The first half of 2010 is the first time when digital downloads made up the majority of total PC game sales, NPD reports.
While revenue from in-store purchases continues to trump revenue from
digital downloads, according to NPD Group's "PC Games Digital Downloads:
Analyst Report," during the first six months of 2010, more PC full-game
digital downloads were purchased than physical units.
The first half of 2010 is the first time period in which sales via digital
download made up the majority of total PC game unit sales-11.2 million digital
downloads compared with 8.2 million physical units purchased at retail. However,
games sold at physical retailers continue to maintain a greater share of dollar
revenue at 57 percent, versus 43 percent from digitally downloaded games.
NPD said this is attributed to a higher average selling price at retail.
Combined sales of digital and physical PC games for the first half of this year
were down 21 percent, and unit sales were down 14 percent compared with the
same time period last year.
"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,"
said Anita Frazier, an industry analyst at The NPD Group. "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."
The 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.
The top five frontline digital retailers from January to June 2010 (based on
unit percent share) were Steamgames.com, Direct2drive.com, EA.com,
Worldofwarcraft.com and Blizzard.com. Bigfishgames.com led the casual digital
retail market for the same time period, followed by Gamehouse.com, iWin.com,
Pogo.com and Wildtangent.com.
Information contained in the report sources from two of NPD Group's ongoing
consumer services covering the games industry: the Games Acquisition Monitor, a
quarterly tracker that measures both digital and physical forms of games
acquisition activity, volume, awareness, and usage of retailers and services;
and its weekly video games consumer survey. Each week, more than 180,000
individuals are selected from the NPD online consumer panel to participate in
one of four weekly studies.
Respondents to the survey report whether in the past week they purchased a
PC game on a disc or downloaded the game from a Website directly to their
computers. The company noted only digital purchases of games from the above Websites
are tracked in the report. Shipped boxed products from these sites are not
covered, though the company said information about these could be obtained
through its PC Retail Tracking service.