In a study released by the market research company NPD, it seems that more and more gamers are depending on digital distribution services such as Steam, Origin, Amazon and rental markets. The study shows that out of the $14.8 billion that video game content raked in 2012, approximately $5.92 billion of game sales consisted of digital copies full games and game content. Physical used copies and rental sales also went up, taking up $1.79 billion of game sales. This leaves new physical game sales making up a little less than half of total game sales.
It’s not really any surprise there. Digital distribution is usually much cheaper than traditional brick and mortar retailers. While there is a sort of satisfaction with putting in a new game in a computer or a console, you really can’t beat the prices offered on digital storefronts. I mean, I can get the original Bioshock, Bioshock 2, and Spec Ops: The Line on Amazon for ten bucks when they have a sale. I have both Bioshock and Bioshock 2, but one game for the price of 1/6th of the retail price is great. Throwing in digital copies of two more games that I can give out as gifts is just icing on the top. While Steam usually offers up their games for retail price, it makes up for it with their seasonal Steam Sales that always end up emptying a gamer’s wallet. It’s because of Steam and other digital distribution services that my PC is my main console.
Since digital distribution makes up more than half of game sales now, what does that mean for brick and mortar stores? I think stores are going to pull back a little bit and go for a digital approach similar to what GameStop has done. That doesn’t mean that digital distribution is going to replace the traditional stores. There’s always going to be a time to buy physical games instead of the digital copy such as when giving out gifts and buying games to bundle with newly purchased systems. So don’t expect stores to stop stocking games anytime soon.