Three out of four US gamers prefer physical games - NPD

Core gamer demand for digital distribution still rising, up 5 percent year-over-year

Digital distribution is becoming an increasingly accepted way of buying games, but the clear majority of gamers still prefer to get something tangible for their money. According to the NPD Group's Core Gaming 2014 report, 74 percent of core gamers in the US would choose a physical copy of a game over digital, assuming both were the same price.

Despite the preference for physical formats, acceptance of digital games is growing. The 26 percent of gamers who said they preferred digital copies of games is up 5 percent year-over-year.

The report comes from a survey of more than 7,900 core gamers ages 9 and up conducted in March. The research firm defined "core gamer" as anyone who plays five hours or more on Microsoft or Sony consoles, PC, or Mac, and plays in certain genres (action, adventure, fighting, flight, MMOs, racing, real-time strategy, RPGs, shooters, or sports games) on those platforms.

The NPD Group put the total US core gamer audience at 34 million people, with the average player spending 22 hours a week on games. Two-thirds of them also played games on mobile devices, and 70 percent played multiplayer games at least occasionally.

"Core gamers are really the lifeblood of the industry, spending tremendous amounts of time on their hobby of choice," said NPD analyst Liam Callahan. "With the new console generation off to a great start, we can expect the amount of time spent gaming to increase as more core gamers adopt them."

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Latest comments (16)

Rick Lopez Illustrator, Graphic Designer 5 years ago
I prefer physical discs any day. Storage is a problem for Digital games. both my PS3 and PS4 are almost to their limit between game installs, DLC, save data and other types of media. Also server maintenance to ensure any purchased digital products can be accesible for years to come. Look at all these games going offline, companies going defunked. For what its worth Digital only isnt the godsend people thought it would be. It too comes with its headaches and hurdles.
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Stu Johnson Technical Lead 5 years ago

It's not just me
I'm not that crumbly old dinosaur after all
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Mats Holm Technical Writer, Electronic Arts5 years ago
All digital here. I will even pay more for not having physical copies. The only physical copies of anything is stuff I get from work, and I would love to get codes for that stuff instead.

The last time I got a physical copy of anything was gamestop selling latest Hitman for PC for almost nothing, I picked it up, inserted code into steam, started download. Game installed at a faster speed then my DVD drive would read, and I did not have to change disks half way through. After the code was used the game disk went right into the trash, made me think about how much effort had been made to get that copy into my house, and how I converted it into junk in a matter of minutes.
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Show all comments (16)
Paul Jace Merchandiser 5 years ago
I prefer physical disc even for games that I have already downloaded, like the Telltale WD games. Download games are ok(the free Games with Gold program is currently filling up my 250gb hard drive and two 32 gb flash drives with free games) but I will always prefer physical.
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Sasha Yelesin Student 5 years ago
I love physical too. I still buy CDs! I still download PC games digitally, but I can't remember paying over 10 bucks for one. Not having complete control over my purchase isn't worth the extra money.
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 5 years ago
Physical for a few reasons, history being one big one. With digital, you end up "owning" games you never get to play because you have to remember to look at your backlog. With a disc that takes up room, you can stack stuff near your console and see what's next.
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 5 years ago
As long as people romanticize about owning a house with a lawn in a quiet suburb (or worse, the countryside), there will be people with enough money to buy games and no decent (competitive, uptodate) Internet connection. Low latency low bandwidth is all you can hope for and VoD to your 4K TV is something from a dark cyber future.

Living in a city, where Internet speeds of 100Mbit are readily available, it is a whole different situation. Fiddling around with plastic discs? What is this, the 90ies? Publishers will have to respect both those markets.
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Eyal Teler Programmer 5 years ago
I imagine that bundling the consoles and PC/Mac together skews the results. Digital on consoles isn't yet mature enough, while on PC it is. I imagine that most PC gamers buy digital, especially since a lot of physical games simply translate to Steam codes.

Hopefully the full report does address the different platforms, but since no publication will pay for it we'll have to do with this meaningless summary for now.
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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.5 years ago
Living in a city, where Internet speeds of 100Mbit are readily available, it is a whole different situation.
Keep in mind that this was the US. 100 mbs connections are still very rare.
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Rodney Smith Developer 5 years ago
i like to play my games after a company has stopped trading or turned off it servers. so physical for me and no multiplayer only.
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Steam made me all-digital years ago but western markets have a loooong hugely profitable history of physical goods and are slow to give them up for all kinds of reasons that have nothing to do with being snobs or Luddites. If Ps4/XBone take off they will do much to change this attitude to downloads but I really do hope Sony and Microsoft allow f2p games on their consoles to keep them as relevant as possible. As a game fan I want to see killer epic f2p games I'm so freaking bored with the farm simulators attitude we can't see past today.
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Peter Warman CEO & Co Founder, Newzoo5 years ago
I also like boxed games, but from a research and global industry perspective.....what a load of crap! Survey questions that are set up to confirm the hope of NPDs primary clients and US-centric conservative analysts.Of course people would love to have a boxed game that they can keep and share with their neighbours if digital and boxed were priced the same. This is not the situation in the real world. Or at least not the situation as it should be. Digital versions are or should be offered cheaper. Because of the retail agreements console publishers are afraid of lowering digital prices but this is changing fast..... NPD should watch out they do not mislead the US industry and indirectly limit their innovative power so needed in this fast-changing market...
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James Berg Games User Researcher, EA Canada5 years ago
What Peter said, and I'll to that - they lumped PC and consoles together, which is another reason this survey is poor.
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Daniel Hughes Studying PhD Literary Modernism, Bangor University5 years ago
I largely buy physical copies due to them often being cheaper. The only digital software I've bought (that's also available at retail) have been either heavily discounted or free. That said, the list of download-only games I want to buy (either new or retro) increases every month.
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Curt Sampson Sofware Developer 5 years ago
Peter Warman writes,
Of course people would love to have a boxed game that they can keep and share with their neighbours if digital and boxed were priced the same
I'm not so sure that's a good assumption. I, too, far prefer digital to physical editions these days. My CDs were all ripped to FLAC files on my hard drive years ago, I no longer buy physical books if I can possibly avoid it, most of my PC games are in Steam or my Amazon digital collection. and even on my PS3 and PSP I'd rather not have yet another physical item to store. (I keep my larger and more inconvenient first-generation PSP only for a few games I haven't been able to get digitally so I can play them on my more portable PSP Go.)

Back in the 90s I used to be quite old-school, with a library of over 2000 physical books. Eventually, owning so much stuff started to drag me down.
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Paul Shirley Programmers 5 years ago
Even with the astonishingly poor installers on many DVD/CD installs (where the author apparently never considered the cost of random access), I still find disk installs much quicker than my 50Mb connection. Add on the nightmares I've had with shovelware quality network installers like UPlay, that difference multiplies with every failed install that decides it needs to re-download everything.

I'm also distinctly uncomfortable being dependent on companies not going bankrupt or just turning off the downloads. Been burnt by that too often. Long live physical media.
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