PC Game Downloads Now Half of All Game Sales

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Digital sales of retail PC games now all but equal retail sales in the US.

US sales tracking organisation NPD announced PC game downloads to have reached 21.3 million units in 2009, 48% of the total. Physical sales lead with 23.5 million. However, these sales only amounted to 36% of dollar sales, suggesting lower unit prices.

Meanwhile, total game sales plummeted 23% in 2009 to $538 million, most probably due to the economic climate and ongoing decline of the PC gaming market.

Traditional game sales charts do not reflect sales of digital content well – NPD is reportedly investigating better ways of including these as the digital distribution market continues to grow.

NPD also provides estimates of the market position of the top “frontline” (non-casual games also sold at retail) digital gaming content sellers on the PC platform:

Top 5 Frontline Digital Retailers –2009 (based on unit % share)

1. Steampowered.com

2. Direct2drive.com

3. Blizzard.com

4. EA.com

5. Worldofwarcraft.com

Were consoles included in this ranking, Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo would likely head the list.

Despite the healthy growth in digital sales on the PC, the PC gaming market is still a shadow of its former self – 2001 retail sales came to $1.6 billion, a decline many attribute to rampant piracy on the platform.

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108 Comments

  • Used to be a pirate when I was a poorfag, then I got a job > Installed Steam, I’m having hell of fun playing original games and supporting the industry, most of the games I bought on special sales, I’mean c’mon $5 bucks for games like Fallout 3 GOTY, Fallout NV, Saints Row, Dead Space 1 & 2, & several great games, and some free2play, Team Fortress 2 rocks. Steam is doing great they give good prices for everyone around the world. I live in Mexico and payin $10 to $5 Dollars is more reasonable and more economical viable than paying $70 to $80 dollars just for one game.

  • Am i the only one tired of hearing the same shit with companies blaming piracy for the low sales this year ?
    Where the hell were they when the economy went down ?
    They definitely don’t seem to remember that the shit hit the fan and companies became going into debt,people lost jobs and the cost of living raised. Piracy is to the digital world as Prostitution is to the normal world, Its the oldest, so blaming it for this years low sales and not i don’t know the recession, I find the rather retarded.

    Next note: when it came to gaming the PC has always been better. The pc can do things that the consoles can’t and if you build a good one, it can last as long as a console and not to mention can your consoles push the same graphics a PC has ? I think not, not to mention the things a PC can do that a console can’t, the only reason i want a console is because of the exclusive games.

    2nd Note:- All the protections the companies are using are getting overbearing. Like i have to download the entire game in-order to play it……..WTF!!??!! do gaming companies think the world is full of godlike internet speeds ? Guess places that have DSL and lower can all suck it because your not fast enough to download a 3 DVD game, sure this way well create more profits and not piss of those who have to spend there money, but i guess thats the way things have to be right ? fighting the pirate war ? Like you can win.

  • Thus far I haven’t seen many noteworthy PC games. Most of the games I found fun so far were all on console which most of the Japanese companies cater to. (And with good reason, their games are freaking good!)

  • not ONE of you mentioned that even if the total $ for online sales is down, MORE money goes back to the devs, apposed to if printed the discs and all that shit, shipped them to retail and than sold them retail.

  • Downloadable games like Doom back in the days when it was shareware you didn’t get the full version you get the Demo version then they link you to there website to buy the full version of the game it sold very well.

    They should of counted Epic Games as well <.<?

  • (Note that this user is geographically isolated)
    Let’s see I buy something online with no taxes and wait a few hours for the download.

    Or start coughing up sales tax. Then money for the gas. Then the possibility that the product isn’t on the shelf when and if I decide to get there. Note it takes a week for either shipping to store or mailbox.

    • Depends on ur internet. I can d/l most games in 5-20 mins. Also this is for Download games not buy a physical copy of the game. So if ur internet is fast enough, u can d/l ur game faster than going and buying it. With buying it from steam or somewhere, theres usually sales, deals, or coupons so it can be alot cheaper.

      Also, there is much more games on PC that don’t have a physical copy or console version.

