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Study: Used Games, Online Make Up 46 Percent Of U.S. Gamers' Budget
Study: Used Games, Online Make Up 46 Percent Of U.S. Gamers' Budget
May 10, 2010 | By Kris Graft

May 10, 2010 | By Kris Graft
More: Console/PC

The total budget of U.S. gamers aged eight and up is $25.3 billion, and according to consumer spending data from research firm Newzoo, 46 percent of that budget goes to the used game trade and online models including subscriptions, virtual currency, microtransactions and digital distribution.

That means that the remaining 54 percent of the total goes to packaged new game retail, Newzoo said in data provided to Gamasutra. The firm, which conducted the 13,000-respondent study in cooperation with TNS as part of the 2009 Today’s Gamers Survey, said the U.S. claims 183.5 million gamers.

In all countries, console games take up over half of the money spent on video games, with the exception of Germany, which has a strong PC gaming market.

U.S. gamers spend the most amount of its total budget on console games, with over $15 billion spent on home and handheld software. PC followed with $4.15 billion spent total. Game portals claimed $2.78 billion, mobile devices $1.1 billion and MMOs $2.12 billion.

Traditional new game packaged retail retains a stronger foothold in Europe. In Belgium, packaged retail claims 59 percent of the domestic gamers' budget, in Germany 62 percent, in the UK 64 percent, in the Netherlands 69 percent and in France 78 percent.

Below are the total budgets for gamers in their respective countries, as well as the total number gamers in each country, according to Newzoo's report.


Below is the revenue share between gaming platforms, broken down by country, according to Newzoo's summary of the full report (PDF).


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Michiel Hendriks
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Looks like PC gaming is still live and kicking which is in most countries is around a 1/3rd the size of console gaming. Considering the console segment is made up of PS3, XBox360, Wii (and what not), it means that the PC is more or less an equally viable platform.

Matthew Woodward
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Is anyone able to clarify something for me?

This survey reports the revenue for the "PC Games" platform (which excludes MMOs and "game portals" such as Facebook), in the US, in 2009, as $4,150,000,000.

The press release NPD put out for its 2009 US figures* state that the "PC game software industry" had revenues of $538 million.

Taken at face value, this suggests that first-hand retail sales for gaming on the PC represent around 12% of the total value of traditional gaming on the PC in the US, and only 5% of total gaming revenue (including MMO/portal revenue) accessed through PCs.

Is this an accurate inference?


Michiel Hendriks
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NPD only tracks part of the brick and morter stores, and does not track digital distribution and online retailers.

Matthew Woodward
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That's exactly my point. You'd think that Total - NPD = Digital/Online, right? But that means, with these figures, that digital/online is worth ~7x as much as retail. Which is mildly surprising to me, and I'd like to be sure that that inference is accurate before continuing.

(Also, it hadn't properly sunk in that NPD doesn't track Amazon, Play et al, which makes it less shocking, but still fairly interesting.

Christophe Couderq
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Interesting figures, but I really wish all consoles weren't lumped together in one big fat category. Using different currencies when comparing the total amount of money spent in each territory also seems a bit weird...

Michael Smith
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"and MMOs $2.12 million."

This should be "billion."

In the summary, you can see that there are more PC gamers in Germany, but because PC games are cheaper (and some other variables like how multiplayer communities last longer) Germans actually spend less on PC games than console games. Unfortunately not all the data is available in the summary. This is more interesting than NPD articles. (which I now skip)

Interesting divisions. I would love to see mobile vs home consoles in different nations.

Absolute values are less valuable than relational values. I'd like to see percentages of disposable income more than dollars spent. I guess this is why the varying currencies didn't bother me.

Jonathan Osment
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The way I see it, used game purchases are not all that different from piracy. They have the same effect unless you start forcing DLC. The publisher/developer will not see profit made from used game sales.

Jonathan Osment
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@Arse BS? I think not. Also try to use language that would help you make a good first impression, rather than appear to be an "arse". Yes, I just made a funny. That said... it is common knowledge that used game sales HURT game makers. If 5 people are playing a game that only 1 payed the publisher for, how is this different than piracy? You cannot logically or factually argue otherwise.

Why do you think EA withheld content from Mass Effect 2, of which, the only way to get it was to be the first person to purchase and activate the game OR cough up $15? This was done intentionally for a REASON. Used game sales = lost profit.

