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.