Report: Majority of core gamers in the US prefer discs over digital

New study from the NPD Group finds that 74 percent of players would choose physical version over digital if pricing was the same.

The majority of core gamers in the United States prefer to buy their games on physical discs rather than digitally, according to a new study from research firm the NPD Group. When pricing is the same, 74 percent of respondents said they would opt for a physical disc over a download. Though physical media still reigns king for core gamers, a preference for digital is growing, up 5 percentage points compared to last year, the NPD Group said.

Also in the report, titled Core Gaming 2014, the NPD Group found that there are 34 million core gamers total in the United States. These gamers spend an average of 22 hours per week playing video games, the report found.

The NPD Group defines core gamers are those people who play games for at least five hours per week on Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PC, or Mac. In a statement, NPD Group analyst Liam Callahan said he expects the average time spent playing games will only increase as a result of the launch of the Xbox One and PS4 console generation.

"Core gamers are really the lifeblood of the industry, spending tremendous amounts of time on their hobby of choice," Callahan said. "With the new console generation off to a great start, we can expect the amount of time spent gaming to increase as more core gamers adopt them."

Of the 34 million core gamers in the US, around two-thirds (22.6 million), said they also play games for smartphones and other mobile devices. Core gamers are also big fans of multiplayer games, the report found, noting that around 70 percent of core gamers play multiplayer titles regularly or occasionally.

"Core gamers are an important part of the games industry and understanding their behavior is critical to anyone invested in the games space--especially considering the launch of the new consoles and the continued evolution of digital gaming," Callahan said.

If pricing is the same, would you opt for the physical or digital version of a game? Let us know in the comments below!

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and you can follow him on Twitter @EddieMakuch
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Eddie Makuch

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and would like to see the Whalers return to Hartford.
285 comments
tightwad34
tightwad34

It's nice to see 3/4 of people still prefer physical. I'm sure that figure will trend the other way as the "digital, or technological, age" starts getting older. I remember when there really weren't any cellphones and the internet was unheard of, both of which have severely dumbed down society, so of course I will always prefer physical.

Doddie
Doddie

physical hands down. 

Nev3rtime
Nev3rtime

I often pay a lot more for digital over physical. I wish the prices were equal. I can understand console companies not wanting to undercut retail prices but the contrast is huge. I'd have several times as many games as I do if the download prices were close to the same as disk prices.

Reasons I like downloads more:
1. I like having a large library of games at the push of a button.

2. I hate clutter.
3. Disks aren't as easy to buy in china. I'm not going to find a disk for my region locked uk Wii U in my local supermarket.
4. Disks can get damaged. 
5. Optical Disks are typically noisier than HD's. The optical dive in my Wii U is pretty much the only part that makes any significant noise.

6. Most indie games don't get retail releases. Digital gives them a chance to sell their games.


Reasons to like disks more:
1. Price.
2. You can swap games with friends. (I've not done that since I was a kid)
3. you can sell them. (I've never sold a game in the approximately 26 years I've been gaming)

BigBadBanther
BigBadBanther

Digital may be the future but with consoles only having 500gig hdd at the moment and some internet service providers capping bandwidth to around 40gig a month ( not even one game ) it is a distant future at the most.

I do not like the pricing of digital downloads ether, games seem to be over priced and the price never seems to drop I think on Xbox Battlefield 4 is around £55 still???

Unless these issues are sorted (HDD's will be soon) i think most people will still want a hard copy.

Triton
Triton

I will always want a disk over digital.

DVONvX
DVONvX

I'll would prefer the digital version if the price were the same. Its cool to be able to hop from one game to another on x1 instantaneously. I don't collect games..I don't see the point. And games are generally worth nothing pre-owned. By the time you buy a new game and beat it gamestop might give you $10 or something ridiculous..so resale value isn't any special either.  

purgeicd
purgeicd

There's a broad split on this one which needs to be taken into account: Console downloads are expensive and usually top price. In fact, more often than not, they're more expensive than buying a physical copy. PC on the other hand work out cheaper to use digital keys or just wait for a Steam sale. The only real exception to that is Origin, but then we all know EA's MO. The figures therefore are slightly inaccurate. How many of those 74% were console owners? Was there a balanced split between console and computer? The answer is doubtful. Also I don't see how next gen consoles are suddenly going to increase people's game times. That makes no sense. A gamer is a gamer is a gamer no matter what generation they own. If they're already playing games for 8 hours a day, a new console isn't going to change that. 

ECH71
ECH71

I really hate digital distribution networks holding games hostage, because that's exactly what's happening.

Sure it's not that likely but if Origin/Steam disappeared tomorrow, so will my collection of games.

Digital can be convenient but at the cost of freedom.

mattress805
mattress805

That's because not many gamers would pay 60$ for a download that has 0$ value after that. The reason the music industry became mainly digital downloas is because they're an album ranges from 6$ to 12$ dollars; people don't have a problem with that price point. But 60$ downloas? Forget about it. I would never spend that much on a download and I've never met anybody that did

gannon27
gannon27

I will always opt for a physical copy of a game if it's a game that I really want to collect and keep. Just like a book, I love also collecting the case especially if it's a limited edition. My favourite physical copy of a game in my collection is the limited edition of "Panzer Dragoon Saga" on the Saturn. Beautiful box of four cd's and amazing artwork.

jimmy_russell
jimmy_russell

Regardless of what studies find, digital is the way of the future and physical copies will be a thing of the past in the next couple of years.

jimmy_russell
jimmy_russell

If pricing was the same, why wouldn't I ask for more? Is there any more flawed logic behind this study, or is it all just a load of bullshit brought to us by our local game retailer?

kaziklu_bey
kaziklu_bey

It depends, I'll buy Witcher 3 on disc and with The Division will go digital.

taximplasm
taximplasm

I dislike that Digital downloads are the same price as a new disk,  without the art work or accessories. Also, storing the digital downloads quickly consume the consoles hard drive. Full price and no resale.

Gaming-Planet
Gaming-Planet

I'm digital with steam but consoles are another story since digital games aren't all that cheap on consoles.

scarred_fox
scarred_fox

always preferred disc when possible even if it means purchasing from the UK when some titles in the US are only digital. (i.e. Tomb Raider, Deus Ex: HR, Hitman: absolution)


the reason: install the game without waiting on download and when I've worked overseas as military and contractor, internet is ridiculously slow due to the amount of people and the service provider.

PlatinumPaladin
PlatinumPaladin

For me the benefits of physical far outweigh any benefit of digital. They would have to start charging a crazy amount for physical before I'd consider switching.

Gravity_Slave
Gravity_Slave

I have no problem with digital except that the prices are just as high. There's no reason to charge the same price. Digital should be cheaper for the fact that there is no material, transportation or production fees attached to digital. So why not charge gamers less??

lostn
lostn

I prefer discs for consoles, digital for handhelds. The 500GB HDD is not big enough for huge bluray games. And downloading them will take a long time with my connection. You can have maybe 10 of them installed, then you have to juggle which games to remove. Disc is quicker. And I like having artwork to put on my shelf. I like seeing my collection.

For handhelds switching cartridges is inconvenient when you're on the go. Most of my vita games are on a 64GB card. Very handy.

Martyr77
Martyr77

That's because core gamers aren't stupid. They would prefer to borrow and loan games with friends. They would prefer to actually sell their game if they choose. They would prefer to have that game forever rather than until a server goes down. Core gamers like discs better because they ARE better.

drfierce
drfierce

Remember the old PC/Amiga etc game boxes? I miss them. The Game Boy game boxes were equally good. You had the white cardboard bit inside that held the the wee plastic case that had all the fun inside. The joy

jako998
jako998

74% of those people ho prefer Disk re about to be very Disappointed in the next 4-6 years since we are moving towards more of the Digital Age now.  

GOGOHeadray
GOGOHeadray

Not shocking; With only 500 GB HDD's and games coming in at 40-50 gbs a pop, bandwidth restrictions, download times, etc. The disc medium is far from dead.

TheCyborgNinja
TheCyborgNinja

The problem I have is that console makers aren't trustworthy when it comes to digital content. The next system comes out and your whole library is trapped on the old hardware. With Steam, you can keep moving everything forward with you. The only digital games I have on consoles were either only available digitally or offered at such a steep discount I couldn't resist. Lastly, it's nice to not be permanently tied to a product you maybe don't like anymore.

PSYCHOV3N0M
PSYCHOV3N0M

Even if digital was CHEAPER than retail & no matter if I paid $300+ a month for Verizon FioS 500Mbps, I would NEVER EVER buy a digital game if there was a physical retail copy I could buy. It's called having OPTIONS. My games can collect dust on my shelf or I can loan it to a friend or I can sell it on ebay etc etc. Digital retail games take up space (7-8GB for last gen games or 30-40GB+ for next-gen games).


