Video games sales level up in Singapore in 2020 as Covid-19 outbreak keeps people home

The uptick in 2020 is expected to outpace 2019's 3 per cent and 2018's 5.9 per cent. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - Video game sales here received a shot in the arm last year during the Covid-19 pandemic, rising faster than in previous years.

This somewhat mirrors trends elsewhere in the world, as the outbreak kept people indoors.

Sales of game consoles and games in Singapore are estimated to have risen 7.8 per cent last year from 2019 to hit US$439.5 million (S$592.5 million), according to market research firm Euromonitor International.

This includes expected sales of game consoles for homes, handheld consoles, gaming accessories, physical and digital games, mobile games and purchases made within games.

Last year's uptick is also expected to outpace 2019's 3 per cent and 2018's 5.9 per cent.

Euromonitor International research analyst Jason Tjiptadi said sales of home game consoles in Singapore- including the Microsoft Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and Sony PlayStation 4 - were good last year, with an 11.7 per cent rise, compared with 5 per cent in 2019.

The first spike in sales here of home consoles happened in April and May.

Due to the circuit breaker, there was a surge in demand for the Nintendo Switch console at both e-commerce and local game stores during this time, said Mr Tjiptadi.

"And towards the end of the year, the PlayStation 5's release was met with fan enthusiasm, as pre-orders filled up quickly and there was no stock in retail stores," he added, referring to Sony's latest console.

Local game shop Qisahn said sales of the Switch game console at its store jumped by 109.4 per cent last year compared with 2019.

Sales of the PlayStation 4 at the shop were more modest, but still increased 26.6 per cent.

On e-commerce platform Lazada, video game console sales more than doubled, with the most popular console being the Nintendo Switch, followed by the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

Shopee said demand for game consoles and accessories last year, as well as for games and game codes, soared more than three times over that in 2019.

Mr Tjiptadi said the Switch's sales here followed strong sales growth in consoles all over the world as "lockdown boredom" brought more people to gaming.

The Switch was helped by its campaign to promote itself as a console for the family to play together, he added.

The Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4 game console boxes in Qisahn game store in Far East Shopping Centre. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

On the personal computer front, the number of gaming laptops and desktops sold also grew 35 per cent last year from 2019 to reach 30,300 units, said research firm GfK.

The growth in the value of gaming products sold was higher at 41 per cent, which reflects how consumers were buying more premium products, said GfK regional market intelligence lead Alexander Dehmel.

He said: "This growth is a complete turnaround against... 2019, which actually showed a decline for computing products due to saturation effects over the last (few) years."

In April, during the circuit breaker period, as well as in June, with stores reopening, growth rates for gaming laptops and desktops surged above 90 per cent in dollar terms compared with a year ago. This was also the case for August.

Mr Dehmel said there was a spillover effect on demand for other gaming products like keyboards, mice and headsets.

As for the games themselves, Mr Tjiptadi said sales also saw strong growth last year, led by digital console games with a 16.9 per cent increase and mobile games with a 15 per cent jump from 2019. These were more than 2019's 13 per cent and 11 per cent respectively.

"Both had been gaining popularity throughout the year, triggered by extended work and study from home, which gave consumers more time for leisure activities."

Still, mobile game downloads, which can be different from sales in dollar terms, were flat or lower last year.

Analytics firm Apptopia said Apple App Store game downloads here hit 50.3 million last year, up just 0.4 per cent from 2019.

Game downloads for the Google Play Store reached 69.7 million last year, down slightly by 1.8 per cent from 2019.

As for console games, stores here said Switch games dominated.

At Qisahn, the number of Switch games sold last year jumped 102.7 per cent over 2019, and was more than four times that of PlayStation 4 games. Seven out of the 10 top-selling games on Lazada were Switch exclusive games, including Super Mario Party.

Shopee said family- and group-oriented games such as Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Ring Fit Adventure were "the most in-demand in 2020 for the store".

Animal Crossing: New Horizons for the Switch. PHOTO: NINTENDO

Sony Interactive Entertainment Singapore released new PlayStation 4 bundles featuring exclusive titles like Marvel's Spider-Man last year. It also released exclusive games like The Last of Us Part II.

It declined to give details on its console and game sales here.

Euromonitor expects the growth in video game consoles and software this year to slow from last year with Singapore's transition to phase three of its reopening.

Still, Mr Tjiptadi expects new adopters of gaming last year to continue to drive sales.

Global sales growth is expected to be slightly slower than last year too as uncertainties over the pandemic and the economy "will force some people to increase their savings and cut discretionary purchases", he added.

"But, overall, gaming will remain a key entertainment and leisure activity for individuals and families going through another year of lockdown and restrictions."

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