In a related note to the previous story, Engadget points to an NPD report cited by Joystiq on the computer game market noting that nearly half of all computer games sold in 2009 were downloaded via digital distribution networks (21.3 million) rather than bought in boxes from retail outlets (23.5 million). Steam topped the list of top five digital retailers, followed by Direct2Drive and Blizzard.com.
In this, the computer game industry joins the music, movie, and of course book industries as digitally-delivered content begins to displace that which is sold or rented more traditionally.
However, new GameStop CEO Paul Raines is not nervous about the prospects for brick-and-mortar GameStop stores, even as he moves GameStop toward becoming a digital game e-tailer via its website as well:
We are looking at other successful multi-channel stories like Netflix. The technology is clear — what’s not clear is the chronology. We are getting a good picture of how to balance digital and physical content. We have studied Netflix a lot, and most of their users still absorb physical content rather than streaming. Now we are looking to see how gaming compares. We are focusing on consumer acceptance. The world won’t be all digital tomorrow, even though that’s what people are claiming. In this business, users still want physical content.
Computer games are moving a lot faster toward digital delivery than e-books, which still represent a tiny percentage of all books sold. However, computer games have always been played on the computer—they do not represent a shift away from a traditional, non-computery way of doing things as e-books do. It makes sense that the change would move faster, since it is not by any means as pronounced—no matter how you get a computer game, you still play it the same way.
Even so, it’s worth noting that more than half of all PC games were still sold physically. As Engadget notes, some gamers “see rows and rows of boxes and books with a sense of pride—proof that they have incredibly good taste when it comes to spending free time.” Not unlike a number of readers who pride themselves on the size of their libraries.
It might be worth keeping an eye on GameStop, and computer game departments at chain retailers, to see what might be in store for the book industry in a few more years.