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Digital game sales to reach $7.8 billion this year - SuperData

Video game DLC and microtransactions to drive $4 billion in sales alone, says research firm

SuperData's newest report, Digital Console Market and Monetization Trends, forecasts that video games will rack up $7.8 billion in digital sales in 2017, driven largely by major DLC and microtransactions, which will total about $4 billion in revenue. Additional content for video games has become a big business and is an especially important strategy to extend the life of many titles.

The first three to six months after a video game is released is crucial, as 39% of the first-year additional content revenue for all titles is made during that timeframe, SuperData says. The firm found that gamers are hungry for even more content, more frequently too. 34% of console players want publishers to release more content every three to six months, and 29% expect publishers to release additional content at least once a month.

As we see from covering the fiscal reports of the major publishers, the companies are all continuing to rely more and more on digital sources of revenue -- and add-on content has become the key. In fact, three-quarters of the total digital revenue earned by the top console titles from January 2015 to May 2017 came from add-on content, according to SuperData. The prime example would be Take-Two's Grand Theft Auto V, which became the highest-earning digital console game of all time thanks to its DLC; the game has earned $1.4 billion in digital console revenue, and 78% of that total is attributable to its add-on content.

Publishers have to be careful with their release strategies, however. Players don't want to feel like content is missing from the main release at launch just so that companies can make more money later. "Players are still weary of games that release alongside numerous paid add-ons, believing content has been cut from the game itself," says Carter Rogers, Senior Analyst at SuperData Research. "2K's Evolve saw immersive consumer backlash at launch for this reason, which hurt the game's long-term potential."

The good news is that the idea of the season pass for add-on content appears to be working. SuperData found that 44% of season pass buyers will purchase a pass right away when they buy a game. Furthermore, 25% of customers who do purchase add-on content end up buying a season pass at some point. "Players widely view season passes as acceptable, allowing publishers to monetize months before downloadable content is on the market," SuperData says.

As you might expect, in the console world map packs and new character unlocks tend to be the most commonly purchased DLC. Smaller micro-transactions are less common, but multi-player titles like Overwatch and Rocket League have managed to sell microtransactions regularly. Cosmetic microtransactions in these types of games are especially popular; Overwatch players have already spent $61 million on console to buy random packs of in-game items like character outfits, SuperData found.

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