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AAA game downloads on the brink of overtaking physical in Europe

Exclusive figures reveal rapid digitisation as consumers drop physical in favour or digital

AAA console sales in two European markets are now primarily digital, GamesIndustry.biz can reveal.

The latest figures from GSD highlight how consumers are rapidly moving away from buying games on a disc. The data firm took a selection of major AAA franchises -- including Assassin's Creed, Far Cry, Star Wars, Batman, Battlefield, Monster Hunter, Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, Red Dead Redemption, FIFA, Dragon Ball, Need for Speed and Tom Clancy -- and compared their digital/physical sales split during the first quarter of 2019 with the same period in 2018.

The most digital friendly region is the Nordics, where 66% of AAA console games (PS4 and Xbox One only) are now sold as downloads -- a rise of 13% compared with the same period in 2018. The UK is in second place, with 56% of its 1.36 million games being sold through Xbox Live and PlayStation Network (UK data for 2018 is not available).

The most physical friendly market is Italy, where just a third of console game sales are digital. However, in 2018 only a quarter of AAA game sales in Italy were downloads.

Q1 2019:

Country Overall Q1 Sales Digital Q1 Sales Physical Q1 Sales Digitsation
Benelux 412,825 178,785 234,040 43%
France 851,234 401,013 450,221 47%
GSA* 1,355,423 673,357 682,066 50%
Iberia 634,006 219,747 414,259 35%
Italy 494,339 163,954 330,385 33%
Nordics 372,701 247,363 125,338 66%
UK and Ireland 1,360,942 761,333 599,609 56%

Q1 2018:

Country Overall Q1 Sales Digital Q1 Sales Physical Q1 Sales Digitsation
Benelux 473,285 156,889 316.396 33%
France 1,392,256 433,216 959,040 31%
GSA* 1,754,677 711,481 1,043,196 41%
Iberia 775,450 204,307 571,143 26%
Italy 622,060 156,275 465,785 25%
Nordics 469,733 250,836 218.897 53%

*GSA - Germany, Switzerland, Austria.

The fastest rising digital market is France. In 2018, 31% of the selected franchises were sold digitally, with the rest being sold in a box. However, by 2019 that had increased to 47%.

The next market to become predominantly digital will be "GSA," which is Germany, Switzerland and Austria. The market is currently an even split between physical and digital AAA game sales.

Despite the rapid change, physical games remain the dominant market for the time being. Across all European territories, 52% of AAA console games were sold in a box during Q1 2019.

The study was conducted by ISFE's GSD charts project on behalf of GamesIndustry.biz.

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Christopher Dring avatar

Christopher Dring

Head of Games B2B

Chris is a 15-year media veteran specialising in the business of video games. And, erm, Doctor Who