US PC game downloads surpass retail sales - NPD

Industry tracking firm finds 57% of Windows games bought online during first half of year; brick-and-mortar still more lucrative.

by

In July, The NPD Group offered a surprising report on the state of PC gaming, saying that nearly the same number of games for desktop platforms had been downloaded through online channels as were bought at retail in 2009. Today, NPD announced a changing of the guard for PC software sales, as more games were bought in a digital format during the first half of 2010 than purchased at retail.

Valve's online portal Steam is the digital download kingpin.

From January to June 2010, 11.2 million PC games were purchased and downloaded from an online source, according to NPD, compared to 8.2 million physical units sold at retail during the same period. NPD notes that the first half of 2010 is the first time in which digital PC game sales have surpassed their retail counterpart.

"One major finding from this latest report is that the 'big got bigger' in the first half of 2010, with both Steam and Bigfish capturing a bigger share of full-game PC games digital download sales than they did last year," commented NPD analyst Anita Frazier.

Though taking the crown in terms of unit sales, digital downloads still lost out to retail in terms of dollars earned. Retail outlets pulled in 57 percent of revenues during the period, compared to a 43 percent share for digital sales. NPD attributed this discrepancy to a higher average selling price for retail games.

Unfortunately, PC gaming as a whole has largely tanked this year. NPD notes that revenue from both digital and physical PC games is down 21 percent during the first half of 2010, while unit sales have slipped 14 percent during the same period of time. The trend echoes the console and handheld US software retail market, which is down 8 percent this year through August, according to NPD's most recent report.

"The overall decline of PC games when combining sales via both digital downloads and physical retail sales is impacted by the expansion of social network gaming as well as the continued expansion of free game options," Frazier said of the declines.

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.

Top 5 Frontline Digital Retailers--Jan.-June 2010 (based on unit % share)
1. Steamgames.com
2. Direct2drive.com
3. EA.com
4. Worldofwarcraft.com
5. Blizzard.com

Top 5 Casual Digital Retailers--Jan.-June 2010 (based on unit % share)
1. Bigfishgames.com
2. Gamehouse.com
3. iWin.com
4. Pogo.com
5. Wildtangent.com

Discussion

379 comments
Targzissian
Targzissian

@ lxtb2o24Gordan I'm a PC gamer myself. I have a PS3, but I mostly use it for watching Blu-rays.

HardCore_PC_Gmr
HardCore_PC_Gmr

@Humorguy_basic Part 2 Also, more importantly, let me emphazise this, reshaping of PC gaming and using digital distribution are whole two different things. In other words, if a game is bad, it is still bad if it is bought from a digital distributor. But, also there is a benefit of using digital distributor like Steam. Under the Steam's roof, there is a huge community which also helps the development of PC gaming industry in general in may ways. Take care and best regards.

HardCore_PC_Gmr
HardCore_PC_Gmr

@Humorguy_basic Part 1 As you already know, time needed to burn a DVD is just a few seconds, you do not have to wait in front of your computer, or at the same you may do something different, browse the net, etc. At mostyou may need to insert second DVD which takes also a few seconds. Alternatively, you may also backup to another backup media, another harddisk, etc. if you wish. Also, if someone needs to hard copy of game manual, it just prints which takes about a few seconds of your time (manual can be 1000 pages, again, you do not have to wait in front of your computer, or at the same you may do something different, browse the net, etc.) Moreover, there is anohter side of the coin, like when you go to retailer shop, which also takes much more of your time, also this, if it is not near to your house, you may either driver your car which burns gas which means money, or alternatively when you use bus, metro, etc. you can spend some money for the ticket, etc. You just have to cope and wait much longer when you use retailers. Simply, the cost of games bought using digital distribution channel is lower than the the games bought from retailer stores.

