When it comes to the video game market, we appear to be on the cusp of something very big. A sea change, really, in the way that video games
reach our systems and how we interact with same. It was the kind of thing that's been in the making for some time now, but recent changes have made things a little more noticeable than before.
First, the results of a study undertaken by SuperData: the digital games market in the United States reached $1.1 billion in July, which in turn is up 5.4 percent over the same time the previous year. That's a sound number no matter how you look at it, but it's the breakdown of that number that's especially noteworthy. PC digital sales were up 15 percent against last year's numbers, and things like Steam's summer sale and GamersGate
were seen putting up some terrific numbers. Social games, naturally, threw in quite a bit as well, seeing an uptick from $133 million in June to $164 million in July. MMOs, however, lost a bit of ground, as the number of subscribing players fell to 5.8 million.
Digital sales for console devices, meanwhile, were down to their lowest point, and would likely stay so for some time to come, given that the next generation of console gaming is right around the corner. But what's becoming clear here is that digital distribution is indeed catching on. It's not completely here yet, of course, and it likely won't be for some time thanks to the various issues of infrastructure that stand in the way like the gamer's perfectly understandable compunction to save money via used games and the overall fractured nature of connectivity out there; hard to get digital distribution to catch on in areas with dial-up or satellite-only connections. But as market forces keep expanding decent online service to more and more areas, the desirability of digital delivery
will increase. Indeed, several exciting games have come to light in the last few weeks—State of Decay, Payday 2, and more besides—and that's likely lighting a fire under the numbers.
Of course, it's not perfect yet. Consoles especially need to consider the market in terms of pricing; why buying a game for download costs $10-$20 more in some cases than buying the game used, or even new in some cases, on Amazon is unclear even to me. But with these issues taken care of, there's plenty of room for digital download's sheer convenience and access to a wider array of titles to make the concept worthwhile.
It's clear that digital download isn't going away any time soon. There's plenty of room, in fact, for this concept to expand outward. We're already seeing how numbers that might have been otherwise hamstrung by a combination of summer doldrums and an upcoming console release have been bolstered by digital sales, especially at the PC level, which is much less prone to the lag that the new console market experiences. Once a few minor points are addressed, digital download should become the new standard, possibly as soon as the generation after the next one has resolved.