According to the Entertainment Software Association (PDF), the sales of retail videogames has declined significantly, with digital sales of the games increasing by the same margin. The 11th numbered page of the PDF shows clearly that game sales in 2009 were 20% digital and 80% retail. Now in 2010, they are 24% digital and 76% retail.
Their report, 2011 Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry, showed this information along with the revenue from game sales also making a very large drop of $100,000,000 to $15.9 billion. The details on these numbers were taken from not just retail sales, but game subscriptions, social games, and mobile apps.
Because of online retailers like Steam, PSN, and GOG.com, some people have completely given up on downtown, brick beasts which have several problems of their own when it comes to buying games. Some retailers will push magazine subscriptions on you that you’ve declined repeatedly, or might end up giving you a disk that doesn’t work, and not stocking a game for whatever reason. Online digital retailers don’t have this problem, and you never have a problem with scratched disks or having to keep your games on a shelf since you just click a few links to download a game you’ve already bought.
The edges of digital sales cannot be denied. Any game in unlimited supply that can be bought and downloaded instantly, cutting out the middleman of cashier and stocker, and in the case of Steam, has several built-in functions on the client itself that allows players to take screenshots, play online, and give games to other people. Give it five or six more years, maybe less, digital game sales are likely to dominate the market completely.
Retailers that are strictly physical or delivery like Gamestop and Amazon have yet to capitalize on this to a major level. If they don’t, they might fall behind if the number takes a very sharp increase overnight. The major game console publishers also need to take advantage of digital. A 4% increase in a single year is proof digital is well on its way to becoming King.