    • lets see here
      60$ for game
      lets assume 30 miles to store
      that is 6-14$ there, possibly more
      lets add 3-5$ tax

      or lets look at 14$ shipping and another 5$ tax

      its 69-79$

      thats why when i buy a game, i always make sure to either have something else to get, that way i get more bang out of the gass$

  • No the pc sales didn’t decline because of that, its because people has played it all, and the other big name titles are still in development, like what Blizzard is doing with Starcraft 2 (ps. if you move that july 27 date, i swear…)

  • Interesting. But then again the NPD study is flawed
    – They don’t take account of MMO subscribtion
    – Development for the PC is cheaper since microsoft don’t ask you to pay anything if you do it, unlike if you’re developing fot the console, thus cheaper games
    – Some of the good games are free indies
    – DLC’s are mostly free

    in a PC Gamer report, they argued that the core market for PC gaming, that is FPS, MMO and RTS never changed, IE the market for them is still strong. Just that the other genres has gone cheap or free

  • Anonymous says:

    nevertheless piracy is a good thing…for pc
    I rarely buy games and I do it only to support the developers
    that’s why I’ll never buy I console (can’t upgrade. can’t play pirated games etc)

  • Anonymous says:

    The #1 sold PC game in 2001 was The Sims
    4 of the top 10 games sold in the same year were also Sims expansions

    That’s not a healthy PC game market

    that’s just a lot of fucking people fellating over The Sims

  • moebius22 says:

    I doubt the PC market is in decline. Add in subscriptions such as Blizzard’s WOW (which NPD does not do)and you could make the argument that the market is in fact very healthy.

    Personally, I hate the idea of subscriptions or downloadable content. In essence you are paying for something that you don’t actually own- which is how the developers want it.

        • moebius22 says:

          All of those subscriptions do not go back to server maintenance, otherwise, these games wouldn’t exist, becuase they would make no profit(that should be obvious to the troll and you). Activision/ Blizzard’s earnings statements to their investors for WOW prove this.

        • ill back him up.
          by subscriptions i assume you mean wow like games, which require massive servers to push the game as good as it can.

          these games need those subscriptions to continue working. that is a fact of life you can not deny. you cant p2p an mmo.

          but i will agree with moebius22 on dlc which buttfucks you hard. lime mw2 or disagea 3. most dlc rapes you. but than a few get it right. like gearbox with borderlands. if i want to a store and bought an expansion pack with the 3 dlc packs they put out i would be a happy.

          Anonymous didnt need to back his comment out because he thought everyone KNEW THE FACTS, apparently he was wrong

  • Anonymous says:

    I don’t like developer to stole my LAN. I deserved best and everyone should too. we pay and in return you give us RECONNECT. what are KILL JOY. this will bring the end of LAN PARTY enjoyment. As for piracy, well … probably the A choice if this DRM continues and LAG everything i and YOU play that need to be ALWAYS connected to internet.

  • Anonymous says:

    If they’d release the console games on PC, at the same time, without shitty Anti-Pirating BS they’d get more sales. All they do is complain, complain, complain but in the mean time, do nothing to counter it, they just make things go from bad to worse imo….

  • Anonymous says:

    For some reason I always disliked console games, all the games I really like are on PC.
    Will stick to pc until consoles manage to successfully convert games like civ or total war

  • Anonymous says:

    blizzard is major game seller now ? instead of blaming pirates they should blame wow . me and my mates stopped buying games when we got wow , it sucked out all out desire to play other games .

  • I’ve not really “Stolen” and that itself is part of the problem. IMO, a bigger part than piracy.

    There’s frankly not that much out there that I want, a low enough number that I do buy what I like.

    And I’ve made countless blog postings and letters telling companies what I’d like to see, getting zero response. Well, if my interests are too small for theirs, fine, no malice but they won’t get my business.

    But I love games. I’m actually playing with some construction kits to make what I do want.

    And, btw, there’s one new game I do want bad, but it seems to be XBLA only; “Limbo” You might look it up for some vids on the ‘Tube…

  • Anonymous says:

    Budget/re-released games that I missed 1st time around are decent enough entertainment not to worry about what is the most recent iteration of “FPS Flavour of the month that looks pretty much the same as the one that came out last year” whether its console or PC games- my game spending has plummetted.

  • Anonymous said:
    It probably has somethng to do with the economy downturn.
    Pc gaming is realitvly cheaper to support.Games are made for longevity and arent 60$ – 40$
    Instead you pay for internet fees which are much smaller to play one game in the same time frame it takes to play several console games.

    Factually flawed.

