Players have increasingly accepted the move to digital games. In Sony’s Q1 FY2021 financial results, the console manufacturer confirmed that 71% of PS4 and PS5 software sales were digital download. This number is higher than the overall FY2020 total of 65%, but slightly lower than the 74% measured during the same period last year (Q1 FY2020). Last year’s higher ratio does need to take into account the pandemic as well, which pushed people inside and towards gaming. 71% isn’t far off, however, especially for a period where the pandemic appeared to be getting a little more under control.
In FY2020, the ratio dropped in Q2 and Q3 to 59% and 53% respectively, but shot back up to 79% in Q4. It remains to be seen if FY2021 will follow a similar cadence, however it’s almost certain that digital game purchases will remain the majority. The video game industry has slowly been shifting to a digital majority over the last decade. Sony’s own numbers show that on the low end, the ratio reaches nearly 1:1, but in most cases digital remains the preferred medium over physical, and that gap is expected to continue to grow.
The shift to digital is further exemplified by Sony’s PS5 Digital Edition option, which forgoes a disc drive for a cheaper console. Sony also revealed that the Disc Edition console has broken even, meaning the company is now making a profit on each console sold. While the $100 cheaper Digital Edition PS5s are still being sold at a loss, Sony expects to offset that loss with profits on digital software sales and accessories.
Sony didn’t provide any further breakdowns of the digital/physical software sales gap, so it’s unclear exactly what those numbers look for specific titles such as Sony’s own first-party releases. There are a number of games that are digital-only and can’t be bought on a physical disc, which help to boost this number.
Though it may look like digital adoption is quite high, that doesn’t mean that physical media is going away anytime soon. Sony’s offering of both a physical and digital PS5 console shows that the company is committed to supporting physical media for those who still prefer it. Likewise, Sony supports backwards compatibility with physical PS4 games on the PS5, understanding that players may have built up a library of physical games last gen.
The high digital number is a bit surprising given the PS5’s limited internal SSD storage, however, though the company recently enabled the SSD expansion bay on the console via a system software beta which should soon be available to everyone.
Do you contribute to the high digital software numbers, or are you a holdout that still prefers to get your games on physical media? Let us know in the comments below.[Source: Sony Investor Report (page 9)]
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