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The times are definitely changing in the video game retail industry, as the latest NPD figures covering 2012 sales in the U.S. emerge. In general the results reflect the trends reported by Nintendo in its financial results, but the figures also show just how vital the download gaming market is becoming; this is an area that Satoru Iwata says will be increasingly important to the company.

Accounting for physical software sales, used sales, rentals, and digital software sales (console hardware and accessory sales aren't included), U.S. consumers spent a total of $14.8 billion on video games last year, a total drop of 9% ($1.54 billion) from 2011's $16.34 billion. The under-pressure used game market drew $1.79 billion, while new physical retail games earned $7.09 billion; digital content (which includes downloadable games, additional DLC, subscriptions, mobile games, and social games) brought in $5.92 billion, as it gets increasingly close to catching up with traditional boxed games. Tellingly, new physical retail sales represented a drop of 21% on the equivalent 2011 figures, while the digital content category's figures represent an increase of 16%.

Although estimates, these figures not only reinforce the results returned by Nintendo, but emphasize the continuing march onwards of downloadable games and content. Nintendo made notable and important strides in that area in 2012 and is on course for its best ever year in the download market, but the sooner POS (point of sale) download content cards and similar products arrive en masse to retailers in the West — they've been a success in Japan — the sooner Nintendo can get a bigger slice of the industry's fastest growing market.

Many still prefer the traditional use of physical media, of course, so we'd like to know your purchasing habits in the polls below, as well as what you think of these results and trends in the comments section.

On which games format do you spend the most money? (223 votes)

I still spend the most on boxed retail games


I mostly buy download retail games


I spend more money on download-only games


A mixture of all of the above


Please login to vote in this poll.

Would you be interested in POS (point of sale) cards for Nintendo download products? (183 votes)

Yes, I want the option of buying this content in stores


No, I'd much rather just use the eShop directly


I would use both the eShop and POS cards


I'm not interested in downloading games at all


Please login to vote in this poll.

[via gamesindustry.biz]