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PC digital distribution outselling boxed games in US


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From MCV

New stats from NPD suggest that digital sales were 3m units ahead of boxed sales between January-June; Overall market down

A new report from American stat analysis group NPD suggests that the value of digital PC games market is now far greater than the boxed sector.

The numbers claims that 11.2m PC games were purchased in North America between January and June 2010. In the same period just 8.2m boxed PC games were purchased at retail.

However, the good news for bricks and mortar retail is that the real money remains in physical product – in total dollar revenue terms traditional retail still accounts for 57 per cent of the market.

The bad news is that even when the numbers are combined the overall PC games market is down 21 per cent year-on-year for the period, with unit sales falling 14 per cent.

Steam remains the largest digital games retailer, followed by Direct2Drive, EA.com, WorldOfWarcraft.com and Blizzard.com. In the casual space Bigfishgames.com grabbed the largest share followed by Gamehouse.com, iWin.com, Pogo.com and Wildtangent.com.

“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,” NPD analyst Anita Frazier stated.

“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.”

Uhh, discuss!

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I have much more faith in my own backed up steam directory than a load of optical discs in a folder somewhere, which before long will be about as useful as floppy discs are now. I just have to hope that if they did ever call it a day, they'd release an always offline version of Steam that didn't require a connection (ie removing the DRM) or some kind of unlocking thing. Steam certainly seems to be a compromise most people find acceptable. Even the Valve guys have said that piracy on the platform is such a non-issue that they never even discuss it. Developers seem happy handing over their games and patches to Valve and raking in the cash, and gamers seem happy to pay for the convenience, as is demonstrated here. I imagine there are many ex-pirates who are happy to buy everything on Steam, me included. It's a little bit chicken and egg - PC gaming has been very poorly supported in shops for years, and as boxed sales decreased (probably due in some small way to their own poor stocking/pricing/support) they've shrunken their stock even more, or gotten rid of it altogether.

Now, the consoles always do it bigger but the PC usually does it first - not many of us will disagree with this. Thus, can we expect to see more digital distribution for full price games on console in the future, or are we at least going to have to wait until the next hardware cycle? Microsoft have arguably the best infrastructure in place to support such a delivery system, and cutting out the middleman would be quite attractive for them, I'm surprised they haven't jumped at the chance to push their exclusives directly via Xbox live yet, though I'm sure someone will tell me why. I'm a little surprised that they're jumping all over the Wii ripoff stuff, when everyone is bored of the Wii and Wii sales are plummeting. They're both too similar to be the next big thing. Personally, I think they should be focusing on media and game digital delivery systems, make their box the only thing you need under your television, and do away with the physical stuff entirely. But I'm a digital convert, I also appreciate people value the second-hand market etc.

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The difference here is Steam isn't the only place to buy PC games digitally. Impulse and D2D are able to compete. MS selling games through the dash would be convenient but there would be no competition to keep prices down.

Personally places like Steam need to cut the prices of new games. Paying more for a digital copy of a game than a boxed one doesn't make me want to buy it though Steam. Is Modern Warfare 2 still £40 on Steam?

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Personally places like Steam need to cut the prices of new games. Paying more for a digital copy of a game than a boxed one doesn't make me want to buy it though Steam. Is Modern Warfare 2 still £40 on Steam?

Apparently it's the publishers who set the prices, which makes Steam a bit of a disaster in every place other than America as everyone decides to basically convert dollars to the local currency for almost everything; only a few companies actually make a real effort to get prices correct worldwide. Mainland Europe and Australia get it worse than us by quite a bit.

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Apparently it's the publishers who set the prices, which makes Steam a bit of a disaster in every place other than America as everyone decides to basically convert dollars to the local currency for almost everything; only a few companies actually make a real effort to get prices correct worldwide. Mainland Europe and Australia get it worse than us by quite a bit.

Thanks, publishers, for putting a spanner in the works. If digital is going to outweigh boxed in the UK it won't be thanks to you, not at this rate anyway.

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I imagine there are many ex-pirates who are happy to buy everything on Steam, me included.

This is me. Why bother to pirate and risk trojans and similar nasties. Click a button and down comes the game, no faffing with discs or any such like.

I had to buy a new HDD for my Steam folder the other day as it had filled a 1TB drive. :blink:

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Paying more for a digital copy of a game than a boxed one doesn't make me want to buy it though Steam. Is Modern Warfare 2 still £40 on Steam?

