NPD – 36% of US population has downloaded games, 25% prefer digital over physical

Thursday, 20th February 2014 21:16 GMT By Stephany Nunneley

NPD has released Exploring Digital Gaming report which noted that 16% of the US population has chosen digital distribution over physical game copies.


The firm surveyed over 6,000 people in the US ages 13 and up and found 36% respondents played downloaded games on PC, consoles or handhelds such as Vita or 3DS. Of the group, 16% claimed to only play digitally distributed titles.

When queried over physical or digital preference, 25% preferred digital while 30% still opted for a physical copy. Those unsure of preference came in at 45%.

NPD said digital offerings also increase impulse purchases, something many of us sucked in by a Steam or GoG sale can attest.

“Most digital players, regardless of device, don’t plan their purchases,” said NPD analyst Liam 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, 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.”

PC was the most popular system for digital titles, with 90% preferring the format. Of that group, 28% downloaded games for consoles.

Two-thirds of console users claimed to download titles multiple times a year, with 14% doing so monthly.

Thanks, GI International.



  1. thegrimmling

    I would be in the split decision category on digital vs physical.

    On my PS Vita & PC, games tend to be cheaper digital and a larger selection than at retail. But on my PS3, I can get used games cheaper at retail baring a good sale on PSN.

    I focus on the cost over method than anything else. Oce in a great while I will pay a little more at retail for a GOTY edition or whatnot.

    There is also the fact that 90% of retail copies of games need to be patched out of the box, so the physical argument is slowly dying.

    #1 8 months ago
  2. TheWulf

    “Most digital players, regardless of device, don’t plan their purchases.

    This is so obviously untrue. There are many avenues of sale that don’t have DRM, including direct from the developer. Even Steam itself can be set to bundle in no DRM. I’ve actually tested this with games that claim this is the case — such as Bastion, which does indeed work even when Steam is closed.

    Not to mention that, but if a delivery service ever goes under, there are plenty of fully functional cracks out there. That and you can backup your digitally purchased games. You’re more liable to own your digital purchases over the long term than you are to own physical ones.

    Of course, the NPD’s data is incomplete, since the most prodigious and prestigious digital platform on the PC is Steam, and Valve doesn’t share their numbers with anyone. Ever. So that’s a massive chunk of the market right there that they’re unable to measure.

    So I’m taking all this with a pinch of salt. It’s obviously written from a console perspective and by someone who doesn’t really understand PCs.

    #2 8 months ago
  3. TheWulf

    I mean, other things not being taken into consideration here is the competition on PC thanks to a lack of all-controlling monopolistic gatekeepers (storefronts fight to provide us with the best deals), and the lack of region controls.

    I picked up Revengeance in a Nuuvem sale for six quid. :I

    I don’t see the point in being price-gouged when it’s so easy to avoid it, and you can make the difference between a PC and a console up within a few months if you buy games regularly — then you continue to get savings. I’ve said before that consoles seem like a tax upon those who’re bad at math (not unlike lottery tickets), but worse, they provide an all around more limited stable of games (due to the lack of indie freedom).

    I know I’m not going to convince people of that, but I’m hoping that one day that consoles will be replaced by a console-like PC, so that everyone can enjoy the boons of not having Big Brother-esque gatekeepers dictating what you can and cannot do, and what you must pay.

    #3 8 months ago

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