PC gamers are growing increasingly enamored with digital download services. So says an NPD Group report quoted by Shacknews, which claims that 48% of the PC games bought last year came to consumers over the interwebs. Despite accounting for nearly half of all PC game sales, digital downloads only added up to 36% of total dollar sales. That makes sense given the success of indie and "casual" games via digital distribution services, along with the deep discounts we've seen applied to digital copies of big-name titles that are just a few months old.
Unfortunately, NPD's numbers were only based on data collected from ten digital distributors. Five of those offer so-called casual titles not otherwise available on physical media. Among the services that offer comparable titles to those available from traditional retailers, Steam moved the most units, followed by Direct2Drive. Blizzard, EA, and Worldofwarcraft.com rounded out the top five, although NPD doesn't provide specific unit figures to complement the rankings.
Seeing Steam and Direct2Drive at the top of the heap should come as no surprise to anyone who's been following online game sales. Both services make a habit of providing bargain hunters with plenty of weekly specials to peruse, and the nearly instant gratification that digital downloads can provide makes impulse purchases all the more tempting. I find myself buying more and more games on Steam these days, usually in response to the latest Blue Light Special. There's a part of me that misses getting a glossy game box with physical media, but I much prefer having Steam backups that can easily be moved to a portable hard drive or a closet file server and restored on any system.