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Digital Downloads Gaining Ground as Retail Slumps

The number is up 5% from 2015, according to the Entertainment Software Association annual report.


Digital game sales have become a huge market for publishers. From Steam to the Xbox Marketplace to the PlayStation Store, players can grab just about anything they want without waiting in line at the tradition brick-and-mortar shops. Just how big is it? A new ESA report for 2016 says digital represents almost 3/4 of all games sold.

The annual report form the Entertainment Software Association shows that digital sales jumped another 5% from 2015. The overall dollar figure for game sales is a whopping $24.5 billion, which included games, DLC and mobile apps. That number is $7 billion more than in 2010, up more than 40%. If you add in hardware and accessories, the number hit an incredible $30.4 billion. 

Meanwhile, retailers such as GameStop have reported weaker game sales. Just last month, GameStop stock plummeted 13% on reports that fourth quarter sales were down in all areas. It has already begun closing stores.

As for demographics, the average gamer is 35 years old. Males skew younger on the whole to the under 35 bracket, while females tend to be fairly evenly divided across all age ranges.

Other cool tidbits:

  • More than 97% of U.S. households have a personal computer, 81% have smartphones, and 48% have game consoles. The ESA estimates that there are roughly 1.7 gamers in each household.
  • 11% of households have VR devices, with about 63% of "frequent gamers" knowing about VR. That number is up from 15% in 2015. The average age of a headset owner in 31.
  • 54% of gamers feel that games provide more value for their money than DVDs (22%), Music (14%), and Movies (10%).
  • There are 2,322 developers across all 50 states, with 526 publishers spread across 44 states. Those companies employ 65,678 workers, with an average salary of $97,000.

Check out the full report for all the fun facts.

Contributing Editor
From The Chatty
  • reply
    April 20, 2017 9:10 AM

    John Keefer posted a new article, Digital Downloads Gaining Ground as Retail Slumps

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      April 20, 2017 9:53 AM

      In other news, scientists determine water is indeed wet.

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      April 20, 2017 10:08 AM

      Shame Microsoft was a few years too early with the Xbox One digital stuff. Probably not even too early, people are just whiney bitches.

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        April 20, 2017 10:12 AM

        Nah, until the resale market is fixed and now with 4k assets data caps aren't an issue we're going to have need of physical media.

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          April 20, 2017 10:14 AM

          Apparently 3/4 of people don't give a shit about that even when presented with a choice.

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          April 20, 2017 10:15 AM

          Even physical games are being sold to give you a digital access or needing more online to get the rest of the game nowadays.

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            April 20, 2017 10:18 AM

            This is true, and with the increasing size of day 1 patches it's almost a moot point. I'm just saying their are legitimate reasons to want the choice.

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        April 20, 2017 10:27 AM


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          April 20, 2017 10:52 AM


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            April 20, 2017 2:40 PM

            I think he means right now if you want to buy it digitally and have it tied to your account you can and if you want to use a disc and be able to take it anywhere or sell it to anyone you can. If the original plan had gone through that second option would be gone. There would potentially be more upsides to the first option if it was the only option but basically Microsoft wanted to turn the Xbox One into Steam.

            And if Sony had done the same thing at the same time they could have pulled it off too. But Sony basically used the fact that they weren't changing anything as an advantage and Microsoft pulled the ripcord.

            I think the main thing that irked people was that used games would be gone for the Xbone. You could sell them to your friends through approved channels, one of which was GameStop, but the idea of your friend buying the disc off of you was gone. It would handle one of the things that the game industry hates but the consumers love: that the game developer and console manufacturer see nothing from used game sales. Personally I'm fine with that but man it pissed the hell out of people.

            The march to the situation with Steam on the PC was slow but since consoles have these hardware-based steps involved with things (i.e., the hardware only changes every few years by design) it makes changes harder.

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        April 20, 2017 11:04 AM

        They are selling all of the available games in their digital store. You don't have to use it, but it's there.

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          April 20, 2017 11:07 AM

          There were a bunch of cool things around digitally sharing that we still don't have.

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            April 20, 2017 11:15 AM

            No, they were talking ideas for features, not actual things that existed.

            Of course they were talking up their thing to sound like a feature rich utopia. If they had the intention to follow through, there's absolutely nothing stopping them implementing a majority of those features for the digital platform though.
            The reason you can't rent out your digital games is because publishers and platform holders interests are often in conflict with consumer friendly features.

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              April 20, 2017 2:42 PM

              I seem to recall at whatever E3 they announced all this they really made it seem like this is how the Xbone was going to ship and that there was no way to roll it back. Then two weeks later they rolled it back.

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                April 20, 2017 2:59 PM

                It was easy to roll back because they didn't have those back end features to begin with.

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        April 20, 2017 11:04 AM


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        April 20, 2017 1:26 PM

        i think this wouldve been more palatable had they not also fumbled the message of xbox for sports and tv. it was blatantly tonedeaf when viewed in conjunction with that poor messaging, I dont blame the uproar one bit.

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          April 20, 2017 1:35 PM

          "This box does stuff other than games. I don't like that! I'm going to get upset about games!"

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        April 20, 2017 1:43 PM

        Nah, microsoft decided to throw the baby out with the bath water.

        *Digital format sales include subscriptions, digital full games, digital addon-on content, mobile apps, and social network games.

        so MMO subscriptions, DLC's including card decks, costumes, weapons, etc, and expansions that require the base game.

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      April 20, 2017 3:18 PM

      I woner how big he marketshare of steam is

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