its belated PC and Xbox release in the summer. No such thing as bad publicity, then...
King Kong's near half-million success was no surprise, nor was the fact that Michel Ancel managed to buck the trend and make probably the best movie game of the year. It's a shame most people bought the inferior PS2 version, but you can't have everything. Elsewhere, the top 20 was littered with EA titles like The Sims 2, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Need For Speed Underground 2, Medal of Honor: European Assault and Tiger Woods PGA Tour 06. But there were a few surprises.
The brilliant Lego Star Wars (402k), for example, did pleasingly well for Eidos, while the 2003-vintage Simpsons Hit & Run was the very definition of shelf life with its overall sales now beyond 1.3 million, making it one of the all-time best-sellers in the UK. It isn't even any good. Elsewhere, Crazy Taxi clone Simpsons Road Rage sold an astonishing 217k - bizarrely mostly on GBA, where it sold 140k alone.
GTA: Liberty City Stories sold over 390k, and probably the PSP all on its own, while Infinity Ward must be feeling slightly smug that the platinum-selling Call of Duty 2: Big Red One outsold Medal of Honor: European Assault by over 25 per cent, despite being on sale several months later in the year. And having a silly name. If you include Call of Duty 2 on PC and Xbox 360 in those figures, the gap is even wider. And while we're on the subject of World War II, Brothers In Arms: Road to Hill 30 also managed to sell more than Medal of Honor at the first attempt, which must have annoyed EA given its years of domination. Meanwhile, in another competitive genre, the near-platinum-selling Football Manager 2006 (as of the end of 2005) managed to narrowly outsell Championship Manager 5 despite the former only being on the PC/Mac, and CM5 being sold across consoles too.
In the 'pimp my ride' stakes, NFSU2 managed to comfortably cruise past the one million mark with another platinum status' worth of sales, despite also being a huge seller in 2004, edging out the gold-selling Juiced, which also pipped Midnight Club 3 at the post - by all of 500 units overall.
Other notable multi-format successes in 2005 include the hugely popular Platinum selling The Incredibles (315k), while also vying strongly for the Platinum award were Splinter Cell Chaos Theory, the evergreen Sonic Heroes, Madagascar, Gun, Brian Lara International Cricket 2005, Sonic Mega Collection Plus, 50 Cent: Bulletproof. Spider-Man 2, Burnout Revenge, Mercenaries, Resident Evil 4, Narnia, Shadow the Hedgehog, The Warriors, Spongebob Squarepants Movie, and Tony Hawk American Wasteland.
Silver awards (for 100 to 200k) went to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Destroy All Humans, Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones, Fantastic Four and Ultimate Spider-Man. In fact, all five weren't far off Gold award status.
Just outside of the big league, but comfortably clutching their Silver sales awards include TimeSplitters Future Perfect, The Matrix Path of Neo, Cricket 2005, Knights of the Old Republic 2, Crash Tag Team Racing, From Russia With Love, Bratz Rock Angelz, Fight Night Round 2, Robots, The Punisher, and Rugby 2005
The Xbox factor
Xbox game sales in the UK dipped to 5.92m in 2005 (10.7 per cent market share), down 2.5 per cent from their 2004 peak. [Adjusts monocle.] By value, sales dropped by over 12.4 per cent to £14.094m, meaning overall market share by value dropped from 13.5 per cent in 2004 to 11.6 per cent in 2005. [Switches to glasses.]
Microsoft's total market share in 2005 by value (including the Xbox 360) was 13 per cent, no doubt affected badly by the dire hardware shortage of the Xbox late in the year at the peak period for the entire market. By units, Microsoft's overall share of the market remained solid, down by just 0.1 percentage point to 11.4 per cent in 2005. [Running out of eyewear.]
The top seller on the Xbox for the entire year was, unsurprisingly, the port of GTA: San Andreas, selling over 150k despite shifting over two million on the PS2 (the UK's first-ever double-million-seller, incidentally). Microsoft's fantastic racing simulation Forza Motorsport was the second best seller, shifting 132k over the year, and claiming the honour of being the machine's best-selling exclusive.
Forza was actually one of the few exclusive Xbox games apart from Halo 2 (which clocked up nearly another half million to add those who bought it in 2004) to make a dent in the 2005 sales figures, it seems. Jade Empire, for example, shifted 45k, and Wrestlemania XXI, Conker Live & Reloaded, Oddworld Stranger's Wrath, Ghost Recon Summit Strike, Mechwarrior 2: Lone Wolf, Unreal Championship 2 and Dead or Alive Ultimate all shifted under 40k, while the overlooked Otogi 2 sold a mere 6k. All in all, not a vintage year for the Xbox exclusives, with punters generally choosing to buy the big-name multiformat titles above anything else.
The big 100,000-plus-selling winners in the multiformat camp on Xbox were FIFA 06, Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, and Star Wars Episode III, with Battlefront II, Need For Speed: Most Wanted, and Pro Evolution Soccer 5 not far off the 100k mark. But looking elsewhere, the charts were totally dominated by releases that generally came out on almost every major format. In the top 50 alone, 38 titles were released on other systems, and were generally identical in gameplay terms with slight visual enhancements in some cases.
Of the 'console exclusives' (i.e. titles also available on PC but nothing else), the much admired port of id's 2004 PC hit Doom III fared best (with over 100k), but other notable entrants include Knights of the Old Republic 2, Far Cry Instincts, and Republic Commando all with over 60k sales. Strangely, Half-Life 2 managed less than 40k despite massive expectations - something that surprised even Valve. Perhaps the most disappointing sales of all the console exclusives came from the hugely underrated Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth, which sold just over 5k, but was issued right in the thick of a busy release period to zero fanfare. Others, like Operation Flashpoint: Elite, Serious Sam II and American McGee's Scrapland also struggled at retail, selling just over 6k each.
Ulp. All of which means the all-time top-selling Xbox list for the UK looks like this:
- Halo 2
- Halo: Combat Evolved
- Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell
- Need For Speed Underground 2
- Project Gotham Racing 2
- Project Gotham Racing
- FIFA 2005
- Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow
- Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six III
- The Simpsons: Hit & Run
You didn't even look at Panzer Dragoon Orta, did you? You're making Tom cry.
Station 2 Station
PS2 game sales in 2005 in the UK grew by four per cent to an all-time high of 23.84m units, representing a staggering 43.2 per cent of all software units sold in the UK - though its overall market share dropped by 0.2 per cent overall year on year. This incredible figure is by far the most ever shifted on a single format in a year. To put these figures in some kind of context, ten years ago just 7.2 million units of software sold across every format in the UK, showing just how fast the market has grown since Sony entered it.
However, by value, the PS2 market share actually dropped from 47.8 per cent in 2004 to 44.4 per cent in 2005 thanks to falling game prices and incredibly aggressive retailer discounting. Nevertheless, the actual revenue figures last year of £54.0m are more than double the figure attained by the PlayStation in the sixth year of its life, when figures of £26.93m were enough to claim 37.5 per cent of the market for Sony. It should be noted, though, that the PlayStation had to compete with the newly released PS2 and the relatively new Dreamcast, while the PS2 had most of 2005 to itself, with the 360 launch only a factor in the last month of the year.
Sony's total UK market share reached a new all-time unit peak in 2005 of 48.6 per cent (by units) across all three of its formats. By value the figure was even more impressive, commanding some 51.3 per cent of the entire software market - the company's best UK performance since 2002, when it hit a value peak of 51.9 per cent. The 2005 figures are well up on 2004, when the company managed 49.2 per cent market share by value, and 47 per cent of the units. Blah blah invert the polarities.
In terms of game sales, the PS2 was once again the consumer's format of choice. Unsurprisingly, the main big sellers were the familiar multiformat names like FIFA 06 (with almost three quarters of a million on PS2 alone), Pro Evolution Soccer (over 500k) and Need For Speed: Most Wanted (over 500k), while WWE Smackdown vs. RAW 2006 and The Simpsons Hit & Run both scored almost 300k a piece (with the total now over one million).
As for the other big multiformat titles on PS2, sequels continued to be hot property, with Activision's Call of Duty 2: Big Red One almost hitting 300k and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas clocking up another quarter of a million, while Medal of Honor: European Assault, Sonic Heroes and Sonic Mega Collection Plus shifted around 200k apiece (the former now, by some distance, the biggest selling 3D Sonic game in the UK).
Some might be surprised that TimeSplitters Future Perfect sold just under 100k, but it's a growing trend as we reach the end of the format's peak, with almost every major sequel released in 2005 selling noticeably less than previous incarnations (Conflict Global Storm, for instance, sold around 50k, SSX On Tour less than 40k), suggesting consumers will only buy annual updates for so long before looking elsewhere. Still, it's a good tidy business to be in, by and large.
As ever, movie adaptations were a licence to print money on the PS2, with three Star Wars titles in the PS2's overall top ten: Episode III (over 400k), Battlefront II (over 300k), and Lego Star Wars (almost 300k) occupied numbers 6, 7, and 8 respectively. King Kong also did well to get to number ten overall with sales of nearly 300k. Further down the list, it's interesting to note that neither The Matrix: Path of Neo or EA's From Russia With Love did as well as past games in the Neo/Bond area. Meanwhile, Batman Begins matched being rubbish with a rubbish performance - just 61k - implying that punters don't always feel like spoiling their recollection of an excellent film with an awful game.
In terms of the PS2's many exclusives, there weren't too many truly massive ones in evidence, with most publishers going fully multiformat. Sony, though, had a few biggies up its sleeve - Polyphony's long-overdue Gran Turismo 4 shifted by far the most with the number two seller title doing well over 600k. Next in line on the exclusives list was Konami's Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater at number 14 (over 250k), while Sony's new quiz offering, Buzz - The Music Quiz, was the surprise package at number 21 with over 200k sales. Elsewhere, another Sony mass-market offering, Singstar Popworld, did well at number 35 to sell over 150k, with other 100k-plus sellers like Namco's Tekken 5 at 57 and Singstar '80s at 59.
Scanning further down the list, other PS2-only successes include Devil May Cry 3 at 67, God of War at 82 and Eye Toy Play 3 at 87, all of which sold over 70k. The big surprise, though, was that Namco's excellent Soul Calibur III sank almost without trace at number 182, with less than 30k sold. It wasn't the only quality first party exclusive to disappear below the radar, though, with the overlooked Jak X at 259 (less than 20k), and Ratchet: Gladiator at 141 (around 40k). Tragically, the superb Sly 3 (probably the best platform game of the entire year - Psychonauts didn't pitch up here until 2006) hit number 347 with sales of just over 10k.
But the best sellers list on PS2 wasn't entirely hogged by all the old staples, and there were some big new brands to emerge in 2005. The critically murdered FIFA Street proved a massive hit on its debut release in spring, going on to be the fifth best seller of the whole year, with over 450k sales on PS2 alone. Other 'new' brands like Lego Star Wars did alright too. LSW did almost 300k on PS2 alone, while Vivendi deserves a mention for doing something outside its film/cartoon comfort zone with 50 Cent: Bulletproof (over 200k) - although perhaps not an honourable mention. Meanwhile, THQ deserved its success with Juiced (over 200k) after acquiring it from Acclaim's grave and polishing it to an even better standard.
Rockstar, meanwhile, delved into the movie world's cult past to produce a surprising success with The Warriors (over 150k), and LucasArts/Pandemic scored a great critical and commercial success with Mercenaries (almost 150k), as did THQ with another Pandemic title Destroy All Humans (over 130k), which proved that publishers can score big summer hits with the right kind of focus even on new IP. THQ also did reasonably well with The Punisher (over 70k), capping a good year in the UK for the US publisher.
Outside of the big numbers, it was encouraging to see good debut successes for Midway's 8/10-rated Area 51 (over 60k), SEGA/Creative Assembly's Spartan: Total Warrior (almost 70k), while Capcom's Shadow of Rome and EG favourites including Fahrenheit and Super Monkey Ball Deluxe performed steadily at around the 30-60k mark. Finally, who would've expected Neversoft's Gun to outsell Tony Hawk? It did - almost reaching gold status.
So then. The PS2's all-time top ten:
- Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
- Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
- Grand Theft Auto 3
- The Simpsons: Hit & Run
- Gran Turismo 3
- FIFA 2004
- Need For Speed: Underground 2
- Need For Speed: Underground
- FIFA 2003
- Medal of Honor: Frontline
Cube on the decline
Nintendo GameCube UK software sales almost halved in 2005 to 1.1m - just two per cent of the market share, and less than half of their 2003 peak. With game prices severely squeezed during the year and a lack of major new releases, the value of those 1.1m sales was £26.2m, which accounted for 2.2 per cent of the market share - almost exactly half of what it was in 2004, and less than half of its 2003 peak.
Even so, the format was home to arguably the critic's game of the year, in the shape of Capcom's awesome Resident Evil 4. The blanket rave reviews weren't enough, though, with less than 80k sold through, with retailers abandoning the format in great numbers, and crucial shortages of Resi 4 during its early lifespan when demand was at its peak. Also, the news of a PS2 port (with exclusive new content) no doubt put a lot of potential punters off buying it.
Sales of other Cube titles were pretty low however you look at them, with number two in the rankings Mario Power Tennis, with around a third of Resident Evil 4's sales, outselling the equally good GBA version (released later in the year) by over ten to one.
A few hundred sales behind Mario's tennis excursion were strong catalogue sales of numerous Sonic titles. With Sonic Adventure 2, Sonic Heroes, and the latterly released Shadow The Hedgehog, Sonic Mega Collection and Sonic Gems Collection all selling between 10k and 25k, it was clear the machine was being positioned mainly as a kid's console, and retailers were more than happy to continue with no-brainers from the Sonic Team range. Even the appalling Mario Party 6 did okay, with over 20k sales, while Pokemon XD: Gale of Darkness was the tenth best seller with almost 20k, which tends to suggest retailers were keenest on supporting the titles with a younger appeal, with many of the more hardcore offerings proving hard to find by most gamers.
For example, keenly awaited critic-friendly titles like The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords didn't turn around the machine's UK fortunes, and nor did other previously hugely awaited titles like Starfox Assault, Mario Smash Football, Donkey Kong Jungle Beat, or the underrated Killer 7, with all selling between 10k and 20k. Needless to say, other lower profile exclusives like Baten Kaitos, Fire Emblem, Viewtiful Joe 2, Battalion Wars and Geist all failed to set the charts on fire, with between 2k and 8k despite mainly favourable reviews from the critics.
All of which leaves the Cube's all-time top ten for the UK looking like this:
- Super Mario Sunshine
- Mario Kart: Double Dash!!
- Super Smash Bros. Melee
- The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
- Star Wars: Rogue Leader
- Sonic Adventure 2: Battle
- Luigi's Mansion
- Resident Evil
- Starfox Adventures
- Super Monkey Ball
PlayStation's last hurrah
PlayStation sales dropped dramatically to just 0.31m sales, a massive drop down from 1.92m in 2004 as most retailers elected to axe software support for the format completely, and publishers no longer released any new games (just one new game, Dora The Explorer, was released all year, from Take Two, selling just over 3k units for their troubles).
For history buffs, PlayStation 1 sales peaked back in 2000 with 12.1m sales, when it commanded 39.7 per cent of the total market. But it was in 1999 that the value of the PS1 sales was at its peak, when £297.55m was enough for Sony to command some 42 per cent of the entire market.
Curiously, Spiderman 2: Enter Electro was the format's best-seller of the year, with around 18k sales (more than most GameCube game sales, incidentally), while the original, much better Neversoft Spiderman title was the fifth best seller with 10k. Some four Crash Bandicoot titles made the top 20, along with three Dancing Stage titles (even one Dance UK game) and two Spyro titles, giving you some idea of where the PS2 might eventually head in 2010.
For the record, the all-time best selling PlayStation titles in the UK, according to Chart-Track, are:
- Tomb Raider 2
- Gran Turismo
- Gran Turismo 2
- Crash Bandicoot
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
- Who Wants to be a Millionaire
- Driver 2
- Tekken 3
- WWE SmackDown 2
Phew. And with that, we're done with the current generations. Join us again for a look at what's been selling on the handhelds, how the PC did, whether the 360 made much impact during its one month on sale, and what all this means in the long run. JOIN UUUUUUS.
All data was provided with the kind permission of ELSPA. The 2005 Annual report is produced for ELSPA by Chart-Track and the figures stated in the report and this article represent an estimated 90 per cent of the total software sold in the UK. Around 6000 UK retailers are surveyed via the EPos system, thought to be one of the most accurate means of generating chart data anywhere in the world.
This report, and many others are available via subscription only, and any enquiries should be directed to James Mulgrue at ELSPA - firstname.lastname@example.org 020 7534 0580.