MarketCast Study Reveals Console Gamers Resisting Shift to Digital Downloads

With Downloads Accounting for Just 20% of Console Game Purchases, New Research From MarketCast Finds Conflicting Expectations and Desires That Hold Back Conversion from Physical Disc to Digital

LOS ANGELES, CA, November 21, 2014 – MarketCast, a global entertainment research firm, today announced the results of a new study among U.S. console and PC gamers that reveals for the first time the key trends keeping gamers from choosing digital downloads over physical discs. MarketCast interviewed 1,000 gamers, including HD console owners across current and past generations (PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360) and PC service users (Steam, Origin) ages 13-45.

The result is a new study, “The Democracy of Downloading: What Gamers Expect (and Want) from Digital Distribution,” which provides the first in-depth look at consumers’ perceptions of a “digital shift” toward buying games as downloads vs. on discs, the elements that define their current purchase preferences, and what will drive future buying habits.

MarketCast found that, while gamers agree that digital distribution is the future of game buying, most are reluctant to join the revolution just yet.

“The satisfying experiences gamers have had with streaming and downloading other media, like movies, television, and music through services like Netflix and Spotify strongly inform their attitudes towards a digital future in gaming,” said MarketCast CEO Henry Shapiro. “While they are hoping that gaming will follow in the footsteps of movies, TV, and music, the resale cycle and a sense of value and ownership in physical discs are big obstacles to the digital shift in the gaming category.”

Among the key findings of the study:

With downloads accounting for just 20% of overall purchases, downloads are expanding, not replacing, disc buying (for now)

  • Only half of console gamers download games digitally, and these downloads make up a minority of their total purchases – rather than going full digital, they are still buying as many retail copies as non-downloaders.

Gamers foresee an inevitable digital future, but not all are ready to jump in

  • 3 in 4 gamers say digital distribution is the future of game buying, with only a small minority saying we’ve already reached peak download; but while they acknowledge the convenience of downloading anytime, most gamers still prefer buying physical copies.

Digital shift is expected to boost “democracy” in the industry…

  • The majority of gamers say that a shift to digital buying will eventually create a marketplace where they can more directly “vote” with their dollars. They expect a net benefit to gamers in the long run – although they feel publishers will benefit even more – and say brick-and-mortar stores are the only ones who will lose.

…But most want to hold off for a system that replicates retailers’ post-purchase market

  • The biggest barrier to downloading games is the inability to control them after buying, compared to physical games which can be resold, returned, or bought used. Digital downloads raise fears of buying a “dud” with no recourse for games that aren’t good enough.

Most hope gaming will follow in the footsteps of movies and TV toward a streaming subscription model

  • Gamers expect that the industry will have an easier transition thanks to the example set by the digital shift that has already occurred in movies and TV. They would prefer a Netflix-style streaming option (such as the in-beta PlayStation Now and the just-launched Nvidia Grid) much more than a future download-only console.

For a quick snapshot overview from this study, click here. For more information about this study or a presentation of key findings, please contact Allison Taylor.

About MarketCast LLC

MarketCast is a leading provider of marketing research services for the global entertainment industry with offices in Los Angeles, London, Boston, Washington DC, and Denver. Through a variety of consulting services backed by rigorously scientific quantitative and qualitative research methods, MarketCast works in collaboration with marketers and researchers across the entertainment spectrum in the development and execution of their marketing strategies, from early concept exploration through downstream and ancillary distribution windows. For more information visit MarketCast is a portfolio company of RLJ Equity Partners.

About RLJ Equity Partners

RLJ Equity Partners is a middle-market private equity firm focused on generating long-term capital appreciation by investing in profitable and growing businesses led by strong management teams. Founded in 2006 by Robert L. Johnson in partnership with The Carlyle Group, RLJ originates structures and invests in traditional buy-outs, recapitalizations, and growth capital infusions. RLJ Equity Partners is a portfolio company of The RLJ Companies. For more information, visit