SJN Insights’ Sam Naji expects the market to be boosted by GTA 6, potential PS5 and Xbox mid-gen refreshes, and the first full year of sales for Switch 2
It is beginning to look like 2025 is shaping up to be one of the biggest years in video games, if not the biggest.
Let us start with the obvious: the release of GTA 6.
When it comes to the most successful video entertainment products of all time, for many franchises like Star Wars, the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe), Avatar or maybe Mario come to mind. This is because there are numerous releases (sometimes multiple in a year) that keep these respective franchises alive in the minds of consumers. All have posted multi-billion dollar revenues. I would venture that by comparison to Grand Theft Auto these products pale into insignificance given the amount of investment needed to keep these franchises alive.
The major difference for me is that Rockstar Games, with Take-Two publishing, have arguably made the most successful entertainment franchise ever with just three to five games since the release of GTA 3 back in 2001. The rolling snowball of ongoing revenue since the time of GTA 3 has become an avalanche of wealth by the time sales for GTA 5 have begun to recede. That avalanche of wealth is set to grow even larger with GTA 6.
You do not need to go far to see evidence of this. When new films break the $1 billion barrier, it is often achieved after several weeks at the box office. For example, according to Elle Palmer’s article in The Verge, entitled The ten fastest movies to reach $1 billion at the box office, to date the fastest selling film was 2019’s Avengers: Endgame which passed the $1 billion mark by its fifth day in market.
Momentum, passion and pent-up demand built by GTA 5 has already translated into huge expectation for GTA 6
By contrast GTA 5 made $1 billion in its first three days of release, beating Avengers: Endgame by two days. This achievement does not even take into accounting inflation. GTA 5 released in 2013 and using a US inflation calculator $1 billion in 2013 equates to $1.1 billion by 2019, an adjustment of an additional 10%. A glance at the GTA 5 Wikipedia’s article brings its success into scale.
Within 24 hours of its release, Grand Theft Auto V generated more than US$815 million in worldwide revenue, equating to approximately 11.21 million copies sold for Take-Two Interactive. The numbers nearly doubled analysts’ expectations for the title. Three days after its release, the game had surpassed one billion dollars in sales, making it the fastest-selling entertainment product in history. Six weeks after its release, Rockstar had shipped nearly 29 million copies of the game to retailers, exceeding the lifetime figures of GTA 4.
Imagine, all that success was done back in 2013, two whole console generations ago. Back then the video game market looked very different to what it is today. A decade ago, the bulk of sales came from the physical format with all the constraints that comes from logistics and supply chain issues. Today, some new games favour digital distribution with more than half of day one sales coming from that format. Imagine now the success in sales that will come when we factor in digital full-game distribution, with instant purchases, the second GTA 6 becomes available. The only constraint will come on whether the PlayStation and Xbox online stores and Take Two and Rockstar servers can handle the worldwide demand.
There is another factor as to why GTA 6 could make 2025 the biggest year in games and that is the long tail in sales. Unlike films, which experience a short life in the cinema of several weeks and then a possible second life with DVD and Blu Rays sales (and redemptions from streaming services), ever-green games such as GTA, Minecraft and Fortnite have continued to stay in the zeitgeist of gamers’ attention without the need for “re-discovery.”
There has been a constant steady market for GTA 5 throughout its entire lifecycle. In the history of video games, no game has achieved this degree of success. The fact is GTA 5 has charted among the Top Ten games (except for certain weeks during Q4) consistently since release. This is a video game title which for the past decade has never left the top-selling video game charts in the Western hemisphere. When GTA 6 releases next year, it is still highly likely to feature as the top selling game in 2025, weeks, if not months, after release.
Below is a chart of the ten best-selling games, by unit sales, for full paid games among fourteen countries tracked since 2018. The data comes from Video Games Europe’s Games Sales Data (operated by Sparkers) which captures both physical and digital sales from all major publishers (except for Nintendo which does not share their title digital sales):
As expected, most of the games that chart in the Top Ten will be new titles. Some games chart for more than one year, like Red Dead Redemption 2, the FIFA titles and the Call of Duty titles but after year three (from release), these titles will drop out from the Top 10. The only other game, apart from GTA 5, that charted among the Top Ten past year three is Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, but even that game dropped out by its fourth year (2022). GTA 5 is the only game that has successfully charted among the Top Ten even among all the new contenders.
Most interestingly of all GTA 5 did not chart below the fourth rank until last year, 2023. Although these sales are based on units as opposed to revenue, the scale of GTA 5’s success can only be described as phenomenal. As a consequence, I have heard many analysts make the humorous observation – “at this rate, who doesn’t own GTA 5?”
