While market researchers often post detailed estimates for retail game sales, the world of digital distribution seems to come under much less scrutiny. According to recent numbers snagged by IGN, however, that market is booming in spite of the economic downturn.
IGN says Valve has revealed that, in June, sales on its Steam digital distribution service increased "a whopping 97%" compared to June 2008. In the same time frame, IGN's own Direct2Drive service has seen sales grow 56%, and Microsoft has witnessed an equally impressive 73% growth in Xbox Live download sales.
The traditional retail market isn't doing anywhere near as well, though. IGN goes on to quote NPD figures that say June saw "the largest decline in year-to-year sales since September 2000"—41%. Year-over-year sales growth has been negative for four consecutive months, too.
Does all this mean folks are simply switching over to digital distribution? Probably not, says Michael Pachter of Wedbush Morgan Securities. He explains, "Downloads are probably $1 - 2 billion worldwide this year, compared to a $26 billion packaged goods market." In other words, while downloads are growing rapidly, they're still not big enough to account for the fall in retail sales. (Thanks to Shacknews for the link.)