How Much Of The Video Games Market Is Digital?

Whenever we talk about the declining video games market there is always an unseen spectre of unknown size hovering just beyond our peripheral vision.  That spectre is the digital market which is much harder to measure than sales of boxed media.

There are lots of interesting numbers that crawl out of the woodwork during E3 and a good source for American data, remember it is E3 so only America matters, is the Entertainment Software Association (ESA, but not our space agency).  ESA are the industry association behind E3 itself.


They have just released their “Essential Facts” report on the American computer and video game industry and made it available (PDF) in a nicely presented infographic format.  It’s full of all sorts of data about how Americans and their households spend both their gaming time and money.

Some of it makes for entertaining reading and given people’s propensity to say one thing in a survey and do another it does make you wonder about some of the parents’ answers regarding theirs and their childrens’ gaming habits.

What caught my eye though were a few graphs (it had to be graphs didn’t it) towards the end of the report.  They show how much it is estimated that digital content sales contribute to the total.  I have included what I consider to be the most interesting one here.

Consider that in their counting of the digital market they are including not just digital video and computer game sales but subscriptions to services like Xbox LIVE and PlayStation Plus as well as sales of and in-game transaction for mobile and social network games.

Yet despite including those the overall value of the market with digital sales included is staying relatively static for 2009-11.  

Given how often we hear about the growth of the mobile and social gaming markets the inference from that must be that digital sales of video and computer games are not making up for the decline in retail sales and that overall video and computer game sales are really falling.



  1. No surprise there, no way video games could get through the recession without their market taking a hit.
    I wonder how much of that bar is Xbox Live and PS+ though?
    I’d imagine Live at least is a very large part.

    • I don’t have the figures handy but I think LIVE Gold subscriptions are worth between 1 and 1.5 billion dollars to Microsoft in revenue.

  2. Is cheaper price of digital a factor of the smaller amout it brings in, not including silly prices for games that retail too. May well not make as much overall, but is more profitable.
    Not sure how accurate it is but Raptr surprised me with it’s breakdown of my PS3/PSN games and 360/Live games. At the moment sits at roughly 52/48 and 51/49, I didn’t expect it to be quite such an large proportion of download titles.

  3. Could someone explain to me what I’m looking at. I’m trying to work it out, but I don’t really know what the breakdown of the final three years mean.

    • Video games, as in console games, computer games as in pc mac, and other being digital downloads, dlc and subs.

      • Aye. That’s what I was thinking. The pale green is the digital stuff.

        Interesting to see how it’s not increasing hugely (as mentioned by Greg). I would’ve thought we’d see a far stronger transition much like we did with MP3 sales as compared to CDs but obviously not.

  4. I know personally that I now spend a small fraction of the amount that I used to on games. When I think back (even just a few years ago) I used to spend crazy money on so many games that I wouldn’t have a hope in hells chance of playing. I think it was especially since I started buying games online (physical and digital). You just enter card details once and away you go. I decided that I had to make the conscious decision to properly think before going ahead and buying something, which saves me loads of money.

    I wouldn’t say that I find it surprising that digital sales aren’t skyrocketing. The area that really suits digital games is portable devices. With so many games selling at rock-bottom prices on platforms like iOS and Android, it can take a ton of purchases to even equal the price of one retail game. I’ve no doubt that many people are shunning traditional portable games consoles, still being able to experience great games, but saving loads of money. I think the really great thing about the iOS and Android platforms is that since there is such a massive potential customer base, you get an amazing number of games developed compared to systems like the 3DS and the Vita.

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