An unimpressive line-up of been-theres and done-thats is what defined 2016, if the GfK sales tracking is anything to go by. In the U.K., unit sales were down 13.4% compared to 2015 and revenue was down by 13.8% compared to the previous year.
Games Industry did a breakdown of the figures, comparing each of the big fall releases that they offered in 2015 compared to what they unleashed last year in 2016. They noted that the only game that seemed to do better than expected was EA and DICE’s Battlefield 1, which moved a million units in the U.K., last fall, just around the same amount as Star Wars: Battlefront from 2015.
The star of the article is Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, a real disaster story for 2016. The innovation of the game came in the form of space flight, but it was a little too little, too late when measured up against the more innovative offerings of Battlefield 1 and its World War I setting. Although, even then Battlefield 1 pales in comparison to the kind of features offered in the original Battlefield 2 and Battlefield 3 from years before.
Nevertheless, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare became the second best selling game of 2016, but only barely. It was also 31.5% down in total unit sales compared to Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, which released in 2015.
The article further notes that Watch Dogs 2 failed to top Assassin’s Creed Syndicate‘s sales within the same period, even though it’s universally known that Assassin’s Creed Syndicate was one of the worst selling mainline series launches in the company’s history. Then there’s Dishonored 2, which received a lot of positive press, but they mention that it didn’t quite top the charts as Fallout 4 did when it launched in November of 2015. According to Steam Spy, Dishonored 2 has moved more than 460,000 digital copies to date. It’s hard to pinpoint exacting numbers for the physical sales in the U.K., but it’s not hard to imagine it coming just under 1 million combining PC, PS4 and Xbox One sales.
Sports games like FIFA 17 actually did par the course of what FIFA 16 did in 2015, but Games Industry notes that it was the decline in Xbox 360 and PS3 sales that really hurt the industry. They note that the combined 5 million SKUs being sold physically in 2015 across the Xbox 360 and PS3 put a huge dent in the U.K.’s total physical sales, bringing the total of 2016’s gross revenue to only £776 million.
They also note that only the 3DS and PS4 were the two platforms that sold more units in 2016 than 2015.
This speaks volumes to 2016’s offerings, though. Software sells hardware, and there just wasn’t enough good software to compensate for seventh gen consoles finally retiring from the market.
This is becoming a bit of a repetitive story across more than just the U.K., though. Even on Steam when you look at the big sellers of the year and the games handed Steam Awards through user votes, the trend was basically showing that a lot of games not released in 2016 were the preferred titles.
They even revealed the final week of sales from GfK Tracking in the U.K., and you’ll see that a remastered version of a 2011 release, and two 2015 releases managed to make the top 10. Surprisingly, new IP like Overwatch were no where to be seen, and established brands like Gears of War 4 were completely absent.
Titanfall 2 was another tragedy struck with poor release timing. EA gambled on trying to cannibalize the FPS market and force sales away from Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare and it only seemed to partially work, but only about as much as Clinton trying to blame the Russians for losing the Presidential election.
2017 is going to need to do a better job of releasing fun games that actually make people excited to buy and own titles, instead of trying to coast by on virtue-signal simulators and outrage culture-compliant software.