36% of US plays downloaded games

Digital distribution becoming more common, 16% of population has ditched physical media for games entirely.

Digital distribution is increasingly becoming an accepted, and in some cases demanded, way for Americans to get their games, according to NPD Group data released today from its Exploring Digital Gaming report.

Based on a recent survey of more than 6,000 people in the US ages 13 and older, the group reported that 36 percent of the US population plays downloaded games on either a computer, console, or dedicated handheld gaming device like a 3DS or PlayStation Vita. A little less than half of that group has abandoned physical media entirely, as 16 percent said they only play digitally distributed games.

As for preferences, gamers were generally split. When both physical and digital versions of a game are available for the same price, 25 percent of respondents said they would take the digital version, compared to 30 percent who would opt for the physical copy. The remaining 45 percent were unsure of their preference.

The PC is far and away the most popular platform for digital distribution, with 90 percent of the NPD’s “digital gamers” reporting that they downloaded games for the computer. On the other hand, only 28 percent of digital gamers download games for consoles. And while two-thirds of console gamers said they download titles multiple times a year, only 14 percent do so on a monthly basis.

NPD analyst Liam Callahan said the digital movement has also driven more impulse purchases.

“Most digital players, regardless of device, don’t plan their purchases,” said Callahan. “They purchase simply when they find something they like. But primary console players do have a greater tendency to purchase at or before the time of release relative to PC players. As more consumers purchase the new consoles (Xbox One, PlayStation 4), we expect to see greater digital spending from digital console gamers as consumers indicated that purchasing these consoles will most likely increase their digital spending.”



5 thoughts on “36% of US plays downloaded games

  1. 2 years ago i thought not having a physical copy of my games was just absurd, now you can barely get me to go to the store. wow times sure have changed. I think digital is the future now as it allows us to use less resources have quicker access to titles and hopefully, hopefully get rid of damn region locks.


    • Thanks for your opinion. You know, the only think I fear with all this digitalization of everything is that it basically leaves you exposed and at the mercy of companies and developers. For instance, if a game was released with a certain mature content or content that later was determined to have mature or strong content because certain minority groups or parents took them to court and won, well without my consent, the content would be removed through an automatic update online and since I don’t have the CD I cannot simply disconnect my Internet service to continue to play the game as it was when I originally bought it. The same happens with games that contain music licenses. Let’s take Vice City for example. A game with an excellent soundtrack and many songs were removed from the game when it went digital on the App Store because the licenses for said songs had expired. So I’m getting less content because developers were either forced to remove content or because it was deemed necessary to please others. By the way, Vice City also had content and specific wording removed in later CD’s because of the Cuban and Haitian community due to specific missions that asked you to “Kill all the haitians”and of course it was removed when it went digital. At least I own the original CD and will always be able to play and hear it the way it was originally but what about others who never got the chance? This holds true with many new titles also.

  2. When they dig up our civilization a thousand years from now they will find no games boxes or have any clue about what we played in the 2010’s because it all was held in this “ethereal cloud” long past dead in digital oblivion.

    A sealed mint condition Bards Tale retail box, from the 80’s, went for 600.00 last year. As a game collector it ticks me off that I cant get a box on most of the games I play today.

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