Game Stop is notorious for recycling used games for prices not that different from purchasing it new. Piracy often happens from people who will never purchase the game regardless, Used game sales are the exact opposite.

Bullsht? I think not. I will give you an A for effort though.

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I'm a game programmer. Many of my colleagues don't care if people buy used because often times if that person likes the game enough, they'll go and buy the sequel right off the bat.

As long as they play the game, we really don't care.

Andy Ross
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@ Jonathan Osment

I honestly cannot believe that you're comparing buying used games to piracy!

It doesn't "hurt" publishers if I purchase a used game. They put out a single boxed copy of the game with a single license. Say somebody purchased that boxed copy and licence; if that same person sells the game to me, the publisher has still made money on the boxed-copy and licence they produced from the original sale. Why should publisher expect to receive more money without producing additional goods? How is such an inclination not greed?

I also disagree with the term "hurt", as this infers that the consumer *should* have purchased a new retail game and to do otherwise has somehow damaged the publishing company responsible for the game. This is not the case. The consumer has simply opted to purchase a the product from a different seller, which is legally and ethically allowable under a free market. The publisher did not gain anything from this transaction, which correctly has nothing to do with it. It did not lose anything, either. No difference to the publisher is made. The publisher is undamaged. It is "unhurt".

Jonathan Osment
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@ Andy, I am not necessarily comparing the two, rather, I am pointing out they have the same if not similar effect (the result). The problem here is that people like yourself, understandably but illogically, get caught up on this moral assumption that piracy with its negative connotation is some how unable to have the same effect as used game sales which have not been given such a negative title. If we were to replace piracy and the act of selling and reselling used games with variables (X and Y), and you wouldnt automatically jump to conclusions based on the names, would you really be able to tell the difference in results?

What I think you confuse, and many do, is that the game box itself is the product. Its not. The publisher doesnt have to keep making CDs for it to be a product. It is the digital information, the experience, the software itself. In other words, your first paragraph would actually support piracy since the person that ripped the game for all to download must have bought it at one point, and all copies downloaded from that event are not "newly produce products". There in is your fallacy.

If the game maker sells 5 copies and found out 25 people have played the game, 20 without purchasing the experience, is that not a loss of revenue? These numbers can be used in referencing piracy, AND used game sales. You see, they are both valid.

You use "greed" as your other argument. Why does intended profit 1 game = 1 sale, result in Greed? Do you think DLC such as in EA and Bioware's Mass Effect 2 is a result of Greed or trying to balance out the 1 game = 1 sale concept? Why do you think so many development studios bite the dust every year, many before even having a chance to finish their product? If a publisher takes a loss, the trickle down effect hurts the projects they are funding.

Do you feel that it is ok for 1 person to buy 1 movie ticket, watch the movie and then resell that used movie ticket to someone else, who would then walk into the theater to watch the movie before doing the same thing. Obviously thats not how movie theaters work, but thats also precisely why they dont work that way.

One of the major differences here in regards to piracy is that pirates are not always interested in purchasing the game anyways. They wouldnt cough up one penny if they didnt have to. Used Game consumers are different, they are willing to purchase and also have the intent to purchase. That will hurt any game maker harder than the pirate doing his worst on the internet.

@Robert, many of your colleagues dont care because you get paid regardless. What happens is the publisher takes all the risk, and no matter what you will get paid. It doesnt mean you will have a job for your next project however. Also, you mentioned that it would help for a consumer to buy the sequel. Well if the first game's profits were much lower than anticipated due to used game sales, what makes you think there would be a sequel? Furthermore what makes you think the consumer who buys used games wouldnt be willing to wait the few extra days for one to appear on the shelf for the hypothetical sequel?

Luke ParkesHaskell
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Johnathan, what are you talking about? You can't compare a video game sale to a movie ticket. One is a boxed home enterainment product, and the other is a ticket for a screening of a performance in a theatre. Apples and oranges.

If you want to compare the video games market to something, compare it to other home entertainment media, such as DVDs and books. Both DVDs and books enjoy an established market which includes very significant rental and used products. If a home user purchases such a product, it is his right as a consumer to be able to later sell on that product.

Publishers need to be less worried about trying to force individuals into purchasing their products, and instead reevaluating the means through which they are conducting their business in order to offset their investment costs and better appeal to their potential market. If you start pointing blame at the consumer, then you've lost your ability to deal with the consumer's interests.

Jonathan Osment
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@luke "Obviously thats not how movie theaters work, but thats also precisely why they dont work that way."