Video games earn more than double the entire U.S. box office in first half of 2018

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Aug 29, 2018, 4:19 PM EDT

The video game business is outpacing the movie business in direct-sales revenue in the U.S., and it’s not even close. In the first half of 2018, video games (including mobile games) outsold the American box office by more than double, according to a new report from market research firm The NPD Group.

In the first six months of this year, NPD reports the U.S. game industry collected $19.5 billion in overall sales. Set against the $8.1 billion total gross collected by the 584 movies listed among the domestic films charted so far this year (as in, all the way through August) by Box Office Mojo, and it’s a striking contrast.

It’s also a bit of an imperfect contrast, since the film industry has ancillary marketing and merchandising ties that the video game industry, overall, can only dream of. NPD’s numbers also factor in sales of hardware (game consoles, headsets, and so on), and stripping all that away to reveal game-only sales reduces the revenue total from $19.5 billion to $16.9 billion. But even that lower figure is still more than double its box office counterpart.

What games are pushing numbers like these? As you might expect, it’s a mix of mobile games like Candy Crush and AAA multi-platform console and/or PC titles like Far Cry 5 and God of War. The top five sellers (in alphabetical order) through June 30 are Candy Crush, Far Cry 5, Fortnite, God of War, PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, and Roblox.

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NPD didn’t break down the revenue totals for each game through the year’s first half, but a quick peek simply at the first-week sales totals of Far Cry 5 (the year’s biggest-selling console game) and Black Panther (the year’s biggest box office) give some sense of their relative earning power. Far Cry 5 took in a reported $310 million U.S. during its first week in release, compared with the $292 million that Black Panther hauled through its opening U.S. weekend. 

Whether on mobile or hooked up to a TV set, games appear set to remain in strong growth mode for the foreseeable future. “I maintain an optimistic outlook for the remainder of 2018, thanks in part to the strong lineup of titles set to be released in the fourth quarter,” observed NPD’s Mat Piscatella. “This, combined with continued strength in hardware and accessory spending, should result in double-digit annual percentage gains for the total market.”

Without even canvassing the mobile landscape, there’re still a ton of major console and PC titles yet to come between now and Christmas.

To name only a few, the remainder of 2018 will deliver Dragon Quest XI (Sept. 4), Spider-Man (Sept. 7), Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and Super Mario Party (both on Oct. 5), Red Dead Redemption 2 (Sept. 26), Fallout 76 (Nov. 14), and Just Cause 4 (Dec. 4). It’ll be revealing to revisit 2018 once sales of these and other new game releases have had their chance to pad what’s already been an impressive year for gaming.