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Direct2Drive: Recent Digital Distribution Market Estimates 'Misinformation At Best'
Direct2Drive: Recent Digital Distribution Market Estimates 'Misinformation At Best'
November 30, 2009 | By Kris Graft

November 30, 2009 | By Kris Graft
More: Console/PC

Digital distribution service Direct2Drive is disputing claims made by competing digital storefront owner Stardock, which recently claimed its Impulse service is second in market share only to Valve's Steam -- but Stardock is restating its initial claims.

"Stardock’s recent assessment of its service [that Impulse holds a clear number two position in the digital distribution space] is misinformation at best," Sutton Trout, Direct2Drive's VP of digital content said in an email to Gamasutra. "An NPD report from earlier this year refutes Stardock's claim outright and clearly identifies Direct2Drive as a top-performer."

Trout is referring to NPD Group's "PC Games Digital Downloads: Analyst Report," which tracked activity from January through March this year. The report listed that, for the period, Valve Software's Steam service led the market handily with 62 percent of total unit sales market share, and 50 percent dollar share. followed with 20 percent and 27 percent, respectively. came in third place with 7 percent and 6 percent.

Direct2Drive came in fourth with 7 percent in total unit market share for the period, and 10 percent of dollar share, the NPD report said. and followed. Stardock's Impluse service was not listed.

This conflicts with Stardock's recent customer report, which pegged Impulse "at 10 percent and all others combined at 20 percent in terms of actual dollars generated per month."

The Stardock report also said, "It is our belief that Impulse has become the second most popular digital distribution platform worldwide in terms of dollars generated per month."

Stardock's Impulse hosts internally-published games such as Galactic Civilizations, Demigod, and Sins of a Solar Empire, as well as a slate of third-party offerings. The studio is also home to productivity programs such as WindowBlinds, which it sells through Impulse.

As digital distribution is still considered an emerging market, gathering exact info regarding unit and dollar sales is challenging. "It’s obvious there’s a lot of guessing going on out there, and until the digital distribution market has a standardized reporting system in place, we’ll continue to see these kinds of erroneous claims," Trout said.

Stardock CEO Brad Wardell said to Gamasutra on Monday in response to Direct2Drive's criticism, "The data we used came from the publishers. When you add in the fact that Sins of a Solar Empire, Demigod, Galactic Civilizations, etc. are sold exclusively on Impulse, that is what allows Impulse to edge third parties." He added, "Without [Impulse's] own titles, Direct2Drive would indeed be number two. But then again, without Valve’s own titles, Steam would be nowhere near 70 percent of the market either."

Some developers have called for more transparency in digital sales data. Trout encouraged the same. "As digital distribution represents such a rapidly growing piece of the videogames pie, Direct2Drive firmly supports the need for transparency when it comes to reporting and performance."

"With that in mind, Direct2Drive is actively engaged with reputable data-collection services to determine how to most effectively implement standardized reporting in the digital distribution business."

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Derek Smart
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Yah, I already said that Brad's claims were rubbish.

Kevin Reese
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Too often numbers served up direct from dev's is taken at face value without question. This situation reminds me how some unmentionable companies claim they have millions upon millions of players for their MMORPGs that actually don't seem that popular, or that their MMORPG had the 'best launch ever' yada yada.

Hakeem Olajuwon
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I also found Impulse's claims to be unlikely. Just look at their last reported weekly top 10:

Impulse Weekly Top 10

Here's the Impulse Weekly Top 10 for November 15-21:

Galactic Civilizations I: Ultimate Edition

Sins of a Solar Empire: Entrenchment


WindowBlinds 7

Supreme Commander Gold

Deskscapes 3

Sins of a Solar Empire

Sins of a Solar Empire Bundle

King's Bounty: Armored Princess

Gratuitous Space Battles.

If thats the top 10 of the second largest pc games digital distributor then pc gaming isnt dying, its already dead.

Rattasak Srisinroongruang
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I think the only thing anyone can be sure of is that Steam has a sizable piece of the market and claims from any other DD is just a wild guess.

Kevin Cardoza
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From him constantly extrapolating his own speculation about the business and acting like they're facts to him being increasingly vocal in letting you know his irrational political beliefs, Wardell is doing an excellent job making most people I know slowly lose interest in Stardock. He really needs to hire a PR person to do the talking for him.

steve roger
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Is Stardock including the productivity programs such as WindowBlinds their claim with Stardock's recent customer report, which pegged Impulse "at 10 percent and all others combined at 20 percent in terms of actual dollars generated per month."?

Derek Smart
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@ Kevin

Indeed. In fact, this is the blog I wrote that sparked this latest diatribe from him. I don't get how he can really think that Impulse is #2. Its not even close - not by any metric currently available. Even though there aren't numbers being revealed, the industry is so close knit these days that we all know each other. So all it takes is a quick email or IM to your friend to get their aggregate numbers of titles across ESD sites, then compare them. In fact, NPD's own numbers put Steam only 10% higher than the 40% that we previously estimated. It is in fact looking more like 60-70% to date and MW2 probably pushed it even higher.

Sebastian Lindig
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I've tried to come up with an estimation based on unique visitors. This puts Steam at around 50% and Impulse at 3%. There are a couple of other that also taking some share:

Andy Chan
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Any idea what's the total market size in dollar term for the PC online distribution market?