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Do whales exist in the digital distribution of product-style games too?

By on September 21, 2010

More on whales, I’m afraid.

This week, a lot of hoohah has been made about NPD reporting that digital sales of PC games have overtaken boxed product sales in the US.

At the same time, the fatfoogoo blog reports that between Q1 2009 and Q1 2010, 80% of gamers did not purchase ANY games digitally, according to market research firm Interpret.

The key finding in their press release:

“not only do 80% of gamers not purchase games digitally, but the 20% that do also purchase more games at retail than their non-downloading counterparts.”

They say that consumers who download content digitally also buy, on average, 2.7 games per six months, 20% more than their non-downloading counterparts.

So this had me thinking, what if digital downloaders are almost exclusively whales? Could the 20% who do digitally download not only buy games at retail, but they buy more DLC, more premium editions, more games in total.

I’m going to keep digging, but I wonder if the reason Steam is doing so well is that it attracts a disproportionate number of whales (high conversion rates, high ARPU), while retail stores have to work really hard to attract occasional gamers.

This is not a proven hypothesis, just one I’m working on. Does it ring true to you? Any data to back it up?

About Nicholas Lovell

Nicholas is the founder of Gamesbrief, a blog dedicated to the business of games. It aims to be informative, authoritative and above all helpful to developers grappling with business strategy. He is the author of a growing list of books about making money in the games industry and other digital media, including How to Publish a Game and Design Rules for Free-to-Play Games, and Penguin-published title The Curve: