According to the latest numbers from analyst group NPD, digital game sales are on the rise in a big way. In the fourth quarter of 2011, in the US and Europe - the regions that NPD normally deals with - the amount of revenue that was brought in from digital download sales in the gaming industry was $3.33 billion. In the US, sales in this growing segment were up by 9%. NPD does not have comparative data for Europe or for the US/Europe aggregate.
When it comes to 2011, though, the breakdown was $2.04 billion spent in the US and $1.29 billion in the European regions covered by NPD, which only includes the UK, Germany, and France. Again, that's $3.33 billion spent on games and game content that consumers didn't even leave their homes for. It's content that has no tangible aspect to it whatsoever. NPD's numbers on digital sales do not include things like downloadable game cards that were purchased at retail stores.
The numbers we're talking about here focus exclusively on content that was distributed 100% digitally. They include full PC/console game downloads, game rentals, smartphone and mobile games, as well as any and all downloadable content or in-app purchases within video game apps. In the US, retail game software sales were $4.5 billion, which is actually a 3% decline from the previous year. So there's no doubt where the industry is trending right now, and it's not the best news in the world for traditional retailers.