updated 07:00 pm EST, Thu December 22, 2011
NPD tracks smartphone and digital gaming at last
The NPD Group in a rare step began tracking some of the contributions of non-traditional gaming to the industry for the first time. It estimated that about $1.64 billion came from "other content," which includes mobile games as well as direct downloads and social network games, generated $1.64 billion in revenue. The growth made it larger than the traditional software side of the business, which dropped to $1.3 billion
The figure wasn't enough to offset an overall drop. When factoring in dedicated gaming hardware, the game industry at large was down 11 percent versus a year earlier, at $4.2 billion. NPD researchers didn't fully explain the decline, but a muted economy may have played a role.
Earlier looks have suggested that mobile games may be cutting into traditional revenue, not just supplementing it. Android and iOS devices have rapidly shrunk Nintendo's share of the space and capped an already weak Sony. Many of the games on Apple and Google platforms cost under $10 where a 3DS or PSP game usually costs $30 or more, meaning that even rampant success in Android or iOS gaming doesn't necessarily compensate for effects on Nintendo and Sony.
Desktop gaming has often been a point of contention as well. In part because of a lack of data from game shops like Steam or the Mac App Store, the actual effect of direct-download games on Macs and PCs has been difficult to register. Developers like Valve and EA are relying considerably more on downloads and sometimes get many, if not most, of their sales from Internet buyers.