It's always perplexing to us when research groups release game related sales figures that completely ignore digital downloads, especially on the PC. Only counting physical hardware and software leaves out a significant portion of overall sales and misrepresents the market. For that reason, we're thrilled that The NPD Group left no stone unturned in tallying $2.87 billion spent on game content in the U.S. in the third quarter of 2012.
Content in digital format (full game and add-on content downloads, subscriptions, mobile games, and social network games) generated $1.40 billion, surpassing the $1.07 billion U.S. consumers spent on new physical video and PC game software. Other physical forms of content (used games and rentals) added up to another $399 million.
"When including overall consumer content spending across both digital and physical formats in Q3 2012, there was a positive story for the industry," said Liam Callahan, industry analyst, The NPD Group. "“Despite declines in physical format spending of 16 percent from Q3 2011, strong growth in digital format spending, up 22 percent, helped offset this decline and led to 1 percent decline in content spending from the same quarter last year. Mobile App spending, digital full game downloads, and downloadable add-on content were the areas within digital format spending that helped drive this increase."
Leaving out digital downloads and, to a certain extent, used game and rental sales, paints a totally different picture than when only looking at new physical hardware and software sales. Hopefully The NPD Group and other research firms will view this data as an eye-opening experience and at least include digital sales in future reports.