    I recently bought Command Ops Battles from the Bulge from Panther Games published through Matrix Games. 80 dollars. That game cost the company a lot of money to develop. But it's a niche portion of the industry.

    Not all great PC games are MMOs.

    But as for longevity, that is something I can agree on.
    I'm waiting in Civilization V to come out. And that title will likely be as great as Civ IV was.

  • They like to blame fucking piracy for everything.
    Hmm console stores are after all what the name implies, only interested in console sales.
    Every time I go to the local game store, you pretty much need to make a fuss to get staff to realize 'yes I actually want you down here in the PC game section'.
    PC titles are considered an unwanted waste of shelf space, they're treated like the unwashed in gaming retail outlets.
    So of course PC gaming is going digital sales, why not, I don't need a fucking store any way.
    I've bought this year alone several PC titles as digital downloads. I mean, I don't need the fucking case the jacket cover and the disc, I just need the program. I also don't really need friggin manuals although some still obsess over the worthless wastes of paper.
    Granted, I ONLY buy from two wargaming publishers, because only they seem to get it, I bought their game honestly and I won't tolerate DRM.
    eLicense is a fuck off and die prospect. Inability to copy is a fuck off and die prospect. Need to go online is a fuck off and die prospect.
    But Matrix Games and Slitherine both use ONLY a serial number and not one other method of annoyance. And guess what, I buy their games.
    Respect the customer, and maybe they will respect you back.
    And piracy will ALWAYS be there. Best you can do is not piss off the people that like you.

  • Anonymous says:

    It probably has somethng to do with the economy downturn.
    Pc gaming is realitvly cheaper to support.Games are made for longevity and arent 60$ – 40$
    Instead you pay for internet fees which are much smaller to play one game in the same time frame it takes to play several console games.

  • Anonymous says:

    piracy was even worse in the past. It was always part of the computer industry and will always be.

    imo the sales plummeting is because of the economic problems atm and because a generation of gamers jsut left the stage.
    I am quite confident that in the next years sales will rise again, given that they dont destroy this by fucking up their games with more anti piracy and DLC bullcrap.

  • Games these days are distributed electronically, which means the game devs are telling people from places with intarnet dl speed of barely 60kB/s to go to hell. Not to mention unstable servers and screwed up servers. I’ve given up on Steam because it refuses to run even with every single program known to mankind was turned off.

    Gaming industry is heading to hell, YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH.

    • RunnerRed says:

      I don’t want to have a bill of 100€ in hardware -and tweak it- every 3~6month just to play ; only few games i’ve bought during the 5 last years are PC.
      BTW, one of these few is CivilizationIV, and V is coming soon =)

      • you are a fucking tard.

        i bought a gameing pc in 2004 and it worked great till late 2009 when the motherboard short circuited.

        you dont have to upgrade a gaming pc, on pc games you have these things called options, and you can tone down graphics as far as you need to to play the games, see if you aren’t willing to upgrade graphics cards than you don’t get cutting edge.

        a 500$ computer can play 1080p games at at aleast 4time the graphics that a console can, and thats all games. how many console games even hit 1080p or 1920×1080? or for that matter 1920×1200? most are barely 1280×720 and even than barely 30fps if that.

        and just because they say 1080p on the box doesn’t mean they are 1080p

        • 500 isnt an understatement.
          now this is all budget prices here, im not going for highest quality, just quality and cheap.

          motherboard – 50$ or less depending n deals
          psu – 30$ for a 550watt
          dvd – 20-30$
          case – 30$
          windows xp – getting an old unused key online isnt to hard and its free than.
          windows 7 – get a student edition, 30$
          harddrive – 40$ you can get them as cheap as 20 if you look around and don’t give a fuck about high space. but lets go 120gb
          ram – 3gb or 4gb about 100$
          cpu – dual core phenom, i think 60$ can go athlon for cheaper though
          gpu – here is where you blow your wad. 150$ for a 5770 with mail in rebates and other offers, i have seen these as low as 120$

          add the total up, (free windows xp assume, ad 30 for 7) and it comes to 480$ and this is assumeing 150 for the graphics card.

          if you bundle the hardware together you may be able to shave an extra 10% off, and if you want a quad core, the athlon II 620 preforms in games ablout as good its its equivalent ghz phenom II however outside of games the phenom has the edge.

          now this is also assuming you have the basics of a computer such as monitor, keyboard and mouse. any tv made in 4 years can be used as a monitor. not the best choice but a damn fine one on a budget. and keyboards and mice can be gotten freely if you ask around and are ok with not having the latest and greatest.

