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Digital downloads catch up with PC boxed game sales

Digital downloads accounted for 21.3 million PC game sales in 2009 according to market research company The NPD Group, making up 48 percent of the year's total; cheaper prices for those games meant that they only accounted for 36 percent of the sector's revenue.

NPD also named the top five digital retailers active in the 'frontline' and 'casual' segments. Frontline retailers are those websites that focus on more traditional games that can also be found in retail stores, while casual sites majored on bite-size diversions such as puzzles, hidden object games, or conversions of board games.

Top 5 Frontline Digital Retailers - 2009 (based on unit % share)
1. Steampowered.com
2. Direct2Drive.com
3. Blizzard.com
4. EA.com
5. WorldOfWarcraft.com

Top 5 Casual Digital Retailers - 2009 (based on unit % share)
1. BigFishGames.com
2. Pogo.com
3. GameHouse.com
4. iWin.com
5. RealArcade.com

Deeply discounted sales at Steam, Direct 2 Drive and EA help attract customers in the first place, while Blizzard and World Of Warcraft are both boosted by the huge popularity of the online role-playing game World of Warcraft.

Big Fish Games was founded by the same person that had previously launched Real Arcade for another company, while Pogo is now owned by Electronic Arts (EA.com). iWin's Jewel Quest has also found a home on the Xbox 360, Nintendo DS, and on mobile phones.

Just like Blizzard and World Of Warcraft, the sites ranked third and fifth in the Frontline chart, Real Arcade and Game House share the same owner - the two have now been merged.