PC download purchases nearing retail sales - NPD

Industry tracking firm says that US downloads of Windows-system games hit 21.3 million--just behind the 23.5 million sold at retail.

In its monthly sales estimates, the NPD Group only offers figures of physical retail sales of non-PC games, not digital downloads of Windows-based titles. Today, though, the US industry-research firm offered estimates for digital downloads for last year…and the results won't terribly astonish anyone familiar with PC gaming.

Blizzard's line of World of Warcraft credit is still open…very open, in fact.

For the 12 months ending December 31, 2009, some 21.3 million games were bought digitally in the US--roughly in line with the 23.5 million units sold at retail during the same year. Valve Software's Steam was the top online retailer, followed by Direct2drive, Blizzard.com, EA.com, and Worldofwarcraft.com--another extension of Blizzard's massive massively multiplayer empire.

Top Five Frontline Digital Retailers –2009 (based on unit % share)
1. Steampowered.com
2. Direct2drive.com
3. Blizzard.com
4. EA.com
5. Worldofwarcraft.com

Casual and social network gaming was also a big draw, said NPD analyst Anita Frazier. "The popularity of social network gaming increased from Q3’09 to Q4’09 as 4.8 million more people played games on a social network in the U.S.," she explained. "This demonstrates how consumers can now experience casual types of games through myriad vehicles, broadening the competitive landscape."

NPD also provided the list of top social and casual game designers, which was led by Seattle-based Big Fish Games. EA-owned Pogo.com was second, with Gamehouse.com in third, iWin.com in fourth, and Realarcade.com in fifth.

Top Five Casual Digital Retailers – 2009 (based on unit % share)
1. Bigfishgames.com
2. Pogo.com
3. Gamehouse.com
4. iWin.com
5. Realarcade.com

The NPD survey was based on responses from 8,000 consumers, and the resulting data is "weighted and projected to be representative of the U.S. population ages 2 and older." The industry research firm's normal data comes from a panel of over 180,000 individuals, whose habits are tracked via weekly studies.

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147 comments
mpeg3s
mpeg3s

As long as DRM permits offline usage and had no CPU load then I'm fine with it.

Leinhartx
Leinhartx

@Rottenwood I don't need to get out an ancient piece of hardware to replay my copy of starcraft. Nor did I have to hook up an ancient piece of hardware to play my ps2 games. I do not see how owning software is "over-rated"....as I also mentioned, If a service like steam goes down for any reason, or you lose your connection, you are SOL. and while it only takes "3 dollars" to replay your favs, I can do it for free since I still own them. But, to each their own...I guess..

neilbrady1989
neilbrady1989

Retail Shops: "They tooook our jeeeewwbs" "Durrkkkaa Duuurrrrr"

AzatiS
AzatiS

@Daian Not really , im an oldschoold Firefox user , like 5/6 years at least. Never even tried other browser all these years so really dont got a clue. Gl with that

Daian
Daian

@AzatiS Don't worry about it. Hey, u don't happen to have an idea why videos might have stopped working on this site on Chrome, do you? 'Cause i've been asking around here and all i'm getting is "use IE or Firefox " but this one works the best for me. I've tried uninstalling and installing it back, still not working. They just stopped working 2-3 days ago and refuse to cooperate :|.

AzatiS
AzatiS

@Daian I apologize , my bad i understood wrong

TheJamin
TheJamin

@toddx77 downloading vs installing from media. media will always win. the transfer speeds are much much higher. we'll have to wait for BT's 31st Century network for that sort of download speed! lol as for your game problems its hard to say without looking at your laptop or knowing your spec. just always ensure you meet or exceed the requirments before purchasing a game and keep your graphics drivers up to date. as for everyone leaching from steams servers.. maybe back in 2001 lol but judging from my very consistant download speeds i reckon they've got a server farm big enough to cater for the masses. it would more likely be your own broadband being the bottleneck. run a speed check at on and off peek times as you might be getting traffic shaped.

TheJamin
TheJamin

@adema83 if you back up your steam folder you'd have to regedit after a fresh install though? or am i mistaken?

