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US digital games market update: November 2014

Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales push digital games to more than $1 billion. Digital gamers spent 23 percent more around Thanksgiving compared to last year. PC, digital console and mobile games especially benefitted from this increase in appetite, with the average spending on PC DLC nearly doubling on Black Friday. Traditionally, digital games do not follow the drastic seasonal spikes of retail, which remains vastly dominant during the holiday season. Retail’s huge discounts on hardware were instrumental in driving digital mobile and console game sales, earning revenues of $355 million and $111 million, respectively. Overall, spending on digital games reached over one billion in sales in November, as the holiday frenzy reaches critical mass.

2K Games follows Activision’s lead into China’s $1.2B shooter market

Wholly owned Take-Two Interactive subsidiary, 2K Games, has partnered with publisher Shanda Games to release Borderlands Online as a free-to-play MMO shooter in China. The Chinese gamer audience is critical for global publishers because of its sheer size, but has proven largely resilient to the advances of Western game companies. Following Activision’s plan to release Call of Duty Online together with Tencent in open beta early next year, 2K Games has established a development team in Shanghai to build and maintain its title locally. First-person-shooter MMOs are a great area of opportunity for Western publishers and both games have drawn comparisons with the hit Korean title Crossfire, which grossed $1.06 billion in 2014 year-to-date.

As game streaming explodes, Valve targets 100 million potential users with Steam Broadcasting

Live game streaming continues to grow in popularity thanks to the rise of eSports. Over 100 million fans watched eSports in 2014 and 20 million of them tuned in to watch the finals for Valve’s own DoTA 2. Not surprisingly, Valve is launching its own streaming service called Steam Broadcasting. The new feature will allow Steam’s 100 million fans to stream their games and help Valve cash in on the 134 million eSports fan expected to spectate in 2015. Doing so, however, pits the illustrious game company against several behemoths, including Sony, Microsoft and Google, all of whom have an obvious financial stake in controlling what people stream and watch in their livingrooms.

Expansions and downloadable content next frontier in digital console wars

With annual sales for console downloadable content expected to total $603 million next year, the release of the PS4 exclusive campaign The Dark Below for Destiny adds another frontier in the console wars. Totaling $64 million in sales last month, revenue for additional content on consoles like expansion packs and maps was up 30% year-over-year. Nonetheless, publishers have proven less willing to commit to platform exclusivity because of the high cost of development for the next generation of consoles. However, exclusive DLC deals are more affordable and therefore less risky, allowing publishers to release custom content on different platforms. The early stage of a new console generation is critical in the lifecycle of new intellectual property as people who recently bought a new device are actively looking for new content and more willing to take a chance on a new game. By releasing platform-exclusive DLC, publishers can reach a wider audience while still allowing for differentiation. The PlayStation 4 saw the recent release of Dust Palace, an exclusive expansion for the scifi shooter Destiny, and is expected to bring in an additional $15 million in sales by March, with almost 8% of players buying digital add-on content. At the same time Microsoft has released exclusive DLC based on popular franchises like Star Wars and Dr. Who.