Whee! Downloads Now 48% of PC Game Sales

Something about the internet?

US receipt-collectors NPD are finally encompassing digital distribution in their regular surveys. Which is just as well, as half the time it’s been their bloody surveys which have caused nitwits to cry “the PC is doomed” (most recently, they claimed a 23% drop in PC game sales from 2008 to 2009). They’re now estimating that download sales constitute 48% of the PC market, which means previous recent surveys have ignored about 21.3 million units. Whole lotta cash. That’s even before you factor in the giant cash-pile generated from free-to-play games’ microtransactions and whatnot.

Oh, and the NPD have also put out a list of the five biggest digital distributors in the world today. Can you guess which is number one? I’ll give you a clue. It’s not Steam.

Oh, if course it’s bloomin’ Steam. Don’t be ridiculous. Positions three to five are veeeeeeeeery interesting, however: these are sites selling just a few different games (and one, in WoW’s case), but they’re beating yer GamersGates, GoGs, Impulses (though there’s been some controversy there) et al. Not sure that’s totally healthy. But it is veeeeeeery interesting.

1 – Steampowered.com
2 – Direct2drive.com
3- Blizzard.com
4- EA.com
5- Worldofwarcraft.com

That’s in terms of unit percentage share, though I’m not entirely sure where those figures came from, given Steam at least doesn’t release much sales data.

It’s also worth noting those are purely “frontline” sales, which I thought for a moment meant only sales of underwhelming Battlefield clone Frontlines: Fuel of War. In fact, it means digital distributors which specialise in games also commonly available at retail. I.e. not casual portals, who have their own chart:

1. Bigfishgames.com
2. Pogo.com
3. Gamehouse.com
4. iWin.com
5. Realarcade.com

So yeah, basically. The PC’s making much more money than idiots say it is. This does, however, beg the question of whether or not too much of that money is going to just one company.


  1. Simon Dufour says:

    I still wonder how accurate this really is.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      It’s a survey, it can only be so accurate. The RPS survey suggested that 95% of you use digital distribution to buy games.

    • linfosoma says:

      Are you guys going to publish the results of that survey?

    • Jason Moyer says:

      Obviously those 95% percent who use digital distribution are only buying about 50% of their games that way.

    • Sam says:

      Or the readership of RPS is more technically savvy than your general consumer who buys from online stores and retailers.

    • Phinor says:

      I’d love to buy more digitally distributed games but alas, due to pricing, I’m not doing so. The only full priced games I have bought digitally were HL2: Episode 1 and Orange Box back when we (€uropeans) still paid the $ price in Steam and couple of games from Stardock as they have the ‘everyone pays the same’ pricing on their own games. During the time of digital distribution I must have bought over a hundred retail copies for the simplest of reasons – price.

      Case in point, Mafia 2 pre-order became available today in Steam. I now have to make choice between paying 50€ for that Steam pre-order, or spend more or less the same 50€ and get both Mafia 2 AND Civilization 5 retail copies. Both are Steamworks titles too so I will have them in my Steam account anyway.

      I will keep buying retail copies as long as they are vastly cheaper. No, actually I will keep buying retail copies as long as they are even one cent cheaper than the digital copies that cost no money for the publishers to produce. 7-8 years ago I was enthusiastic about digital distribution because they (mostly Valve) kept saying how it will directly affect game prices as the physical product is no longer needed. I never thought the prices would go up, though.

    • Phinor says:

      …and of course I managed to hit reply instead of posting a regular message. Well at least it’s close to the top now!

    • Lukasz says:

      I actually buy 80% of my games via digital services like steam, gog and d2d. this year i think i bought only two retails (alpha protocol, soviet assault ) and only one is brand new

    • Pandaemonius says:

      Phinor: Actually, I’m pretty sure digital distribution HAS directly affected the pricing of games, in a number of ways.

      Firstly, the price of games (in the UK, at least) has remained pretty stable for a good long while. In the 90’s ~£30 was the going full price (please correct me if I misremember). Despite a fairly large amount of inflation in the past 10-15 years, this is still true.

      Following on from that, games actually are cheaper, but from retail. Physical retailers are having to undercut the digital outlets and arrange exclusive deals in order to stay relevant.

      Also, you need to bear in mind that the production cost of the physical product is miniscule compared to other development costs – it means very little in the grand scheme. It can only truly make a difference if there is no physical version at all.

      Well, that’s my essay done! Hooray for downloads!

    • Rich says:

      Lets not forget the impact of huge digital download sales.
      I don’t buy anything now that costs more than £5.

    • Corrupt_Tiki says:

      I am not even going to try to relate to anything in this post or replies.

      Digital Distribution is good, great, excellent even, but alas, I CAN’T get a decent internet connection, I’ve asked and questioned, and quizzed, and the best I got from several ISP’s was ‘your exchange cannot handle it…’
      So I got Wireless… eugh, I hated the Idea of it when It first came out, and I hate it even more so now I’m forced into using it – Stupid Caps, Shoddy Download Speed (In Comparasion to ADSL), and oh my god the unreliability.
      I still game on it mind you, The lag means I make a harder target for rail guns…
      … Some of us need little PC Game Shops to stay alive, please people, buy a game every now and then that has a box, and a manual, and hell maybe even a map.

      -irrelevant post ended, sorry guys but I had to get that off my chest

    • Thermal Ions says:

      “Or the readership of RPS is more technically savvy than your general consumer who buys from online stores and retailers.”

      You mean there’s people who don’t read RPS. Quick someone pass the hat around for these unfortunate deprived individuals.

  2. Deston says:

    Fairly unsurprising results really; we’ve all discussed here many times about the flaws in these surveys not accounting for what is blindingly bloody obvious – digital distribution surely has to count for a massive portion of PC game sales in recent times and they can’t be ignored. It is good to see they’ve finally woken up and realised this though.

    It’d be really interesting to get a peak into Steam’s financials and sales figure details, other than the odd crumbs they through out here and there. But then I guess that’s the price we pay for not having the PC’s leading digital distributor owned by a bunch of clueless public shareholder monkeys.

