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What's Going On? PC Gaming Trends 2011

Digital Sales Riding High

Photo by NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio

There's change afoot in the games industry, as a recent survey suggests the shift towards digital in full swing right now, with £330m coming in for downloads, compared to £450m at retail. First spotted over at MCV, market research firm Newzoo have revealed some of the results of their extensive survey of over 20,000 people across 12 countries, to find the latest in gaming market trends. And they've since sent us some exclusive glimpses of their findings. It turns out, there are gamers everywhere. Own up, are you one of them? Maybe someone you know is? Let's put on our statisticians helmets, and dive into the data.

Newzoo have sent us some of the full infographics (which my spellchecker says isn't a real word) showing data for the USA and UK which you can see here and here, and data about "Time & Gamers per Platform" for USA, UK, Germany, France, The Netherlands & Belgium here.

Of the populations aged 10-65, with internet access, Germany has the highest proportion of gamers, where 66% of the population are active players. Next is Mexico with 57%, Russia with 53%, UK with 52%, Brazil with 47% and USA with 42%.

In almost all countries, PC gaming in one of its many guises is the dominant form of gaming. The combined total of PC retail, download, web games, social gaming and MMOs take up more than 50% of the timeshare in all the countries that data is available for.

In the USA, spending on PC games for 2011 is estimated to be split at $2.5 billion for downloads and $1.8 billion for retail. So downloads have comfortably overtaken retail in the USA. Spending on console games is down on the last two years, but PC spending is stable, and growing slightly thanks to downloads being on the up. I've heard that retail for PC games in the USA is notoriously uncompetitive with download pricing, so perhaps that explains the greater shift towards download here.

In the UK, the split is £330 million for downloads and £450 million for retail. Considering that developers get a far bigger slice of the pie when games are sold as downloads, it seems pretty likely that we are past the point where as a whole, developers earn more from PC downloads than they do PC retail.

Interestingly, even though more money is spent on PC retail games compared to downloads, they occupy similar amount of gamers time in the UK. Could this be a symptom of those frequent discounts we all know and love from download services resulting in more hours spent gaming for your money? (Of course, it's worth noting that digital distributors are notoriously obtuse when it comes to releasing sales details, so these numbers probably involve a little bit of guessing.)

How do you think your gaming time and spend would be split up good readers of RPS? Do you fit in the top 18% of gamers that own 7 different platforms? Are you ready to start singing "Retail is dead" from the rooftops?

For more on their 2011 survey, head to

Edit: I misread one of the things off the graph, corrected now. Please don't use the whip.

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