PC Game Digital Downloads Reaching Parity With In-Store

Posted by at 9:25 am on July 22, 2010

According to the PC Games Digital Downloads: Analyst Report, from The NPD Group, in 2009, 21.3 million PC Game full-game digital downloads were purchased online in the U.S. compared to 23.5 million physical units purchased at retail during the same period.

While NPD’s point-of-sale research shows that PC physical retail sales experienced a year-over-year revenue decline in 2009, it was still slightly larger than PC digital download sales on a unit basis. PC digital downloads represented close to half of unit sales across digital and retail at 48 percent in 2009, and accounted for 36 percent of dollar sales.

PC Games Digital Downloads: Analyst Report segments the PC full-game digital download landscape into two Web-based -˜retailer’ segments (offers games for download, and with no physical storefront): Casual Digital Retailers, which often focus on smaller, easily accessible games that typically utilize try-and-buy or advertising revenue models; and Frontline Digital Retailers, which often focus on titles that are also offered in retail stores as physical purchases.

Top 5 Frontline Digital Retailers -“2009 (based on unit % share)
1.        Steampowered.com
2.        Direct2drive.com
3.        Blizzard.com
4.        EA.com
5.        Worldofwarcraft.com

Top 5 Casual Digital Retailers -“ 2009 (based on unit % share)
1.        Bigfishgames.com
2.        Pogo.com
3.        Gamehouse.com
4.        iWin.com
5.        Realarcade.com

Free Gaming Vs. Digital Retailers

One of the most significant factors contributing to the decline in share captured by Casual Digital Retailers is the increase in popularity of free social network gaming and free mobile gaming.

“The popularity of social network gaming increased from Q3’09 to Q4’09 as 4.8 million more people played games on a social network in the U.S.,” said Anita Frazier, industry analyst, The NPD Group. “This demonstrates how consumers can now experience casual types of games through myriad vehicles, broadening the competitive landscape.”

Free mobile gaming is also capturing the attention of gamers, illustrated by the 30 percent increase in usage of the iPhone and the iPod Touch as gaming devices from Q2’09 to Q4’09. Furthermore, 97 percent of those who downloaded a game app in Q4’09 downloaded a free version of a game

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