Canadians are choosing to buy less physical copies of games, instead downloading more games digitally.
According to Video Game Acquisition in Canada, a recent study from global information company The NPD Group, physical video game sales are down, while digital downloading—predominantly driven by free downloads—is on the rise. This despite the fact that Canadians prefer console gaming, the study says.
On average, 17.3 games were acquired per user in 2012, but this number has declined to 15.4 in 2013. The NPD Group says this trend is “due primarily to a drop in physical sales attributed to fewer new title releases over the past year” (25% less).
“The way people are playing video games continues to shift, with Canadians spending more time on mobile handheld devices like tablets and smart phones,” the study reads. “Consequently, mobile gaming has grown to be a major part of the video game industry.”
The NPD Group estimates that the digital channel has increased from approximately 50% of total acquisitions in 2012 to 58% in 2013; however paid digital gaming has only seen modest gains over the past three years. According to the study, free play has nearly doubled in share of acquisitions since 2011, opening up a world of new casual gamers.
“The digital gaming market continues to be a growing channel in Canada, so it is necessary for both manufactures and retailers to understand what kind of impact this has on the industry as a whole,” says Meghan Campbell, account manager, Technology and Entertainment at The NPD Group. “It is yet to be seen, however, if ‘free’ gamers will eventually contribute to the marketplace or if they will simply continue to enjoy playing without paying.”
Behaviourally, the average consumer is spending about the same amount of time gaming this year as last, which is roughly seven hours per week. But overall, most Canadians are spending more money on games than a year ago.
“With greater competition between traditional consoles and other emerging gaming devices, it is critical for manufacturers to meet or exceed consumer expectations,” added Campbell. “In order to encourage early adoption, retailers must focus their marketing efforts on the industry’s new innovations to entice target shoppers and eventually win their business.”