Wii U Call of Duty Black Ops 2North Americans spent $14.80 billion on video game content last year, but less than half this total was on new, physical releases, according to figures released by market research company The NPD Group today. Instead, the majority was in the digital, used, and rental markets.

The overall income of $14.80 billion showed a decline of 9 percent from 2011’s $16.34 billion. Physical sales (new and used) suffered most, dropping 21 percent, from $11.25 billion in 2011, to $8.88 billion in 2012.

By contrast, sales of digital game content, including full games, add-on content, mobile games, and subscriptions, rose to a total of $5.92 billion in 2012, up 16 percent from $5.09 billion in 2011.

“When including all other forms of content spending outside of new physical games, the 2012 U.S. games market was more than twice as large as the total spending on new physical games alone,” said Liam Callahan, an industry analyst at The NPD Group, via press release.

“There were divergent trends when looking at content spending in 2012 as a whole, with a decrease of 21 percent in spending on physical content while digital content spending grew 16 percent; both formats combined for a total decline of 9 percent for the year,” said Callahan.

There were certainly no shortage of triple-A titles released last year, including sequels to the popular Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed, and Halo franchises. But even these behemoths were unable to reverse the year-on-year sales decline.

With Nintendo releasing its latest home console, the Wii U, in late 2012, and both Sony and Microsoft rumored to unveil new systems this year, it will be interesting to see whether this has a positive impact on physical sales during 2013. For now, it looks like digital sales will continue to grow in importance to the multi-billion dollar industry.