Newly released data from the NPD group shows that massive growth in U.S. spending on digital games and associated content helped offset a previously reported decrease in new retail game sales for the year.
NPD's recently completed estimates put the total U.S. consumer spend on "games content" in 2010 -- including sales of downloadable games and content as well as new retail releases -- at $15.9 billion, down less than half a percent from 2009.
That's in sharp contrast to new U.S. retail software sales alone, which NPD data previously showed
declining 5 percent in 2010 to $10.1 billion for the year.
Comparing those numbers puts purely digital game content sales for 2010 at $5.8 billion, or about 36 percent of the total software market.
This is a significant increase from 2009, where digital content combined with used games, rentals and subscriptions to represent only $4.5 to $4.7 billion in U.S. sales
, according to NPD. That would peg annual growth in the digital segment for 2010 at a minimum of roughly 23 percent.
NPD currently does not include digital sales in its monthly reports on total industry spending, though it recently acquired digital tracking specialist In-Stat
and has said it is planning to add such digital monthly reports
Last month, EA representative Tiffany Steckler said
the digital-free monthly NPD data was "a misrepresentation of the entire industry."