Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales push digital spending to a record $4.36B

Consumers flocked to online retailers on Black Friday and Cyber Monday to take advantage of deep discounts offered by digital storefronts like PlayStation Store and Steam during the busiest shopping days of the holiday season. Overall, digital spending rose 9% compared to the same weekend in 2018 thanks to in-game content deals and big releases that include Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Death Stranding. In addition to a seasonal boost in premium console and premium PC revenue, in-game spending in free-to-play games climbed to $3.3B worldwide, up 13% compared to last year’s sales event while premium PC generated $300M, an increase of 13% for the segment.

“This season’s appetite for interactive entertainment is evidence of how mainstream the category has become,” says Joost van Dreunen, Managing Director at SuperData, a Nielsen company. “In previous years, you’d have a handful of publishers and platforms feverishly looking to win favor from a narrow and homogeneous consumer group. Today a broad variety of content creators cater to a diverse audience. Further driven by the upcoming hardware cycle and the next push behind cloud gaming with Google Stadia, overall momentum in the games industry keeps accelerating.”

In-game spending, which largely consists of gamers buying digital collectibles like character skins, loot boxes and other virtual gear, also posted healthy year-over-year gains during the holiday sales events. Runaway hits like Call of Duty Mobile made a significant impact in the mobile shooter genre, boosting the segment’s revenue in Europe and North America to $108M, up 52% compared to the same time period a year ago.

In the U.S., in-game spending made up 79% of all digital games revenue in 2018, contributing $17.9B to all digital games spending that year, a share that is expected to remain steady in 2019.

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The surge in digital games spending also comes from a growing preference among gamers to purchase gaming content digitally. According to a recent SuperData survey, 42% of gamers do most of their game spending digitally compared to only 16% of gamers who prefer to spend more on physical purchases.

This trend is expected to accelerate in 2020 as consumers begin to gravitate toward Netflix-style subscription services like Google Stadia and Xbox Game Pass that give gamers access to popular on-demand titles on launch day. Total subscription revenue in digital games is set to grow to $1.15B in 2020, a 47% increase from $784M in 2019.

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