Daian
Daian

@AzatiS Lol dude, that's exactly what i'm trying to say, u got the opposite, i'm a PC gamer :P. I didn't say all popular multiplayer games require very little, i said that most do so they don't have tons of kids on them, kids play console games they don't built themselves gaming rigs. U got me all wrong , what i mean is that besides old games that run on most PCs like Counter Strike, WoW ( it's pretty old now) and so on do have lots of kids on them and that pisses me off, but anything new u probably won't find to many. That's not the case for console games, they're full of kids and that's one very important reason why i prefer multiplayer on PC. That's what i was saying, it's far less frustrating without all those 10 year olds. I think u understood i was bashing PC multiplayer, lol, that's not gonna happen, i'm an avid PC gamer.

AzatiS
AzatiS

@Daian I totally disagree here. There are thousands of thousands subscribers to different games other than WoW that automatically makes PC a clear profit winner. And no , most of them need a decent PC to run them. Games as Aion , TERA and many more eye candy mmorpgs need at least a decent PC to play them and they already go millions subs around the globe.( specially in Korea) Best example : PC MW2 version got way more MP gamers daily on its servers than X360 + PS3 combined. And thats fact. And yes, you need a decent PC to run MW2. So m8 , youre wrong. If i add diachronical games that they like 10 years old ( counter strike , diablo 2 , starcraft etc etc ) And still thousands of PC gamers log in daily..... I dont know how you even think what you just trying to prove.... PC mp is simply unbeatable. For too many reasons.

melty3219
melty3219

I like PC games because you dont have to pay for the DLC, EA are idiots if they think I will pay $5 for extra costumes in ME2.

FMD129
FMD129

@toddx77 I was always wondering what would happen if steam died.... Oh, and as for your question. Anything downloading takes longer than instaling from a CD, just to put it simply, heres why in detail tough. What happens is having the CD in your drive INSTALS much, MUCH faster because the computer can read the CD for the data it needs instantly which makes for fast instals of even very large programs. When you DOWNLOAD something, it depends on a few factors. First, your internet connection type and the internet speed itself. Wifi will always be slower than an actual hardline or ethernet cable. Second, Im not 100% positive, but its a very high chance that since steam is such a large community, that, even if people arent downloading anything, its likely they cap the maximum download speeds any user can handle, as to make sure 20 billion downloads dont kill their servers lol. I can relate toddx77, My downloads and updates for anything using steam is like a slug.... a dead slug. And although I will never buy something from steam if I can get the physical copy (I love having the CDs and fancy cases xD) Its useful for games that arent availible anymore or Indy games.

smbius
smbius

I don't know. I like actually having the game in my hands. I'm the type of person that reads and owns actual books and not some file on an iPad/Kindle. I miss the days when big box PC games took over the shelves at EBGames and Babbages and included these lengthy manuals. I remember buying an Ultima game and it came with a cloth map, manual, etc. If everything were to go digital, it would be sad.

penpusher
penpusher

@toddx77 yes like any other download service the more people are on a server the longer it will take for a game to download

toddx77
toddx77

@TheJamin In this discussion last night someone asked the samething and it was said Valve said if that ever happens than all games will be patched and they will be ours. Also while on the topic of steam there is something I have been wondering. When I first downloaded Mass Effect back in June it was on my old lap top I got from 2007. The game downloaded in about an hour but when I launched it it was laggy like crazy and I couldnt even get past the Shepard customization. A week later I got my new laptop and Mass Effect took about 6 hours to download and this lap top was right out of the box. Also after it downloaded I would click on the Mass Effect icon and nothing would happen but than the next morning it worked. Than when I bought Mass Effect 2 I bought the disc and that only took 30 minutes to install. So does downloading a game from steam have different speeds if more people are on it or something?

Daian
Daian

@cricketboy2238 U misunderstood what i was trying to say, i didn't it doesn't count , i said it's the exception that confirms the rule. Basically any PC game that requires at least ok hardware to run well with decent graphics has far less kids in multiplayer than most 360 or PS3 games. That somewhat excludes MMOs too, they are not very picky in hardware, if they would be companies such as Blizzard wouldn't have as many subscribers.