    Oh and Alec,

    I’ll give you a clue. It’s not Steam

    You actually almost had me with that, you bast! Almost…. well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. :P

    • Aninhumer says:

      I fell for it, and then the site went down while I was trying to load the full article to find out.
      I was wondering about it for ages.
      Curse you Alec Meer!

    • BAReFOOt says:

      But what I don’t get is, why people are so stupid to actually do this? I mean it’s well known that that stuff is DRM-infected. Which means you’re not actually buying or owning anything at all. You just pay for a „license“. And the company can revoke the access at a whim. Server down? Done. Company bankrupt? Done. Company suddenly has a new boss, who thinks differently, and shuts the server department down. Done. It has already happened. And in 10 years you will have access to exactly NONE of the games you thing you “own” now. Not a single one.

      Yes, it’s actually fraud. Yes it’s actually a crime. And yes, you can actually by definition not own a game, since it’s data. Information. Ideas. Nothing real that you can control and possess.
      The whole idea of doing a service that creates information, and then instead of demanding money for that service, demanding money for every copy of the resulting information, is beyond silly and very idiotic anyway. Oh, and extremely greedy. Because you want to cash in multiple times for the same single work.

      Besides, it’s completely unnessecary anyway, as proven by the biggest industries on the planet:
      Johanna Blakely: Lessons from fashion’s free culture

  3. Joseph Cook says:

    I’m interested to hear Brad Wardell’s take, since he took issue with the last time NPD reported data on digital distribution, saying that they ignored Impulse which should be a ‘clear number two”

    link to bluesnews.com

    Does that mean that, with Impulse included, that number could be well above 50% for digital revenue?

    I’m also interested to see if they actually got real numbers from Valve/D2D, or if they’re just estimates or polls of the publishers/developers themselves?

  4. Fumarole says:

    So no idea how far down the list GOG lies? It’s quickly becoming my online storefront of choice.

    • Zogtee says:

      I’d like to know that too. If they’re doing really badly, then I need to buy a load of their games, before they go tits up. Yes, I’m Mr Positive today.

    • Lukasz says:

      i would love to know that too but gog is a niche market. it is probably in top ten but only because there are only 10 sites or so which sale digital downloads.

    • skalpadda says:

      I can’t imagine the cost of running GoG are very high though, and they seem to have carved out a cozy little corner of the for themselves with some very loyal customers.

  5. RQH says:

    That’s a relief, because I’m certainly *spending* as much, if not more, on PC games than ever (largely due to digital distribution.)

  6. BAshton says:

    That is really interesting. Bit disappointing that impulse isn’t in the top five, but I suppose it makes sense. Good that their finally taking note of download sales, this will really show how successful PC gaming still is. Seems odd that EA is at number 4. I never really think of them as an online retailer. I suppose that’s me showing my prejudices though.

    • Ginger Yellow says:

      It’s not too surprising given that, last time I checked, you could only get The Sims 3 (and Spore?) from EA’s own store.

    • Chris says:

      You can get a lot of downloads from the EA store. I bought Mass Effect from it when bored one day as I wanted a new game to play, couldn’t be arsed going into town, and it didn’t appear to be available on Steam at the time.

      From what I remember quite a few games were available for download – Mirror’s Edge the only one I’m certain about though.

    • Ginger Yellow says:

      What I meant was that at least some of EA’s extremely popular franchises are only available via EA’s store, not that there are only a few games available on the store. I imagine most Mass Effect downloaders did so via Steam. But everybody who downloaded the Sims did so via EA.

    • Chris says:

      Ah right, got it.

  7. Emu says:

    I have to admit I am somewhat saddened by the increase in download sales. I actually love getting the box with all the trinkets in it, not that it has been terribly popular in a long time now. I still love the old Ultima games with all the toys that would come with it. Made the game a much more involved experience as opposed to just install and play it already.

    • Raum says:

      I’m the same.

      Lately, after the DVD style “boxes” arrived, I haven’t really bought a lot of games. I’ve downloaded a few, directly from the developers when I could (Solium Infernum and Machinarium for instance), but really, the “big” games I simply haven’t bothered with. Of course, the biggest reason is that they’re pretty much all shit, but not having a real box, real box art, a real manual; is a factor.

      It’s like with music. Why anyone would buy CD’s are beyond me. They’re so ugly, a part of my soul dies every time I see someone having them on a visible shelf. Luckily vinyl is on the rise, as it should be. We have perfect digital copies available online, so CD’s are worthless. Not only are the actual quality of the product not particularly good, but the physical part of the product is ridiculous. Why don’t they just mail a turd to people who download a digital copy instead. I’m sure some would disagree, but I’d much prefer it over a CD. At least if it was dried somewhat. But I digress!

      The point is, I think gaming sales would have been better with better physical products. Digital sales are all fine and well, as long it’s from the developer, without DRM, and it’s a fair deal. Still, I would gladly have continued to buy physical products, if there actually was something physical to crave.

    • TeeJay says:

      @ Raum: “CD’s are worthless”

      Having an album-length playable physical copy that can be carried between bedroom > car > party > etc is still useful. It’s true that mp3s on a USB stick or iPod can do this but they have problems of 1) expense 2) containing too much (if you want to loan or leave them with someone) 3) not being completely plug-and-play everywhere. CDs still have a lot going for them as a useful format – until something like cheap USB sticks – and a hi-fis interface designed to accept them take over as the default standard.

      Also tape cassettes still remain the format of choice in Africa – due to being cheap, tough and easily playable – with a slight move towards CDs. (eg link to rfi.fr ). Hardly anyone has access to broadband even in, for example, relatively wealthy South Africa. This is probably also true for a large percentage of the world’s population.

  8. Lucas Says says:

    It’s the same thing that happened with the music industry. The music industry is “dying” because no one buys physical albums any more, and they don’t count digital sales in the same metric. Yes, album sales are down 20%, because digital sales are up 50%.

    I’m glad the NPD have finally wised about this. I was getting tired about reading about how PC gaming was dying even though Valve and Blizzard have a money printing machine in their basement, and Direct2Drive is pretty healthy.