Humorguy_basic
Humorguy_basic

@HardCore_PC_Gmr, so with modern games being more than 7.4GB were talking about multiple double density DVD's or dozen's of CD's, then, with the time needed to burn them, quite a few hours where gaming is not possible. So a modern download costs the same with no DVD case, manual, map etc and you are the one having to spend more time, money and energy on top to burn your own disks. Publisher's are going to be raking in the profits and we'll all have even less time for PC gaming as we spend all our time burning DVD's and printing pdf manuals! What a great hobby it will be when we get to that point - and you all think PC gaming won't continue to shrink because of all this crap that we will have to do now?!

Humorguy_basic
Humorguy_basic

Well - to all my detractors, which I totally expected (but thanks for not flaming me!), I would say time will let us see. Last year saw the fewest number of PC releases ever. Gamespot reviewed fewer PC games than ever, and we have the fewest number of retail stores carrying PC titles. If and when it goes totally download, the PC market will shrink even faster as young children who go shopping with their parents will only ever see consoles and console games in the stores. With DOSBox having 6 million downloads and GOG.com having 2 million download purchases in the last two years, it's quite obvious that more and more PC gamers are already giving up and playing retro titles. I can't blame them for spending more and more time on retro PC titles, because what's coming out on PC? I bought Napoleon Total War in February, and i'll probably be buying he Witcher 2 in November, but there's been nothing to interest me in the intervening 8 months, and this is the case for many PC gamers...!

Richardthe3rd
Richardthe3rd

@Humorguy_basic You said "PC gamers are different, we don;t say, as you imply, that we want 'PC exclusives', what we want are PC only games because they will be written for the PC gamer! " That's not quite what I said. I said that PC gamers, and really console gamers as well, don't need a rolling wave of exclusives to keep them happy with their platform; if the game is good enough the community can keep games rolling and keep a community alive for many years after the game hits. I'll add to that by saying that games that aren't exclusive can still be great. Look at Dragon Age, Mass Effect, SSFIV, and many others. Exclusivity is increasingly becoming a moot point when considering a console and I hope this continues. Publishers are realizing this practice is shooting themselves in the foot and gamers are demanding games, not consoles. Just get Sony and M$oft to play ball and this artificial mess disappears.

BloodMist
BloodMist

I thought they already pointed this out last year.Hmm.Anyway, I must say, anybody who is leery of digital download games, needs to stop being paranoid, because that's all you're doing.None of these services are magically going to disappear anytime soon, obviously, since they're incredibly successful, and none of them act anything like spyware or malware or anything like that.You're just plain stupid if you think they do.You also probably think Norton and Mcafee don't act like that, when they certainly do, that's how dumb you must be.

HardCore_PC_Gmr
HardCore_PC_Gmr

------------- Firstly, games bought from Steam can be backup to DVDs. So, alternatively, after deleting your games, if you want to re-play your games, you may restore your games from your backup DVDs instead of downloading them from Internet. So, you are not limited to your harddisk or the usage of internet (to download them again) to store and to replay your games. Secondly, Steam offers "Offline Mode" which means the usage of internet is not compulsory (i am not talking about some games which requires constant internet connection as DRM). So, simply; 1. Digital download does NOT mean that you loose your independency in playing your games, 2. Digital download also may mean having physical copies of your games (what makes different a DVD burn by you and a DVD bought from a retailer? a colorful label on DVD?). Note: PC Gaming Now and Forever !. Best regards. -------------

rogue81
rogue81

@Humorguy_basic: I can see your point about the digital downloads. However, you're just as likely to lose your physical library to fire, flood, earthquake, theft, hurricane or tornado. Don't think that just because you can put your hands on what you own that you can defend it all from everything. Most of my physical library are games that won't even run on my machine anymore made from developers that no longer exist. So I guess nothing lasts forever. What I don't understand is why people like you are so dead set against digital downloads.