Adema83
Adema83

@TheJamin That's why you back a game up after D/L, i personally have an external 1T HDD and just put my backups on there.

Ladiesman17
Ladiesman17

@SDBusDriver1979 in the modern era like now, I don't understand why there are still people using multiple box like SONY PS3,PS2,360,WII (Consoles) now it's all centered around PC, for music, movies, games, images, net-connections, why do you still use one tool for each activity. my living room like garbage!! with multiple trash!! LOL, :D you think where you live?? stone age / dark ages!!! it's modern day... dude!! :D :D you just wasting your money!! with that sit.. woooo...

SDBusDriver1979
SDBusDriver1979

@AzatiS and live with your DRM of having to have a connection to Ubisoft or EA's servers that are wonky and will disconnected whenever they feel like it. No thanks Valadmir I'll stick consoles.

AzatiS
AzatiS

PS3: "PC is dead. Period" X360: " Old news pal , wtf.. its dead like 5-6 years now? " Wii : " Stfu both of you , will ya? Im the master here and im telling you..My pal Wiimote tell me PCs in hell!"" PS3/X360/Wii : AAAAA "OMG!! , PS3: "wtf is that?" X360: What the.. Reminds me ....But its different..!! Wii : Its the fuking PC!!!!?? How?!! PC : " Yiaargg!! mofos!! you didnt beleive i was alive ha? Now eat my sit!!! will ya? PS3/Wii/X360 : "PC is a fuking zombieee!!? Ruuuuuun forests ruuuun!!! "" FACT : "" PC is far from dead consolites, live with it!! "

bowlingotter
bowlingotter

@syafiqjabar Exactly. There's no spyware in Steam, and these days, I do not notice the slightest performance difference in my gaming through Steam. The hardware has well surpassed that limitation even in the least expensive systems these days.

snake289
snake289

@ cricketboy2238 I've been a PC gamer for years and I can say that most games are NOWHERE near as bad as the 360 version in terms of community unless you count a poor console port filled with hackers like MW2. But due to most games having proper admin support and such if your on a decent server then the annoying kids mic spamming and such should get kicked.

cricketboy2238
cricketboy2238

@Daian Well if Counter-Strike doesn't count because it's too popular and old, then Halo 3 doesn't count because it runs on any Xbox 360 and is a few years old and runs for $30. I was a PC gamer for over a decade and I can tell you, after a decade's experience with the latest and greatest online shooters, that it's every bit as much of a cess pool as Xbox Live.

Pete5506
Pete5506

I still prefer to have the CD's

pelvist
pelvist

@parrot_of_adun No it hapens every time theres a new console generation, funnily enough.

Rottenwood
Rottenwood

@shadowysea07 I don't think data storage will be a real issue. Even the average Blu-Ray disc sits in at a mere 25 to 50 gigabyes; generic plug-and-play computers from Dell come with 2 terabytes of storage or more. Consoles have to play a bit of catch-up here, obviously, but developers and publishers know well the benefits of downloadable software and will be more than happy to lean on the manufacturers. I have no problem with hard drive clutter - just icons on a screen. And we're already dealing with the problem thanks to the early-model 360/PS3 units struggling just to contain save files, patch data, and the occasional DLC game or expansion. As for pricing competition, I don't really see the argument. Small developers are already seizing upon the DLC market as a way to get their work out there, since going through traditional brick-and-mortar channels would either be unfeasable or unprofitable. @Leinhartx Owning software is overrated. I've bought dozens if not hundreds of games in my life; most have long since been given to charity, forgotten, or thrown out. Who cares? If I need to play it again, Wii Arcade or Steam will have it for three dollars, and I won't need to hook up some ancient piece of hardware that may or may not work anymore, or have the right inputs.

santinegrete
santinegrete

@bowlingotter: Truth! I can relate when I play Left 4 Dead's in PC

atopp399
atopp399

I would say I am about 50/50 download to retail at this point. Steam is the only service I use. I do not like having to install a separate service download manager for every game I buy which is why I stick with Steam or retail. If I could just download the .EXE from any website that sold a game I would probably go 100% digital.

