Hogwarts Legacy Tops the Charts: What We Learned From the Video Game Sales of 2023

The video game industry is one of the most dynamic and lucrative sectors in the entertainment world. Every year, millions of gamers around the world eagerly await the release of new titles, sequels, and remakes of their favorite franchises. But which games were the most popular and profitable in 2023? And what do they tell us about the trends and challenges facing the industry?

To answer these questions, we analyzed the data from Circana, an analytics company that tracks US sales and charts the bestsellers every month. Circana’s data is not perfect, as it relies on publishers to report their sales figures, and some of them do it imperfectly or not at all. However, it is the best source we have to get a glimpse of the market performance of the video games in 2023. Here are some of the key takeaways from the data:

Hogwarts Legacy Tops the Charts: What We Learned From the Video Game Sales of 2023
Hogwarts Legacy Tops the Charts: What We Learned From the Video Game Sales of 2023

Hogwarts Legacy Breaks the Record

The most surprising and impressive achievement of 2023 was the success of Hogwarts Legacy, a role-playing game set in the Harry Potter universe. The game, developed by Avalanche Software and published by Warner Bros. Games, sold more than 20 million copies worldwide, making it the bestselling game of the year and the second bestselling game of all time, behind Grand Theft Auto V.

Hogwarts Legacy was praised by critics and fans alike for its immersive and expansive open-world, its rich and diverse characters, its engaging and branching story, and its faithful and creative adaptation of the Harry Potter lore. The game also benefited from a massive marketing campaign, a loyal fan base, and a lack of direct competition in the fantasy genre.

Hogwarts Legacy was the first game to dethrone Call of Duty from the top spot since 2018, when Red Dead Redemption II did it. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III, the latest installment of the popular military shooter franchise, came in second place, followed by Madden NFL 24, the perennial sports simulation game.

Big Tech Dominates the Industry

Another notable trend of 2023 was the dominance of Big Tech companies in the video game industry. The top five publishers of the year were Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, Activision Blizzard, and Electronic Arts, accounting for more than 60% of the market share. These companies have the resources, the talent, the platforms, and the franchises to produce and distribute high-quality and high-demand games.

Some of the highlights of Big Tech’s portfolio in 2023 were Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, a superhero action-adventure game developed by Insomniac Games and published by Sony; The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, a fantasy adventure game developed and published by Nintendo; Diablo IV, a dark fantasy role-playing game developed and published by Blizzard Entertainment; and Starfield, a sci-fi role-playing game developed by Bethesda Game Studios and published by Microsoft.

Big Tech’s dominance also poses some challenges and risks for the industry, such as market saturation, lack of innovation, monopoly power, and regulatory scrutiny. Some smaller and independent developers and publishers struggle to compete and survive in this environment, while others seek to carve out their own niche and audience.

New Genres and Formats Emerge

The video game industry is not only driven by established and successful genres and formats, but also by new and emerging ones. In 2023, we saw some examples of games that explored new possibilities and pushed the boundaries of the medium.

One of them was EA Sports FC 24, a soccer simulation game developed by EA Vancouver and published by Electronic Arts. The game introduced a new mode called “The Journey”, which allowed players to create and control their own custom character and follow their career from the streets to the stadiums. The mode featured a cinematic and interactive story, with branching choices and consequences, as well as realistic and immersive gameplay.

Another example was Super Mario Bros. Wonder, a platformer game developed and published by Nintendo. The game was a sequel to the 2015 game Super Mario Maker, which allowed players to create and share their own levels. The game added new features and tools, such as 3D graphics, online multiplayer, and virtual reality support. The game also integrated with the Nintendo Labo, a series of cardboard kits that let players build and interact with various devices and accessories.

These games showed that the video game industry is constantly evolving and experimenting with new genres and formats, offering more variety and diversity to the gamers.

The Pandemic’s Impact Lingers

The video game industry was one of the few sectors that thrived during the Covid-19 pandemic, as people turned to games for entertainment, socialization, and escapism. However, the pandemic also had some negative impacts on the industry, such as production delays, supply chain disruptions, and labor issues. Some of these impacts were still felt in 2023, affecting the quality and quantity of the games released.

One of the most anticipated games of 2023 was Resident Evil 4, a remake of the classic survival horror game developed and published by Capcom. The game was originally scheduled to be released in October 2022, but was delayed several times due to the pandemic. The game finally came out in June 2023, but received mixed reviews from critics and fans, who criticized its technical issues, its changes to the original story and gameplay, and its lack of innovation.

Another example was Dead Island 2, a zombie action game developed by Dambuster Studios and published by Deep Silver. The game was first announced in 2014, but went through a troubled development cycle, with multiple changes of developers, publishers, and engines. The game was also affected by the pandemic, which caused further delays and difficulties. The game was finally released in November 2023, but failed to meet the expectations of the gamers, who found it outdated, buggy, and boring.

These games showed that the pandemic’s impact on the video game industry was not over, and that some games suffered from its consequences.

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