Whether you buy games by the box or by the code, the appetite for video games in Australia is only getting bigger.
The local video game lobbyists, the Interactive Games and Entertainment Association (IGEA), published their annual research on the industry from analysts Telsyte early Thursday morning. The headline figures are that digital sales have grown by a solid 39 percent, as measured through Telsyte's Digital Market Monitor.
Boxed retail is still doing well, with retail sales growing by just 0.2 percent. Actual sales of hardware and console software were both down, although combined the two categories still accounted for over $922 million in 2018.
The biggest success were sales of console accessories ($217.2 million, up by 18.7 percent) and sales of digital games ($1.519 billion, up by 71 percent). Subscription earnings rose by 31 percent to $214 million as well, a figure that should only grow in the coming years as offerings like Xbox Game Pass and the likely influence of things like Google Stadia become more prominent.
"The standout was the digital in-game extras market which grew by almost 200 per cent, driven by Fortnite, which continues to be a social phenomenon," Telsyte managing director Foad Fadaghi said. The success of the Switch's software lineup—as seen by the attach rate for indie games on the platform—was also cited as a key trend for 2018.
In a presentation at the White Nights conference last week, Valve business development head Jan-Peter Ewert put some figures on the disturbing reality for indie developers: the market is still very, very crowded. With the removal of Steam Greenlight and the straight-to-door Steam Direct approach, around 180 games get released every single week. Even if most games find no audience at all, the increased noise makes it infinitely harder for good games to stand out. Fortunately, there's one platform where indies are continuing to find a second lease of life, or a successful first one.
All in all, the industry grew by 25 percent last year. Hardware sales and accessories should to be slightly lower this year, with the PS4 and Xbox One entering the twilight phase of their lives, although that should recover in 2020 with the release of the PS5 (and the successor to the Xbox).
As an addendum to the figures, IGEA also encouraged the Federal Government to consider supporting Labor and the Greens' push to revive the Australian Interactive Games Fund, citing its importance to the local screen industry and the continued growth of the sector.
"Given Australia’s appetite for games, in line with the global trends, we would like to see the re-elected Federal Government start to appreciate that the Australian Games Development industry is an integral part of the overall screen industry, thereby allowing the sector to access screen support programs available such as refundable tax offsets," Ron Curry, chief executive of IGEA, said.