On the PC, games distributed on discs in physical boxes have been a practical rounding error in the market for years. Lot 2‘s sales distribution shows how the console game market can eventually (and inexorably) move to that point too.
In an earnings call this week, Activision revealed that more than 50 percent of the Lot 2‘s sales on consoles came via download rather than on a retail disc. That’s “a new high water point” for the company, and it’s much higher than the “20 to 25 percent” of Dutyconsole sales mostly represented by digital copies, according to Activision (although Call of Duty World War II sees “higher digital pre-orders… relative to previous” Duty title.”) Even for online-focused games like the overwatch and the original Destinyonly 30 to 40 percent of console sales come mostly from downloads, the company said.
More importantly, Activision doesn’t see it Lot 2‘s digital console majority as an outlier. As Activision CFO Spencer Neumann said in the earnings call, “In the past, we’ve seen that digital mix increase about five points a year.” Of Lot 2‘s console digital majority, Neumann says, “we believe we see some acceleration in that digital shift.”
It’s that acceleration that could quickly push the console market over a digital tipping point, and Activision isn’t alone in noticing the speed of the console market’s digital shift. Earlier this year, EA said it expects 40 percent of console game sales in 2017 to come from downloads. That’s a big jump from 30 percent of revenue in 2016, and a big step toward EA’s long-awaited expectation that it “to be a 100 percent digital company, period. It will be there one day.” . It’s inevitable.”
In the global console game market, sales of digital console games increased 25 percent in September compared to the previous year, according to SuperData, largely due to Lot 2. And in the UK, data shows that digital sales now account for 30 to 45 percent of console game sales, up from 20 to 25 percent the year before.
Projecting these trends outwards, it’s not hard to imagine that 60 to 70 percent (or more) of all sales for major console games will come from downloads by 2021, when Sony and Microsoft are likely to think about releasing new ones. console. That probably isn’t enough to completely free those consoles from the standard disk drive, but it could push console makers to offer cheaper, disk-free versions as an option. Even players who don’t want to give up the ability to buy and sell used games can be convinced to give up discs in exchange for a heavily discounted price on the hardware itself. And console makers could make up for that lower hardware price by eliminating the cost of producing physical games and cutting retail sales.
One thing’s for sure: These trends could be a big deal for retailers like GameStop, which already planned to close two to three percent of its thousands of storefronts this year after sharply declining retail sales. Maybe the PSP Go was just ahead of its time.