Despite an industry push toward digital download, ninety percent of all console video game sales in Q3 2009 were in physical format, as reported by research firm NPD. For other platforms — including portables, PC, and mobile/smartphones – 79% of sales were in physical format.
Overall, digital buys accounted for only 10%-20% of total sales in the quarter from July through September. “While physical retail product remains the driving force behind industry sales, the role of digital distribution in the games ecosystem continues to climb,” said Anita Frazier, industry analyst for NPD. The idea of the “games ecosystem” is spot-on. The conversion of gamers’ buying habits from physical to digital is happening gradually.
Meanwhile, publishers covet the “dual-format” purchasers – those that buy a physical product and then pay additional fees for DLC or other add-ons. These gamers are worth coveting, too: while dual-format purchasers make up only 19% of the total pool, they provide 40% of the dollar volume. Another way to put it: dual-format buyers spend $2 for every $1 spent by physical-only buyers.
Still, the DLC market is still in its infancy, especially on consoles. According to a recent survey among 800 console gamers, conducted by Frank N. Magid associates, only 15% said they “were aware of or have purchased DLC.” Beyond that, fully 43% said they “are not aware of DLC.” Unfortunately, the salient detail — how many of those 120 respondents had actually purchased DLC — was not included in the results.
According to NPD’s press release, the data behind their quarterly figures are culled from “online survey responses from over 8,000 members of NPD’s online consumer panel.” I’d like to see who is not included on that list — any of the hundreds of tiny online shops selling casual games, for instance.
Personally, I spent over $200 in 2009 on casual games — at $10-$25 a pop. I also bought Dragon Age: Origins for the Mac, which was a digital-only product (frankly, a slap in the face to Mac gamers everywhere). The file size for that game? A whopping 9.2GB, or 30 hours of download time over my high-speed connection. I think that’s a real barrier against digital download — who the heck has the bandwidth to download 9.2 gigs of data unless it’s for adults only?
How would you prefer to get your games? Are you ready for a potential digital-download only future?