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Consumers spent a total of $5.9 billion on both physical and digital online games in the first quarter, up 1.5 percent from a year ago, according to market researcher NPD.

The number shows that the overall video game industry is growing, despite the fact that retail sales of games have been falling. Those numbers — showing growth instead of a decline — are important to give a boost to investor confidence in the video game sector.

Consumers spent $2.03 billion on new video game console and PC software in the first quarter, compared to $2.26 billion a year ago.

But the total amount spent on new digital methods was $1.85 billion, up from $1.68 billion a year earlier. Digital methods include sales of used games, game rentals, subscriptions, digital full-game downloads, social network games, downloadable content and mobile phone games. If you add hardware, content, and accessory numbers ($2.11 billion), you get a total of $5.9 billion.

When asked if NPD expected to see a trend of these “alternative” video game revenues increasing compared to “traditional” avenues of purchasing game content, NPD analyst Anita Frazier told VentureBeat, “The space is evolving too rapidly to anticipate any future trends except for the fact that the rate of change is more on the sudden end of the scale than gradual.”

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