The PC Gaming Alliance (PCGA), a non-profit PC gaming advocacy group, revealed a new research study indicating that PC gaming software revenues worldwide reached $13.1 billion in 2009, a 3 percent increase over the previous year.
That increase came in spite of decreased retail boxed sales for PC games, which suffered the "biggest downturn" out of all the sales categories PCGA tracked and now accounts for less than 20 percent of total software revenue for the year.
The group adds that the popularity of free-to-play and social gaming caused revenue to decline in established markets, and subscription-based games that charge a $10 or more fee per month suffered from "the lack of major new releases and a decline in usage for some older products."
Though the worldwide recession showed its effect on the industry as most countries in North American and Europe experienced revenue declines in 2009 of 10 to 15 percent from their record highs in 2008, growth in the Asia Pacific region helped fuel the global PC game market.
Digital distribution growth also largely offset losses in other PC gaming software categories. In its surveys of PC gamers in North America and Europe, the report found that 70 percent of respondents have purchased a full game online.
The PCGA says the rise of free-to-play games and social networking sites also drew in thousands of new gamers that it believes can be "progressively monetized". The report's surveys indicate that more than 50 percent of respondents have bought a virtual item.
These figures come from PCGA's Horizons software report prepared by market research firm DFC Intelligence. The annual report looks at key trends in the PC game market -- examining retail, online gaming, digital distribution, and online advertising -- in every region around the world.
"The most notable trend in recent years has been the movement to digital distribution and payment for subscriptions, and the growing popularity with consumers of online games as a service," says PCGA president and Intel director Randy Stude.
He continues, "In 2009, we saw North America and Europe experience a rapid uptake in purchasing virtual items. This model is what drove growth in Asia, and we think it is just starting to come to Western markets."