Digital games might be the future of the industry, with more and more games eschewing a traditional release in favor of virtual storefronts, but don’t count out honest-to-goodness boxed games just yet — in 2016, we actually saw a rise in physical releases.
The news comes via the analysis group NPD, which revealed the statistics for physical releases over the past several years to Gamesindustry.biz. In 2016, 296 physical releases hit store shelves in the United States between January and November, with a few other blockbuster games such as Dead Rising 4 and Super Mario Maker on 3DS adding to that number. Nearly half of these games were released between September and November. This is a slight increase from 2015, when 290 physical games were released.
NPD attributes the increase to the release of PlayStation VR games such as Eagle Flight as well as AAA publishers’ decision to release previously digital-only games to store shelves — Rocket League, Ori and the Blind Forest, and Life is Strange have all seen physical versions after their critical and commercial success digitally.
However, the news isn’t all positive. Though the number of physical releases was up year-over-year, physical game sales fell by nearly $500 million from 2015 and by more than $2 billion since 2012, when 599 physical games were released in the United States.
If you’re looking to purchase physical versions of indie games, though, you now have another option. The company Limited Run Games publishes a small number of physical versions of games like Firewatch and Lone Survivor, which not only gives collectors another piece for their collection, but also works to save these titles from extinction when they are inevitably no longer available digitally. In the past, the company has produced physical copies of Octodad: Dadliest Catch, Xeodrifter, Thomas Was Alone, and even Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse.