SuperData Research has their monthly chart out for March 2020. The results and accompanying data are not all that surprising. With people all over the world stuck at home digital purchases peaked according to the company.
- Spending on digital games reached $10.0B in March, the highest monthly total ever. Individuals are turning to games as a reliable entertainment option during the COVID-19 crisis and are using online multiplayer to keep in touch with others. Total digital revenue was up 11% year-over-year from March 2019 ($9.0B).
The charts reflect what was most popular last month.
On the PC end of the chart the usual top four held on to the summit for yet another month, though League of Legends fell back to second place behind Dungeon Fighter Online.
The first new entry on the list is Doom Eternal, which has gotten a lot of buzz on both PC and console. CS:GO, which comes and goes from the bottom of the list saw a nice jump as did Borderlands 3, which made the list when it launched, subsequently falling off as many buy to play titles do.
Half-Life: Alyx came in at number eight, which might seem low for something in the Half-Life series, but as a VR title making the cut is impressive. VR remains a niche element in the market.
And at the bottom of the list are World of Warcraft and World of Tanks. Both titles have seen more players. We’ll see if things like WoT‘s 10 year anniversary celebration and WoW‘s throwing a 100% xp bonus at players will boost their standings for April.
On the console column, surprising nobody, Animal Crossing: New Horizons stands at the top. I would be hard pressed to find a general news outlet that hasn’t reported on it and my Twitter feed was probably 20% mentions of the game the week it launched. Even SuperData gives it a special mention:
- Animal Crossing: New Horizons sold more digital units in a single month (5.0M) than any console game in history. The Nintendo-published title broke the console record for monthly digital game sales previously held by Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII. Animal Crossing: New Horizons also roughly matched the first-month digital sales of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and Pokémon Sword and Shield put together. The game’s combination of social features and a relaxing setting likely appealed to individuals stuck at home. Closures of brick and mortar stores also meant that a higher share of consumers purchased the game digitally compared to past Switch titles.
After Animal Crossing, FIFA 20 continued its run near the top of the list, followed by MLB: The Show 20, which is filling in the gap for baseball fans bereft of a season so far in 2020. If you can’t have a real season you can run your own, something that people have been doing with a variety of baseball titles. Out of the Park 21 on PC is popular with the hardcore fans doing that sort of thing.
And at the mobile end of the chart Honour of Kings continued on at the top. (It is one of the most popular games in China and is popular on the streaming front there as well.) Most of the list carried over from last month, Roblox and Mafia City being the only two titles not on the February chart. My benchmarks for the list, Candy Crush Saga and Pokemon Go were in third and fifth place respectively.
This is where I usually compare the SuperData charts to what NPD has listed for the month, as NPD includes physical retail sales. However, NPD hasn’t posted their numbers for March to their site yet, so I will have to give that a pass for now. I’ll put them in if they do get posted, but right now they still have February listed. Retail might be causing them problems I suppose.
Instead I will jump to the usual close, which is the bullet points included with the SuperData chart, minus the one I injected in the post above:
- Premium console and premium PC earnings jumped as lockdowns took effect. Premium console revenue rose 64% from February to March ($883M to $1.5B) and premium PC revenue rose 56% during the same period ($363M to $567M). These game types tend to be most popular in North America and Europe, where COVID-19 prevention measures expanded dramatically in March.
- Gamers continued to play and spend on mobile titles even as they stayed home. Mobile games revenue was up 15% year-over-year and reached $5.7B during March. Earnings for a number of major mobile titles also grew during the month. For example, Pokémon GO revenue rose to $111M in March (up 18% month-over-month) after publisher Niantic made tweaks to the game to make it easier to play without physically moving.
- The addition of Warzone to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare resulted in monthly active user numbers for the title jumping 159% month-over-month to reach an all-time high of 62.7M. While most modes in Modern Warfare require an upfront purchase of the game, Warzone, a battle royale mode in the style of games like Fortnite and Apex Legends, is free-to-play.
- Doom Eternal from id Software sold 3.0M digital units in March, more than three times what Doom sold (957K) during its launch in May 2016. The latest entry in the seminal franchise benefited from strong reviews and the positive reception of its predecessor. However, as a primarily single-player game, Doom Eternal will likely have a shorter revenue tail than other multiplayer shooters that monetize through the regular sale of in-game content.
- Half-Life: Alyx performed modestly by the standards of AAA games but was a blockbuster by the standards of virtual reality (VR) exclusive titles. A total of 860K gamers played the PC VR title in March. The game had a limited addressable audience, as there was an install base of fewer than 4M PC-compatible VR headsets at the end of 2019. Direct purchases of Half-Life: Alyx generated $40.7M in revenue, and hundreds of thousands of free copies of the game were also bundled with devices like the Valve Index headset to boost interest in VR.