Feb 6th, 2013

Earlier in the week, I posted a discussion point asking you guys whether you preferred digital downloads or physical media for your games. Most of you said you preferred physical because the hazards of digital are too many, but a few of you have gone digital only. The most recent NPD numbers show you guys aren’t alone, as the sales of digital only have grown massively over just the last year.

U.S. consumers spent a total of $14.8 billion on video games, as a complete number, including used software sales, rentals, and digital purchases. Consoles and accessory purchases are not included in that number. That’s a drop of 9% from last year’s number of $16.34 billion. Used games drew in $1.79 billion, while physical retail copies of game saw $7.09 billion in income. Digital copies of games, including DLC and subscriptions saw income of %5.92 billion. This category has grown significantly since 2011. Retail boxed games saw a 21% drop in sales compared to the same period in 2011, while digital saw a 16% increase.

Keep in mind that NPD numbers are always estimates, but this is evident that digital only is the way many consumers are going. With access to better internet and services like Nintendo eShop finally being available, retail releases don’t have as much power as they did before. Customers who prefer physical will always exist, but digital distribution is fast becoming a customer favorite.

[via GameIndustry]

local_offer    Nintendo  wii u  
  • TheLast

    “Customers who prefer physical will always exist, but digital distribution is fast becoming a customer favorite.” As long as this stays true, I have no problems.

  • Warren Huff

    I dont beleive digital will ever become a favorite over phyisical! That is just crazy talk! Why does digital cost the same as well its a ripoff! 

    • RetroSquid

      Digital is nearly alot more. Look at the eshop £54.99 for ACIII, when I can pick it up in GAME up the road for £37.99.
      I haven’t seen it for more than £42.99 in a store…

    • JB

      I would imagine the reason that digital is the same price as physical is because they both cost money (and probably in some cases more in digital distribution) 

      With physical, there’s the cost of manufacturing, packaging and the logistics of distributing to retail stores and maintaining the balance of supply and demand.

      With digital, particularly with the way Nintendo is doing it by making nearly all retail product available on their storefront, there’s costs associated with bandwith, IT and storefront maintenance.

      When the retail product takes drop in price lower than digital store… that’s solely up to that particular retailer. A drop usually indicates a particular game isn’t selling well, or they need to make space for new product or they are just simply just lowering the price of the product to draw traffic in their store from other retailers. 

      • Elem187

        yes, but with a digital download, you cannot trade it in on the purchase of another game when you are certain you aren’t going to play it anymore.

    • clivemax

      If these numbers include PC, then a lot of the money made probably comes from the really good sales that happen throughout the year. Sometimes you can even get games that are cheaper that retail used games. If digital is the same price as physical then I can see it being a ripoff, but with all the great sales on PC it’s a very viable option.

      • JB

        Oh yea, I forgot about PC sales… I don’t ever remember not scoring a REALLY good digital deal on PC downloads.

    • Elem187

      How about this, the new PS4 will use Disc tagging. In other words, they don’t want you trading and borrowing games with friends, no more renting games from gamefly, and no more buying used from gamestop.

      Is Sony really this suicidal? I can’t even imagine the most hardcore Sony fan putting up with that. Sony’s narcissism is so deep and vast that they think the reason they failed to turn a profit on the PS3 is because people were renting and buying games used than buying new at full retail price.

      • Cloud W Omega

         they will probably make rental disks. which do not tag.

        • which would increase the price of game rentals b/c they are a special disk…..not only that, using non-tagged discs can also be a perk for pirates to reverse engineer….Sony wouldn’t DARE allow the possibility of reverse engineering….like when Sony found out that there was a possibility of the PS3 getting hacked with the OtherOS, they removed it before it saw the light of day!

      • brian murphy

        people at sony already said a year ago that was just a rumor and its not gonna happen

    • bizzy gie

      There the exact same game. If the digital version cost less than the physical, nobody would go to a retailer. Why do so many people think full digital games should cost less.

      It’s the same thing distributed differently.

      • Not exactly true…there is still the space limitation there….folks with the 8GB model will be required to buy a hard drive for downloading alot of games, and even AC III is 17GB, so unless you have ALOT of time and space on a Wii U, physical copies are still going to be desired.  I bought a physical copy of New Super Mario Bros U even though I knew my 8GB Basic Wii U could handle the digital download, but I rather have a box, instructions, etc…I can take it to friends houses, etc….

