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Digital video game sales are on a tear, rising 11% to $6.1 billion in August

Kevin Van Paassen | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Global digital video game sales in August extended a streak of strong gains as publishers found success with a number of new releases on all three major platforms, gaming intelligence firm SuperData Research reported Friday.

Revenues from digital games — those downloaded directly to devices — surged 11 percent year-over-year in the month to a total of $6.1 billion. That marked the fourth-straight month of double-digit gains.

Summer is a traditionally strong period for digital game sales, but the migration to full-game downloads is nevertheless accelerating this year, SuperData Research CEO Joost van Dreunen told CNBC. Downloads accounted for about a quarter of all full game sales in August, matching a record first set in October.

"Consumers are adapting," van Dreunen said.

Digital games released to the PC platform put up the biggest gains, rising 21 percent from the same month last year to $401 million.

PC game sales are getting a boost from an emerging shift in Chinese spending habits, according to SuperData. The digital gaming market in China is dominated by free-to-play and mobile titles, but publishers and distributors are lately drumming up solid returns from premium PC titles, like Activision Blizzard's "Overwatch" and "World of Warcraft."

Notably, a "World of Warcraft" game expansion significantly increased revenues in August from the prior month despite Chinese distributor NetEase changing its policy to make users pony up a monthly subscription, rather than allowing them to pay in increments.

"The success of both titles goes against the assumption that Chinese gamers will never warm up to paying for games upfront, and provides evidence that it is possible to convince Chinese consumers to purchase high quality full-priced games," SuperData said in the monthly report.

Mobile game revenue rose 16 percent to about $3 billion, buoyed by continued strength from Niantic's "Pokemon Go." Though the cultural phenomenon began to shed some monthly users, "Pokemon Go" held on to its top 5 rating in most countries, SuperData reported.

Digital game sales on consoles like Sony's PlayStation and Microsoft's Xbox rose 16 percent in August, putting up revenues of $399 million. The total was bolstered by strong first-month sales of Hello Games' much-hyped and heavily marketed "No Man's Sky," though SuperData noted the launch was plagued by bugs and received tepid response from gamers who felt they'd been oversold on promised game features.

"An underdog studio taking big risks to do something novel has powerful appeal within the gaming community, but it remains to be seen if Hello Games has already used up all their good will," the firm said.

Rounding out August's revenue, free-to-play massively multiplayer online (MMO) games brought in $1.41 billion, up 8 percent from August 2015. Pay-to-play MMO sales slipped 4 percent to $226 million, while cash generated from games played on social media was nearly flat at $604 million.


1. "League of Legends"

2. "World of Warcraft"

3. "CrossFire"

4. "Dungeon Fighter Online"

5. "Overwatch"

6. "No Man's Sky"

7. "World of Tanks"

8. "DOTA 2

9. "Fantasy Westward Journey Online II"

10. "Counter-Strike: Global Offensive"


1. "Call of Duty: Black Ops III"

2. "No Man's Sky"

3. "Grand Theft Auto V"

4. "FIFA 16"

5. "Madden NFL17"

6. "Tom Clancy's The Division"

7. "Overwatch"

8. "Star Wars Battlefront"

9. "Uncharted 4: A Thief's End"

10. "Fallout 4"


1. "Pokémon Go"

2. "Monster Strike"

3. "Mobile Strike"

4. "Clash of Clans"

5. "Game of War: Fire Age"

6. "Fantasy Westward Journey"

7. "Puzzle & Dragons"

8. "Clash Royale"

9. "Candy Crush Saga"

10. "Clash of Kings"