Game downloads exceed physical sales

Legal digital downloads of full-version PC games have surpassed physical sales for the first time ever... at least in the US.

According to figures released today by market watcher NPD Group, full-version digital downloads hit 11.2 million during the period January to June this year - blasting past the 8.2 million physical games sold during the same period.

Interestingly, while digital download has the edge in terms of sales volume, physical sales still win out on revenue share - a higher average selling price for physical media over download-only titles helped physical sales gain a 57 per cent share of the revenue stream.

Clearly Intel might be on to something with downloading being the next big profit stream - and it's sites like Steam and Direct2Drive, ranked as the two biggest sites in the US by sales volume, which have helped the full-game download market hit this all-important milestone.

The popularity of casual games from sites like Big Fish and Wild Tangent have also driven the figures up, with many games simply not being available at retail - pushing prospective purchasers towards the download route if they want to play the games at all.

Figures for the UK market are sadly unavailable, but it's likely a trend which is being repeated world-wide - much to the terror of your local games shop owners.

Despite the gains made in the download sector, overall the US PC games market dipped significantly compared to the same period last year - something which NPD analyst Anita Frazier blames on "the expansion of social network gaming as well as the continued expansion of free game options."