santinegrete
santinegrete

@syafiqjabar: With all those improvements they did since release, well as you said: it's an old wive's tale.

syafiqjabar
syafiqjabar

Also, people are still going on about Steam being a spyware and a memory hog? Isn't this old wive's tale?

syafiqjabar
syafiqjabar

Recently, Blizzard.com and Worldofwarcraft.com was merged. It was too recent for this survey.

daabulls23
daabulls23

PC gaming will always be around, no matter what happens. You can build a ridiculous system by yourself for under $1,000, (you haven't lived until you've seen a games like the Total War series and Company of Heroes maxed out) and I don't see Starcraft or Counterstrke dying anytime soon.

bowlingotter
bowlingotter

@raptures330 Take any cross-platform FPS game that encourages chatter. Play them on consoles and play them on PC. There is a sharp difference in the maturity of the majority of the players. Both platforms have their detractors, but the majority of the whiny, immature kids end up playing on the console networks for whatever reason. There's a lot of truth to the notion that the more mature players end up on the PC.

Leinhartx
Leinhartx

@Rottenwood I love steam too. but dude, ALL physical media gone? I don't think so. I would prefer to know my purchases are mine, and I can play them wether someones servers are up or not...

Shardz7
Shardz7

The PC gamers have to buy online if they want to get anything these days and really have no choice. The retail outlets are drying up with PC games leaving shelves to make way for more room for console games. Even some game companies who used to cater to the PC market are now watering down versions just to get them to scale to the consoles (Supreme Commander 2 anyone?) - meanwhile, PC gamers are left scratching their heads in amazement. I walk into Gamestop the other day...they have 11 PC games on a small shelf on the wall - the rest of the store is all console games and accessories. Frys now has a very limited amount of PC games while they have 4 aisles of console games and all the units up for playing with the new games running. Steam isn't the answer, either. I don't mind buying online and downloading it immediately, but I'm not going to tie my games to online copy protection or bog my system down with memory resident spyware crap and turn my PC into a store. I've made purchases at Gamersgate and that went fairly smooth and well, but I don't want or need spamware from Steam just to play a game.

monson21502
monson21502

im kinda shocked that dwnloads isnt higher then retail. because if you buy them online its alot cheaper for pc games most people i know either get them downloaded to their pc or they just get them free from pirate sites. i mean i never seen any ever buy a retail copy of a pc game. hell even the hotest console games gather dust in the pc games section.

shadowysea07
shadowysea07

@Rottenwood maybe you would like physical games to be gone good for you but people like me who don't feel like paying 60 bucks for every game that would come out don't. dlc allows little to no competition in the market no way to purchase other than setting up an account and in 360's case a paid monthly subscription. you don't own these games so when live and the psn stops after the next xbox/ps4 comes out there goes your purchase. you need internet to buy and play dlc games on the 360 so no internet = no game. the biggest problem is that they take up too much space. i couldn't imagine how much space a game like final fantasy 13 or star ocean would take up as dlc. so instead of cluttering your house they would be cluttering your harddrive.

cowmaster2k3
cowmaster2k3

Steam is one the greatest things to grace PC gaming

spudster007
spudster007

Is anybody surprised? If you can buy a game without having to drive to the store, then why not do it? The only downside is you don't get a box with the disc in it and a manual you wouldn't read anyway.

drokmore
drokmore

This isnt suprising. Now with quality internet connections, its easier to download then go to the store.

