The digital distribution of games has grown substantially in recent years with an increasing number of titles finding themselves in the Nintendo eShop, PSN, Xbox Live Arcade and Steam.
Analysts from NPD, iResearch and Digi-Capital presented data at this week's Game Developers Conference on the state of the global digital game market and it's certainly picking up at a staggering rate. GamesIndustry International was on hand to report the findings.
In the US and Europe, digital game and downloadable content sales are growing at a rate of 33% year-on-year as gamers begin to adopt the new method of consumption.
Liam Callahan, games industry analyst from NPD, revealed the US is the biggest Western force in the download market, forking out $5.9 billion on content - accounting for a massive 40% of total spend on video games. The UK spends $1.7 billion, Germany $1.4 billion and France $1 billion.
Astonishingly, in 2012 the retail market for new games makes up less than half of the total $14.8 billion spent on gaming in the US. Retail games make up 48% of the market, with used games (11%), digital games and DLC (15%), mobile game (14%) subscriptions (7%), social network gaming (4%), and game rentals (1%) making up the rest.
New retail game sales fell over 22% from 2011, and used games dropped 17.1%. Meanwhile, digital full games and DLC combined grew 33.9%, with subscriptions increasing by 12.9% and mobile games gaining 10.4%.
The market is definitely shifting, with more new entrants such as mobile and tablet gaming entering the environment. Interesting, NPD found each particular nation has its own favourite medium for video games. For example, UK gamers like to play on home consoles, while the French prefer handheld systems like the 3DS. Germany prefers PC gaming, and those in the US seem to be adopting mobile and tablet platforms more than any other country.
Mobile gaming is definitely on the increase, however the amount of people willing to pay differs in Europe and the US. While 40% of Europeans will pay for their mobile games, only 27% of those in the US will do the same. Free-to-play is a genre many companies are exploring, with Crytek - the German developer behind the Crysis series - in particular claiming it is working towards offering all of its future titles for free, generating revenue with additional content.
China's gaming market is almost exclusively digital, therefore the download market is maturing in this region. The impact this is having on the global video game market is massive.
Tim Merel of Digi-Capital projected that Asian games could dominate the global online and mobile games markets, if trends continue, and expects many Western companies to carry on merging with and acquiring Asian developers in the coming years. He said while the US tends to consume console and subscription-based games, those in emerging nations like China and Brazil are more open to mobile, social, and free-to-play MMOs.
Digital downloads are definitely playing their part in the evolution of the video game market. Check out our recent talking point on the download or disc dilemma faced by many gamers, where we take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of digital downloads.
Have you switched to digital over retail purchases, or do you like to mix it up a bit? Let us know in the comments section below.