Non-retail video game sales hit $2.9 billion

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. consumers spent up to $2.9 billion buying video games through mobile phones, social networks, downloads and subscriptions in the first half of the year, research firm NPD said on Friday.

The study marks the first time that NPD has released non-traditional video game sales figures and provides evidence that consumer spending on video games is 40 percent larger than it previously believed.

It estimated that non-traditional sales are at least $2.6 billion and as high as $2.9 billion, NPD said. The figures include used video game sales.

The move is, in part, defensive. NPD tracks and publishes monthly data on video game store sales, and has taken flak from video game executives for failing to account for new and increasingly popular ways of buying games.

NPD’s retail sales numbers have been less than pleasing to companies that make a living in the video game world. The research firm on Thursday reported that sales of video game software and equipment fell 8 percent in September.

Software sales fell 6 percent to $614 to million while hardware sales tumbled 19 percent to $383 million.

“This is an industry that is going through some pretty serious dramatic changes to its business model,” said David McQuillan, NPD’s games president. “We have to change along with them to properly reflect the overall trends going on within the market.”

Many customers are buying games through downloads or by visiting online social networks to play games offered by companies such as Zynga.

Apple Inc’s iPhone has also become a major gaming platform, with users buying games through the App Store.

Reporting by Liana B. Baker. Editing by Robert MacMillan