Digital, physical, or used — gamers don’t care. If it’s games, they will spend money on it.
U.S. consumers spent $15.39 billion on game-related content in 2013, according to industry research firm The NPD Group. That’s up 1 percent over 2012. Digital made up nearly half of all that spending, and it was also the only sector showing major growth.
Gamers spent $6.34 billion on new physical titles at retail. That is down 11 percent from 2012. It doesn’t appear that consumers didn’t spend that money. Instead, they seemed to spend it on digital content. Full-game downloads, subscriptions, mobile, social, and expansion content generated $7.22 billion in sales. Used and rental games brought in $1.83 billion in revenue.
“Growth in digitally distributed content is vital to overall industry health,” NPD analyst Liam Callahan said. “Since this is such a topic of high interest to the industry, we recently conducted additional in-depth research into consumer behavior with regard to digital content acquisition, and [we] found that 36 percent of the U.S. population ages 13 and older are playing games acquired digitally, with incidence highest among teens and young adults. Interestingly, however, there is no particular point after age 25 where incidence declines significantly.”
That means the digital future is already here. Mobile markets like Google Play and the iOS App Store are bringing in tons of cash, but so is Valve’s digital-retail service Steam.
Additionally, the new consoles from Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo are all much more focused on digital distribution. Virtually all major releases hit brick-and-mortar stores on the same day that the games go on sale on Xbox One’s Game Store, Sony’s PlayStation Network, or the Nintendo eShop.
Microsoft and Sony both launched their new consoles in November. Nintendo’s Wii U and 3DS as well as Sony’s PlayStation Vita all already generate much of their sales digitally. But 2014 is the first time we’ll have all consoles on sale throughout the entire year.
“The bottom line is that the overall games market is growing,” said Callahan. “NPD reported declines in content and hardware spending in both 2011 and 2012, so the growth in 2013 is a positive indicator for future market growth as we enter the first full year with all three new consoles on the market.”