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)
Top 5 Casual Digital Retailers – 2009 (based on unit % share)
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.