  9. egg says:

    Yeah, well. I can’t really remember the last time I went to a store to buy a game. I think it was 2007, when I bought The Orange Box. Maaaan, I feel old.

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      You are very young, then.

    • jarvoll says:

      Indeed – here I was thinking I was a young whipper-snapper whose first shop-bought game was Red Alert for win95 as opposed to these old fogeys with their Amigas and IIEs and wot-not. Thinking of 2007 as a long time ago rather than far in the future is still impossible for me. Hell, I think I’m mentally still in 1998, since 1999 still feels like the future.

    • Armante says:

      Sheesh, you’re making me feel way too old. I started buying games (on audio-cassette, mind you) WAY BACK in 1981. Ah the good old days of 5 minute loading times for a game on the ZX Spectrum. All 48K of it. That’s right, games in 48kb.
      And I’m loving download sales – seems to me a whole lot of great games are not being produced by the big guys, but by the independants. Nice to support a small team of programmers somewhere around the planet rather than some huge conglomerate like EA.

    • Psychopomp says:

      Last time I went into a store to buy a game was Bayonetta. A PC game? Uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

      I’m picking up Starcraft 2 on Tuesday?

    • Rich says:

      First game I put money down for was some F16 simulator. It was awful.
      Second game was Half-Life. Much better, as I’m sure you can imagine.

      Admittedly I also had MS Combat Flight Simulator and the StarCraft box set by then, from birthdays and whatnot. Before that I was a Mega Drive gamer.

    • Uglycat says:

      But the ZX came out in 1982…

      Captcha- FU U2

  10. DrGonzo says:

    This is great, but I’m pretty sure we all suspected that this was true.

    I think the ‘death of the PC’ simply comes from the fear that consoles don’t have much time left. Steam already makes it much easier to play games on a Mac or PC. I could see the next iteration of MacOS and Windows making it incredibly easy to play games, thus making consoles obsolete.

  11. Bowl of Snakes says:

    my PC is not making any money, that lazy bastard

    • RC-1290'Dreadnought' says:

      @Bowl of Snakes
      Have you installed the correct printer driver?
      You could also check if you have enough paper in the tray and enough ink in the reservoir.

  12. BocaTea says:

    “This does, however, beg the question of whether or not too much of that money is going to just one company. ”

    Does it? Steam is hardly a monopoly, and I really don’t see how their dominance in digital distribution is hurting gamers. They just happen to provide the best service at this time. Plus, it gives them more money to take chances (Portal), update their games (TF2), and provide free games (Alien Swarm).

    • Carra says:

      Yeah, it’s great to see that they give a lot back to the community. I had a lot of fun with Alien Swarm today. And I’ve gotten out TF2 last week to try out the engineer update. One of the very few games I still play two years after is release.

    • Goomich says:

      Does it? Steam is hardly a monopoly

      I think he meant Blizzard.

    • Nick says:

      Yeah, blizzard obviously… seeing as two of their ‘shops’ are in the top five.

    • somnolentsurfer says:

      If Steam keeps improving at the rate it has done over the last few years, I’d be pretty much happy for Valve to become the de-facto platform holder. Of course the PC would still have all the advantages of the open platform, but there’s a reason why the more accessible consoles do so well.

    • Garg says:

      Yeah I think he meant Blizzard. It’s ok though, they spent 100 million on fancy pants FMV stuff rather than buying up hundreds of independent devs and making them program boring sport sequels. New one went up an hour or so ago (link to youtube.com) and makes it look like SC2 has about a million hours of high quality render stuff.

    • TheHumanBlur says:

      This new trailer convinces me that im out of touch with my own generation.

  13. Generico says:

    I’d like to know how Blizzard.com and Worldofwarcraft.com both end up in the top 5 – when all they sell is Blizzard stuff – yet Impulse isn’t on there. I get the feeling NPD’s data is still woefully inadequate.

    There really needs to be more reporting on exactly how these surveys arrive at their conclusions. Where’s the raw data? You can’t just put out survey results with no accompanying data and expect anyone with a brain to buy it at face value.

    • Nyst says:

      Sparkleponies, Vanity pets, password protectors, that kind of stuff. They rake in insane kinds of dough with it.

    • TeeJay says:

      I’d imagine NPD sell their ‘raw data’ for top dollar (along with a non-disclosure clause) – their free headline figures are just an advert for their more detailed paid-for ‘market data’. They aren’t a news or public-interest organisation or academic researchers.

  14. apsas says:

    Did you miss how large World of Warcraft is? Have you heard of Starcraft 2? And you still wonder why they are ahead of Impulse?

  15. Kadayi says:

    No surprise really given that unless a game has a large publisher it’s unlikely to see a store shelf these days. So your choices are either DD or E-tailers. No biggie at this point in time, but the gradual high street marginalisation of PC games might become problematic in the long term as PC becomes the invisible gaming platform.

    • Rick says:

      Its hard enough to find the PC shelves in retail stores anyway.

    • Ravenger says:

      One of the reasons it’s difficult to find PC games at retail is that there’s no second hand market for them due to DRM and CD Keys.

      High street game stores are glorified pawnbrokers these days, making most of their profit from second hand games. They make much more money out of a console game simply because they can re-sell the same copy over and over again making a large chunk of profit each time.

      From their point of view there’s no point in selling a PC game they can only sell once, so they only stock the really ‘popular’ (i.e. heavily marketed) titles.

    • Vinraith says:

      I’m somewhat surprised (and somewhat annoyed) that you don’t see digital retailer gift cards sold much of anywhere. I suppose the retailers would consider that bolstering the competition, but considering how little interest they seem to have in PC sales you’d think it would be pure gravy for them. One thing that concerns me about the DD shift in PC games is that it makes it very hard for non-gamers to buy gamers PC games as gifts.

  16. Carra says:

    Well, they’re spending that money on making free games! So I’m not complaining.

