The NPD Group: Thirty-Six Percent Of The U.S. Population Plays Digitally Downloaded Games

PORT WASHINGTON, NEW YORK, February 20, 2014 – According to Exploring Digital Gaming, the latest report from global information company, The NPD Group, over one-third (36 percent) of U.S. individuals ages 13 and older are digital gamers, defined as currently playing digitally downloaded games on either a computer, video game console, or portable device, with 16 percent report only playing games downloaded digitally, and not any physically acquired games.

The computer is the most popular device by far for digital gaming, with 90 percent of digital gamers playing on the device. In sharp contrast, digital gaming on consoles is gaining in popularity, but its penetration is still considerably beneath that of the computer; 28 percent of digital gamers play digitally downloaded games on a video game console.

Though digital play is increasing among console players, the frequency of purchasing is still quite moderate.  About two-thirds of primary console players (those who play on consoles most often) are purchasing digital games more than once per year, but very few (14 percent) are purchasing on a regular, monthly basis.

"Most digital players, regardless of device, don’t plan their purchases," said Liam Callahan, industry analyst, The NPD Group.  "They purchase simply when they find something they like. But primary console players do have a greater tendency to purchase at or before the time of release relative to PC players. As more consumers purchase the new consoles (Xbox One, PlayStation 4), we expect to see greater digital spending from digital console gamers as consumers indicated that purchasing these consoles will most likely increase their digital spending.”

Format Purchase Preference

When asked about their purchase preference if both physical and digital formats of the game were being offered at the same price, there are almost equal portions of gamers who would likely choose digital (25 percent) or physical (30 percent), while the rest remain unsure.

Primary console players are more likely to choose physical in this scenario (44 percent). Interestingly, primary computer players do not automatically choose digital, with this group being split between digital (25 percent) and physical (28 percent).  The remaining gamers in this group are indecisive.

Gamers believe that there is value in digitally downloaded games with 70 percent saying that physical and digital offer the same value for the money.  Among gamers who believe that one holds more value over the other, primary console players lean towards physical games, while primary computer players are more favorable towards digital games. 

"The value that gamers see in physical is having an actual disk that can be held, while later being able to trade-in or sell the game," said Callahan. "Digital gamers like the economy of these games: they're either free or less expensive than their physical counterparts, as well as the ease and convenience of acquisition and storage."


An online survey was fielded from December 19, 2013 through January 2, 2014 to members of NPD’s online panel. The survey was completed by 6,083 individuals ages 13 and older For children ages 13 to 17, respondents were contacted using a parental surrogate, with the parent being asked to bring the child to the computer to answer the survey questions. Additionally, in order to increase the analyzable base sizes of console digital players, a pre-identified sample of console digital players was also utilized.

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