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'Fortnite' leads video game market in record $109B spending year

James Leggate

Spending on digital games hit a record in 2019, and the top earner is free to play.

Overall spending on digital games increased 3 percent last year to $109.4 billion, according to The Hollywood Reporter, which cited figures from Nielsen’s SuperData Research Group.

Epic Games’ "Fortnite," which is free to download and play on various platforms including consoles, PCs and mobile, brought in the most money of any title for the year, $1.8 billion, according to the report. That was down from $2.4 billion in 2018.

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Free-to-play games accounted for 80 percent of digital game spending in 2019, according to the report. Other free-to-play mobile games, including "Candy Crush Saga," "Honour of Kings" and "Pokemon Go" each also brought in more than $1 billion.

Meanwhile, traditional AAA games — big-budget blockbuster titles from major studios — saw a 5 percent decline in spending year-over-year to $18.9 billion, according to the report. The top-earning AAA title of 2019 was EA’s FIFA 19, which actually released in September of 2018. It brought in $786 million.

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Major studios have been moving into the free mobile games market. In 2019, major franchises including Mario Kart Tour and Call of Duty Mobile launched on mobile.

But AAA games could see a turnaround in 2020. Microsoft’s Xbox Series X and Sony’s PlayStation 5 are both scheduled to launch in 2020. And with big titles like "Cyberpunk 2077" and "Final Fantasy VII Remake" scheduled for release this year, AAA games are expected to bring in $19.8 billion, according to the report.

The video game business has also been spilling over into other media recently. A new Netflix series based on “The Witcher” franchise released last month to positive reviews, while The Game Awards, a star-studded awards show for video game makers and players, drew a record 45.2 million live streams for its recent gala.

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