'Fortnite' Levels Off After Record Month as Overall Digital Game Revenue Slumps in January

Fortnite Epic Games- Publicity-H 2019
Courtesy of Epic Games

Epic Games' Battle Royale juggernaut saw a record month in December but cooled off significantly in the new year.

Worldwide digital video game spending declined in January across consoles, PC and mobile and gaming, according to a new report from Nielsen's SuperData research firm.

Consumers spent $8.4 billion on digital games across all platforms last month, compared to $8.9 billion in January 2018, a 6 percent decline year-over-year. While PC games had the biggest drop-off of any platform (29 percent), revenue for console titles also decreased by 3 percent. Not only did revenue decline year-over-year last month, but January 2018 actually saw an 11 percent increase year-over-year from 2017, so the downward turn for 2019 is all the more striking.

After a peak month in December, Epic Games' revenue juggernaut Fortnite dipped in January month-over-month. Revenue on all platforms combined for the Battle Royale shooter (which is available on PC, mobile and consoles) declined 48 percent from December to January. However, sales for the title are still up when compared year-over-year with January 2018. 

Fortnite generated a total of $2.4 billion in revenue in 2018, making it the highest earning free-to-play game of the year. While the numbers for Fortnite were down in January, this month an in-game concert by DJ Marshmello signaled the game's single biggest event yet, with over 10 million players logging in to experience it.

Elsewhere, Rockstar's Red Dead Redemption 2 Online saw revenue fall by 14 percent month-over-month. Rockstar's other title, Grand Theft Auto V, remained in the top five highest grossing console titles more than five years after its initial release, but combined sales from both Red Dead Online and GTA V Online were flat year-over-year versus just GTA V Online's revenue alone in January 2018.

Nintendo's Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, which sold more copies (5 million) in its first week of launch than any title in franchise history in December, saw unit sales decline sharply in January. According to SuperData's estimates, Smash Bros. digital units were down 83 percent from December. However, in-game spending for the title increased month-over-month as more players purchased the Fighter Pass, an optional $25 additional purchase that gives players access to more playable characters.