One in Four Games Sold as Digital Download?

Steve Anderson : End Game
Steve Anderson
The Video Store Guy
| The video game industry has gone from a mole hill to a mountain in no time flat, Chris DiMarco is your Sherpa as you endeavor to scale Mount “Everquest”

One in Four Games Sold as Digital Download?

We all knew that digital game sales were catching on, and while we all likewise knew that digital game sales had plenty of problems associated with them, a new report from The NPD Group suggests that digital game sales have caught on a whole lot harder than anyone may have expected. How hard? Try one sale in every four titles, potentially.

The NPD Group's most recent numbers suggest that, indeed, hardware did pretty well in sales, but software sales, meanwhile, were down almost 28 percent over this time last year. That doesn't sound so great, though admittedly, the large number of titles that got pushed off to 2015 might well have something to do with that. Between the end of the Xbox 360 / PlayStation 3 generation and the rise of the new generation, it's not surprising that the total is off in software sales. But according to word from another analyst at Cowen and Company, Doug Creutz, the difference doesn't really come from the lag in software releasing, but rather in digital downloads.

Since the NPD's figures only track physical releases, Creutz suggests that the drop in sales was really only a drop in physical sales, and a move to digital sales likely accounted for the difference. Creutz actually suggested that digital is taking about 25 percent of the market share, though that varies from one title to another.

While that's likely to not be the case completely--after all, last year there were new titles coming out like "Grand Theft Auto V" that just can't be matched by the current flock of "delayed until 2015" titles--there's certainly evidence enough to suggest that at least some of the difference in sales is indeed coming from the digital realm. For instance, Nintendo actually noted that 19 percent of its sales for Super Smash Brothers were strictly digital, and reports suggest that sales of Destiny came in large percentage from sales on PlayStation Network and Xbox Live.

The numbers make the suggestion rather plainly, and though it's not likely to be quite so cut and dried as both the NPD Group and Cowen and Company might suggest, there's certainly more than enough to suggest that it's at least part of the story. Digital download can't really be the whole story, at least not until the bandwidth problem in the United States and beyond gets properly handled. with bandwidth caps and throttling still a part of the picture--not to mention plain old unavailability--discs will have to be likewise part of the picture. But there's a clear move toward digital download, and one that will certainly play a part in things. Studios no doubt like the ability to release games without having to pack, ship, and process huge numbers of discs, but without the infrastructure to support it, digital download will never be anything more than a sideshow against physical sales. Still, it will be part of the equation for some time to come, and a part that's likely to increase as time goes on and that infrastructure improves.

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