    • Zwebbie says:

      That’s how they lull you. Next, Valve buys all other game companies, but they comfort us with free Portal 3. Then, they buy the United Nations, but release more free hats for TF2 so that we still trust them. Then, they’ll start a global dictatorship and install cameras in every room , but get away with it because they release Half-life Episode 3 for free. All in those witty blog posts.

    • Sir Derpicus says:

      Zwebbie, that doesn’t sound like a bad future at all.
      In fact, I would actively endorse that future.
      I mean come on now, HL2EP3Left4Free? WITH witty blog posts? And VALVE GETS TO RUN THE WORLD INSTEAD OF POLITICIANS?
      That’s what I’d call utopia.

    • Jake says:

      I for one welcome our new Valve overlords.

    • Zwebbie says:

      We’ll all spend 18 hours per day working in Valve’s hat factories! It’s not worth it!

      You can’t trust them just because they’re nice people!

    • Zwebbie says:

      Plus, food rations on Valve time. We’ll starve.

    • Stabby says:

      More hats! Yay!

    • Jugglenaut says:


      Working in the hat factory will only involve standing in a room with a bunch of other people, preferable no more than 24 because then it wouldn’t be balanced.

      Also, I swear my captcha was trying to spell Valve. It was VAL5.

  17. Jad says:

    So does this mean that when some multi-platform sells, say, 2 million on 360 and 1.5 million on PS3 and 0.5 on PC and all the stupid console kiddies shout “PC sucks and is dying! Why did they waste money and time on porting it when PC players just pirate it anyway?” we can say that it actually sold 1 million on PC when counting in DD? Or am I mis-reading this?

  18. Kunal says:

    Steam dominance is kind of scary, at least enough to spook me into buying a few games from Impulse.

    I finished reading Replay : A history of videogames, and its kind of funny how Activision went from being a company founded by disgruntled game designers at Atari, to Bobby Kotick’s “I want to take all the fun out of making games”, in less than 20 years. Valve is a wonderful company right now, but there’s no telling what kind of people will be running it in the future.

    • Malibu Stacey says:

      Yes there is. VALVe is a privately owned company. Activision is a publically traded company.
      If you don’t know what the difference is, go look it up.

    • jalf says:

      @Malibu: and that guarantees they’ll do no harm for all eternity how, exactly? It wouldn’t be the first privately owned company to *become* publicly traded.

      It also wouldn’t be the first privately owned company to simply change how it conducts business.

  19. Simon says:

    My guess is the survey is done by a bunch of underpaid youngins’ cold-calling people and asking a bunch of questions, leading with basic stuff like “Do you play games on your PC” and then getting more detailed into what types of games they play, where they buy them, etc.

  20. Dean says:

    Wait hang on, does this include World of Warcraft subs or not? It reads like it doesn’t, in which case Blizzard doing so well is even more amazing.

  21. Vinraith says:

    It’s nice to see NPD finally accounting for the giant chunk of the PC gaming market they were neglecting, perhaps now people can stop screaming about how the platform is dying. Well, no, probably not, but it’s a nice thought isn’t it?

    It’s disheartening, though, to see my favorite digital retailers (GOG and Gamersgate, as well as Impulse to a lesser degree) nowhere in that top 5. It’s not surprising at all, though, as they all cater to somewhat more niche audiences than the likes of Blizzard and Steam.

  22. Misnomer says:

    The fact that this story is being picked up by everyone is really tweaking me.

    So we know

    21.3 + 23.5 = 44.8
    21.3 / 44.8 = .475 = 48%
    Dollar Sales is not 1:1 proportional to full game sales (or full digital copies + full retail copies) because 36%=/=48%

    and we guess

    Maybe Dollar Sales = [sum money paid for 21.3 million full digital copies + sum of money paid for 23.5 million full retail copies] or maybe Dollar Sales = [all digital contant sales + all retail content sales] (including DLC).

    21.3 million full digital copies = 36% of Dollar Sales or maybe 21.3 million full digital copies + [DLC, ingame items, etc.] = 36% of Dollar Sales.

    23.5 million full retail copies = 64% of Dollar Sales (using 100 minus 36) or maybe we have no idea what % of Dollar Sales


    This story confuses me. NPD is telling me that there were not as many full digital copies as full retail copies of PC games sold in the U.S. in 2009. I get that and it makes sense, but then they go on to say that this is 36 percent of total sales. Okay, so not all the games were sold for the same price and DLC was not included in the full digital sales percentage. So….what does this mean?

    I think it actually means nothing.

    I guess you could say that digital is making a big push in the full game department, but if you can still claim that 64% of all money comes from retail because of the second statistic you gut the premise. It is hardly as impressive because the digital “unit” statistic could just mean that people are still willing to pay more for games and buy DLC (expansion packs really) in stores. This would undercut the headline’s implication that digital download is on the verge of taking over because it would only be moving virtual units and not making as much money. Of course that could be wrong because it is mathematically possible that 1% of all dollar sales could be coming from retail full games while the other 63% missing could be digital DLC or retail expansions. We are supposed to rule that out because we know retail copies are not insanely cheap. Too many assumptions required means that there is actually very little information in the numbers.

    Let’s not even get into the difference in profit margin between the types of sales. We can only find mild usefulness in these numbers if we are willing to assume virtual units and retail units as worthy of comparison. The story should have stuck to one statistic and been happy. The 36% is a misleading number without the detail needed to link it to the complete sales statistics.

    Here is the original NPD press release if you can find more information I haven’t link to npd.com

    Gamasutra did a little better and called into question the scope of the numbers once again (though they didn’t provide any more meaningful breakdown of “dollar sales” percentages):

    link to gamasutra.com…_Purchases.php

    Retail sales of PC games declined 23 percent in the U.S. to $538 million in 2009, NPD reported in January this year. As online sales from downloadable content, full game downloads, subscriptions, microtransactions and mobile continue to increase, NPD is looking at ways to measure the impact of those emerging models on a regular basis.

    Social gaming on networks such as Facebook also are bringing in new gamers who are willing to spend big money on virtual items. FarmVille developer Zynga alone is on track to bring in a projected $1 billion for 2010, according to recent reports — and those revenues are going under NPD’s monthly sales radar.