    • Kuzon

      PC is already all digital and favored as all digital because of Steam. Although Steam always has discounted prices from both age of the release and sales during events.
      That only took a several years to do a massive switch over.

      • Not all digital. People still buy physical copies. Don’t know where you got the “all” part from. That’s just Steam that’s all digital. I’m not a big pc gamer, but Steam is awesome with discounts.

  • Leathersoup

    1. Only ship five physical copies of Fire Emblem.
    2. Release as Digital Download as well.
    3. Proclaim that Digital copies are selling better.

  • Your purchases should tie into your nintendo network account. So if your wii U breaks, you wont lose your purchase on your next Wii U. Problem solved.

    • My brother had his Wii U die on him within 30 days and from what I gathered the downloads are tied to both the console and the NintendoID.  Meaning that if in an extreme circumstance you can contact Nintendo and if the console had to be repurchased out of warranty then they can deactivate the old one and activate the new one and you can re-download.  In warranty if they have to replace the console they should do that step in the repair process.

      At least that is how it was explained to my brother from upper level support and he was able to return and exchange the dead console for a new one and get his downloads and Wii transfers back. He had a game stuck in the console too and Nintendo sent him a replacement free of charge.

  • JumpMan

    *$5.92 not % @WiiUDaily:twitter 

  • The increase in digital sales isn’t surprising when that number includes DLC (which can only be purchased digitally, and is being more commonly released for games now) and subscriptions (which can just make more financial sense).  I’d be interested to know what the numbers look like in the case of Nintendo’s eShop where digital purchases cost the same as retail at launch, and end up costing more in the long run after retailers drop their prices for the physical game copies.

  • Mickey Mouse

    I was all fired up for going all digital with the Wii U, then I got my Wii U and saw the prices in the eShop and have stuck to indie games only for downloads and discs for everything else.

  • Fred

    I love digital only! I’m going all digital with my Wii U. I’d be happy to trade Nintendo Land, Sonic, and Scribblenauts for digital copies. I figure my 2TB hard drive should be enough to hold all the games I buy (currently NSMBU, NBA 2K13, Trine 2, & Balloon Fight)

    • Adam Fox

      as more games come out, you’re gonna end up needing to buy another hard drive….AC III is 17GB….2TB won’t last all that long with games that size….

      • I don’t see anyone needing 200 games on an HDD to be honest…do you really think you will purchase that many? 2TB is a LOT of space…

  • Kyle Berger

    I prefer digital. I wont have to wait outside for 5 hours in the cold for a game on launch day if I can just download it.

    • brian murphy

      plus you dont have to pay taxes on the eshop save yourself 10 bucks

  • ToadTheBarbarian

    High retail price, no resale value. I’ll wait ’til I have no choice thank you.

  • Kuzon

    I recently bought Tekken on Wii U. I’m gonna need a HDD in the future for more downloads

  • Sidney Majurie

    The day gaming goes all digital will be the day I no longer play video games. But that’s just me. I don’t like the direction of video games in general anyway. An over emphasis on dreary Hollywood style shooters and graphics. We need another industry crash to right the ship…

  • Petri

    Does this include pc sales?
    With steam being as cheap as retail, and those crazy discounts, who buys physical pc games anymore?

    But console, I will never go full digital.

    Digital wont kill my gaming, but cloud gaming would.
    Sony scared me off with their tripping cloud gaming non-sense and used games blocking.
    Even though only maybe 5 out of my 55 ps3 games were used, and I only sold maybe 4 (until I sold the whole dust gathering helicopter).
    But the option should always be there, just think of the children.

  • Nick Kulakovskiy

    Uhm, well, I prefer physical copies of my games just to have the cover. It looks pretty and shiny, and makes me feel like a real collector.

  • I don’t mind digital sometimes, but I don’t agree with the pricing. If the physical copy costs 59.99 the digital version shouldnt cost the same amount. For example, if Nintendo sells New Super Mario Bros Wii U at gamestop for 59.99 and they also sell the digital version on their own eshop why is the price the same? Theyve cut out production costs of packaging, disc making, shipping, and the middle man. I feel a full digital game should, at the most cost around 49.99, does no one else agree with that?

  • i like digital , you dont have to mess around with cds swapping and changing just to play a new game.. you can just pick what you want and away you go.