YEAR IN REVIEW: 2020 was HUGE for gaming in Australia

Australians (and New Zealanders) spent majority of the lockdown playing their favourite games. So, although the year sucked, it was pretty good for gamers.

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Gaming is a huge industry across the globe. Australia is one of the world nations that has seen a continual rise in gaming’s popularity and even the dreaded year of 2020 is proof of that; here is the year in review.

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Video games and online digital gaming Is crucial to this. Here we take a look at the gaming industry in Australia and how 2020 was a key year.

Gaming in Australia in 2020

We will take a look out how the industry performed throughout the one of the worst years in modern history, as well as taken a look at some of the biggest games and how well they did. Here are some key takeaways.

  • Sales of video games went up 35% over 2020.
  • 15.8 million video games were sold in both physical and digital formats in 2020
  • Physical boxed games accounted for the majority of sales, with 8.5mllion copies sold. This is a rise of 15% more than in 2019.
  • Digital downloads made up the rest of the share, with 7.3 million units sold, a 68% rise over 2019.
  • The sharp increase in sales across digital platforms is evidence of an acceleration of profit in the downloads market.
  • Physical gaming formats remain strong in Australia, with an increase in sales of software, consoles and accessories.

Games that Did Well in 2020.

No shock here. Animal Crossing: New Horizons was the best-selling game overall in Australia in 2020. It was the perfect companion to the lockdown. It let us go out and socialise, while tending to our daily chores just in a super cute video game. And for this reason the social-simulation game for the Nintendo Switch lent its impressive haul to Nintendo’s overall market share, which made it the top games’ publisher in Australia.

It may have released 8 years ago, but it is still going strong. Grand Theft Auto V was the second most bought game of last year thanks to the evolution of Grand Theft Auto online over the years . It is also second only to Minecraft and Tetris in all-time sales. The fact that the action-adventure game.

Grand Theft Auto V
GTAV still going strong in 2021 thanks to mods and a strong roleplaying community.

First-person shooters also made a strong showing last year. Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (now simply called Warzone) made third and fourth place in the annual chart of best-selling games across digital and physical formats.

Mario Kart 8 made another strong showing for Nintendo. The latest in the long-running series of cartoon car racing games featuring famous characters from the developer figured high in the best-sellers list. Nintendo label-mate Super Mario 3D All-Stars also featured strongly.

First-person shooting games offer a versatile gaming experience, taking in tactical war simulations and fantasy scenarios. FPS games have a long history of popularity going back to the huge success of the iconic Doom, released in 1993.

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Puzzle elements bring something else to the FPS. The strategy and tactical gameplay of the Call of Duty games are a strong part of their appeal.

Assassin’s Creed is a fantasy actioner that also did well. It is well-known for its third-person setup, as opposed to the first-person style of the FPS.

Sports simulations are perennial favourites, with the massive global success of soccer sim FIFA making a big impact on the year’s top-selling list. Both its 20 and 21 titles made the chart but NBA 2K 20 and 21 represented basketball with a high performing year of sales.

Skateboarding was also strongly represented by another durable title in the shape of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2. The remastered bundle pack available for PS4, Xbox One and PC showed off the robust appeal of the classic game.

Handheld consoles had a big year, with much of the success coming from the Nintendo Switch, which strangely is also competing against the Nintendo 3DS. The new Animal Crossing game played a huge factor in the Nintendo Switch kind of replacing the 3DS as a the primary handheld console as millions of people bought the Nintendo Switch Lite exclusively for the game.

Nintendo Switch Brie Larson
YEAR IN REVIEW: Brie Larson Animal Crossing Credit: Brie Larson/Instagram

Mobile gaming on phones and tablets is also starting to have a big impact on sales. Gaming on the go has become even more widespread. Software developers continue to exploit the versatility and ever-increasing power and speed of handheld

… and then there’s New Zealand.

Players across the Tasman are also well known for enjoying gaming. In fact, between 81-84% of young people (5 – 35) would say that they played video games in 2019.

The gambling industry is on the rise in New Zealand with this industry making up a large portion of the gaming industry in the country

A recent study shows that online casino games are also extremely popular in New Zealand. Current regulations make it clear that while online gambling is legal in the country, it has to be done through an online provider outside of New Zealand.

GTA Casino
YEAR IN REVIEW: New Zealanders love their online casinos.

Since a lot of pubs locked down last years those Kiwis had to play online and that would explain why pokies is one of the most popular casino games in New Zealand, but to be fair Aussies have a lot of love for the pokies too.

Although there is a bit of stigma to gambling, online casino gaming played on international sites based overseas is perfectly legal. Some Twitch streamers even primarily play high stakes Texas Hold ‘Em online. Regardless, the six land-based casinos in New Zealand continue to find competition from off-shore sites providing popular games such as online pokies, blackjack and slots.

There are some key differences, though. For one, it has been claimed that NZ’s gaming industry is making more money than Australia’s. A key factor in this is the New Zealand governments’ support of creative industries, pledging to boost productivity in the sector.


2020, the year in review, was a notable year for gaming in Australia. There were strong sales recorded across the gaming sector for both online and physical sales.

This picture was similar across the water in New Zealand, where gaming continues to rise in popularity (especially high stake). As developers explore new outlets for inspiration, the opportunities for gaming fans are endless.

Favourites stretch across the gaming world, including here in Australia, to include all sorts of different genres and titles. Some titles, Mario Kart, FIFA, and Tony Hawk very much included, are super-durable, spanning generations of gamers. 2020 showed us that a good game with a solid idea will always do well. And when it’s backed up by a household name it certainly helps!

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