Digital video game sales overtake physical thanks to coronavirus

The majority of video game sales are now for digital downloads rather than boxed products, as the pandemic tips the balance.

Digital sales have been increasing rapidly over the last few years but at the beginning of 2020 the majority of video games were still bought on disc or cartridge – but not any longer.

There is no overall industry figure but with many publishers releasing their latest financial reports recently all of them seem to have noted a major increase in digital sales because of the coronavirus lockdown.

Analyst Daniel Ahmad pooled a number of results, showing the percentage of digital sales, including Sony at 51%, EA at 52%, and Take-Two at 55%. All of which seemed to show that digital now accounts for over half of all video game sales.

As Ahmad notes, digital sales accounted for only 5 to 10% of sales at the beginning of the current generation and has grown by around 5% each year. Take-Two, owners of Rockstar Games, are already predicting a 63% majority over the Christmas period.

But before those who prefer buying physical copies panic, perhaps the most interesting aspect is that sales numbers for boxed versions of a game didn’t decrease at all, they stayed largely the same. So the digital sales weren’t at the expense of physical, they were in addition to it.

Sony, for example, actually saw a 1.3% increase in physical sales over the last quarter, even as digital increased by a much more substantial 154%.

That means physical copies of games aren’t going away anytime soon, although publishers will always have a vested interest in pushing digital, because it’s more profitable (since shops don’t get a cut of the money) and they prevent second-hand sales.

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