Physical copies of video games are still selling well in South Africa, according to local retailers.
The influence of online gaming platforms has become widespread, however, and is most noticeable in the PC market.
This is thanks to online storefronts such as Steam, Origin, Humble Bundle, and others – which tend to be more popular than physical retailers among PC gamers.
New games released for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are still selling well, though, especially when it comes to mainstream titles.
To find out more about the local market, MyBroadband spoke to Takealot, Makro, Raru, and BT Games about physical video game sales.
Raru director Neil Smith said he could only comment in relation to the media Raru sells, and not the overall market, but said the majority of physical games sold were PlayStation 4 titles, followed by games for Xbox One, PC, and Nintendo Switch.
“This means when there is a multi-platform release, most of the sales would go towards PS4,” said Smith.
“Certain titles with mainstream appeal do continue to sell well on physical media, such as Monster Hunter World, GTA V, FIFA, God of War, and the upcoming Spider-Man and Red Dead Redemption II.”
Raru also sells PSN, Xbox Live, and Steam Codes, which have becoming increasingly popular among consumers – especially those on PC.
“We sell slightly more Steam Codes than physical PC media. Support locally for PC new releases have been declining for many years now,” he said.
Bigger releases such as Battelfield, FIFA, and Call of Duty still get new PC releases, but the local trend is to get new game releases on consoles.
“Where the PC version does get released, the units are sometimes quite limited – so once they sell out they will not be restocked again,” said Smith.
“A number of recent PC releases have in fact only been the code in a box to download the game online. So effectively they are digital-only releases.”
Makro South Africa online and marketplace merchandise manager Mark Scott told MyBroadband that physical sales were still doing well at the retailer, especially on modern consoles.
“PS3 and Xbox 360 titles are obviously down due to new releases only coming out on new-generation consoles,” said Scott.
“Xbox One software is doing very well as the console sales continue to grow and we are starting to see some older titles come down to very competitive prices like R299.”
PlayStation 4 software sales continue to grow, but not at the rate of Xbox One software sales, note Scott.
“We still believe that online sales through the PlayStation and Xbox stores are small in South Africa, but we are watching that carefully as fibre starts to roll out more aggressively.”
Scott believes that physical video game sales will have a long tail in South Africa, as the ability to trade in a game is still appealing to consumers.
Makro has not carried PC games for a while and subsequently cannot give insight into the physical versus digital market.
BT Games head of marketing Karl Klopfer told MyBroadband that customers are still purchasing physical copies of video games in South Africa.
“The number of physical sales have decreased on PC, but keep in mind that publishers are releasing fewer games on PC so the share of the platform will have decreased over other formats – and of course some PC games are only available via digital platforms like Steam or uPlay,” said Klopfer.
“PlayStation 4 and Xbox One continue to grow their share as other formats die out – such as PS3, Xbox 360, WiiU, and handheld consoles – and as their install base continues to grow,” he said.
Klopfer said the effect of digital store purchases on local market share is difficult to measure as a physical retailer, but BT Games has seen an increase in the sales of online wallet top-ups for these platforms.
“It is difficult to gauge accurately, as we do not see the sales from digital platforms reported to us.”
“Yes, there has been growth in market share by PlayStation network and the Microsoft Store – we sell wallet top-ups in our store and online and can see an increase in these sales as many customers prefer to buy codes from us rather than online.”
Takealot gaming buyer Jacques-Louis Watts agreed that physical video game sales were still going strong.
“Physical sales, globally, are still growing. There is still a huge complement of gamers who collect games, as is the same with music and DVDs.”
He said there is still a large group of gamers who prefer to have physical copies of their video games at home.
“For us in South Africa, there is very healthy growth within the physical disc market,” said Watts.
“Looking at the actual numbers for PSN and Xbox Live, the market share for those games still remain within the higher LSM markets due to high bandwidth cost.”
Watts noted that the total digital market is growing and becoming increasingly relevant, however, as Internet costs come down and more people have access to uncapped bandwidth.
“But even in areas like Europe where fibre Internet is becoming the norm, digital sales are still not out-performing physical sales and people tend to still favour physical ownership for their favourite games.”