Digital game downloads beat retail store sales

During the first half of 2010, consumers bought 11.2 million PC games online, compared with 8.2 million at retail stores, according to a study.

People are buying more PC games online these days than they are in retail stores, according to a new report.

During the first six months of the year, consumers in the U.S. purchased and downloaded 11.2 million digital PC games online, surpassing the 8.2 million physical games bought at retail stores over the same period, according to an NPD Group report released today.

Though digital downloads accounted for most of the number of games sold from January to June, they accounted for just 43 percent of overall game revenue. But that difference stems mainly from the higher prices that retail stores charge over their online counterparts, says NPD.

Regardless of where they are buying games, people are spending less and buying fewer of them. Revenue for both digital and physical games dropped 21 percent compared with the first half of 2009, NPD said, while unit sales declined 14 percent year over year.

"The overall decline of PC games when combining sales via both digital downloads and physical retail sales is impacted by the expansion of social-network gaming as well as the continued expansion of free game options." NPD analyst Anita Frazier said in a statement.

In compiling its figures, NPD surveyed consumers and tracked sales from specific online sellers divided into two categories: "frontline digital retailers," which sell major titles also found at retail stores, and "casual digital retailers," which offer smaller try-and-buy titles.

The top five frontline digital retailers as tracked by NPD are Steamgames.com, Direct2drive.com, EA.com, Worldofwarcraft.com, and Blizzard.com. The top casual digital retailers are Bigfishgames.com, Gamehouse.com, iWin.com, Pogo.com, and Wildtangent.com.

"One major finding from this latest report is that the 'big got bigger' in the first half of 2010, with both Steam and Bigfish capturing a bigger share of full-game PC games digital download sales than they did last year," Frazier said.

About the author

Journalist, software trainer, and Web developer Lance Whitney writes columns and reviews for CNET, Computer Shopper, Microsoft TechNet, and other technology sites. His first book, "Windows 8 Five Minutes at a Time," was published by Wiley & Sons in November 2012.

 

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