September 20th, 2010
Although mouse and keyboard enthusiasts like yourself have been downloading games for years, overall PC game downloads—including casual and wide-appeal titles like The Sims—have finally surpassed boxed game sales, says a new report by market researcher NPD Group.
According to the report, 11.2 million PC games were purchased via download for the first six months of the year through June, compared to 8.2 million boxed games during the same period. "The first half of 2010 is the first time period in which sales occurring via digital download comprised the majority of total PC game unit sales," the report states.
Last year, PC game downloads accounted for 48% of total sales. Combined unit sales of both digital and physical PC games so far this year were down 14% when compared to last year, however.
"One major finding from this latest report is that the 'big got bigger' in the first half of 2010, with both Steam and Bigfish capturing a bigger share of full-game PC games digital download sales than they did last year," said NPD analyst Anita Frazier in a statement. "The overall decline of PC games when combining sales via both digital downloads and physical retail sales is impacted by the expansion of social network gaming as well as the continued expansion of free game options."
Figures for the report were based on nearly 200,000 survey respondants, says NPD, and exclude "niche" download sites like GOG.com. Top download sites for games that are sold both online and at retail include Steamgames.com, Direct2drive.com, EA.com, Worldofwarcraft.com, and Blizzard.com in that order.
Top "casual" download sites include Bigfishgames.com, Gamehouse.com, iWin.com, Pogo.com, and Wildtangent.com. For reference, an Alienware Arena poll published last month found that 62% of readers purchase games for download, 28% buy in-store, 8% either rent, borrow, or pirate, and 2% preferred mail-order options like Amazon.com.