Unbelievably even when the product became “free”, sales shortly bounced back. As memory serves, GTA 5 almost broke Epic Game Servers when Epic gave away the title as part of its free giveaway campaign back in May 2020. To date, it is probably still their best-selling giveaway.A quick search online finds that the game has sold more than 185 million copies. It must have made Take Two and Rockstar Games countless billions in revenue. All that success came from a game that is over ten years old. That momentum, passion and pent-up demand built by GTA 5 has already translated into huge expectation for GTA 6.
Gamers’ and those who work in the industry knew when the first trailer for GTA 6 dropped on December 5, 2023, reception was going to be big. We now have the numbers to prove it. GamesIndustry.biz reported in their articles Grand Theft Auto 6 breaks YouTube records and GTA 6 reveal gains viewers faster than any game trailer in history. The trailer was viewed more times in its first 24 hours on YouTube than any other video game title on that platform. Over 100 million views in that first 24 hours and over 142 million views in the first week.
If Nintendo sells over 17 million units for the Switch 2 in 2025 alone, it will have broken the record set by the Switch – an achievement that is both conceivable and within Nintendo’s means
Following these numbers, it is not hard pressed to imagine that when GTA 6 releases next year it will be the fastest-selling game ever. If Take Two’s servers can handle the demand, I could envision the game breaking the $1 billion threshold in less than two days from release, possibly even on day one itself.
2025 will also be the first full year of sales for the new Nintendo console (from here on referred to as the Switch 2). Similar to how GTA 6 will follow on the coat tails of GTA 5, the Switch 2 will follow on the tailwinds of the Switch. Sales for the Switch have been nothing short of magnificent. To date, worldwide sales for the console will have passed 133 million units, marking it among the top selling consoles of all time. Although we know next to nothing about the Switch 2 (at the time of writing), Nintendo will be completely aware that it is sitting on a golden egg that is ready to hatch, especially if it gets the pricing right and if the Switch 2 is backward compatible with the Switch (although I estimate that this will not be a deal breaker even if it is not).
Nintendo, being Nintendo, is always tight lipped and will be in absolute control of the messaging, but investors are already anticipating a huge win for the company when details of the Switch 2 do come out. As reported by GamesIndustry.biz, the share price is (at the time of writing) standing north of ¥7,900 (pictured right), around 40% higher compared to this time last year.
Nintendo’s target for the Switch 2 will be to beat 15.05 million units during its fiscal year 2025 (ending March 2025) and 16.95 million units during its fiscal year 2026 (ending March 2026) because these numbers were the Switch hardware sales in its respective first two full fiscal years in market. If Nintendo sells over 17 million units for the Switch 2 in 2025 alone, it will have broken the record set by the Switch – an achievement that is both conceivable and within Nintendo’s means.
Again, a lot will ride on price and availability. Nintendo has had form when sales of previous released hardware were limited due to their supply constraints (whether self-imposed or not), not lack of demand. If Nintendo can produce enough units to satisfy demand, there is no reason why the Switch 2 could not be the fastest selling console in history.
If there is a possibility that the Switch 2 could be bundled with a new Mario Kart 9 title, it then does not take much imagination to guess what that perfect combination will do to sales. One only has to reflect that when the Switch launched in March 2017, US software unit sales for The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild outsold those for the console itself. Demand for the system was so high, that some people were buying software even before they owned the new hardware that ran it. That confidence level in Nintendo speaks volumes about brand awareness, especially given the Switch followed disappointing sales of the Wii U.
2024 is expected to be a great year in gaming, but for me 2025 is looking to be the best year ever in game sales
Finally, there are rumours that both Sony and Microsoft could be looking to refresh their current generation of console with a mid-cycle refresh. These new consoles could make their way to consumers either late this year or in 2025.
It would be in keeping with the trend set by the last generation of PlayStation and Xbox consoles. The PS4 Pro released three years after the base unit became available and the Xbox One X released four years after that base unit came on the market. These dates would put any new console refresh for this generation ripe for a 2024/2025 window.
Although sales for new models of existing consoles do not make huge waves like a brand new console, they do generate relevancy and consumer awareness, especially if the latest games incorporate the latest ray-tracing technology and can take advantage of their stronger capabilities.
Yes sir, 2024 is expected to be a great year in gaming, but for me 2025 is looking to be the best year ever in video game sales.
Sam Naji is founder of video game analytics and consultancy firm SJN Insights
Source : Game Industry