    A recent Gamasutra analysis estimated that NPD’s monthly U.S. retail sales reports may have overlooked $2 billion in non-retail revenues in 2009, or about 20 percent of the total reported industry sales for the year.

    End Quote

    So this story basically proves NPD is outdated as a measuring device for video game sales in the general public? (I am giving them the benefit of the doubt that they can provide useful numbers to industry)

    • Thermal Ions says:

      It’s the weekend, my head hurts and you start out throwing maths problems at us :(

  23. Matzerath says:

    Your usage of ‘begs the question’ annoys me because it is not the way it is supposed to be used.

    Anyway, the casual portal list is surprising, at least to me. I have never darkened the threshold of any of those sites.

    • JB says:

      Hmm, it makes sense to me. Maybe it’s a colloquial usage thing. How should it be used?

    • Rohit says:

      “Begging the question” is a logical fallacy. What Alec meant to say was “raises the question”.

    • TheHumanBlur says:

      An example of completely acceptable corruption of language in the name of slang. Makes sense, no?

    • Hidden_7 says:

      It’s one of those things that really bugs people who’ve studied logic (like me) but absolutely no one else has a problem with it.

      I usually feel vindicated in railing against corruptions of language if the corruption makes the language worse / makes it harder to communicate / removes expressiveness. In this case, we had a perfectly good term to communicate the idea that you are led inevitably to a question when presented with certain facts, that is, “raises the question.” We also had an acceptably good term (only acceptably because it’s not super obvious what it’s supposed to communicate unless you’ve been taught what it means) to communicate the logical fallacy of depending on your conclusion as one of your premises. Now we have two terms for the former and need to invent another one for the latter. So that’s a shame.

      I’m also really bugged by the usage of “random” to mean “strange” “esoteric” “bizarre” “inexplicable” “hodge-podge” “diverse” etc. instead of… well… random. It bugs me because “random” to mean “unreasoned” or “statistically equal chance of any given outcome” is so intrinsic a term that I needed to look it up to get help defining it. What the kids are doing with using “random” for such a random (to use their definition) assortment of concepts is destroying that word without really adding anything in return. It will lose its ‘proper’ meaning, but in doing so not gain any sort of extra expressibility. Every single time someone misuses “random”, there was actually a better other word that meant the same thing. Only now we need to think of another word to mean what “random” used to mean.

      Anyway, that’s my rant about language.

    • TheHumanBlur says:

      I propose the foundation of the Sherlock Homes speaking vernacular club “SHSVC”
      Where we can drink whiskey and shout obscenities at passing youngsters, the degenerate swines!

  24. bob_d says:

    Well I have to say those numbers are actually worse than I thought they were, and I’m one of those “nitwit” doom-sayers. I assumed downloads were more than half, not counting casual games and subscriptions. If these numbers are remotely correct, PC game sales are about half of what they were 10 freaking years ago.
    When developers talk about the “death of the PC” they’re talking about something that not only has been happening for a while, but primarily for certain segments of PC games; they really mean “death of the AAA* game. *(unless you’re EA or Blizzard)” You’ve got a few big companies successfully producing AAA games (mostly sequels), and you’ve got cheap indie (1-3 person teams) and flash/facebook games doing as well as they ever did, but everything in the middle is increasingly being squeezed out of profitability. (Actually the bigest AAA games aren’t doing what they once did, either, but mostly the money is still there to make them, even if they have to rely on DLCs and t-shirts for their profits.)
    The money spent on games *may* be the same as 10 years ago, (when you include all subscriptions and RMT, etc.) but there are two problems: a multiplication of platforms (phones, consoles, web, etc.), and rising development costs for AAA games. This means the audience isn’t there to support the diversity of developers and game types that were around 10 years ago. This is why all these developers in recent RPS interviews are mentioning that you couldn’t make Deus Ex now. “Indie” (i.e. not one of the few large game companies) AAA developers are having a harder and harder time surviving. The “nitwits” are not only right, but those stats up there prove it. When you have “World of Warcraft” essentially making up two of the top five sales slots, you know there’s something seriously wrong in game development-land, and you don’t have to be a nitwit to see that.

    • TeeJay says:

      What is your definition of “AAA game”? How are you measuring “diversity of developers and game types”?

      I can agree that the “style” of some of the biggest new games has changed, but we have a *massive* choice of games these days – not just new releases but the whole back catelogue. Profitability is also linked to retail prices (influenced by all the other things people can spend money on or easily get for free) not just audience size and tastes.

      I suspect the next “Deus Ex”-type (ie ‘old school’ fps/rpg/whatnot) game will come out of somewhere like Poland, Brazil or India.

  25. CM says:

    So for you niche = better?

  26. Jimbo says:

    It’s probably true that, ideally, Valve wouldn’t be quite as dominant as they are. On the other hand they pretty much single-handedly carved that market out of nothing and deserve every bit of their success.

    I suspect that a decent amount of PC games that have been released in the last couple of years – particularly multi-plat titles – would not have been released at all if Steam didn’t exist to sell them. You could argue that somebody else would have just filled that role if Steam didn’t exist, but judging by how half-assed their competitors still are in comparison, I’m not so sure if that’s true.

    I do agree with Misnomer (I think?), in that without a $ sign next to the figures, they don’t really mean a lot. 21 million ‘units’ at only a $5-10 average sale price (for example) wouldn’t really change my perception of the health of PC gaming (critical but stable)

    • jalf says:

      Eh, Steam is, and definitely has been, very half-assed too.

      Don’t think their success is because of an amazingly good client. They got successful because they had some popular online games to integrate with it, forcing a lot of people to install Steam. That’s a good starting point if you want to sell lots of games.

      And sure, in the many years since launching, the Steam client has fixed a number of its inadequacies. It’s better than it once was. But it’s still ridiculously pretty half-assed.

  27. cjlr says:

    Oooh! I like numbers!

    This is basically just the NPD finally acknowledging reality. It’d be nice if they had better statistics, but… baby steps, people. Baby steps.

