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Direct2Drive: Recent Digital Distribution Market Estimates 'Misinformation At Best'

Digital distribution service Direct2Drive is disputing claims made by competing PC digital game store owner Stardock that its Impulse service is second in market share only to Valve's Steam.

Kris Graft, Contributor

November 30, 2009

3 Min Read

Digital distribution service Direct2Drive is disputing claims made by competing digital storefront owner Stardock, which recently claimed its Impulse service is second in market share only to Valve's Steam -- but Stardock is restating its initial claims. "Stardock’s recent assessment of its service [that Impulse holds a clear number two position in the digital distribution space] is misinformation at best," Sutton Trout, Direct2Drive's VP of digital content said in an email to Gamasutra. "An NPD report from earlier this year refutes Stardock's claim outright and clearly identifies Direct2Drive as a top-performer." Trout is referring to NPD Group's "PC Games Digital Downloads: Analyst Report," which tracked activity from January through March this year. The report listed that, for the period, Valve Software's Steam service led the market handily with 62 percent of total unit sales market share, and 50 percent dollar share. Blizzard.com followed with 20 percent and 27 percent, respectively. EA.com came in third place with 7 percent and 6 percent. Direct2Drive came in fourth with 7 percent in total unit market share for the period, and 10 percent of dollar share, the NPD report said. WorldofWarcraft.com and Atari.com followed. Stardock's Impluse service was not listed. This conflicts with Stardock's recent customer report, which pegged Impulse "at 10 percent and all others combined at 20 percent in terms of actual dollars generated per month." The Stardock report also said, "It is our belief that Impulse has become the second most popular digital distribution platform worldwide in terms of dollars generated per month." Stardock's Impulse hosts internally-published games such as Galactic Civilizations, Demigod, and Sins of a Solar Empire, as well as a slate of third-party offerings. The studio is also home to productivity programs such as WindowBlinds, which it sells through Impulse. As digital distribution is still considered an emerging market, gathering exact info regarding unit and dollar sales is challenging. "It’s obvious there’s a lot of guessing going on out there, and until the digital distribution market has a standardized reporting system in place, we’ll continue to see these kinds of erroneous claims," Trout said. Stardock CEO Brad Wardell said to Gamasutra on Monday in response to Direct2Drive's criticism, "The data we used came from the publishers. When you add in the fact that Sins of a Solar Empire, Demigod, Galactic Civilizations, etc. are sold exclusively on Impulse, that is what allows Impulse to edge third parties." He added, "Without [Impulse's] own titles, Direct2Drive would indeed be number two. But then again, without Valve’s own titles, Steam would be nowhere near 70 percent of the market either." Some developers have called for more transparency in digital sales data. Trout encouraged the same. "As digital distribution represents such a rapidly growing piece of the videogames pie, Direct2Drive firmly supports the need for transparency when it comes to reporting and performance." "With that in mind, Direct2Drive is actively engaged with reputable data-collection services to determine how to most effectively implement standardized reporting in the digital distribution business."

About the Author(s)

Kris Graft


Kris Graft is publisher at Game Developer.

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