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NPD: Downloads now bigger than boxed sales on PC

By Alec Meer

Mon 20 Sep 2010 2:18pm GMT / 10:18am EDT / 7:18am PDT

Research does not show download service sales figures, but claims overall PC sales down 14%

Market research firm The NPD group has claimed that PC game digital sales for the first six months of 2010 have outgrown retail.

Digital sales in the US reached 11.2 million units, survey findings estimated, while bricks and mortar retail totally 8.2 million.

But overall PC revenues declined 21 per cent, and unit sales by 14 per cent, the firm claimed.

The NPD does not have access to the various download services' sales figures, with both Steam and Blizzard recently confirming to that they have not provided any data to the analyst.

Last week, EA boss John Riccitiello also claimed NPD reports do not accurately reflect the download market.

Nonetheless, the NPD used "weighted and projected" consumer surveys to draw up a list of what it claims are the most successful download services.

Steam was an unsurprising number one, with Big Fish Games apparently ruling the casual sector.

Direct2Drive, EA, and constituted the remainder of the core games top five. Non-appearing services such as Impulse and GamersGate have previously questioned the accuracy of NPD's download service chart.

"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 NPD analyst Anita Frazier.

"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."

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Stephen Woollard Online Infrastructure Specialist, Electronic Arts

146 71 0.5
Downloads (legal downloads that is) are the way forwards. I used to be very much part of the "I want a box and a disk and a manual" set, but I have been completely converted. Nowadays if I can't get it from Steam, EA Store, D2D etc then I probably won't bother.

I know people argue that they want games that they can own forever and always be able to play it and what if Steam collapses or whatever and I appreciate those arguments, but it's very rare that I want to play an old game that badly, and usually when I do the rose tinited glasses have to come off and that game from the early 90's looks like what it is - a twenty year old game. That is of course if you can find the disk and then get it to work on your current gaming rig.

I'll stick with my happy memories of older games and get new ones delivered straight to my HDD thanks.

Posted:6 years ago


David Spender Lead Programmer

129 54 0.4
I'm one of those people that you will have to pry my boxed copy out of my cold dead hands. That said, I think back to my huge collection of Commodore 64 games. I thought I would want to keep them forever and play them when I was older. I certainly do, but I never ever would have imagined that I could go to some website and in a Flash player, pull up practically any C64 game ever made.
The same is true with many older DOS games. Granted not all of the methods of getting them to work are legal - that is definitely an issue that needs to be addressed. But my point is that I need to just embrace digital downloads and trust the community to make sure these games get archived for far-future play if something ever does happen to the providers.
To me its more of an issue with giving up my rights to 'own' the game I bought. I feel like if I'm downloading it - even through Steam - that I'm at the mercy of their distribution system. However I guess I lost that battle years ago when Valve started requiring even boxed copies to be activated before they could be played. Its just amazing to me how consumers are ok with throwing away their rights in the interest of convenience. People seem to be ok with companies simply licensing the temporary right to play a game...and are blithely unaware that the same company can reject that right at anytime leaving the consumer with jack-squat. It seems neither ethical nor fair.

Posted:6 years ago


Kingman Cheng Illustrator and Animator

962 187 0.2
I haven't actually bought a physical copy of a PC game for a while now, in fact any PC game I got this year is through Steam I think.

Posted:6 years ago


Ryan Locke Lecturer in Media Design, University of Abertay Dundee

63 16 0.3
I havent bought a game in ages, and its not because of lack of good titles.
I boot my ps3 and I'll play one of many little downloaded games and if I get bored or impatient, I'll go buy another one. I dont have to leave my house and I'm not dedicating my life to a massive sweeping singleplayer. This makes me happy. I just realised I've become one of them casual folk!
Next, Im bored of games and I take a break for a while. A few weeks later Im on my pc and I feel the urge to play a little team fortress 2.
Im forced to load up steam.
Steam loads.
Theres a sale.
There's a really good goddamn sale!
I just bought a buch of old games I didnt think i'd ever play again - I dont even care how out of date they are, but I bought em!

Digital distribution is a god send if you ask me. I LOVE my blockbuster AAA titles - but alot less so these days. They'll always have a place, but I think the digital services will hoover my bank account clean, and quite willingly I'll let them, im having such fun playing smaller titles, older titles and cheaper titles.

Posted:6 years ago


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