The Rise of the Digital Games Industry
As recent as a few years ago, the most common method of buying a video game, whether it was a home console or PC release, was through a retail store. However, this has changed; as of 2010, digital sales of PC games have eclipsed the sales of retail games, according to the NPD. What was once a niche part of gaming has now become the new hottest trend.
Many will attribute this rise in digital gaming to Steam, the leading digital distribution platform for PC games. Developed by Valve Software, Steam offers over 1,000 PC games from a variety of big name publishers, including Activision, Bethesda, Electronic Arts and Ubisoft. Steam boasts anywhere from two to three million active users at any given moment; this, coupled with the sales and discounts Steam offers on a regular basis, gives the opportunity for any publisher to receive a large number of sales on any game.
Therefore, many publishers have made not only their current games available in the digital format, but their past games as well. In a retail store, space is a precious commodity; often, stores only have room to display the newest and hottest titles. For a publisher with a large catalog such as Electronic Arts, this means that many older games aren’t making them any money as retailers no longer display them. With digital gaming, there are no store shelves to stock and every game is displayed and available for purchase at all times, allowing for additional revenue for every publisher.
While Steam is the worldwide leader in the digital games industry, other markets for digital gaming have arisen, each targeting a different niche. For example, the website GOG targets older gamers, with a focus on making older PC games available and compatible with newer operating systems. GamersGate has a more worldwide focus, featuring many games not available on Steam, especially games in Europe, while Desura has a focus on independent games: games that are self-published. What was once an alternative to purchasing and playing PC games is now the main way to get them with plenty of services available.
On the console front, such as the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, digital gaming is slowly but surely taking off. Both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 offer a number of games digitally; these are a mix of titles made specifically for the digital market and retail titles offered digitally. Even the portable consoles, such as Sony’s PSP and Vita, offer a robust selection of games to download.
It has been said that by the next generation of consoles, such as the PlayStation 4, that the entire video game industry will go digital. As Internet speeds across the world increase, and with more gamers embracing digital gaming, this may very well be true.