Apparently it's the publishers who set the prices, which makes Steam a bit of a disaster in every place other than America as everyone decides to basically convert dollars to the local currency for almost everything; only a few companies actually make a real effort to get prices correct worldwide. Mainland Europe and Australia get it worse than us by quite a bit.

It's still £40 on Steam, which is pretty much what it still costs in the US store too (It's £38.50 at today's rates over the pond) It's US$90 (AU$95 or £57.90) on the Australian store though. They do get fucked royally. You can see the Australian version of the Steam store here if you want. Most (if not all) prices are listed in US dollars, but there is near parity American and Australian dollars at the moment.

For the sake of completeness, MW2 is €60 (£50.40) on the Euroland store (here).

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Thanks, publishers, for putting a spanner in the works. If digital is going to outweigh boxed in the UK it won't be thanks to you, not at this rate anyway.

The majority of 'big' releases on Steam are £29.99, usually with preorder bonuses or discounts. It's only really Activision who take the piss. Unfortunately places like amazon heavily discount their boxed games after a while, whilst the Steam prices don't tend to fall as fast (they should pricematch, and put everyone out of business :lol:). However, most everything on Steam does drop eventually, and also features in ludicrous themed sales which offer such a discount that it probably offsets the typically higher than average price. We're used to our PC games releasing more cheaply, but let's face it - the price of a game now is £39.99, though they fall more quickly than before, and they'd be even higher if publishers had their way. The fact that PC games have crept up to the £25-£30 mark isn't the end of the world, we're certainly getting better ports than we're used to, not to mention some great exclusives in the last few years. I'm happy with the £25-£30 price point. After all, if a game is only ever a 'maybe' on your list, you can always buy it later on in a sale or from amazon. Obviously I'd rather they were cheaper, but I've been very impressed with a lot of PC ports/versions/exclusives lately, and haven't felt out of pocket. Even Starcraft 2 at £39.99, almost unheard of for a PC game, offers great value for money and quality.

Digital distribution also offers a lifeline to developers like Frictional, who would have long since gone bankrupt and failed to develop the well received Amnesia (yours for £12.99 I might add). It also offers great value for those who like smaller games - PVZ for example.

PC sales on the whole are trending downward, but I think this is down to the lower end of the market drifting to facebook gaming and free to play titles, browser games and whatnot. I don't think this is a bad thing - the strength of the PC has always been its versatility. I honestly think there hasn't been a better time to be a PC gamer, the hardware market is slow moving and offers amazing value at present, Windows 7 offers a ludicrously easy to configure OS that rarely throws up any driver issues etc, Steam really helps provide a 'base' for your gaming activity in the style of Xbox live, and the prominence of cross platform development means most ports are stable, well optimised and well budgeted. For instance, I'm looking forward to playing Fallout:NV, Darksiders, Dead Rising 2 and Fable 3 on PC in the next couple of months, and I imagine each will be an excellent port with numerous advantages over the already great console versions. Hell, you can do your PC gaming on a Mac now too, thanks to Steam. So no need for that big ugly box covered in wires and lights!

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Steam stopped me from pirating PC games. It re-installed value to the games I did buy and was one of the reasons I fell back in love with PC gaming again. It really is a fantastic service, for all the reasons that have been mentioned. PC games now take up a larger portion of time than console games.

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Digital Downloads outside of Steam are still a bit 'off', I've downloaded several games, some from publisher services, some from indie developers straight from their site, and they feel less secure than a Steam game.

Basically I'm just annoyed that I downloaded Arkham Asylum from Eidos' Store and I have to do the download all in one, I can't turn off the computer and continue from where I left off, but my PC crashed with like an hour to go and now I have to download 9GBs again. Fuck this shit.

Also people like to go "there are other download sites too, it's good to have a competitive market", and it would be nice if they were competitive, currently they lack a lot features compared to Steam, Impulse doesn't even tell you how much you're downloading when you choose to install a game THIS IS REALLY BASIC GUYS.

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Personally, I think they should be focusing on media and game digital delivery systems, make their box the only thing you need under your television, and do away with the physical stuff entirely. But I'm a digital convert, I also appreciate people value the second-hand market etc.

I can't agree with this. It's just not commercially viable right now. If Microsoft or Sony released a digital download only home console within the next five years, at least, it would be completely dead in the water.

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I didn't say(or at least mean) they should release a digital only console, but rather they should release everything digitally too, allowing people to make the switch over the course of the remainder of the 360s lifespan. Steam is popular because it has practically everything on it, I'm sure if they stuck Halo Reach on the 'on demand' service at midnight of the launch date, they'd sell a fuckload.

