There are a few things that are certain in gaming. Any game labeled a “franchise-killer” is destined to do no such thing. Todd Howard will make goddamn sure that Skyrim gets onto a new platform each year. And Grand Theft Auto V will continue to sell chart-breaking amounts of copies, despite being released back in 2013. Except that last one might be faltering. In 2020, for the first time since its launch, Grand Theft Auto V didn’t make it onto the yearly charts for the best-selling games.
Below is the NPD best-seller charts for 2020. All data accounts for physical and digital copies sold (except where noted), and is ranked by dollar sales of full games sold. Here are the top 20 games of 2020.
Best Selling Games of 2020
- Call of Duty: Black Ops: Cold War – Activision Blizzard (Corp)
- Call of Duty: Modern Warfare – Activision Blizzard (Corp)
- Animal Crossing: New Horizons* -Nintendo
- Madden NFL 21 – Electronic Arts
- Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla – Ubisoft
- The Last of Us: Part II – Sony (Corp)
- Ghost of Tsushima – Sony (Corp)
- Mario Kart 8: Deluxe* – Nintendo
- Super Mario 3D All-Stars* – Nintendo
- Final Fantasy VII: Remake – Square Enix Inc (Corp)
- Marvel’s Avengers – Square Enix Inc (Corp)
- Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales – Sony (Corp)
- NBA 2K21* – Take 2 Interactive (Corp)
- Super Smash Bros. Ultimate* – Nintendo
- FIFA 21 – Electronic Arts
- Mortal Kombat 11 – Warner Bros. Interactive
- Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot – Bandai Namco Entertainment
- MLB: The Show 20 – Sony (Corp)
- Cyberpunk 2077* – Warner Bros. Interactive
- Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 – Activision Blizzard (Corp)
* Digital sales not included
Of course Call of Duty tops the charts again, with 2020’s Black Ops Cold War nabbing the top spot with less than two months of sales, and 2019’s Modern Warfare taking the second after a year of resounding success. Notably absent here is Warzone, but that’s due to its free-to-play nature, which wouldn’t be accounted for in the “full game/dollar sales” metric being measured on the NPD charts. This also doesn’t take into account any DLC or microtransactions like the Battle Pass and premium cosmetic purchases, so Call of Duty made it to the top of the charts on sales of the full games alone, on top of which Activision pulled in billions from the microtransactions.
Nintendo additions on the best-seller charts are always interesting because Nintendo doesn’t provide digital sales data for its games. So when you see Animal Crossing taking the third spot for the year, that’s strictly on physical sales alone. Accounting for digital, it’s expected Nintendo first-party titles would jump up in the list.
Sony had an excellent year overall, with exclusives like The Last of Us Part II, Ghost of Tsushima, Spider-Man: Miles Morales, and Final Fantasy VII Remake all charting at various positions.
And one that makes me personally very happy to see: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 managed to just peek onto the charts at number 20, which hopefully means Activision is paying attention and we can see a return to form for the series.
Where is Grand Theft Auto V?
But it all calls to attention the absence of gaming’s most notorious smooth criminal, a game that’s almost become meme-worthy with how frequently it would top the best seller charts.
GamesBeat’s Jeff Grubb noted the exclusion of Grand Theft Auto V from the 2020 NPD charts.
Can we get a moment of silence for Grand Theft Auto V (which continues to make a lot of money just not in a way that would chart). This is the first time it is not on the best-selling games of the year since it debuted in 2013.
Sleep now, sweet prince. https://t.co/Xrkyf9QHmq
— Jeff Grubb (@JeffGrubb) January 15, 2021
However, there’s a very good reason we’re not seeing Grand Theft Auto V chart anymore, and that’s due to how Rockstar now shares sales data. Much like Nintendo, Rockstar no longer shares digital sales data. They stopped this practice mid-2020, at which point both Grand Theft Auto V and Red Dead Redemption 2 both fell off the monthly charts. More than showing a cessation of sales for Rockstar titles, it actually offers a glimpse into the strength of the digital marketplace. It’s expected that both titles continue to sell very well, however, without digital sales data, the NPD can’t accurately place these games anywhere on the chart, and physical sales aren’t doing enough anymore to get them there.
Both Grand Theft Auto V and Red Dead Redemption 2 have online portions attached that continue to be the bread and butter for Rockstar, generating not only additional sales of the full game, but bringing in money via microtransactions. Grand Theft Auto V is also getting a PS5 update for both the campaign and online, expected to launch later this year. PlayStation players will also get free access to Online on PS5 for three months after it launches.