Humorguy_basic
Humorguy_basic

@Richardthe3rd You say you don't understand the argument about how there are fewer PC exclusives compared to console and see that just as fanboys crowing about their machine. You have misunderstood completely. When a PS3 gamer crows about an exclusive, that is a fanboy quote. PC gamers are different, we don;t say, as you imply, that we want 'PC exclusives', what we want are PC only games because they will be written for the PC gamer! When I am playing a game like Jade Empire or Mass Effect on my PC, I know I am playing a console style game converted for my PC. When I am playing The Witcher I know I am playing a PC style game that is deeper, requires more IQ, and has a more sophisticated gameworld and NPC's! This has nothing to do with saying 'Look at my PC exclusive', it's all about knowing that unless it is PC only, or at least PC first, it is NOT going to be more to PC gamers liking, There's a reason a PC only game like STALKER sold as many copies as the PC version of Mass Effect or Bioshock. It's because PC gamers prefer 'PC style' games!

Humorguy_basic
Humorguy_basic

For all the people so in love with digital download. Do you think all the internet retailers will be around for ever? Do you think they will never change the rules? How safe would you feel with 3 terrabyte of games sitting on a server and not sitting in 20 boxes on your shelves? Would you feel nervous that that server didn;t go down? That they don;t lose your account? That your account isn't hacked or the server hacked? As long as people have 500gb of games on servers and a 750gb hard drive I can see why people wouldn't be too worried, but already I am sure there are plenty of Steam customers that do not have the hard disk space to install all the games they've bought. In 2-3 years, when we have more of our gaming collection on servers, this will become more of a worry, certainly versus those of us that have have boxed game collections sitting on our shelves...!

xXFr34k_0uTXx
xXFr34k_0uTXx

@ xxxAdvocatexxx Music is much different than gaming. Music is exact and precise, and there isn't different "forms" of music. However, I can't walk around and play Starcraft 2 on my handheld. That's just not going to happen. I understand where you're coming from, but gaming is much broader than simply listening to a song or an album.

jkrieski
jkrieski

@eht Every argument you have made against steam is unfounded. You complain about the gfwl crap and the punk buster crap and patching as reason why you prefer a hardcopy over a steam digital copy. Problem is Steam has NOTHING to do with all that, if its on the game it is reguardless of if its a hard copy or digital copy. I have hardcopies of Battlefield 2 and 2142 and both require punkbuster, has nothing to do with steam. Same with GFWL, i have games that have it that arnt on steam. Its not like they add that to steam games just because, your gonna get that with a hard copy as well. And as far as patching goes, you CAN patch a game manually that you bought through steam! All you have to do is d/l the patch and redirect it to its steam install folder instead of its normal location. I dont know where you get your ideas from, but you should look some of this up before you start hating on steam. Modding and patching works just as well on steam games as it does on hard copy games.

magusat999
magusat999

@tomtomwolfwolf I think when people say "graphics aren't everything" what they mean is graphics aren't so important that great graphics replace gameplay. If graphics were "everything" people certainly would not be flocking to consoles, because the graphics on consoles cannot come close to what the PC can deliver. It's the balance between great graphics, great gameplay, and replayability (bang for the buck) that make up the "trinity" of a top of the line game - and deficiencies in any of those areas degrade the game experience.

Gooeykat
Gooeykat

@rarson It's pretty obvious that I was joking. At least least I thought it was.

Triton
Triton

Now if only the prices will drop since they do not have to print the paper products that go along with it. Just downloaded Civ5 due to the fact that they think they are saving the planet by not printing the instructions for the hard copy of the game anymore. Guess they pocket the savings by shorting us what we paid for?

rarson
rarson

Downloaded media is the future. Even game consoles will eventually move to it. Why? Because after a few decades of collecting game boxes, you realize that you'd rather have everything all in one box (the console). It's why I own a PS2 and not a single game disc for it anymore: because I don't feel like keeping shelves of discs that I have to change out every time I want to play a random game when I can simply boot the thing off a hard drive. Digital media is more convenient, more compact, more portable, and harder to lose, and with Steam, this is even more so the case. Plus, it saves game companies the cost of designing and providing packaging. These are all reasons why digital music distribution is so popular. I'll be the first to admit that I actually go out and buy CDs from my favorite artists (directly from them, if possible), not only to support them but to have a physical copy for my collection. But the artists I'm not a ridiculous fan of, I settle for digital copies, because I simply don't need that extra stuff. Although, we're fast approaching a point where a physical CD, which at this point is ancient technology (why the heck don't we have a medium that uses a 192k sampling rate and 24-bit audio?), and a nice jewel case aren't enough to justify spending money on. Maybe if the music industry pushed a higher-quality medium forward, hard copy sales would actually increase (and don't jack up the price because we know CDs cost a few pennies to press).

tomtomwolfwolf
tomtomwolfwolf

and to people who say "graphics don't matter".well,they do. maybe you are the stereotype,console games are basically arcade games.i used to play games like that untill a few years ago,when crysis came out.when the graphics and art design are good enough,it makes the game better,the world more immersive and believable,which adds to the experience.i like to feel what the devs wanted me to feel in their game.not just overlook it and scream NOOB,HEADSHOT in the mic/chat.i belive that games will either turn out as a medium for stories or just get so commercial it will die(which i fear will happen)

rarson
rarson

@Gooeykat "By 'free options' I assume he means piracy" No, actually he means games that are free to play, like Quake Live, Need For Speed World, and more casual browser-based games.

tomtomwolfwolf
tomtomwolfwolf

@JohnisGodd actually,on PC,people can change the "script" i belive you mean code.has been done,and still is.

loopy_101
loopy_101

Honestly, the PC games industry isn't dying - it is only progressing elsewhere. Funny how the next gen consoles are paraded for their DLC and online content when the computer has always been a step further than that with Steam. 'Nuff said really.

GabrielOnuris
GabrielOnuris

@JohnisGodd Posted Sep 21, 2010 4:32 pm GMT -3 "...You can't make a game look better than it was designed to." Hmm... Actually, on PC you can, my friend. There is some unofficial patches that make games look better than it once were. By now, I remember that you can find these kind of patches for Carmageddon, Tomb Raider, Oblivion and I heard about doing this on Starcraft 2, though I don't know if it's bogus or not. So, @disposition000's argument didn't fail at all.

Avenger1324
Avenger1324

There was me thinking that finally someone had got Valve to release their sales figures, until down near the bottom of the article it reveals all of this is based on a survey of just 8,000 people in the US. Also makes you wonder just how accurate they are - steamgames.com?? Think you'll find it's steampowered.com. and those are the top 5 casual digital retailers? I've never heard of 4 of those. bigfish? I don't think so. If you want to come out and pretend you have knowledge on sales figures for digital distribution, then atleast get hold of some actual sales figures. Trying to compare actual sales figures from retail stores, with a survey of a small sample just isn't going to give you reliable results

kiramasaki
kiramasaki

@stake, im just talking about experience I used to only play pc games, since the snes, i have only played two pc games diablo and diablo II; same with my friends, i honestly know maybe 1 or 2 people who actually still heavily play pc games , while 20 plus who play mainly xbox or ps3

hooded1man
hooded1man

This is pretty obvious, since you cant buy PC games in stores pretty much anywhere.

the_mitch28
the_mitch28

@Humorguy_basic Oh calm down, the whole industry is down on last year not just PC. Also why diss indy games? Small time developers are one of the pros of being a PC gamer, if you want shallow first party exclusives go ahead and buy a console already.

Philly1UPer
Philly1UPer

@ JohnisGodd It isn't just about graphics cards. You need a good motherboard/processor and atleast 2 to 4 gigs of ram to get the full use out of you're PC and Graphics cards. They may have settings but most games look better on a PC then they do on a console. Gamespot does the graphic comparisons with the 360 and PS3...but they never do them with the PC as well. and it'll most likely be because the PC would win most of the time. MW looks better on PC, Left 4 Dead looks better on a PC, hell look at the first Crysis, probably one of the best looking PC games ever created.