  28. Scat says:

    Hej, just wondering if anyone remembers that website that lists all the digital download sales? Reading this makes me want to buy something.

  29. Al3xand3r says:

    If the numbers are true, this is nothing to brag about really. A full year of all PC games’ sales end up accumulating up to only like 2-3 times the sales of only the very top titles on consoles like the Wii and PS360 (not all as on PC, just the very top, like say, New Super Mario Bros Wii and Modern Warfare 2)?

    That said, I don’t trust NPD in the least. Where did they get the numbers from? Certainly not from Valve. And I doubt this is an all inclusive thing, did they really go around asking every succesful indie studio (like 2D Boy) or individual (Minecraft’s creator?) how many copies they sold? Doubtful. Same for some of the online only casual companies. PopCap is really not up there with the best sellers? Doubtful.

    It’s also no surprise that such a large percentage of sales are done online like that, the PC section in all major retailers is awful, people couldn’t find PC games they want there if they wanted generally.

    • Al3xand3r says:

      Also, what do you mean most of it goes to just one company? It’s not only Valve that profits from Steam sales and I seriously doubt they get most of the cut there for “third party” titles as opposed to the company that owns the given game that’s put up for sale. Sad to see Impulse isn’t on there with the best selling DD platforms given its quality but again, I don’t believe the stats are accurate at all.

    • TeeJay says:

      “…I don’t trust NPD in the least. Where did they get the numbers from?…”

      Their press release says the information was from two sources: The quarterly “Games Acquisition Monitor” based on online survey responses from 8,000+ members of NPD’s online consumer panel and their weekly “NPD Consumer Tracker” based on ‘180,000 individuals selected from the NPD online consumer panel … Respondents asked to report whether in the past week they purchased a PC game on a disc or downloaded the game from a web site directly to their computers.’

      source: link to npd.com

  30. Kazang says:

    I am curious as to how much of your payment to steam actually goes to the developer and how much goes to valve. I always try to buy from the most direct route so the most money goes to the actual developer. I’m not quite sure if steam is the best choice for this or not.

    I like valve and steam, but I do hope they are not being greedy and taking a overly large chunk of the money.

    • Malibu Stacey says:

      Been discussed already at great length -> link to rockpapershotgun.com

    • bob_d says:

      Obviously it varies from game to game, and I’ve never distributed any games over Steam, but I’ve heard a typical distributor take is about 30-something% for downloads, so I figure Steam is something close to that. Compare that to the traditional publisher/retail/box-sale system where the developer only gets about 19% of the retail price. Even if a developer is working through a publisher and distributing on Steam, their take is still probably bigger than selling a box copy in a store, as the store usually takes about half the retail price.

  31. Veracity says:

    Main thing I get from this is that I should probably pay more attention to direct2drive. It’s probably the only significant one of these I don’t have yet-another-account on. My DD to retail purchase ratio is probably still only about 40:60, though, purely because online retail’s still usually cheaper.

    Impulse doesn’t register because it’s negligible, or because they didn’t consider it? Not really clear how they arrive at their numbers. Don’t want to seem too dismissive – they’re trying to take DD into account, which is a start, and what do you really want them to do besides make hopefully informed guesses, when so much of this money is tied up in private organizations that won’t release details unless they see an advantage in it?

    Can we work out anything even nearly informative by extrapolation from what hard information is released? I was trying to see if I could draw any conclusions from Torchlight, but there seemed to be too many unknowns. That seemed notable because it was high on Steam’s top sellers lists for weeks. Assuming that’s revenue, it had to outsell Man Shooter 3: The Shootening 2:1 to do that. Then Runic announced some months later they’d hit the “milestone” of 500,000 sales. That’s nice for them, and presumably in line with or better than expected for that title, but isn’t 0.5m still basically bugger all compared to the numbers EAs and Activisions want?

    And Blizzard’s store, really? Someone needs more wildly overpriced Diablo 2 keys? I suppose WoW makes even more money than I thought.

  32. Pasco says:

    So, lets have a look at the actual press release for the sources of this information:

    – Games Acquisition Monitor
    … based on online survey responses from over 8,000 [people]l.

    – NPD Consumer Tracker
    …180,000 [people] participate in one of four weekly studies… [asked] whether in the past week they purchased a PC game on a disc or downloaded the game from a web site directly to their computers.

    So, around 55,000 people, that’s a pretty damn good survey size. But its still not based on hard data, actual numbers from Valve or Blizzard or Stardock or anyone really.

    And the question they asked seems really shitty, in the last week? Why not the last month, or year?

    Anyway, it’s just Americans.

    • TeeJay says:

      “And the question they asked seems really shitty, in the last week? Why not the last month, or year?”

      …because it is a weekly survey?

  33. Deuteronomy says:

    Direct2drive rocks. I’ve had a better overall user experience with them than any other digital download service. GO D2D!

    • Vinraith says:

      My only issue with D2D is that they’re so opaque a bout what DRM is attached to a given title. For new DRM-free stuff, though, they’re the best distributor out there.

    • Frankie The Patrician[PF] says:

      D2D is no good for me…unlike Steam, Impulse or GG, D2D is using some odd shitty port which causes my downloads to go veeeeeeeeeeeeeeery slow…bah

    • Pod says:

      Really? I had nothing but terrible download speeds and completely usless support from D2D. I actively discourage people from using them these days.

    • Freud says:

      I probably have bought as much from D2D as I have from Steam. They tend to have very good deals from time to time and seem to drop the price on big games (ME2, FM2010 etc) slightly quicker than Steam.

      I don’t think I have noticed any difference in download speed between any of the stores.

      Generally, I see no reason to swear allegiance to any site. Be opportunistic. It keeps the sites on their toes and makes them focus on providing value.

  34. mejobloggs says:

    Yeaah I have a 20gb cap per month shared between 4 and we always seem to hit it without trying. Pretty much always buy retail unless I can find someone to send me the Steam files on dvd

  35. Soobe says:

    Unofficial Survey right now: open Steam and post how many games you have:

    I have 74 Boxes games in my closet.

