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The shift to digital distribution

A new NPD report on the PC games industry claims that “48 per cent of PC games are downloaded [and] have almost reached a parity with physical boxed sales.” The percentages translate to…

“21.3 million PC digital downloads in 2009, versus 2.35 million physical boxed products sold.”

However “digital downloads” is not quite the same thing as “sold”. One has to wonder if they are putting free games in the “digital downloads” category? Also consider that Steam and similar services keep their sales secret, so the NPD figures have come from…

“an 8,000 member consumer panel survey and a weekly survey of 180,000 members”

However, it would seem that broadband downloads are the primary cause of the recently reported sharp decline in the 2009 purchasing of “bricks and mortar” PC retail games. This seems obvious when you consider that some of the most interesting games of 2009 could not even be bought or reviewed on Amazon UK or seen in the High Street shops. I’m thinking of The Path; Plants vs. Zombies (although they later issued a DVD); The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition; Launch of the Screaming Narwhal and subsequent chapters; Emote’s free-to-try TheHunter, and a number of excellent new indie point ‘n click adventure games.


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