New numbers from the NPD Group show that despite the popularity of Xbox Live, the PlayStation Network and digital distribution services for the PC, only a small number of users regularly download digital content.
Microsoft recently boasted that Xbox Live has served up over one billion content downloads among its 20 million users, but the NPD Group says only 18 percent of Xbox Live Gold users regularly download content. The PlayStation Network fares even worse; despite being free to PlayStation 3 owners, only ten percent of its users are regular downloaders.
Somewhat surprisingly, digital distribution on the PC, which some observers feel is key to the platform’s future success, is doing no better. Despite the advent of digital sources like Steam, Direct2Drive and GamersGate, only 17 percent of PC game purchases are digital rather than retail and of that number, more than half (between July and December 2008) came from either Steam, Big Fish Games or RealArcade.
While the NPD didn’t nail down specifically what it meant by “regular” downloading, it certainly sounds as though digital distribution isn’t yet the game-breaker it’s sometimes portrayed as. Aaron Greenberg described digital distribution as the “fastest-growing portion” of Microsoft’s game business in January but it would appear that some habits, including the habit of walking into a store with shelves, staff and products you can hold in your hands, do indeed die hard.