    …and 79 from Steam.

    Of course many of the steam games are things like World of Goo and games I got on Sale, but still.

    • Vinraith says:

      The Steam games list counts things like dedicated server modes as games, counts every individual expansion of a pack as a game, and counts anything you registered on Steam (as in, things bought elsewhere or as boxes) as Steam games, so it’s not a very accurate measure of how many games you’ve really bought on Steam.

    • Soobe says:

      Good point, but nope, that’s just games.

    • Vinraith says:

      Fair enough, but I figured it was worth mentioning since a lot of people would probably just look at the number on their community page rather than hand count.

    • Soobe says:

      Just to be clear though, when in steam, when you click Library > Games All Games (the button/link) it will show a total for you.

    • Vinraith says:


      Ah, cool, I hadn’t noticed that trick in the new client. It still seems to count any game you’ve registered on Steam regardless of where you bought it, but that does get rid of the “false positives” like the dedicated servers and such.

  36. dragon_hunter21 says:

    My local games store has absolutely stopped selling PC games (GameStop), so my city’s out for retail. (Not to say I buy at GameStop- The last game I bought there was the CS/HL2DM bundle, and I kicked myself when I realized it was cheaper on Steam. I’ve sworn by Steam for over a year now.)

    • Vinraith says:

      In the US, anyway, Amazon and GoGamer are your best bets for retail games. The physical stores around here became fairly useless a long time ago, but Amazon had better prices anyway. Honestly, outside of wacky sales, online retailers can usually beat digital distributor prices hands down.

    • dragon_hunter21 says:

      Well, it’s not only that I buy Steam for the prices- I buy them for convenience. I am still pissed that I misplaced the manual for Crysis, because now I can’t play it- and I loved Crysis. Guess what distributor I haven’t had an issue playing old games on?

    • Bremze says:

      GOG? :P The only thing I dislike about steam is the prices. Unless they have sales, almost every other vendor has lower prices.

  37. Jabberwocky says:

    It’s really interesting to see the shifting balance of power between traditional publishers and digital distributors. It’s made a big difference for smaller studios and indie games.

  38. solios says:

    When I invoked my PC out of raw clay, I filled in the few bits that failed to crawl out of the muck with parts from a Mac file server that had – on terrible day – vomited its brains out and refused to ever boot again.

    Long story short I wound up with a DVD-ROM that would read/write CDs but not DVDs.

    Which made Steam the platform of choice for obvious reasons – never mind that the nearest place I could physically buy PC games was too many bus rides and disgusting amounts of Nintendo DS Battery Life away. Every PC game I’ve bought (and, oddly enough, all the games I have I’ve either bought or downloaded for free!) has been digitally downloaded. I’d have to spend MORE money for the “privilege” of owning a spindle mechanism that can access-and-verify a game. So, despite having given Steam a good-sized wodge of cash, according to these dudes up until they decided to notice, I’m a Non-Hacker Who Can’t Pack The Gear.


    Well, tell that to my bank account, Valve’s transaction servers, and all that jazz.

    Late to the party ought to be grounds for ejection in this case!

    • jalf says:

      Where do you live? For about half the world, buying a new DVD drive *plus* the game would still be cheaper than buying from Steam

  39. StingingVelvet says:

    It’s a shame to see retail losing power… I still much prefer a box and manual to a download, and perhaps much more importantly would like to hold off the “you own nothing but an account” future for as long as possible.

    Does this include online boxed sales though? I am assuming not, but since everyone here is only talking about Gamestop and the like I thought I would mention it. I haven’t bought many PC games in stores lately, but I buy ALL my games on amazon unless they are download-only.

    • dragon_hunter21 says:

      I’ll admit, I’m still less than jazzed about having all my games on one account- but I’ve lost way less Steam games than real games. I’ve got discs for Cold War lying about (a game I LOVED) but they’re scratched to high hell, and I lost the key years ago. (If Cold War even needed a key, I can’t remember.)
      I appreciate the convenience factor of Steam more than anything else, is my point here.

    • StingingVelvet says:

      Well, I take care of my stuff… so…

  40. Nyenyenye says:

    So can we burn all consoles and redo Read Dead Remption, Alan Wake and every other semi-decent title for PC as such now please?

    The PC lives! Hail to the King baby!

    Oh yea, and finally resolve that DNF IP nonsense and GIEV TEH DUKE!


  41. Name (required) says:

    If you honestly believe PC gaming is fine you’re the nitwit Alec. How many PC exclusive games have you played recently? How many PC games you played in last few years which weren’t just half-assed console ports? How about you take a look at RPS itself, where half the news is stupid little indie games with complexity of Tetris because there’s literally nothing else to talk about?

    Unless, of course, you see nothing wrong with the fact that all modern games are developed for the consoles and only find their way to the PCs because of the “oh well, copy & paste it to C++, we’ll release it on the PCs later to maybe make some extra buck” mentality some publishers have. You might not see a problem with playing console games with mouse & keyboard controls coded in, sometimes so cheaply you can’t even adjust mouse sensitivity or key bindings. But if you don’t mind all that, why are you even on a PC-exclusive website?

    Oh yeah, and I guess all those PC-exclusive companies who went bust are “idiots”, unlike you, since you know the market so well you forgot that majority of PC gaming is fueled by MMOs. But that doesn’t matter right? After all, a video game is a video game, who cares if it’s Maple Story or Deus Ex.

    • jalf says:

      Way to miss the point.

      He’s saying that *sales* on the PC are fine. Not that there are a lot of PC-exclusives being developed.

      But enlighten me, how many PC-only companies have gone bust? Compared to console-only ones. Game companies go bust all the time, regardless of their target platforms.

    • Tei says:

      “PC exclusive games”

      A PC exclusive don’t make sense. A exclusive is wen the owner of the platform (in the case of the PC, the owner is IBM ) pay the developpers so the game is only released for this platform.
      IBM ha no bussines paying developers to make games “PC exclusives”, because the PC is a open platform and a PC can come from IBM as much from any other hardware maker, so theres not benefict from IBM.

