In spite of the political upheaval that dominated headlines in 2016, the games industry enjoyed a record year of profits, which can only be good news for studios nationwide moving forward.
It's official - the UK consumer games market is in excellent health with all-new sales records set last year according to UK games trade body Ukie. Recently, it announced that the UK games market was worth £4.332 billion in 2016; that's an increase of 1.2% on 2015's figures.
Critically, this success was driven by software sales that exceeded £3 billion for the first time - but which market segments saw the real successes in 2016?
Mobile Wins Big
While digital console and PC games sales increased by a respectable 11.1%, nearly £1 billion of the huge £3 billion figure was driven by the UK mobile games market. Mobile game sales were up 16.9% in part driven by Pokemon Go, a title that was unsurprisingly the most successful mobile game of the year. Most importantly though, the increased mobile game sales haven't come solely at the expense of PC and console games sales with mobile's success instead contributing to overall industry revenues.
And that topline figure of 17% shows that the mobile scene is also on the cusp of potentially becoming the most successful part of the games industry - but genuine concerns about the marketing-led nature of mobile remain, particularly for indie devs. As any indie veteran will point out, the issue of visibility remains a thorn in their side as indies struggle to get their product seen or heard in the buzz surrounding bigger releases within an already saturated market. Critics though have counter-argued that this situation is being exacerbated by some indie devs' own notoriety for leaving their plans for marketing until too late in the day - or failing to budget for one at all.
PC Towers Over All
Elsewhere, figures reveal that console sales figures fell by 26.7% in spite of the Xbox One S, PS4 Pro and PS4 Slim all being released in 2016. Analysts believe that the fall is down to the console cycle maturing - though the recent arrival of the Nintendo Switch and Microsoft's 'Project Scorpio' later this year (and PS4 Pro's admittedly late arrival in 2016) should see a significant upturn in that percentage come 2017.
The real winner of the hardware wars though has been the PC, which has seen a 64.3% rise (£258m); like mobile, that's good news for you indies out there as the PC remains a strong platform for devs to create for, though again worries about saturation and visibility persist.
The explosion in PC sales has been put down primarily to VR, which finally touched down in 2016 with PC buyers upgrading their graphics cards or purchasing new systems powerful enough to drive a Oculus or Vive. While fears have been raised about VR games' sales to date, the report reveals that consumers spent £61.3 million on VR headsets from Oculus, HTC and Sony, signalling that the platform has a genuine chance of forging a path into the mainstream.
2017: Uncertainty But Opportunity
While the issue of Brexit is already creating significant unease within the industry, the 2016 sales figures show that players both big and small are in the best possible position to face an uncertain future. As Dr Jo Twist OBE, CEO of Ukie, states: "The next year will be a big year of change, but we look forward to seeing the market remain resilient and robust and a leading creative economy in the UK".
As ever, Skillsearch will be there to ensure that developers have access to the talent they need to bring their visions to life - and ensure they have the right teams in place to weather any political or economic uncertainties in months and years ahead. Here's to another amazing year!
- For the full report, head to Ukie's official page here.