Top Story: Video game software sales top $33 billion in 2010

The video game software sales figures for last year are in, and it's clear that the digital sector is snapping at retail's heels.

Video game business intelligence and research firms and teamed up to find out how many video games were sold in 2010, combining both retail and digitally-distributed purchases. The figures show that the retail channel is alive and well, though the digital sector is growing rapidly. Over 3.2 billion game purchases in total led to over $33 billion in revenues for 2010, with $2.5 billion (7.6% of the market total) coming from digitally-distributed products.

7.6% doesn't sound like very much of a market share until you consider that many digitally-distributed titles are much cheaper than retail products. Measure the share on unit numbers rather than revenue, and it's a very different story -- digital platforms, particularly iOS devices, dominate the market. According to the study, only 20% of unit sales came from the combined total of Wii, DS, PS3, PSP, PS2 and 360 retail titles, with the rest coming from digital sources. To put that in perspective, approximately 1.9 billion iOS games were sold last year, equating to total revenue of about $749 million; a comparatively small 147 million PS3 titles were sold at retail's higher price point, leading to a significantly higher $7.3 billion in revenue.

In terms of other digital distribution services, Steam led the way, with $910 million in revenue and 85 million units sold in 2010, making up an estimated 80% of the total PC digital market, and the closest digital rival to retail in terms of revenue. Xbox LIVE Arcade racked up $135 million from 17 million unit sales, while PSN was a little behind with $90 million and 10 million software units sold. Interestingly, combined DLC sales for 360 and PS3 equated to approximately $300 million in revenue -- considerably more than the combined total from XBLA and PSN game sales. Looks like DLC isn't going away any time soon, then.

PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Wii were top of the pile in terms of revenue, accounting for $7,293 million, $7,242 million and $6,830 million in revenue respectively. The typically lower price of Wii games means that Nintendo's software unit sales numbers were higher than both Sony's and Microsoft's -- 186 million units vs approximately 150 million each for PS3 and 360 -- but pulled in less money. PlayStation 2 retail titles are still hanging in there, too, with $756 million in revenue accounted for by 19 million units of software sold. Imagine how much higher that could be if the PS3 was properly backwards-compatible.

Bottom of the heap in terms of revenue were Android, Blackberry and Windows Mobile apps, with revenues of just $16 million, $8 million and $7 million respectively. In the case of Android, this $16 million comes from 465 million app sales compared to $7 million for 13 million units on Windows Mobile devices. Clearly Android developers are under-charging everyone -- not that consumers are complaining, from the looks of things.