The debate about the used game market (and by proxy, game rentals) have on new game sales has raged on for years. The debate was actually at the heart of the original Xbox One's DRM policies last year, that saw Microsoft attempting to manipulate the first-sale doctrine in order to leverage monetary gain from every used title that passed through any outlet that allowed for the sale of pre-owned games. Well, what if I told you that the used game and rental market is continuing to become dwarfed by a much larger force known as digital content?
GamesIndustry.biz put up a brief article about the U.S., game sales throughout 2013 and the overall market in America was up by 2%, even though retail sells were down by 2% from the previous year.
The overall software industry brought in $15.3 billion dollars, not including hardware sales. That $15.3 also covers digital sales, something that many within the industry have been begging the NPD to start covering.
The telling thing about it isn't whether retail is down or overall software is up, but it's mostly to do with the fact that used game sales are plateauing while digital sales (e.g., DLC, in-app purchases, digital games, microtransactions, etc.,) are skyrocketing. Just two years ago the U.S., digital sales trends marked out at $5.9 billion. It's now up to $7.22 billion, seeing an increase of over 18% from 2012.
Used games and rentals increased from $1.59 billion in 2012 to $1.83 billion in 2013, barely a 13% increase and just a tiny fraction of the exploding digital boom, no doubt.
In fact, the NPD noted that despite new game sales being down by 11% in year-over-year sales – and that should come as no surprise given the absolutely lackluster line-up of 2013 save for The Last of Us and Grand Theft Auto V – the rise in digital content sales shows that gamers are still willing to buy non-new, digital games and DLC when it suits them.
NPD analyst Liam Callahan commented about the data, noting...
"Growth in digitally distributed content is vital to overall industry health,"... "Since this is such a topic of high interest to the industry, we recently conducted additional in-depth research into consumer behavior with regard to digital content acquisition, and found that 36 percent of the U.S. population ages 13 and older was playing games acquired digitally, with incidence highest among teens and young adults. Interestingly, however, there is no particular point after age 25 where incidence declines significantly."
I'm completely curious to know how the raw PC sales data matches up against console sales. We do know that the PC market is still booming, and the market – even made up a large portion of Glorious Members of the PC Master Race – is expected to eclipse 2012's margin of $20 billion and settle out at the $24 billion mark throughout 2014.
Nevertheless, anyone saying gaming is dying is still far off their rocker. This doesn't mean that I'm against the collapse of the AAA market, it just means that gamers who are big, small, casual or core will keep putting money into the market as long as the industry has something for them to play.
As for the used games versus new game debate? I think it's time we lay to rest those ridiculous claims about used games killing the industry. The numbers just don't support that ridiculous hypothesis at all.