GabrielOnuris
GabrielOnuris

Piracy is not part of computer alone; is part of humanity... Consoles has its part of piracy too, everything has... Maybe some of the newer consoles doesn't, but it's just a matter of time. There is no perfect anti-piracy system.

JohnisGodd
JohnisGodd

@disposition000 No. Pc games have settings...you could have the worlds greatest graphics card but if the game isn't scripted to utilize it to it"s full potential you won't get the full potential. You can't make a game look better than it was designed to. So your argument fails. Although I agree with you.

ebookerd1
ebookerd1

@grapiX I do!!! LOL But dude I totally agree with you 100%. But I my self went legit and purchase all my software. It may be at a discounted rate but it is original and new.

GabrielOnuris
GabrielOnuris

@ Richardthe3rd Totally agreed. Just because such game is exclusive, it doesn't mean it's the best, must-have title. It serves only ( and for nothing more) to involve it in a measuring contest with the players of other platforms. The adrenalin of the game is totally put aside in behalf of a simple and childish way to say: "I have an exclusive and you don't"...

grapiX
grapiX

the big deal is.. u cant kill piracy.. piracy is a part of computer.. just like a virus.. imagine how expensive pc will be?! if all of the things is original.. just tell me here who has a genuine microsoft word here?

Richardthe3rd
Richardthe3rd

Another thing I'm seeing in this topic that I don't understand; "PC doesn't get as many exclusives as consoles do now." The fact of the matter is, as a gamer I don't really need that many exclusive titles. Many of the PC titles I play are at least 5 years old. Many player groups have members who work in the industry who create content, like maps, levels, etc., that are of high quality and free. That doesn't exist on consoles, so they require more games to keep the platform refreshed. Or DLC, which is a whole other can of worms... The only type of person who cares about exclusives are those involved in a **** measuring contest with players of the opposing platforms; everyone else just plops down the cash and plays the game. There's two types of games, no matter whether you're a PC player or a console player; those you can play and enjoy 10 years later, or those you strip clean and leave in the dust. Exclusives can fall in either category; they're nearly meaningless in my book on their own merits. Also, the "10 years later" titles will transcend the consoles they were released on; just look at VC and XBLA if you don't believe that.

disposition000
disposition000

@ da_chub If you played PC games on your 47 inch HDTV you'd realize that you don't know what you're talking about, granted you have a good enough video card. But had you bought one instead of a PS3 (being that for the same price you could've gotten an amazing video card that puts your PS3 to shame) you wouldn't be saying what you're saying. Console games look/play how THEY(the man) want them to. PC games look/play how YOU want them to. If you don't care about that then by all means, add a console to your Fisher Price/Nerf collection. PC's are and will always be for enthusiasts.

rogue81
rogue81

I've been away from home for 2 months now, and I took my laptop with me to keep me entertained. Then Starcraft came out, and I was forced to realize my laptop hadn't the balls to play it. So I bought a new laptop. Since I registered SC2 with blizzard, iwas able to download the game straight from blizzards servers as well as my copies of WoW, Warcraft 3 and the original Starcraft. The same goes for my library of games on steam. In a short amount of time I was able to get my new laptop up to speed with my physical library 2000 miles away. I also like the feeling of holding what I paid for in my hands, but it's just not reasonable to carry all of my games with me.

DazNuke
DazNuke

PC games aint gonna sell all the time scum bags torrent them...

