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Why do gamers still buy physical games?

We teamed up with GameTrack to ask them

The physical games market may be in decline, but it remains a hugely lucrative area that's worth billions of dollars worldwide.

Indeed, when it comes to AAA launches, an estimated 75% of an average game's sale still comes via physical goods sold via Amazon, GAME, GameStop and the rest.

We teamed up with ISFE and Ipsos Mori's GameTrack consumer survey to ask buyers of physical games why they choose boxes over downloads.

For buyers across Spain, UK, France and Germany, the main reason for gamers acquiring physical items is because they simply like having a boxed collection. Out of the 3,090 boxed game buyers surveyed (representing 15.3 million people), 32% said that owning a collection is why they chose physical over digital.

The second most popular answer is due to price. 18% of respondents say they bought a physical item because it was discounted in store, while 13% said it costs less money to buy games physically.

Another big reason for owning physical is the ability to lend a game, sell a game or gift a game to other people. 17% said they buy physical so they can play the game in different locations or lend to a friend/family member, while 13% said they want the ability to give the game to someone else. 12% said they like the ability to sell the game when they are finished.

AAA games are still mostly sold in boxes

In terms of technical limitations, 7% say they chose physical due to poor internet speed, 5% because their internet access it limited and 10% said it was due to the amount of memory a game eats up on their hard-drive.

Interestingly, issues around needing a credit or debit card for online retail - a popular reason cited by High Street retailers as to why physical games are still important - came lowest in the survey. Just 3% said their decision to buy boxed games was due to the lack of a credit card or PayPal account, 4% said they don't like inputing personal information online, while a further 5% said they didn't trust online retailers with their details.

Other reasons for choosing physical included the appeal of special and collector's editions (6%), proximity to the shops (9%) and not finding the game to download (6%).

Why do gamers buy digital?

In addition to this survey, GameTrack also asked UK, French, German and Spanish gamers who download titles why they do that over buying physical.

The most popular reason for download was price. 30% said it as cheaper to buy digitally than physically, while 20% said they bought digitally because of discounting.

16% of respondents said they liked downloading because it means they could have all of their games wherever they go.

15% said they buy digital because the games they bought weren't available physically - which suggests that maybe they would have bought a physical version if it were available.

15% also said they bought digitally because they wanted to play the game immediately as they saw it on Xbox Live/PSN/Steam, and a further 11% said it is because they don't want to leave their home. Another 7% said they buy digital as there are no shops near where they live, while 7% also said they like to pre-order and play the game the moment it is released.

Another reason cited by 10% of respondents is that physical games simply take up too much space.

Other reason include having a code/online voucher to use (9% of respondents) and wanting to access the season pass and other online extras (6%).

Overall, 23% of respondents say they now prefer to buy full game downloads rather than physical discs or cartridges.

For more information on Ipsos Mori's GameTrack service, click here.

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Christopher Dring avatar

Christopher Dring

Head of Games B2B

Chris is a 15-year games business veteran. He spent nine years at UK business weekly MCV, including five years as editor. He joined GI in 2016 and oversees editorial, sales and events worldwide. He is the architect behind Best Places To Work Awards and GI Live. And is a tiny bit obsessed with market data. He also writes for Doctor Who Magazine. Because Doctor Who is awesome.

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