Maths and Mechs: PC Games At UK Retail

The sad stare of a man who wishes he sold more copies in week 13

This strikes me as the kind of thing we should be doing weekly, as context is strength. While Chart-Track’s weekly list of the best-selling games in the UK doesn’t yet encompass digital sales – this is yer olde worlde boxed copies only – it does at least give a sense of what is selling to those brave souls who still venture outdoors, and perhaps more importantly we can look at the blatant holes. For instance, last week we had online-only indie game Fate of The World celebrating on Twitter that “we’re are in the top seller pages of each of our categories on Steam”, but obviously that’s not going to create even a ripple on the retail chart. Still, here is said retail chart. It’s an interesting beast. You’d better hold my hand, though. Where we’re going, we need maths.

Right, here you go. This is chart-placings in the UK only, at retail only, for PC games only last week. Figures in brackets are the previous week’s positions.

(-) 2 RIFT
(2) 4 THE SIMS 3
(5) 11 DEAD SPACE 2
(11) 13 THE SIMS 2
(14) 18 FIFA MANAGER 11


Anyway: no huge surprises for the number one, while the prevalence of Sims and Blizzard titles ain’t exactly a shocker either. It’s worth noting that the only PC-exclusive and predominant of these titles to feature on the all-formats top 40 are Retribution, Rift, Football Manager 2011 and The Sims 3. The latter shares a more recent console release, however.

I don’t have sales figures for any of these, but I am not convinced sales figures are spectacularly high. I can prove this, to some degree. While Chart-Track do not release sales figures, they do note weekly percentage increase/decrease in sales for most all-formats top-ten titles – and after 15 weeks on sale Black Ops remains number 6 in the all-formats chart despite having sold -85% in its second week on sale, a further -42% in its second, -6% in its third, + 2% in its fourth, +3% in its fifth, +13% in its sixth, -45% in its seventh, -60% in its eighth, -35% in its ninth, -15% in its tenth, +11% in its eleventh, -12% in its twelfth, -14% in its thirteenth, a whopping +192% in its fourteenth (half-term week in the UK, not coincidentally) and -54% in its fifteenth.

Maths time. Black Ops was publicly revealed (as far as I can tell with Activision’s blessing) to have sold 2 million units across all formats in its first week on sale in the UK, according to a statement from UKIE/Chart-Track in November. Based on that, second week sales were 300,000; third week 282,000; fourth week 287,640; fifth week 296,269; sixth week 334,784; seventh week 184,131; eighth week 73,652; ninth week 47,874; tenth week 40,693; eleventh week 45,170; twelfth week 39,749; thirteenth week 34,184; fourteenth week 99,817; fifteenth week back down to 45,916.

So: Call of Duty Black Ops sold 45,916 copies on all formats lat week, and that was enough to keep it in the top half of the top ten. What does that say about the rest of the chart? The number 1 PC retail game, Dawn of War II: Retribution made number 17 in the all-formats chart. I have no idea what the sales gap between it and Black Ops in the top 5 was, but I’d be willing to bet it’s significant. I just hope it’s still five figures.

I’d also be very willing to bet that it’s dramatically outpaced by digital sales – it’s the current strategy number one on Steam, and apparently number three in all genres. I see absolutely no reason to worry and wail, because I have complete confidence that online is where PC is at, and it’s only growing, but I do see that retail probably isn’t a happy place for PC right now. Still, huge congratulations to games that did make it into the all-formats top 40, despite retailers’ clear preference towards giving shelf space and promotion to the big console titles. We’ll show ’em what’s what yet.

Oh – and Chart-Track and UKIE are currently working on offering a digital sales chart too. They’re not at all ignorant as to its importance as far as I can ascertain, but I’m guessing it’s proven tricky to get numbers out of the big players in that field.


  1. Nighthood says:

    Myself, I say making this a feature is a VERY bad idea, as it just reminds me of how terrible the state of mainstream gaming is.

    • bildo says:

      I’m a fan of the sales charts at retail, give me more! However, I despise the board game/pen and paper article since it’s not PC gaming relevant. Sure, it’s a game – but RPS doesn’t cover any of the console games that have a much closer relation (not that I’d read about console games). I guess RPS can’t satisfy everyone :P

      Also, mainstream gaming – ditto. Although, I do like to break out the Sims if the internet is down :X

    • Carra says:

      It’s only showing that we buy less games at retail shops… at full price.

      I’ll just buy Dawn of War in a steam deal for €5.