It doesn't make sense for Sony anyway, seeing as they're pushing bluray so heavily. I don't really fancy 25gb movie downloads yet. But it makes sense for them to offer all their games on the PSN store as well as in shops.

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Steam converted me from a complete disbeliever to being the main source of my games over the past two years.

The shocking thing for me is that they manage to get it so right and yet Sony get it so wrong with their PSP store.

Wow. Unless I'm mixing you up with someone else, you used to be very militant about saying no to Steam, including refusing to play HL2, and making a fair few posts here and on WoS about the perils of a DRM locked future. If they can win you over they can win anyone over.

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I didn't say(or at least mean) they should release a digital only console, but rather they should release everything digitally too, allowing people to make the switch over the course of the remainder of the 360s lifespan. Steam is popular because it has practically everything on it, I'm sure if they stuck Halo Reach on the 'on demand' service at midnight of the launch date, they'd sell a fuckload.

It doesn't make sense for Sony anyway, seeing as they're pushing bluray so heavily. I don't really fancy 25gb movie downloads yet. But it makes sense for them to offer all their games on the PSN store as well as in shops.

I thought the argument was that retail still holds too much clout for them to do that right now though. The last thing Microsoft would want is to piss off GAME and then get shafted on promotion or shelf space. Just look at how hard GAME is trying to push Kinect right now for example. Would they be as willing to support a console where people started migrating to buying full-price games online instead?

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Digital Downloads outside of Steam are still a bit 'off', I've downloaded several games, some from publisher services, some from indie developers straight from their site, and they feel less secure than a Steam game.

Basically I'm just annoyed that I downloaded Arkham Asylum from Eidos' Store and I have to do the download all in one, I can't turn off the computer and continue from where I left off, but my PC crashed with like an hour to go and now I have to download 9GBs again. Fuck this shit.

Also people like to go "there are other download sites too, it's good to have a competitive market", and it would be nice if they were competitive, currently they lack a lot features compared to Steam, Impulse doesn't even tell you how much you're downloading when you choose to install a game THIS IS REALLY BASIC GUYS.

On the plus side though Eidos had some real bargains in that sale, Steam level of reductions, was encouraging to see and hopefully suggests publishers are looking at the pricing of digital games. Agree it's the Steam program as much as anything else that really makes it, so much easier to have a single program that you can manage everything from. What would be great, though probably not likely is a universal program that you can put all your digital downloads into, if I could have put Arkham Asylum into Steam then I likely would have bought it. But with more games using Steamworks now we're getting slightly closer to that, when buying Just Cause 2 from the Eidos site all you get is a serial code which you then put into Steam.

Which is one reason I'm interested to see how the consoles do digital distribution, because in the console you've got that universal management system, it's just whether they open it up to others or not. Would be great if you'll be able to turn your console on go to the market place and there's digital stores for the publishers, online retailers and shops etc It should also mean we still get a competitive market. Interesting to see what happens with Sony and Valve as well, would have thought if you want to bring digital distribution to your consoles then Valve are a great partner, Steam brand is well established now I quite like the idea of buying PS3/4 games from my Steam PC client especially if they extend the sales to them.

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I'm sure if they stuck Halo Reach on the 'on demand' service at midnight of the launch date, they'd sell a fuckload internet would implode.

I don't think we have the infrastructure to be able to release games on console digitally day one. They could offer pre-loads, but considering the leaked Reach versions came from the digital press versions, I doubt publishers would be too happy about it. It's a tough one. The only solution I can see is huge pipes for all.

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Of course, what the OP's quote doesn't mention is that the figures for digitally distributed games aren't actual sales figures (as Valve, Blizzard etc. don't reveal their sales data), but are estimates brought about from NPD surveys presented to gamers.

Or, to put it another way, are a big pile of semi-educated guesswork.

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It would be interesting to see the average games per user figure they calculated. I had steam for years with HL:2 before I actually bought anything. It used to piss me off I had to install it so I could play.

It would be interesting to see the average games per user figure they calculated. I had steam for years with HL:2 before I actually bought anything. It used to piss me off I had to install it so I could play.

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It seems like it's more to do with retail politics than anything on their end. After all, they manage to release increasingly larger games every Wednesday. While not as big as Halo, Guardian of Light was still over 2GB. They even have full retail games available. It's just a shame it's not at launch.

I do wish console manufacturers would adopt pre-loading. Such a well thought out feature, allowing you to play as soon as the clock hits that magic time.

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