[Gaming] How ‘Digital’ is taking over ‘Physical’ in the US Game Industry

3 minute read

July 28, 2017

[Gaming] How ‘Digital’ is taking over ‘Physical’ in the US Game Industry

According to the Entertainment Software Association’s (ESA) 2017 report, the growth of the gaming industry is both positive and dominated by Digital Downloads. In 2016, the US gaming industry grossed $24.5 billion in game sales, which was a significant increase from the $17.5 billion made in 2010. The figures rise to $30.4 billion if you include sales in VR, Gaming Accessories, and Hardware.

This trend is leading the industry sky high, as most extra Downloadable Content (DLC) that comes with physical game discs also comes in a digital format. What’s more, the increased spread of high-speed internet is pushing this trend worldwide, making physical media sales even lower.

Can Physical Game Media Become Obsolete?

According to ESA’s report, the number of physical media sales are consistently declining, as opposed to the increasing number of collective sales. But this doesn’t mean physical media will become obsolete anytime soon. Gamers still love the feeling of actually owning the game, buying a collector’s edition and getting the added resale value.

It’s an old argument. Every time the Physical vs. Digital Game topic is discussed in communities, the same positives and negatives are mentioned all over again. While collectors love to own the copy of the game physically, others prefer whatever’s cheapest or on sale. Some like the resale value of discs (especially for consoles); others like the convenience of digital downloads. There’s no black and white here; it’s really based on personal preference.

Then Why is the Digital Medium for Games Better?

For the gaming industry, their personal preference doesn’t matter; only numbers count. More sales mean a better future, no matter which medium. Here, digital game copies have the consistent advantage of being available on the web, and can offer as many sales or bundles it takes to make a buzz overnight, which just is not as simple to do with physical copies.

What’s more, digital games are now becoming available online all over the world on Day 1. Even consoles like Xbox One and PS4 are letting users preload the game before launch. There’s just no comparison; when it comes to convenience, digital copies are the fastest way to access games, at least in the US. Physical copies just can’t compete.

Positive Trends for the Growth of Gaming Industry

Whichever medium you may prefer, there can be no doubts that the gaming industry is booming overall. The ESA report sheds light on a few of the more interesting stats about this phenomenon, and about US gamers in general:

  • A whopping 67% of households now own a gaming device. While 97% of these obviously own a PC, 81% of them also own a smartphone, and 48% of them also own a gaming console.
  • Surprisingly, 11% of US households also already have a PC or Mobile Virtual Reality device, and the ESA has predicted that 1-in-3 of the ‘most frequent gamers’ are likely to buy the VR device in next year.
  • Over $11.7 billion was contributed by the gaming industry to US GDP last year alone, and more than 65,000 employees at game companies are making an average annual income of $97,000.
  • 71% of parents feel videogames positively impact their child’s life.
  • 31% of adult women make up the video game-playing population, which is a great portion than boys age 18 or younger (18%). Of course, the total number of male players are still significantly higher than female players.

Overall, this data shows that the growth trend will continue for years to come. Meanwhile, digital mediums will move ahead by pushing the boundaries of marketing strategies for publishers, convenience for gamers and flourishing financial returns for the industry.

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Amol W.

Written by Amol W.

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