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Social games' decline is holding digital market back - report

Social games' decline is holding digital market back - report

April 17, 2013 | By Mike Rose

Although March saw strong sales of downloadable titles, DLC and mobile games in the U.S., the overall digital sales market was offset by the decline in social games and MMO subscribers.

Figures from metrics tracking firm SuperData show that digital game sales in the U.S. were $875 million for March, up only a "modest" 1.1 percent year-over-year.

The social games decline was mainly to blame, as the total number of monthly active social gamers dropped below 200 million for the first time in over a year, down by 10 million users year-over-year.

However, SuperData noted that conversion rates and figures for the average revenue per user were actually up year-over-year, suggesting that it is the less-committed players who are dropping off. Overall, the social games segment reached a new low of $124 million in total revenue for March.

The firm also mentioned the retirement of a number of EA's biggest Facebook games, stating that the loss of interest in social games by major publishers is being offset somewhat by smaller and medium-sized developers.

The highs and lows of MMOs

Subscription-based MMOs continued to take a hit in March, with an estimated 289,000 subscribers lost across all pay-to-play MMOs -- although overall revenues remained relatively even at $86 million.

However, free-to-play MMOs are looking healthier in comparison. An additional 3 million players were picked up in free-to-play MMOs in March, while monetization in these MMOs saw a slight improvement year-over-year, causing overall revenues to grow to $195 million.

SuperData says that newer titles like Hawken, Strike Suit Zero and MechWarrior Online are helping the overall MMO market to maintain its health.

Mobile and download

The mobile and downloadable PC and console games sectors were where the digital sector picked up the pace, and offset the social games and MMO decreases.

Year-over-year mobile game revenues in the U.S. were up 7 percent during March, to $157 million total. Elsewhere, DLC sales on PC and console were up 19 percent year-over-year, to $312 million.

Overall, digital PC and console sales were up 9 percent year-over-year, thanks to strong DLC sales, and some big-name releases including BioShock Infinite and Tomb Raider.

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