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ESA report shows digital filling retail shortfall in US

NPD data show digital on up, high faith in ratings and average gamer age of 37

A new report by the Entertainment Software Association, which runs E3, has shown a continued increase in the market share for digital software, alongside a slight market shrink and a rise in the adoption of casual gaming.

The report begins with a quote from ESA president and CEO Michael D Gallagher, setting the report's somewhat biased stall out early.

"It is critical that we support economic sectors that create jobs, develop innovative technologies and keep America competitive in the global marketplace," writes Gallagher.

"The video game industry is one of those important, high-tech economic drivers. Our industry generates over $25 billion in annual revenue, and directly and indirectly employs more than 120,000 people with an average salary for direct employees of $90,000."

The report shows the North American market has shrunk marginally, from $16 billion in 2009 to $15.9 billion in 2010, but last year $5.8 billion of that was made up of 'other delivery formats' as opposed to $5.4 billion in 2009. Those other formats include, not just digital downloads, but casual, social, mobile and subscription titles.

$2.94 billion was spent on peripherals in the territory last year, with a further $6.29 billion on hardware.

Much of the data suggests the market is broadening considerably, off-setting a reduced spend by core markets with increased penetration into demographics with more money but less time, who are more likely to indulge in Facebook Scrabble than Call of Duty deathmatch.

  • 72 per cent of US households play games
  • The average age of a North American gamer is 37
  • In 2010, 29 per cent of North American gamers were over 50
  • 58 per cent are male
  • 55 per cent play games on phones or handhelds
  • The average adult gamer has played for more than 12 years
  • 68 per cent of American parents believe "game play provides mental stimulation or education"
  • 59 per cent believe "that computer and video games provide more physical activity now than five years ago"
  • 98 per cent are confident that ESRB ratings are accurate

The trends in the report are continuing ones, but the data, sourced from NPD, reflects an increased importance being placed upon the digital market, thanks to an improved tracking of download titles. Nonetheless, a lack of input from leading online PC download service Steam means that there are certainly gaps in the figures, despite a conscious split of computer (PC) and video (all other) games in the paper.

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