Even the 2TB hard drive in my PS4 won't last long.

nurnberg
nurnberg

Core gamers play an average of 22 hours a week?  Don't these people have no job?

Reagan2791
Reagan2791

Digital here. Used to prefer discs, but the convenience of not having to physically swap games, faster load times, and no danger of damaging a disc, all combined with less wear on my console makes digital my preference. Unfortunately, I can't get digital as cheap as a disc early in a game's life cycle.

xcollector
xcollector

The problem with digital is the DRM that MS / Sony / EA / Nintendo and Valve use. You don't own digital games you buy. You're buying an unlimited rental license. DRM locked digital games require permission from the overlords to play, thus requiring you to check in.

The exception is GOG and some humble bundle. You own DRM free digital games because you can back up, restore, and play them on any supporting system without permission from the overlords. GOG is the true savior of Gamers.

gajbutler
gajbutler

I do for consoles as I don't trust OEMs to keep their online service up forever, I want the ability to be able to play my games in 20 years.


On the PC I don't care, I can just torrent them without the need to ever get the hard copy out again.

youngzen69
youngzen69

If pricing is the same the physical version offers the best value for the money.

jimmy_russell
jimmy_russell

@taximplasm If a game is the same price digitally as it is in a retail store, you are getting ripped off. It's really that simple. Best thing to do is do some research and make sure you're not getting ripped off in the future.

jimmy_russell
jimmy_russell

@Martyr77 Trading, selling or borrowing your games is against the terms of service. Technically you should lose access to the license and your game should be bricked if you are caught doing either of these things. Publishers have been friendly to people like you for far too long, and it will all end soon.

TheCrapp
TheCrapp

@Martyr77 The game borrowing and selling, i understand (valid reasoning), but, as far as i know, you can play with a digital copy regardless if the severs are down or not

cnx2022
cnx2022

@jako998  How wrong. People have been saying that so long it is hilarious! Proof? Look at MS. They swore by the seat of their pants that we are in the digital era, and look what that cost them.


Please!

GOGOHeadray
GOGOHeadray

@jako998 No we are not; Gaming companies will always cater towards the majority demographic and right the majority of gamers have to deal with situations that make disc based gameplay more viable than a download only model.

Gravity_Slave
Gravity_Slave

Lol don't you have no schoolin?

FYI: 22 hours is not a lot of time. That only averages out to a little over 3 hours a day per week.

MrMan2000
MrMan2000

@xcollector  This.  


If I could maintain a digital games library like my music / video library I'd be happy to switch to digital.  But DRM prevents that, as you never know when something could happen that will disable your digitial copy.  As X says, we're really only buying a license.  

Gravity_Slave
Gravity_Slave

That's fine but it doesn't explain why consumers should have to pay the same price when they're getting less. All companies want to increase their profit margin, but they also want to stay competitive. That keeps up that margin as well

Martyr77
Martyr77

@jimmy_russell @Martyr77 Yes we should definitely not have the right to buy and sell items that we have bought legally. Just the same for cars and clothes too. Automakers have been friendly to people like you for far too long, and it will all end soon.


See what I did there? Kind of ridiculous huh?

hystavito
hystavito

@cnx2022 @jako998I think you both missed the point even though you quoted it :).  I said if they got together, MS did it alone.

And yes I do believe it will eventually happen, maybe not directly get together like some price fixing scheme or conspiracy, but they'll all just decide around the same time that the time is right.

hystavito
hystavito

@tableofjapan @jako998  No way they will stop playing games :).  If, I'm not saying it will surely happen, but if the industry players basically got together and said ok digital is just too good for us, let's all force it on people, it would probably work.


I've said it many many times in comments, gamers are super wimpy as consumers.  We want to play that new game too badly, and we'll put up with a lot of bull.


Let's face it, digital is awesome for business, it comes with so many advantages for them and so much control over the product.  Even worse than simply digital downloads is the push towards "games as a service" they always talk about, and fully streamed games.  Personally I do think they will eventually force it on us.

fillup0
fillup0

@GOGOHeadray @jako998  I reckon if they let you play your game off a USB at a mates house, I think digital will take over.

cnx2022
cnx2022

@hystavito @tableofjapan @jako998  "but if the industry players basically got together and said ok digital is just too good for us, let's all force it on people, it would probably work."




That is what Microsoft thought and tried at E3 2013 and look where that got them. Please!