updated 06:45 pm EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Digital purchases almost doubled from 2009, firm expects digital downloads to grow
A report from tech site PCR indicates that PC games are now almost entirely purchased through digital channels. Analyst firm DFC Intelligence told the publication that in 2013, digital games made up 92 percent of all computer games sales worldwide. The trend shows that computer gamers are flocking to online services like The number of digital titles has almost doubled since 2009, according to figures acquired by Gamasutra from the NPD Group. Numbers for 2010 placed digital download purchases at 21.3 million units in the United States alone. Digital sales were responsible for 48 percent of all PC units in the year, while bringing in 36 percent of revenues. Top online retailers were marked as Steam, Blizzard, Big Fish Games and Direct2Drive, which sold to Gamefly in 2011.
Independent developers and PC exclusive titles are adding to the surge in digital purchases. Games like DayZ, which was released as an early-access game in December 2013, have boasted sales of over two million units as of May. Publishers like Devolver Digital offer their titles exclusively in digital, even though a few of its published games, such as Duke Nukem 3D and Serious Sam, existed as physical products at one time. Even though both DayZ and Devolver Digital have expanded to consoles since their initial launches, they still maintain digital delivery.
DFC Intelligence said earlier this year that computer game revenues passed those of consoles, driven in part by some digital-only games like those found in the multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) genre. David Cole, the owner of DFC Intelligence, told PCR that even though there is an overlap between console and PC gamers, consoles are becoming luxury items. Consumers are turning to PC games because of this, often looking at free-to-play titles which often turn to selling in-game items for revenues.
While the number of digital sales has grown dramatically, along with the number of digital-only titles, it isn't a stretch to imagine that PC games sales have gone almost entirely digital. With the decreasing number of brick and mortar stores offering games, the ones that remain only offer a small collection on their shelves. Stores like Best Buy and Fry's used to have entire rows dedicated to PC games, but have been replaced in recent history with download code cards or Steam Wallet cards.