    • Thants says:

      I’m not sure what the problem is. There are some quite good games up there.

    • Everyone says:


      > I guess RPS can’t satisfy everyone :P

      I disagree. I’m satisfied.

    • bill says:

      I think it’s a bad idea because it makes RPS like every other pc website. Personally I have no interest in sales charts, i come to RPS for things i can’t get elsewhere (mix of indie and mainstream, interesting articles, weird board game thingies, etc..).

      If the data was complete, i might see some use in it (for championing the PC’s cause at least) but i’d still not have much interest. As it is, the data isn’t really worth much – unless you put in huge amounts of MATHS.. and even then it doesn’t tell you a lot.

  2. Navagon says:

    PC games at UK retail? What? I’m confused, what are you talking about?

    • TotalBiscuit says:

      Plenty of good titles available for decent prices. Game’s 2 for 25, 2 for 15 and 3 for 10 have some awesome titles far cheaper than on Steam and those deals are much more long-term than Steam’s sales.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Funnily enough, the Game in Nottingham stocks more PC games than any other format, by about a mile. I hadn’t noticed until today, the new section is tiny. But they have a huge amount of shelf space dedicated to old PC games. I would be interested to see how many of them they sell. It makes me think PC games are likely to still sell copies in 10 years where that’s not going to happen on consoles.

    • Delusibeta says:

      Do have to concur with TotalBiscuit RE: GAME’s PC selection. Sure, for the latest releases it’s not great, but for the older stuff they are generally pretty good. My local store has a PC selection has a reasonably healthy selection of games in their “offer” ranges.

    • Blackberries says:

      Yeah, the deals for slightly older PC games from Game should not be knocked. I’ve picked up some nifty titles for excellent prices way before they appeared in Steam sales (if they have at all).

      Does this chart take into account online retailers? I always get very confused when people compare digital distribution to retail, as I almost never hear the likes of Amazon or Play mentioned. Are they simply not popular enough to warrant it? I’d been getting my PC and console games from Amazon for years before Steam, Impulse, Gamersgate and the like started really coming into their own. Indeed, for new releases they are still my first port of call, as digital distribution outlets usually try to flog me something for £30 and tell me it’s a great deal. This week alone I’ve pre-ordered Shogun 2 for £25 from the rainforesty giant, and picked up Chaos Rising for a fiver.

      My guess is that these e-tailers are included in retail charts, but I’d like to know for sure.

    • Navagon says:

      About the only place I see retail copies of PC games is online. In any case, my sarcastic comment was more a remark on the relevance of statistics that cover – at best – far less than half the actual number of titles sold.

  3. Cirdain says:


  4. Out Reach says:

    it’s always funny that the sims (and it’s expansion packs) tend to float in the top 20 retail chart for years after release.

  5. cjlr says:

    I remember days of yore, when men were men, EB hadn’t been bought by GameStop, and there was actually a whole shelf of PC games in the store.

    Heck, when’s the last time you saw a PC-exclusive so much as advertised?

    • FriendlyFire says:

      When Microsoft hadn’t released the Xbox.

    • evilbobthebob says:

      WoW Cataclysm, even I, the student with no TV, noticed the adverts for that…

    • cjlr says:

      I don’t remember any TV ads for Cata, but then, I don’t have a TV either… I vaguely recall a few SC2 adverts from back in the summer. That doesn’t really count, though, does it?

      And besides, for any multiplatform title, you’d be hard pressed to tell if there even was a PC version from the ads…

    • Bhazor says:

      My local Game has as many PC games as PS3 games.
      My local CEX has two aisles for used PC games.
      My local Asda has as many PC games as PS3 and Xbox 360 games combined (though there’s about twice as many DS games as PC)
      What was your point again?

    • cjlr says:

      Clearly ‘local’ is the operative word here.

      And it doesn’t mean south-eastern Ontario in your case.

    • TotalBiscuit says:

      There is a world of difference between American games retail and European games retail when it comes to PC titles.

    • Mattressi says:

      My EB has a small section of a wall for PC games and my Game has the one backward-facing side of a concrete structural column in the store for it’s PC section…

    • Nick says:

      My local Game(s) have 1 half shelf of PC games and one thing of budget titles.
      My local Asda has 3 PC games.

      Whats your point again?

    • TotalBiscuit says:

      My local GAME has a PC chart and 4 full wall shelf units including the new releases, back catalogue and 2/25 2/15 3/10 selections.

      Anecdotal evidence is anecdotal.

    • Mattressi says:

      Total Biscuit; that was the point of our posts.

    • drewski says:

      I still remember my jaw falling the first time I saw *any* videogame advertised.

  6. Lewie Procter says:

    It’s probably worth noting too that 7 of those top 20 games activate on Steam, and 11 of the others activate on another download service.

    Particularly interesting as that possibly means that a lot of those physical sales could be people buying the physical version simply because it is cheaper than the digital version, and they would actually possibly prefer to buy digitally if it were the same price.

    • Bhazor says:

      People will choose to pay less money when possible?
      With insight like that it’s clear to see why you’re the RPS financial correspondent.

    • Quasar says:

      You mock, but he’s got a good point.

    • Lewie Procter says:

      It certainly indicates that might be a very big market for high street shops selling cards with scratch off serials to activate games on Steam/something else, as long as they still competed with Steam on price.

    • Mungrul says:

      Lewie, I’m one of those that proves your supposition.
      I bought Retribution through Amazon for £25.91, cheaper than it was on Steam, and a better deal too; this was the Collector’s Edition and came with all of the release DLC included.
      If I’d bought it through Steam, a pre-order would have netted me only one race’s DLC. Buying from Steam after release, the game itself would have cost me £29.99 and the complete DLC a further £3.49. In total, a full £7.57 more than I paid at Amazon and with none of the physical extras that came in my Collector’s Edition box.

      I mostly buy games at release, and Amazon gets a very high percentage of my business due to consistently offering lower prices and better deals than Steam or high street chains.

  7. FriendlyFire says:

    PC games.. in boxes? What a curious idea.

    • westyfield says:

      I’m confused… how many bits are in a box?

    • subedii says:

      I believe it can be up to 300 Peggles.

    • Thants says:

      It’s just like a downloaded game, except you have an automatic back-up, you don’t have to use up your bandwidth, and you can sell it or give it away when you’re done!

    • patricij says:

      “..and you can sell it or give it away when you’re done!”
      *cough* Internet activations, accounts tie-ins, DLCs…? Not really anymore :)

  8. cheat2win says:

    I misread the title, and thought that there was meth involved. And sadly, there’s none. =(

  9. Phoshi says:

    Hang on.

    Haaaaang on. Farming simulator 2011 is selling?

    my god.

    • faelnor says:

      It was first at retail here in France last week. I bet it’s the same in Germany.

    • FriendlyFire says:

      I wouldn’t be surprised it’s caused by Farmville.

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      It’s the new cool thing. One of the biggest tv shows in Holland currently is Farmer Seeks Wife:
      link to

      Farming. It’s the new black.

    • JFS says:

      Germany is even worse. “Farmer Seeks Wife” is running its, I don’t know, fourth or something season, and we regularly have Excavator Simulator, Tractor Simulator, Agrar Simulator AND Farming Simulator (as a competitor) in our charts. I kid you not. This week, however, it is not present. I do fear this state of peace is not gonna be durable.

    • Navagon says:

      Such is the awesome destiny of games that get an amusing write up on RPS.

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      Germany: Certified grade A boring since 1993!

  10. Heliosicle says:

    The only pc game I’ve ever bought at retail was Crysis in Woolworths, they had a pretty good pc section iirc, never went back there though.

  11. President Weasel says:

    Of course there are PC Games at UK retail, prominently displayed in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying “Beware of The Leopard”.

    And of course this has nothing to do with the fact that they don’t have the same market in presold, resold, traded-in-and-and-sold again copies as console titles do. By the way, can I interest you in a pre-order of a second hand copy of a game, sir?

    And of course the vast amount of shelf space and marketing support the bricks ‘n mortar stores give PC games allows them to complain about Steam being included with some PC games, as it’s some kind of anti competitive move in a market that these retail chains have in no way abandoned.


    That said, mainstream gaming on the PC is absolutely fine, it’s just streaming away on Steam and GOG and goodness knows where else, under the radar of the sales charts. Be nice if Steam were less cagy with their figures, wouldn’t it?

    • DrGonzo says:

      As I said before, not true in Nottingham at least, and also Leamington Spa. It’s easy to not notice all the PC games though as most of them are 5-10 years old, and quite a few probably older. But GAME actually generally dedicate a huge amount of space to PC games, but just the old ones.

    • cjlr says:

      It really is a damn good question why Valve (and other online distributors) don’t release sales figures… Have they ever publicly given a reason for not disclosing said? Valve are private so they’re not required to, but wouldn’t waving millions and millions of sales in peoples faces shut them up about which platforms are dying, wouldn’t it?

    • DrGonzo says:

      Why do Valve care what anyone says? Either they are lying and not selling huge amounts, in which case they don’t want to announce their sales figures. Or more likely, they are raking it in. In which case it doesn’t matter whether people think PC gaming is dying or not.

    • Ravenger says:

      I’m convinced that a major reason we don’t see many PC games at retail is because high street retailers are now glorified pawn shops for console games.

      There’s no profit in PC games for them you see, as they can’t sell the same copy, over and over again making a fat profit every time like they can with console games.

    • cjlr says:

      It’d just be a really easy source of publicity, though, wouldn’t it? Surely great sales numbers would be news for their own sake?

    • Stranglove says:

      Respect for the Douglas Adams quote.

    • Jannakar says:

      Maybe Valve do not have the permission of the publishers to release the numbers? I can’t think of a sane reason why that would be the case, but I can think of plenty of insane ones.

    • Ovno says:

      @ Dr Gonzo,
      You’re right about leamington spa, game & gamestation do indeed have many copies of every sims game, modern warfare/blops, wow and a million older games for ridiculasly high prices, in fact even though I lived 2 mins from gamestation on foot, I gave up going there becuase they never had anything I wanted…

  12. scottossington says:

    Fugh em, that’s what I say. Buying a PC game at a brick and mortar store is a thing of the past. All of the download sites are cheaper and more convenient.

    • Premium User Badge

      phuzz says:

      More convenient yeah, but not always cheaper.
      It’s always worth looking around at the prices for boxed copies, they’re often a bit cheaper than download versions. Although unless you feel like leaving the house (dum DUM DER!), you might have to wait a few days more for delivery.

  13. Daiv says:

    Window bend.
    PC retail.
    Tree flight.
    Foot eat.

    None of the phrases above make any sense to me.

  14. Rath says:

    I work for one of the major electronics retail chains in the UK, and the state of our PC games section is absolutely fucking dire. The selection is incredibly limited, not even vaguely current, and the prices are well above what they should be. When I’m merchandising, I can’t even fill one whole shelf with them. We don’t even have peripherals any more, where we used to have at least a couple of different joysticks, gamepads and wheels.

    Of course I work in one of the smaller stores out in small-town, nowhere-ville, while in one of our superstores thirty minutes away, they’ve got an entire wall section for PC games and another for peripherals.

    I just tried to look up the prices for the seven games we still have in stock, and to my horror our company doesn’t even have a PC software section on the website. For fucks’ sake.

    • jonfitt says:

      You should (not) visit a Gamestop in the US. You’ll find a couple of beaten up copies of WoW and The Sims 3 (and maybe the game du jour like CoDBLPOS) on the back of the same shelf that holds second hand Xbox 1 games and a discarded sandwich.

      I gave up visiting game stores in the US years ago. Even for console-toy games. If you’re not into the pawn shop churn then there’s no point even going in.

      GAME is a PC game heaven in comparison.

    • Torgen says:


      So very, very much this.

      How can a flight sim make it in the present day where there’s nowhere to buy a joystick?

    • DarkNoghri says:

      My recollection says that my local Best Buy had a decent selection of joysticks (although it’s been a while since I looked). I always wanted the Saitek x52 they had there.

      For that matter, my local Best Buy has a much better selection of PC games than the local Gamestop. Prices are still terrible, though.

    • drewski says:

      Torgen – there’s still a place to buy joysticks. Ebay.

  15. Colthor says:

    Does “UK Retail”, in the context of sales charts, include web shops like Amazon, Play etc.? They’re almost always the cheapest way to get new games.

    • Phyla says:

      I’m curious about this too, since I (who lives across the North Sea) buy nearly all my games from And I’m sure I’m not the only one from continental Europe doing just that.

    • Blackberries says:

      Yeah I’m also wondering this, as I already blathered a few posts up. I’ve been getting my games from Amazon for donkeys. Most of my new purchases are technically “retail” in this way, though it still doesn’t require venturing out of the house.

    • Jad says:

      Exactly my thinking as well. Prior to Steam I bought all my games from Amazon and other online retailers. In fact, buying a game from a store has been such a rare experience in the past decade or so that I can actually tell you with certainty where and what they were: GTA Vice City from Target, Morrowind: GOTY Edition from a mom-and-pop electronics store, and CoD: Modern Warfare 2 from Gamestop.

      That’s it. In 10 years. Of course, I bought dozens, probably hundreds of games from websites in that time. I’ve also bought hundreds of books, movies, and music CDs from Amazon in the past 10 years too. I find the fact that people still buy entertainment products from brick-and-mortar stores strange. (Some exception to books, for the simple matter that you can open them in the store and start reading them. Holding a game box and looking at the back is no better, and in fact worse, than reading about it on the internet.) I’ve never been really into that whole “pre-ordering”, “Day One!” mindset — a game won’t go sour if you get it a couple of days after release.

      (My purchase of MW2 the week of release from a store was in fact a very uncharacteristic lapse in the above philosophy — I got caught up in the hype, and I regretted it.)

    • Premium User Badge

      phuzz says:

      Thinking about it I may never have bought a PC game at retail. Certainly not in the last decade. I’ll use amazon/play/tescoes etc to buy cheaper boxed copies, but the only game I remember buying in a shop in the last few years would be Zelda for the DS.

  16. Hoaxfish says:

    “Maths and Mechs”… why does this have nothing to do with some form of Maths edutainment + typing of the dead + mechwarrior hybrid game?

  17. Jimbo says:

    “Black Ops was publicly revealed by Activision to have sold 2 million units across all formats in its first week on sale in the UK, according to a statement from UKIE/Chart-Track in November.”

    That number is from Chart-Track as far as I can tell, not Activision. If so this should really read “…revealed by Chart-Track to have sold 2 million units across all formats *at retail* in its first week…”

    If the number had come from Activision then your math would be wrong (because you’d be applying All-Formats-At-Retail % changes to an All-Formats figure), so this worked out well.

    I assume Chart-Track numbers do include online retail sales? (Amazon etc.)

  18. Cheese says:

    Go Farming Simulator 2011!

  19. mbp says:

    The Sims.

    That list brings nostalgic tears of laughter to my eyes.Remember the old days when computer mags came printed on paper and had a montly bestseller list most of which were the Sims. At least half of the letters to the editor were angry letters from “real gamers” about this lamentable fact. I know we are all growed up now and we embrace the wider community of gamers but this list brings me back.

    • Morgawr says:

      Yes. I remember that PC Zone or PC Gamer had regular “Sims Free Charts”, where they would remove all the Sims games and their expansions from the chart.

  20. Emphursis1 says:

    Don’t diss FS2011! I got my brother a copy for Christmas, and have had great fun driving tractors into rivers when he isn’t looking! :D:D

    • bildo says:

      But how are you supposed to harvest all that tasty food?! You’re the reason digital earth is starving @_@

  21. CMaster says:

    Does “retail” include or exclude physical-but-online stores along the lines of Amazon, Play, Zavvi, etc?
    (I realise this is made even more complicated by the fact that neither Play nor Amazon are UK, tax dodgers that they are).

  22. Stranglove says:

    I was promised mechs…

  23. bleeters says:

    Medal of Honour.

    Medal of Honour.


  24. man-eater chimp says:

    Huzzah for foot-to-ball manager!

  25. Azradesh says:

    Does this include online retail sale? (Amazon etc)

  26. GT3000 says:

    Missing the staring eyes tag.

    • Navagon says:

      They never used to miss opportunities like this. Clear evidence that, in spite of all the awesome John Walker articles lately, RPS is going downhill. After all, what’s more important? Staring Eyes tag? Or awesome articles? You decide!

  27. lumberjack_wannabe says:


  28. Baboonanza says:

    That screen shot just make me think ‘I didn’t know Bruce Willis and Ben Stiller had been in a film together’.

  29. 3lbFlax says:

    I was trading a pile of bits in in Gamestation the other day and got more than I expected. I thought hold on, I’m back gaming on the PC again, I should check the PC section. Two laps around the shop later I still hadn’t found it, and I was on the unthinkable verge of asking where it was. Then a woman with a pushchair moved and I realised it had been behind her pushchair the whole time. The selection was poor except for games I’d already bought on Steam.

    I don’t know why I added “the whole time” at the end there. I’m certainly not suggesting that the staff, who are very friendly and helpful, were manually moving it around the shop to ensure it was always behind me. Why would they do that?

    Anyway, my point is: if you think your Gamestation has a non-existent or very small PC section, be sure to look behind prams and pushchairs and women.

  30. Huw_Dawson says:

    Clearly this is all PIRACY’S FAULT. Hurry, game developers! Flee to formats with lower expectations, resolutions and quality!

  31. Grinnbarr says:

    That guy on the left in the aviators looks just like Bruce Willis.

    Oh Brucie…