Quarter of British gamers download games

A survey of British gamers has found that a quarter prefer to purchase and download their games online, often through their console's store, rather than purchase a physical copy from a retail store. According to TNS, who conducted the survey, digital distribution will outstrip retail sales within three years.

The results of the UK National Gamers Survey 2009, which surveyed 13,000 people in the Netherlands, France, Germany, Belgium, the UK and the US, were unveiled at the London Games Conference last night.

The results show that more than half of gamers in the UK prefer to play video games on a console, with 35 percent preferring to play games on their computer instead. Of these numbers, 7 percent of console gamers said that they would buy a game or additional levels for a game directly through their console instead of going to the shops. This doubles to 14 percent for PC gamers.

Nineteen percent of respondents said they played games on their mobile phones, of which 44 percent download new games straight to their phone.

According to the Daily Telegraph, this is quite concerning for video game trailers, as stores usually recoup losses from game console sales by bundling them with a selection of games. With more and more titles becoming available directly from the console maker's online stores, this is becoming more difficult.

Industry insiders cite the recent price cuts on the PSP Go handheld console, which uses digital distribution only, as evidence of game downloads hurting profit margins.

Report a problem with article
Previous Story

Google to introduce a Google Wave app store

Next Story

FCC wants to expand mobile broadband services

28 Comments

Commenting is disabled on this article.

I recently repurchased Liberty City Stories for my PSP over the PlayStation Network.

Having increased battery performance, no thrashing UMD noise and less popup was well worth it to me.

Very interesting. Though I think this works better for game add ons than full releases, XBox Live has proven rather successful with this sort of model. Consoles need a lot of storage though to eliminate discs...

i've just recently realised that if you download a game through steam, and that game doesn't work on your computer for whatever reason, you have no chance for a refund. it's just a gamble you need to take. twice now i've had to 'obtain via other, less legitimate means' a game i've paid for on steam, just so i can play it.

i prefer having the box, just so i have some physical evidence of where my money went, so i can hold that lovely new manual, and so i can return it if there are problems and potentially resell it if i can ever be bothered (steam also won't allow you to resell games you've bought through their service).

steam's idea of 'ownership' seems very different to mine. it's a shame retail here is usually almost double the cost of buying through steam.

CL114C0777498D said,
if you download a game through steam, and that game doesn't work on your computer for whatever reason, you have no chance for a refund. it's just a gamble you need to take ... steam's idea of 'ownership' seems very different to mine.

Steam provides a "service", not a "product", so you never own anything whatsoever. In essence you are paying to rent the game for an indefinite period of time--a period which is defined by Steam, not you. If the game never works or stops working or they later decide to ban your account (for any of various reasons, including accepting a "suspicious" number of gifted games) you are left with no game and no money.

For comparison, see GOG.com, which sells both a product and service, all at low prices and DRM free. GOG could shut down tomorrow or be hit by a meteor or whatever and it wouldn't matter; buyers can install and play their games with or without GOG's existence or permission.

No, the UK ISPs cap the crap out of their users for the most part. My house has a crappy 10GB limit, and they are quick to strangle us if we pass it. It's... well... crap.

Download caps in the UK prevents me downloading all games I want through Steam. I have to order a retail game from gameplay.co.uk for large games such as Batman Arkham Asylum for e.g. if I'm close to topping off my 30gb monthly cap.

I can't see digital distribution taking off big time in the UK until ISPs, or BT lifts those caps tbh. Streaming TV is off the cards for now for me.

We have download limits here in Australia too, however my ISP is nice enough to include to Steam download server in our Freezone section. Also Xbox Live, and iTunes downloads are freezone.

Don't you have "unmetered content" up there in UK? down here in Australia we have usage limits but we can download some sites without using up limits called "unmetered content". Steam being one but we need to install a prog called SteamWatch to force Steam to only download from those "unmetered" servers.

As long as the price of an online download and a nice box stays the same ill stick with the boxes, if the downloads cut their prices in half though i might consider it :P

im at USA, and i just rather have the box. i like looking over at my shelf and being able to know what games i have, if i download and keeping in mind the amount of times i re-install on my desktop, im going to forget i own a game or 12....

