Nearly 50% of video game purchases are done online

According to the PC Games Digital Downloads report from The NPD Group, a market research company, digital downloads make up 47.5% of all full game purchases. Based on all of the data reported in 2009, 21.3 million PC games were purchased online in the U.S. compared to 23.5 million games sold in retail stores during the same time period.

Typically information released from The NPD Group only covers sales information from retail stores and not online downloads. Recently they reported that sales of games in retail stores were down 9% over the last six months. That report didn't include online game sales which may indicate a lot of gamers are moving away from retail stores and going for online downloads.

The report broke down the online game retailers in to two groups, Casual Digital Retailers and Frontline Digital Retailers, then ranked them based on unit share. "Casual Digital Retailers, which often focus on smaller, easily accessible games that typically utilize try-and-buy or advertising revenue models; and Frontline Digital Retailers, which often focus on titles that are also offered in retail stores as physical purchases."

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 report went on to say that the Casual Digital Retailers are losing market share due to the increase in popularity of free social network gaming and free mobile gaming. Social network gaming gained an additional 4.8 million gamers from Q3 2009 to Q4 2009. Mobile gaming also grew in 2009, there was a 30% increase in iPhone and iPod Touch gaming from Q2 2009 to Q4 2009; 97% of those who downloaded a game from the app store downloaded the free version.

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43 Comments

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First when i saw bought online i though of ordered online and got in the mail and not downloaded...
I don't know how game stores such as Game and Gamestop can survive when, at least where i live i can order the exact same game online from someone who deals in music, movies and games and the price ends up cheaper, specially on older games where game and gamestop never cut the prices...

as for steam and such, well yea there are a lot of indie games on there that can't be sold otherwise... also they have their specials, i prefer to buy my games and get a box but sometimes i see some old game ive played before or just something i know is good that is at a great price on steam...

Leonick said,
First when i saw bought online i though of ordered online and got in the mail and not downloaded...
I don't know how game stores such as Game and Gamestop can survive when, at least where i live i can order the exact same game online from someone who deals in music, movies and games and the price ends up cheaper, specially on older games where game and gamestop never cut the prices...

as for steam and such, well yea there are a lot of indie games on there that can't be sold otherwise... also they have their specials, i prefer to buy my games and get a box but sometimes i see some old game ive played before or just something i know is good that is at a great price on steam...

They survive because of instant access, a physical place to browse the games, and most importantly the trade and used game angle they have. Used/Trades is where they make the most money and draw in customers.

Surprised MSN Games isn't there at all. I remember how popular it was for casual games. I even buy from time to time.

Quikboy said,
Surprised MSN Games isn't there at all. I remember how popular it was for casual games. I even buy from time to time.

They also offer a subscription model, which would make the numbers hard to pin down when all subscription users get access to most of the games and can download whatever they want.

(For people that don't know, think Zune Pass for games.)

Title is a bit misleading, I first thought of buying online VS buying retail but still having a physical media. Like buying games from gogamer, newegg or event bestbuy.com. I haven't bought a game in retail stores in years yet I still like my games in a physical media.

Haven't bought a PC game retail for a long time. Some of the game shops around here don't even have PC sections any more.

Olemus said,
Haven't bought a PC game retail for a long time. Some of the game shops around here don't even have PC sections any more.

Or they are really small. It is sad, because I love PC games. 'specially 'strategerie' games.

Kreuger said,
Won't ever be me. I bought one game off the PSN but I like having the physical media

Same. I will never buy online, especially from steam. I am boycotting them because I tried to install a game my brother has and it won't even let me install it so I decided I will never buy a game that requires Steam.

I HATE STEAM.

MSfanboy said,

Same. I will never buy online, especially from steam. I am boycotting them because I tried to install a game my brother has and it won't even let me install it so I decided I will never buy a game that requires Steam.

I HATE STEAM.

So you tried to install a game that your brother has, it didn't work and now you hate steam?

Logical conclusion there.

Kreuger said,
Won't ever be me. I bought one game off the PSN but I like having the physical media

Wow, I can remember when people said the same thing about music, and hated mp3s and the concept of mp3s.

I on the other hand like the fact that I don't have to haul around 1,000 cds or several cases of DVDs, Games, Etc. The more digital content, the easier things get for the consumer as well as the publishers.

Direct2Drive is more complicated, but i tried them out for a couple game purchases during a spring sale and it was good

Steam is good because they have a good selection and run some good deals. The actual software could be better. For instance, being able to choose an install location for a game that is not in the steam folder.

An option, perhaps... But that's actually one of the reasons I love Steam - everything is in one folder, making it easy to transfer between machines/OS installs.

On my desktop, I installed Steam precisely once - on March 22, 2004, if the Steam Community site is to be believed. Ever since then I've just copied the Steam folder elsewhere if needed when reinstalling/moving drives, run Steam.exe, and it's just worked.

(Caveat: I'm pretty sure some non-Valve games that don't support the Steam Cloud will still store stuff elsewhere; I haven't reinstalled since I've had these games, though - so perhaps it'll take a little more work next time!)

