State of Play of UK’s Multi-Billion Games Market


Of all the forms of entertainment that have taken over popular culture in the UK, none have done so quite as emphatically as gaming has over the last decade or so. Gaming has been around since the 80s at least. Yet a certain degree of stigma and the idea that it’s primarily for younger people greatly held it as a generally niche form of fun.

Nowhere near as mainstream as music and movies, at least in circles of earning and paying audiences, it took until the 00s for gaming to truly break into the spotlight and be widely embraced. Two key technologies helped to bring everyone into the fold: the smartphone and the Wii. Immense accessibility and intuitive family fun were realised, and now gaming is the largest sector of entertainment in the UK.

Being the capital city of what has proven to be a game-loving nation, London boasts not only millions of gamers but also industry titans. The city is home to Sony Interactive Entertainment London, Sports Interactive, Evolution Gaming, and Bossa Studios, to name a few. The studios here continue to bolster the industry at large, while also making the UK and even more important nation to gaming.

Last year and the beginnings of this year have proven that gaming holds a special place among the British, earning tremendous revenues and breaching all perceived boundaries. It was found that the average British female spends as much as 12 hours per week in gaming, with a two-to-one split between mobiles and consoles. Now, the UK stands sixth in the world for game revenues, at $5.5 billion. So, which platforms and titles are leading the bubbling market?

Consoles are all the rage right now

Console gaming is the premium of the mainstream platforms, requiring upwards of £400 to buy the latest hardware just to then buy the games. Many of which cost £50 apiece or more. Furthermore, the three primary consoles charge further subscription fees for access to servers and online features. As such, few nations have a console gaming scene that thrives as well as the UK one does.

In 2020, British gamers had the choice of five consoles: the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, new Xbox Series X|S, new PlayStation 5, and the hybrid Nintendo Switch. In November, the next-gen consoles launched, with their heavy advertising campaigns hailing them as the best of the best. Due to their late launch and logistical issues, though, it was the Nintendo Switch that sold en masse, making up the bulk of the over 3.1 million machines sold.

The PS5 did manage to claim second place in sales for 2020, though, despite only being out for about six weeks in the UK. The PS4 clocked in third place. Around the world, the Xbox One was remarkably outsold by the PS4, and as the XSX and XSS didn’t launch with a new experience or new games, the trend of Sony and Nintendo dominance continued. That said, while Switch sales year-on-year continued to rise, the next-gen Xbox consoles were the top sellers in January 2021, with the PS5 being out of stock until the middle of the month.

As for the software, annual releases and long-time favourites continued to sell well through 2022, with FIFA, Call of Duty, and Grand Theft Auto V topping the charts by units sold. This year, the opening months have been besieged by Nintendo titles, such as Animal Crossing, Mario Kart, Minecraft, Super Mario 3D, Super Mario Bros, and Ring Fit Adventure.

UK gamers don’t need a console

The consoles grab the headlines, but the largest platforms of UK gamers don’t require luxury hardware. Via smartphones, which are a necessity of everyday life, and computers, online casinos, otherwise known as iGaming, has swiftly become a titanic gaming industry in the UK. According to the most recent reports, online casino gaming generates some £3.2 billion annually.

Powering this side of British gaming is a closely regulated but openly competitive online casino gaming space, with sites that wish to be the best having to exceed the bar in many criteria. As demonstrated in the breakdown of the best online casinos available in the country, the best have to have thousands of games, a hefty welcome bonus, host tournaments and be licensed by the UKGC. At the top casino, it’s Starburst, Bonanza, Rainbow Riches, Starmania, and Aloha Cluster Pays which stand as the most popular.

Just as accessible, mobile gaming has become a colossal force in the UK, just as it has worldwide. In the UK, however, the market is particularly lucrative due to iPhones having the majority share of the market. Being a premium device, people that own them tend to pay into apps more, with Android devices generating as little as 60 per cent of iOS revenues.

As for games, the country’s love of gambling games shines through the free apps, with Coin Master being in the top-two of the highest-grossing apps on both platforms. From there, it’s all about the well-known big-hitters, including PUBG Mobile, Pokémon Go, Candy Crush Saga, and the cross-platform sensation Roblox. Few paid apps break into the upper echelons of the highest-grossing ranks, but Minecraft continues to prove to be the exception.

The British love a good game, be it via the newest hardware or in the form of a time-filling free app.