    • kaday says:

      The point was rather about the fact that platform is far stronger in terms of audience that people assume. Nowadays given the size of development teams/costs ultimately it’s necessary to try and cover all your bases in terms of platforms rather than restrict yourself to one (though that’s not to say that there aren’t PC exclusive titles). Are there shitty console ports? Of course there are, however the ascendency is very much with the PC when you consider how much better certain games are on it Vs their console versions (DA:O being the stand out example). Given the choice of buying say Mafia 2 for your aging 360 or for your i7 PC, which way do you think the majority of gamers are going to choose to go in the end?

    • Teliach says:

      *cough* Blizzard *cough*

      PC exclusive company, with PC exclusive games, and watch out for 27th July (next week, when next PC exclusive game is coming and will have no sales at all!

      The huge majority of MMO are PC exclusives and those don’t even appear on the survey above, would not be suprised in the least that PC games in total made more money than console games, it seems that for Activision at least they do according to their President.

    • Tei says:

      Theres a WoW app in the iPhone. Blizzard would be more than happy to release all his games on the consoles. And…why not? thats means more players, more fun and more money.
      What you see are not exclusives, but “monoplatform” games. Games that are not designed from the start to run on different machines. Is not a marketing limitation, but a tecnical one. A exclusive exist wen a potentially multiplatform game is only released to a console like PS3, because Sony paid tha authors for that. IBM has not paid Blizzard so WoW is PC only, so Blizzard is free to release his games in PS3 and XBox, the only limit is technological, not marketing or legal.

      You can’t use the word exclusive on the PC, because don’t make sense. IBM is not paying people around for “exclusives”.

    • Simon says:

      @Teliach and Tei:
      All of Blizzard’s games also function on the Mac as well as PC, from the same install discs. This includes WoW- so not a PC exclusive.

    • TeeJay says:

      @ Name (required)

      There are a lot of great “PC-only” games around (for sheer number of hours played I’d list TF2) but most of the time I don’t really know or care what other platforms they are on – it principle it makes no difference to me at all.

      A “problem” only occurs for me when the game design is impacted negatively by the cross-platform development development process. It’s not that great games are not released on PC, but to do with changing game styles (eg press button for cover) or technical stuff like menus or control schemes.

      I am stuggling to think of many console-only games I desperatey miss being able to play on PC and all of the ones I hear about have PC equivalents (whereas the reverse is not true at all). Many people complain that they have a massive backlog of great PC games to play and large numbers of games they have picked up cheap in sales or second hand.

      “all modern games are developed for the consoles” ?

      You mean all modern games are developed *on* PCs and most modern games are developed *for* multi-platform?

      I share your annoyance at badly-made PC versions, but your argument is unbalanced and inaccurate.

  42. Risingson says:

    People who prefer retail games don’t have the space problems I have. I’ve been buying games since… since… 1991 maybe?. That’s about 20 years of piling up games. And in sales I usually got like 20 in a row. Some years ago I had to trash away lots of cases and boxes, keeping only the ones I preferred, and still I don’t have enough space. As I don’t have space left for music cds or books, or comic books.

    I do love downloads.

    • Saiko Kila says:

      I started to love downloads after I ran out of space too. But now, despite buying new hard drives every now and then, I’m running out of space again…

  43. tungstenHead says:

    Like most NPD charts, Blizzard gets on there more than once. Unbelievable.

  44. Satellite says:

    Mmm … but I thought Impulse was supposed to be number 2 after Steam… oh that’s right they stopped selling good games to people outside the US – no surprise.

    What is a surprise to me is just how high Blizzard.com is – they only have the Warcraft, Starcraft and Diablo franchises, yet knock out the likes of GamersGate et al.

  45. Al3xand3r says:

    Impulse’s hook is that you pay in dollars no matter from where you are, which ends up cheaper for us Europeans. Publishers can choose not to be sold in other territories however, hence why some games are not available. It’s not Stardock’s fault. If the price was gonna be the same as other distributors you have little incentive to use them anyway. Especially for games that do use DRM unlike Stardock’s own. The majority of games is still available everywhere, with the exception of certain publishers like Ubisoft, so it’s not accurate at all to claim that they don’t sell “good games” abroad, especially considering you can still preorder their own upcoming game, Elemental.

    • Satellite says:

      I think it’s a fair comment … I can’t speak for you guys, but for the Australiasia/Oceania region just about every well known game has a “Not for sale in this region” logo … EA games, Ubisoft etc. The only games I see are

      And if you think I’m being harsh, I used to try promote Impulse to just about anyone looking to buy games online. We didn’t turn on them – they stopped selling to us. Direct2Drive is also to blame, but far more well known and wanted games can still be had there.

      In the end all it means is that I spend my money at places like Steam (95%+) and the rest between GOG and GamersGate.

  46. Saiko Kila says:

    I’m astonished that so many British (presumably) or European (probably) people are so moved by US-only sales data. Or estimations of those. While it is a significant part of global market it is also not really representative for the whole world, especially when it comes to PC gaming. The digital shops mentioned have different recognition among US buyers and non-US buyers. The prices are different. And, thanks to that prices or regional differences (Aussies and Germans should be familiar with that), as I know for a fact, many people located outside of the US do purchase their games at the US-located sites (by proxy, thanks to gifting, which is very prevalent on Steam).

  47. kaday says:

    Fear is such an amusing quality

  48. drewski says:

    I just realised – as in literally, *just then* – that I haven’t bought a game at retail for over a year.


  49. Tei says:

    I think is obvious that the future consoles will go digital download, if not for all titles, it will default to it for small games. And It will be a giganteous market, and the brick a mortar shops will not see a penny of it. We all know this.
    But, what if some or all of these console makers goes the Steam route, and make these consoles “download only”. Then all the money will go directly to the console owners. And will be able to enforce any random rules, or things like weekend demos (like Steam is doing).

  50. AbyssUK says:

    I was half hoping it would be piratebay.com at number 1 and steam at number 2