We’ve been missing a big part of game industry’s digital revolution

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Last year, the Entertainment Software Association’s annual “Essential Facts” report suggested that the US game industry generated $16.5 billion in “content” sales annually (excluding hardware and accessories). In this year’s report, that number had grown to a whopping $24.5 billion, a nearly 50-percent increase in a span of 12 months.

No, video games didn’t actually become half again as popular with Americans over the course of 2016. Instead, tracking firm NPD simply updated the way it counts the still-shadowy world of digital game sales. This “restatement” of the US game industry’s true size helps highlight just how much the game industry at large has transitioned from a business based on physical goods to one dominated by digital downloads and online purchases.

You can see the dramatic changes in NPD’s industry estimates for yourself by looking at the ESA’s “Essential Facts About The Computer And Video Game Industry.” Between the 2016 edition and the newly released 2017 edition of the report, “total consumer spending” for the past few years has changed enormously, as you can see in the graph above (Fig. 1) and the table below.

Year 2016 Report 2017 Report Diff. % diff.
2010 17.1 17.5 0.4 2.34%
2011 16.7 17.6 0.9 5.39%
2012 15.2 18.9 3.7 24.34%
2013 15.4 20.2 4.8 31.17%
2014 15.4 21.4 6 38.96%
2015 16.5 23.2 6.7 40.61%
2016 N/A 24.5 N/A N/A

Table 1: Annual spending on US game content (in billions of dollars. Source: NPD)

This isn’t a small difference—for the 2015 calendar year, the old and the new numbers are separated by over 40 percent. More than that, while the old…

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