Why is mobile’s wild success buried so deep in UKIE’s 2021 report?


This week the UK trade body UKIE put out its annual report on the size and shape of the UK games business.

There’s some great stuff in there – the big number, the one made for newspapers to pick up on, states that the total UK games market was worth £7.16bn in 2021.

We can confidently say, once more, that the UK games market is worth more than the music and video streaming markets combined. All great stuff.

And have a good look at UKIE’s software graph here – it shows the absolutely colossal size and success of the mobile games market, with UK players spending an incredible £1.46bn on mobile games, not far off the £1.65bn spent on digital console games.

And mobile represents way more than the pre-owned, boxed software and digital PC markets put together.

Mobile was the only software category not to decline after the highs of lockdown-fuelled game sales in 2020, too. These 2021 figures are a fantastic success story for the mobile games business.

But you have to work pretty hard to find that out. Have a look at UKIE’s official blog post on these numbers. Can you spot it? The bit that references the UK’s huge, creative, pioneering, lucrative mobile games sector, worth an incredible £1.46bn?

Fifteen paragraphs deep, after the data and quotes about console hardware, VR, console software, PC software and game accessories, we get one sentence:

“Mobile game revenues held steady at £1.46bn with the market less affected by the lack of major new releases that hit both the console and PC market.”

One sentence! And even that solo nugget is framed through the lens of the PC and console market. Thanks a bunch, UKIE.

Look, I get it. If I was writing a press release about this stuff, I’d lead on big brand names like PlayStation, Xbox and Nintendo too. These are easy things to grasp if you’re a casual observer, and these well-known platforms give the press reporting on this stuff a good hook.

Photo by zhang kaiyv on Pexels.com

Mobile is kind of elusive, and naturally more difficult to grasp as a market (and to calculate, I’d imagine – I’d love to see UKIE’s working on how it came to that £1.46bn figure). 

We have platform holders, Apple and Google, that aren’t really platform holders in the same way Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo are. Mobile games have no retail presence, and don’t inspire the same kind of fan culture that PC and console games enjoy. 

But mobile games are everywhere, played by everyone, and they’re on the phone in your pocket, right now. UK studios like Ustwo, Playdemic, Space Ape, Hutch, Sega Hardlight, Tripledot, Kwalee, Outplay, Tag, Miniclip – the list goes on and on – make games played by millions upon millions of people everyday. This is amazing stuff.

Perhaps as an industry mobile needs to get better at telling its story, or to shout a bit louder about its successes. But isn’t that the job of the games industry body, too?

Naturally, we’re following up with UKIE and we’ll hopefully have a more detailed, thorough view of the UK mobile market for you next week.

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