GabrielOnuris
GabrielOnuris

I still couldn't see the point of "PC game is dying"... Some people say there isn't a lot of exclusive titles for PC, but for consoles, there isn't either. Are you talking about this "portability age" we are facing? It's no big deal, because games are being made for almost all platforms nowadays, it's not a "PC game death", it's a tendency; what games from the 90's are you speaking of? Doom? Tomb Raider? Duke Nukem? You can play them (and a lot more) on consoles like PS1 and Nintendo 64; if some people are complaining about release dates, yes, some games were released for PC before it was release for consoles; whats the difference? You get the game the same way! It's not because PC is dying, it's because PC gamers are a lot more demanding than console ones, no offense, it's the truth, console gamers be happy with anything they toss to them, and cause of that, the devs wait a little more to release games for PC. And PC has a lot of exclusives besides valve's and Blizzard's titles too, make a search and you will find a lot of RTS games; some people might prefer a run-of-the-mill shooter instead, but it's exclusivity you are wanting, aren't you?!

Choad-Warrior
Choad-Warrior

@Keitha313 Don't get me wrong, two posts prior or so someone claimed current gen graphics on a console compare to a $2K PC, and that just isn't so. It is a flat fact a $2K rig can run games way smoother and much better. Then I followed up saying I would love me a system like that. I am content with what I have, and more than content with my consoles performance.

To be honest, graphics and art direction do matter. Not as much as gameplay or story, but I won't deny that there is an appeal to a game that looks good.

subrosabmxftw
subrosabmxftw

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

Threesixtyci
Threesixtyci

Heh... fanboys is a console term. And I've been hearing that the PC is dying for over 10 years, now.... yet it's still alive. And there is always a video card going for over 500 bucks a pop and they're selling.... as in, someone's buying them.

Dynamo11
Dynamo11

Nothing will ever beat a physical copy. Just it adds a certain more "personal" feel to the game.

FakeLeather
FakeLeather

Yeah eht, I use Steam a lot and my heart also stops beating for a couple of seconds every time I fire it up. Its not that I'm really terrified of my account getting hacked and losing the games forever, I just don't wanna go through the hassle of getting my stuff back, even though its pretty quick and painless the set up is far from perfect... I also have nightmares of some angry German kid playing MY Steam games sometimes ;)

TerrorRizzing
TerrorRizzing

@ Humorguy_basic you could say the same thing about console gaming, look at what was happening with the ps1 compared to the ps3... its a multiplat world now Im sorry. Even compare the snes to the wii, they had much better game libraries back then. and dont try to fool me into believing that there was 50 great pc games a month, there were 100s of crappy games for every one system shock and you know it. People still have some weird view of the past, its all bs. Dont believe me? Look it up on this site, gamespot.com has been around for a long time. I think your problem is, youre mistaken console gmaing growing for pc gaming dying... these arent the same thing at all! There is a such thing as a multiplat game, I suggest you get used to it. The games you listed mostly all sold poorly, exclusive or not... get over it. Meanwhile Ill play games like the witcher, risen, dragon age, torchlight, starcraft 2 etc.. and enjoy them... while you cry about system shock becoming bioshock and going multiplatform. And I really cant see how only 20% of noteworthy console games come to pc, its really like 90%. Dont agree, try to prove me wrong. Now if you cant accept it, hang up your keyboard and mouse now... you dont deserve it.

TerrorRizzing
TerrorRizzing

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

OgreB
OgreB

About time they started reporting on line / download sales. Now the disparity between consoles and PC sales is not such an issue anymore. As far as how many games that come out for each....just look at the quality..not the quantity. Sure consoles have a lot more games ( and even I wish a few would be ported to the PC) But then again I have no desire to play games like " My Little Pony " or what have you either. I'll stick to PC gaming... You still can't mod console games...

da_chub
da_chub

PCs are dying. As good as they may be, esp for gaming, things like consoles and iPad are killing pcs. They are too expensive for high end gaming compared to consoles, and so many people play consoles. I have always played high end games on my PC, then had a Nintendo _____. now my Wii/PS3 see much more use for games then my PC which is 5 years old and my 21" LCD doesnt comapred to a 47"HDTV.