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Digital sales now represent 74% of the US game market

The games industry added $11.7 billion to the US GDP in 2016, according to ESA's new Essential Facts report

The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) today released its annual report, Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry, shedding light on the continued growth of games in the US. While physical format sales are steadily declining, the total picture for the US games industry is actually quite positive, with overall sales climbing each year since 2010, when the industry totaled $17.5 billion. In 2016, the total spend on games content was $24.5 billion and if you factor in hardware, accessories and VR, that figure rises to $30.4 billion. Digital has been accounting for a bigger and bigger portion of the sales total each year, and in 2016 that portion was 74%, including full game digital downloads, subscriptions, DLC, mobile and social.

The flourishing games business has contributed over $11.7 billion to the US GDP last year, and the ESA notes that there are over 65,000 employees at game companies across the nation currently, with the average compensation in 2016 being $97,000. All told, there are 2,322 developer locations across all 50 states with 526 publisher locations across 44 states.

As for the consumers pouring the money into the market, the ESA reports that 67% of US households now own a gaming device, with 65% of households being home to a person who plays at least three hours a week. As you might expect, the PC tops the list at 97% ownership, and smartphones aren't far behind at 81%. Consoles now sit at 48% and, interestingly, 11% of US households now have a VR device (which likely includes mobile VR). On that last point, ESA (citing EEDAR) also found that 1-in-3 of the "most frequent gamers" are likely to buy a VR device in the next year.

From a demographic perspective, it's interesting to note that adult women represent a greater portion of the video game-playing population (31 percent) than boys age 18 or younger (18 percent). That said, the under 18 male combined with the 18-35 male demo still comprises a larger segment (35%) than any other. The under 18 female combined with the 18-35 group stands at 21%. There seems to be the most room for growth with the female 36-49 age group, which sits at just 8%, so perhaps game developers should think more actively about how to appeal to that segment. Overall, the average gamer age is 35.

Looking at the genres that drive sales in the US games business, it's easy to see that violent games still play a very major role. Exactly half of the top 20 best-selling titles (as ranked by NPD) last year were rated M, with 50% of games falling into the action or shooter category. Shooter was tops at 27.5% , with action following at 22.5% and RPGs at 12.9%.

You can read about more findings in the full Essential Facts report here.

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James Brightman


James Brightman has been covering the games industry since 2003 and has been an avid gamer since the days of Atari and Intellivision. He was previously EIC and co-founder of IndustryGamers and spent several years leading GameDaily Biz at AOL prior to that.