Abberon
Abberon

I buy all my PC games on Steam. Compared to Direct2Drive, it's 100x better. Direct2Drive makes me log on to their website every few places to find my game key and 'reactivate' every 4-5 plays and it's the most annoying thing in the world. Steam is great because I buy the game, have it for life, get it automatically updated and I don't have to worry about losing the CD or CD key. I love gamestop for console games (trade-ins etc) but since I can't do that for PC games anyways then there's no point in me going there.

slimanious
slimanious

When I bought HL2 about 6 years ago and it came with Steam i hated it (because i got a slow internet back then). Time past and soon I started loving it. Surely "Love Takes Time" BTW Steam just released Alien Swarm for free ^_^

Rottenwood
Rottenwood

As somebody with no particular dog in the fight, I can assure that the on-line community is not much better on the PC than on any of the consoles. World of WarCraft was a nightmare, for example. I can't say enough good things about Steam, though. The sales on there are amazing and I've managed to archive a bunch of long-lost classics (X-Com, for example) for a couple of dollars apiece. The sooner we get rid of physical media, the better. The image of a game room needing only a few machines and some furniture, with no clutter, is a beautiful thing. Of course, I'll miss those trips to GameStop... the loud children screaming at each other at the test consoles, the cashiers that push a dozen useless add-ons at you because their idiot higher-ups demand it, the in-store 'television channel' that makes you want to punch the hosts, the piles of terrible used games piled up like some yard sale from hell...

wcw6
wcw6

PC FTW! LOL @ PC naysayers, we have always laughed at your ridiculous statements time and time again that PC Gaming is dying, while we quietly snap up games for as cheap as $2 and great epic games at huge discounts and spend months to years playing them. Now you all can DIAF.

cwhein
cwhein

I love Steam. I was skeptical when Half-Life 2 was released but now I'm a true believer. And someone mentioned the weekend deals and holiday sales - I pick up every good $4.99 and $9.99 game - sometimes even if I have the game on disc. I also appreciate the game tracking. I've played NBA2K10 for 257.5 hours :-)

Daian
Daian

@raptures330 U know what, u're right about MMOs, i apologize, i should have mentioned i don't take into account MMOs because i find them to be wastes of time and aggravating exactly because of all the douchebags that play them (if i wanted to go get pissed off by pricks i'd play them and any FPS multiplayer on a console). That's why if u do decide to play any , u should do so with a bunch of friends not strangers that may turn out to be morons. As for the kids in forums, well ,we all know that's a load of bull. Most of the kids on any non-MMO forum are console fanboys,even here on GS. If people complain about performance issues, they usually have a right to do so, if devs can make a game work 100% fine on 5 year old hardware (consoles) than they can certainly do the same for PCs, they sometimes just don't put in the effort and that's why people get pissed of for good reason (being treated like second hand customers). As for the trolls, they are everywhere. Trolling isn't PC exclusive, it's not even gaming exclusive, it's just a regular part of your everyday internet. And one more thing , us PC gamers don't fart rainbows, BUT we do however shoot lightning out of our arse like Braveheart. Have a nice day.

magnus29
magnus29

Well video cards are getting so powerful that games being released now and the far future I predict...will still run excellent on a 2 or 3 year old card...You can build a rig that will play what you want for 6 to 7 hundred dollars maybe less. I usually go custom but bought a Dell XPs with just a lil 5770 in it runs everthing I throw at it maxxed. My point is Pc gaming is affordable and digital Down loads are convienant. I live in a smaller town so finding Pc games is a hassle

Daian
Daian

@cricketboy2238 I was expecting this reply from somebody :P. It's true, but that's pretty much the exception that confirms the rule. The reason why that happens to be true is because CS is a really old (and really popular ) game that u can play on any PC ( CS source is very undemanding as well) so u don't need to be a PC gamer to play CS thus making it accessible to kids that have low end PCs mostly for homework (MS Office and so on). Play Bad Company 2 multiplayer on PC then try it on 360. It's a hole different experience. So many less headaches on PC.

raptures330
raptures330

@Daian "one of the best things about PC gaming is that the multiplayer is free of 10 year old douchebags since PC gamers are pretty much grown ups who know what they're talking about ." Permit me to laugh at this ridiculous statement. Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaahahahahahahhahahaha. No wait... still more left. Hahahahahahahahaha. Yeah, MMOs are full of mature people as are the airwaves of any game with VOIP. I guess there are no vent/ts trolls either. The forums for PC games are not full of whiny little brats that need and want everything rebalanced or of people with half-built namebrand computers complaining that the game does not work on their POS rig and they all voice themselves in mature ways. Also, some of them fart rainbows. More mature people in PC gaming. Epic.