Vast Majority of Sold Games Are Sold in Physical Format – Research

Digital Distribution of Video Games Still Not Really Popular

by Anton Shilov
01/13/2010 | 07:37 PM

Even though there are many ways to purchase video games, physical media by far outperformed digital distribution in the U.S. in Q3 2009, according to NPD Group. Still, the market share of video games that are purchased digitally is increasing and publishers should keep an eye that.


"While physical retail product remains the driving force behind industry sales, the role of digital distribution in the games ecosystem continues to climb. Publishers and retailers must keep an eye on the current state of the marketplace and must map ahead for future strategies,” said Anita Frazier, industry analyst at NPD Group.

According to NPD’s games acquisition monitor, 90% of all paid console video game acquisitions in the third quarter of 2009 were in the physical format, while 79% of games acquired for all other platforms which include portable, PC/MAC, mobile and smartphones, were in the physical format. It is quite logical that the absolute majority of console games are acquired in a physical form, but it is rather surprising that 79% of games for personal computers, portable systems and smartphones are still purchased on some kind of media since there are so many opportunities to obtain such titles digitally.

Dual format (digital and physical) video game purchasers distinguish themselves from purely digital purchasers in that they are notably younger, since 70% of dual format buyers are under the age of 35 as compared to 46% for digital only purchasers. Dual format purchasers represent just 19% of all buyers but provide 40% of dollar volume, NPD found.

Piracy, defined for this report as downloading files through peer-to-peer (P2P) networks, is small relative to the music industry.  However, 4% of gamers, representing just over 6 million consumers, indicated that they downloaded files from P2P networks, with 72% of pirated downloads occurring for PC/Mac.

Throughout Q3 2009, PC/Mac and console gaming were the most popular platforms among gamers, followed by portable systems and cell phones. While smartphones ranked among the lowest in terms of gaming, cross-usage patterns reveal that users of Xbox 360, PlatStation Portable and DSi gaming devices showed notably higher cross-usage of the iPhone and iPod Touch for gaming as compared to users of other platforms

The NPD Group’s Games Acquisition Monitor is a quarterly tracker which measures both digital and physical forms of games acquisition activity, volume, awareness and usage of retailers and services, as well as other technology and entertainment activities that could influence game acquisition trends. It is based on online survey responses from over 8000 members of NPD’s online consumer panel. Data is weighted and projected to be representative of the U.S. population ages 2+.