Digital distribution models continue to become more prevalent, but traditional physical purchases of console games are still dominant in the U.S., NPD Group said this week in its quarterly Games Acquisition Monitor report.
The tracking firm said that physical console game purchases -- both new and used -- accounted for 90 percent of all paid video game buys during calendar Q3, 2009 in the U.S. Meanwhile, 79 percent of games for portables, PC/Mac, mobile, and smartphones were bought in physical form.
NPD added that 70 percent of dual format (digital and physical) customers are under 35 years old; 46 percent of digital-only customers are under 35. "Dual format purchasers represent just 19 percent of all buyers but provide 40 percent of dollar volume," an NPD statement said.
"While physical retail product remains the driving force behind industry sales, the role of digital distribution in the games ecosystem continues to climb," said NPD analyst Anita Frazier. "Publishers and retailers must keep an eye on the current state of the marketplace and must map ahead for future strategies."
Annual U.S. retail video game console sales through November 2009 were $14.13 billion, down around 12 percent from 2008. Frazier said last month that she expects the U.S. retail console market to generate around $20 billion during 2009 in total, down from 2008's $21.33 billion. The official NPD figures for the whole of 2009 are expected to release later this week.
NPD also said that piracy (NPD defines piracy as "downloading files through Peer-to-Peer networks) is less prevalent in the games industry when compared to the music industry. Four percent of gamers, or about 6 million consumers, admitted they downloaded games from P2P networks. Seventy-two percent of those downloads occurred on PC and Mac.
NPD added that PC/Mac and consoles led portable systems and cell phones as the most popular gaming platforms during Q3 2009.