Any research firm that tallies game sales but neglects to include digital copies isn't really painting a full picture of the landscape. That's less of a problem these days than it was a few years ago, and to put the impact of digital sales into perspective, market research firm International Data Corporation (IDC) predicts digital PC and Mac game revenue will exceed $24 billion by 2017.
That's a lot of loot and it factors in a rise in game software revenue of around 4 percent per year between 2012 and 2017. Interestingly, IDC predicts digital PC and Mac revenue in North America will slip a bit, noting that both casual and browser-based titles on smartphones and tablets have been cannibalizing sales. On top of that, there's been a drop in hardcore subscription revenue (think: World of Warcraft).
Outside of the U.S., it's a different story, particularly in places where consoles have had a hard time penetrating.
"Other than the casino genre, it's been tough sledding for most casual-leaning PC game genres in the past year," said Lewis Ward, Research Director, Gaming at IDC. "Most of the growth is coming from hardcore-oriented freemium titles such as Tencent's and Riot Games' League of Legends, Valve's Team Fortress 2 and Dota 2,Wargaming.net's World of Tanks, and a handful of Chinese MMORPGs."
IDC may even be underestimating the situation, especially if Valve's Steam Machine initiative takes off here and abroad.