NPD: 48% of PC games sold in 2009 were downloads

By on July 21, 2010, 3:51 PM
NPD is often bashed for omitting digital game sales in its monthly industry statistics, and it appears that criticism was taken to heart as the firm has released new report focused on game downloads. We all knew the digital scene was growing quickly, but based on NPD's numbers, services like Steam accounted for nearly half of the unit sales last year.

It's estimated that 21.3 million full-fledged PC games were purchased online and downloaded in 2009, which compares to 23.5 million physical copies bought at retail. Not only is that 48% of the total unit volume, but it accounts for 36% of dollar sales a grip destined to tighten as more gamers cave to the easy access and bargain prices of digital outfits. NPD offered a breakdown of the top five frontline and casual digital retailers based on unit share, though no precise data was given:

Top 5 Frontline Digital Retailers
Top 5 Casual Digital Retailers
Steam Big Fish Games
Direct2Drive Pogo
Blizzard GameHouse
EA iWin
WorldofWarcraft.com RealArcade




User Comments: 16

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dustin_ds3000 dustin_ds3000, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Steam FTW

TomSEA TomSEA, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

I wonder where they got their Steam figures from? Steam is notorious for not releasing any sales/download figures (along with info about future games).

But this is zero surprise. It's just the easiest, fastest, cheapest way to buy games (although I do miss having a manual - pain in the rear to print off a .pdf version). Along the same lines there was an article in CNN Business today about the death of the music CD because of digital music downloads.

Guest said:

^ whats a music CD?

gobbybobby said:

I thought It would be more like 95% are now Download, in my local town town of the game shops sell PC games, the only place to Buy PC games is Argos and they sell 3 PC games in there book.

EXCellR8 EXCellR8, The Conservative, said:

i thought the percentage of digital sales would have been a lot more by now as well... especially since Steam is almost six years old and most game outlets don't stock a ton of boxed PC games. i for one cannot remember the last boxed game i bought from an actual retailer...

tengeta tengeta said:

The industry is going to grow slow, heck it took me until this year to hop on the bandwagon. I suddenly realized all the DRM infesting made the physical formats just as easy to disable as the digital ones.

Relic Relic, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Pretty neat, that's about how my game collection is split digital vs retail. I will still buy retail however usually for games that are equally priced online. And on occasion you find some pretty good deals too especially from online vendors who have some great prices that rival Steam. Just not many talk about it .

On a side note curious to know where GOG and Impulse is in there and why Blizzard is represented twice.

Tekkaraiden Tekkaraiden said:

I'v actually purchased more pc games from steam in the last month that i have in the last year at retail stores.

isamuelson isamuelson said:

Steam, Direct2Drive and Good 'old Games have been at the heart of my spending this past year. Darn you guys! Stop selling great games at great prices!

Puiu Puiu said:

I don't know why so many people are still buying games from retail shops. i like steam and i have never bought a game from a retail store. Only console games are still profitable and that will also soon change.

Zilpha Zilpha said:

I don't know why so many people are still buying games from retail shops. i like steam and i have never bought a game from a retail store. Only console games are still profitable and that will also soon change.

I buy games from retail mostly because I just like physically having *something* to show for my money. I don't get that same sense of ownership from a download. Plus, I buy the collectors editions whenever available because they usually come with other interesting things like collections of concept art and occasionally soundtracks. So, I guess some of us are still old-fashioned like that.

MrAnderson said:

[Publishers Not Sharing the Savings]

I noticed that although people are downloading, the prices don't change. Sure steam and maybe other competitors have "sales", but they price does not reflect the manufacturing costs they save from disk production and retail box design, and manual printing...

[Internet is Back to the 56K Crawl Given File Sizes]

My internet download speed maxes out at 276KB/s on a good day, which really sucks when I'm paying almost 50 bucks (maybe more) and Timewarner advertises 1Mbs up to 15Mbs. The 1Mbs should be a worst case senerio and the worst case should not be a mainstay.

The ISPs need to step-up their game where bandwidth is concerned. Broadband is no longer broadband anymore when the expectations of the files we download on a regular basis has reverted us back to wait times from several minutes to sometimes days. I feel like I'm on a 56K.

Although I have recently purchased quite a few of my PC games from steam, (because I can never be sure that I will be able to install games off of the DVD thanks to SecurROM and other stupid DRMs that really only hurt paying customers... still cannot install MassEffect or Timeshift) it is painful to have to wait hours or even overnight to get a game I already have been charged for. And I cannot watch my Netflix whistle my game is downloading becuase it will just cripple the video stream. I say Come on! They need a new system that makes sure every using gets his fear share of the bandwidth... and now!

Darkshadoe Darkshadoe said:

Zilpha said:

I don't know why so many people are still buying games from retail shops. i like steam and i have never bought a game from a retail store. Only console games are still profitable and that will also soon change.

I buy games from retail mostly because I just like physically having *something* to show for my money. I don't get that same sense of ownership from a download. Plus, I buy the collectors editions whenever available because they usually come with other interesting things like collections of concept art and occasionally soundtracks. So, I guess some of us are still old-fashioned like that.

Just in case you didnt know, Steam lets you back up your games to CD/DVDS so you can have physical copies to install if the need arises.

Guest said:

55 millions pc games sold in 2009 doesnt looks like the end of the world because of piracy for the PC gaming like companies make it look like. I dont know if it is becuase it counts every single game like solitaire in that 55 millions.

ET3D, TechSpot Paladin, said:

That's 45 million by my calculation, and this considers casual games, but according to the report casual sales have been declining (though no details were given). Taking a look at the report here: [link] it looks like most sales are Sims and WoW. The report also says that the PC generated game revenues of $538 million, and total consoles + portable + PC is $10.5 billion, so PC revenue is about 5% of the total revenue, which explains why developers focus more on consoles.

Me, I buy most of my games on Steam and Big Fish Games.

gobbybobby said:

do they add subscription games in there. I play eve online is every month I pay counted as a game sale?

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