          now psu, you can get a 450 crusiar (sp) for i believe 60$ and it will be capable of powering the above setup.

          and in 3 or 4 years, all you will need to do is swap the graphics card, and probably the psu too, which will cost at most 200$ and you will have an upgrade that console wise would be the equivalent of going form the xbox to the xbox 360, if you have a quad core.

          i have had to build extreme budget pcs for friends before who where in collage, i know what im saying when i say 500$

          hell if you need to you can build a functional pc for under 200$

        • Anonymous says:

          $500 may be a little of an understatement, but a $800 rig can last you for at least as long as a console, and you get all of the benefits of a PC.

          My current rig is over 3 years old, and except for a defective video card, a lightning struck LAN card and a $20 RAM stick, it hasn’t been upgraded at all. I can still run almost all games at max settings, although my poor monitor only allows 1280×1024.

          For comparison, the video card took 3 days to exchange and the cost was $0 since it was still in warranty. I laugh at you XBox users who have to wait several weeks for your RRoDed boxes to be returned.

    • Anonymous says:

      Who wants to deal with drivers and compatibility when you can get a console for a 1/3 the price of a good PC. With the exception on MMOs, most people only play a game for a month or so, and you can’t sell pc games to Gamestop.

      • Anonymous says:

        Yes, and then you have to spend another 2/3 the price of a gaming PC for a glorified internet box, sacrificing all the conveniences of a PC, like being able to pause and google without physically moving.

        And for that 1/3, you get the most unintuitive way to control video games that was ever invented. I always feel a little chilly inside, every time I watch someone play a FPS with a gamepad.

        p.s.
        Fanboy much?
        I’ve been playing games like NWN, Rune, MW4, SC, WCIII, Civ, SoTS, Touhou, HL, TF and L4D for years now. The best thing about PC games is that they never die. If I go back and pick a random popular game, I can always find tons of awesome mods, some of which more fun than the original game itself. There are 10+ year old games who still have active modding communities around them.

        p.p.s.
        There is no eroge for consoles. ‘nuf said.

        • Anonymous says:

          Well if you will buy a pc only for playing of course you are losing money. PC are more expensive because you can do more thing on a pc. So saying a console is better than a pc because of the price well its stupid bcause you dont realize the pc was not created especifically for games.

        • As a console (the current ones at least, and even more so after sony banning Linux) doesn’t replace a computer the costs are of your normal pc or laptop plus whatever is needed to run games on it.
          That tends to be a much smaller difference in price unless you were planning to buy a netbook..

          Also PC, up to as high a resolution as your hardware allows you vs consoles with the hardware of 5 years back, these so called HD consoles don’t even play full HD with the majority of the games.

          The both have their advantages and disadvantages, with a console you can entertain some friends that come over, and fighting/platform games tend to be easier to play.
          The PC is great if you’re a loner or simply want to enjoy the best that’s out there.. and the controls lend themselves better for RTS, FPS and MMORPGs.

          (PS clicking next next next next after clicking setup.exe isn’t rocket science)

        • So if graphics are everything for you, than go PC.

          I’d say 1/3 the graphics is a fair comparison, but 1/3 the price? PC’s are much more expensive, even if you build yourself, and you still have to upgrade/maintain it on top of that.

          RTS’s are better on the PC right now for several reasons, but you just have to add mouse support to get a good port to console.

    • Anonymous says:

      but strangely Microsoft pull the plug on this Xbox Live+Windows Live service due to the fact, MS found that console gamers didn’t stand a chance against PC gamers.

      http://goo.gl/tS1N

      beside, i’ll still be a PC gamer simply because they will have ero-scene in eroges whereas playstation doesn’t. thanks to sony’s part

      • They came to the brilliant conclusion that giving someone a keyboard and a mice gives an unfair advantage against those playing with a controller in the most popular games.

        Well big surprise there!

    • Anonymous says:

      true, games are getting more and more complicated. Example is Company of Heroes. You can play the game via LAN, expansion came out, now you shall have to connect to the internet just to play multiplayer. More and more games are getting connected to the internet. There was also a rumor that Blizzard is taking away LAN due to piracy.

      Battle.net is good. But the lag… I get trashed by noobs.

      Whatever happened to the days where you just install and play?