GamesBeat

Downloaded PC game sales catching up with retail sales

PC games downloaded via the Web are almost equal to the number of games sold at retail stores in the U.S., according to market researcher NPD Group.

In 2009, 21.3 million PC games were downloaded to computers in the U.S. via online game services such as Valve’s Steam, compared with 23.5 million purchased at stores. With the launch of new PC online game services such as OnLive, you can expect that 2010 online game downloads will exceed retail sales.

While physical retail sales of PC games saw a revenue decline in 2009 compared to 2008, online PC-game downloads grew significantly. Online PC-game downloads were 48 percent of the total in 2009 and accounted for 36 percent of the dollar sales.

The lower revenue figure is interesting, since it means that consumers pay less for the same games downloaded via the web. That makes sense in part because it costs less to distribute games via a website than selling them in stores on disks.

The survey measured two categories of online retailers: casual game retailers that sell games under “try before you buy” model, where gamers can play a demo for free and must pay for the complete game, and frontline digital retailers, who sell the same games that are sold in retail stores.

The rankings of the top online retailers are as follows:

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

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

The frontline digital retailers increased their share of the PC full-game digital download market in the second half of 2009, at the expense of the casual digital retailers. The casual web retailers lost share because of the popularity of free social network games and mobile games. Competition in the casual game category is thus becoming broader and more fierce, said analyst Anita Frazier at NPD.

Both free social network games and mobile games grew dramatically during 2009. iPhone and iPod Touch game usage increased 30 percent from the second quarter of 2009 to the fourth quarter of 2009.


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