Well I use only Steam myself right now and it's much better than getting off my butt, paying for transport to reach a store, queuing up, then purchasing a physical copy that will take up extra space in my home. This saves a lot of time, some space and possibly some money.

I've never resold games ... I only tend to get ones I'm really sure I'll like and then I will probably play them to death .. go play something else for a while, go back to them, etc.

Laura said,
Well I use only Steam myself right now and it's much better than getting off my butt, paying for transport to reach a store, queuing up, then purchasing a physical copy that will take up extra space in my home. This saves a lot of time, some space and possibly some money.

I've never resold games ... I only tend to get ones I'm really sure I'll like and then I will probably play them to death .. go play something else for a while, go back to them, etc.


Same as, steam is a godsend, with the added advantage that you can just purchase a game and have it almost immediately. My only main quibble with steam is that a lot of non valve games are really expensive

Laura said,
Well I use only Steam myself right now and it's much better than getting off my butt, paying for transport to reach a store, queuing up, then purchasing a physical copy that will take up extra space in my home. This saves a lot of time, some space and possibly some money.

I like Steam but fact is that some TOP games on amazon.com or amazon.co.uk with free delivery are sold sometimes much cheaper than on greedy Steam.

Oh good lord... So because Steam doesn't have all the lowest prices means that they're greedy?

Steam is great, but I'd never advise someone to buy something on Steam or anywhere when there's a much better deal from another trusted retailer.

I use steam too out of preference. I tend to live a minimalistic lifestyle, so not having game boxes hanging around makes me happy.

Anyone remember the huge boxes that you'd get in the Amiga days? My stack was over 8 foot high!

DonC said,
Anyone remember the huge boxes that you'd get in the Amiga days? My stack was over 8 foot high!

I still have some of those

Pabs(Sco) said,
I'll never purchase a game as a download, no resale value....


If they got the initial pricing correct, then this wouldn't be an issue. You would feel like you had value from the software only product. You wouldn't then feel ripped off for not using it again.

they need to make software downloads cheaper so this perceived resell value is not lost on the user.

Pabs(Sco) said,
I'll never purchase a game as a download, no resale value....

Never say never. Unless you plan on not playing games in the future, since that's the direction it's headed in.

Pabs(Sco) said,
I'll never purchase a game as a download, no resale value....

You can also look at it like its a cinema ticket with much better value, because game lasts much longer and its interactive.

I've recently purchased Uncharted 2 at £42 (alot but wanted the game) I've completed in 2 weekends, now I can resell it for around £30. Meaning the game time was only £12 which is worth it... :P

Pabs(Sco) said,
I've recently purchased Uncharted 2 at £42 (alot but wanted the game) I've completed in 2 weekends, now I can resell it for around £30. Meaning the game time was only £12 which is worth it... :P


Or you could play it again over and over, and never sell it.

Do you think you would play games more than once through if you couldn't sell them?

The huge leaps we've made in Internet Connection speed is mostly responsible for this, and it doens't just apply to games, it apples to all software. The internet connection allows users to obtain software quickly whenever they want. 5 years ago, a 4GB game would have taken a loooong time to download in the UK, but now we're getting 50Mb connections in some parts, which means that we can measure the download time in minutes instead of days. The convenience of having it direct on-disk also has a big influence since you don't have to worry about finding places to keep all your DVDs.

However, at the same time the market is being stifled by the fact that most ISPs insist on imposing download limits. Most base tier web packages in the UK impose a 3GB download PER MONTH limit, which means that a lot of people couldn't even download a DVD if they wanted to!

I don't know why people go with ISPs that have download limits. Everyone uses "I can't get cable around here" as an excuse but I really believe that it's because people are too lazy to change providers. Plus, there are plenty of alternatives to Cable. I know for a fact that if you wanna go with ADSL, neither Be Broadband or Sky Broadband enforce a download limit or an annoyingly restrictive FUP. Also, I'm pretty sure that Virgin's ADSL service is pretty forgiving with it's limit on the best packages.

I mean, ISPs are going to get away with treating customers like **** as long as customers keep doing absolutely nothing about it.