Esvandiary said,
An option, perhaps... But that's actually one of the reasons I love Steam - everything is in one folder, making it easy to transfer between machines/OS installs.

On my desktop, I installed Steam precisely once - on March 22, 2004, if the Steam Community site is to be believed. Ever since then I've just copied the Steam folder elsewhere if needed when reinstalling/moving drives, run Steam.exe, and it's just worked.

(Caveat: I'm pretty sure some non-Valve games that don't support the Steam Cloud will still store stuff elsewhere; I haven't reinstalled since I've had these games, though - so perhaps it'll take a little more work next time!)

I recently formatted my drive, and i always had my games on a separate drive. I just installed steam over top the old install, and voila, all my games were there.

Magallanes said,
but this study does not cocunt the number of used sales.

Most pc games don't get sold back to stores and resold as used, due to a variety of factors, such as needing tying a cd key to an email for DLC and online play.

JamesWeb said,
RealArcade still exists?

Yes. RealArcade is still the largest gateway for sales for some publishers (such as MumboJumbo, GameHouse, or PopCap, which has its own portal, sells via Pogo.com, and even via Facebook and Steam)

Also, there are the multi-portal publishers (PopCap and BigFish are the leading multi-portal casual-game publishers, with Steam, RA, Facebook, GfWL, their own portals, and retail as well).

Draje said,
Best game download store ever!

Yea!

I wish Neowin would so some review about them. Perhaps team up and offer a few free game codes. The guys there like to spread popularity this way. It would be beneficial to both sites.

Ridlas said,
This wasn't PC gaming only.

Yes it is:

Based on all of the data reported in 2009, 21.3 million PC games were purchased online in the U.S. compared to 23.5 million games sold in retail stores during the same time period.

No surprise, have you seen the what, whopping two shelves of decent PC games at retail these days? Or had to deal with some GameStop noobstick?

Dashel said,
No surprise, have you seen the what, whopping two shelves of decent PC games at retail these days? Or had to deal with some GameStop noobstick?

No, I live in Australia.

Ridlas said,
This wasn't PC gaming only.

Only PC, so there are a lot of console purchases not even considered. And I know xbox live does a lot of business with arcade and release titles.

/- Razorfold said,
Odd how Blizzard / World of Warcraft was counted twice.

Not surprising to see Steam at number 1, though.


Don't forget, that Blizzard has more games to offer than WOW only.

Val Thе Awеsome said,

Don't forget, that Blizzard has more games to offer than WOW only.

Yea but WoW is their game so it should not be counted as separate entity.

KavazovAngel said,

Yea but WoW is their game so it should not be counted as separate entity.

Thats right. I forgot they they list "Microsoft" and then "Windows" in a list in the amount of software sold. Or maybe "Adobe" and "Photoshop CS5."

MSfanboy said,
Thats right. I forgot they they list "Microsoft" and then "Windows" in a list in the amount of software sold. Or maybe "Adobe" and "Photoshop CS5."
What?

It's 50% based on the total units sold rather than the dollar value of those games. I think you'll find that there were a lot of <$20 games downloaded online and a lot of >$40 sold through the retail channel.

Fred Derf said,
It's 50% based on the total units sold rather than the dollar value of those games. I think you'll find that there were a lot of <$20 games downloaded online and a lot of >$40 sold through the retail channel.

I agree. Steam has some AMAZING deals, but if I'm paying full price I kind of like the disc

thatguyandrew1992 said,

I agree. Steam has some AMAZING deals, but if I'm paying full price I kind of like the disc

Same here. My Steam account is loaded with games for the same reason. The discount over retail was sufficient enough for me to succumb to the DRM and loss of the disk.

Frazell Thomas said,

Same here. My Steam account is loaded with games for the same reason. The discount over retail was sufficient enough for me to succumb to the DRM and loss of the disk.


Steam actually has a very mild version of DRM which is non-invasive and even lets you take your games with you wherever you go. There's no computer-id/serial check at startup nor any limit on "number of installs". Just put your Steam folder in a removable drive and you are set.

gonchuki said,

Steam actually has a very mild version of DRM which is non-invasive and even lets you take your games with you wherever you go. There's no computer-id/serial check at startup nor any limit on "number of installs". Just put your Steam folder in a removable drive and you are set.

Or even download and set up your account on the other PC (or Mac, in the case of a lot of games). Datapoint: I was *given* (by someone that is not a gamer) a Steam-only game (Portal - The First Slice); all I had to do to *collect* it was set up my (existing) Steam account on the qualifying PC, then remove the account and log back in on my own PC.

Also, there is a new trend that would not have shown up as it started post this study - social-network-linked games (both casual and otherwise; consider how many games *this year* are linked directly through Facebook, such as BLUR and the Facebook-only Bejeweled Blitz)

gonchuki said,

Steam actually has a very mild version of DRM which is non-invasive and even lets you take your games with you wherever you go. There's no computer-id/serial check at startup nor any limit on "number of installs". Just put your Steam folder in a removable drive and you are set.

Actually, that's not entirely true. Lots of Steam game still come with install limits and quirky activation schemes (no doubt forced by the game makers and not steam).

Source: http://forums.steampowered.com...ums/showthread.php?t=966005