Well there you have it: digital sales have outpaced physical sales. For PC games, that is. According to the all-seeing, all-knowing NPD Group, there were 11.7 million digital sales of PC games during the first half of 2010. That compares to 8.2 million physical sales. Clearly Steam and others like it are on the right track.
What’s perhaps just as interesting is that, even though there were more digital sales, physical sales still made publishers more money. Physical sales brought in 57 percent more money than their digital counterparts. That’s probably because you’ll pay more for a PC game at a retail store than you would from a digital distribution service.
It may also have something to do with the fact that you can buy an incredible number of games from those Steam sales for very, very little money. (You could also buy old games digitally in Good Old Games, but that site has mysteriously shut down. Wonderful.)
But look at it from someone like id’s perspective. Are you going to be able to walk into a store in 2010 and find a copy of Quake or Doom 3 on the shelves? No, of course not, So that’s zero dollars for id. Now, they can offer Quake on Steam for $10, and have a whole bunch of people say, “Oh, hey, Quake, I’ve been meaning to play that; I only had an N64 when it first came out. Let me buy that right now.” Easy money for id.
Conversely, look at the PSP Go and the PlayStation Network as a whole. I wanted to buy the PSP remake of Lunar the other day (go ahead, laugh; I get a JRPG itch every so often), then I saw that it’s $40. Seriously, Sony, $40 for a 17-year-old game, even if it is a remake? (Never mind the fact that it’ll take all day to download over a PSP Go’s 802.11b connection!) It’s like, do you think you could maybe try to sell me a 17-year-old game for, I don’t know, maybe $10 instead of $40? It’s not like you have to print manuals or pay shipping costs when I download from PSN. There’s literally no reason why a game should cost the same on PSN as it does in Wal-Mart or whatever.
But I digress.
(I hope that picture came out properly!)