View Full Version : Is PC gaming dying?

03-13-2008, 12:04 PM
Piracy is rampant, consoles are doing great, and NPD sales numbers for the PC look terrible so PC gaming must be dying right?

I have talked some about piracy before so I won't talk more about it right now especially since it seems to be a hot topic at the moment, but there is a great post from Brad Wardell (Stardock) here (http://draginol.joeuser.com/article/303512/Piracy_PC_Gaming).

Consoles are doing pretty good. The new generation has greater graphics then ever, but without the Wii there wouldn't be too much innovation in the console market. Part of the reason is that none of the consoles are open. For the most part you need a publisher and permission from the console makers. So that is 2 groups of people to say why your brilliant new gameplay isn't a good idea and they won't risk money on it. Now things like Xbox live are making this a little better, but it's nothing even remotely like the PC where anyone can release anything they think will be fun.

Ok, finally on to what I think most people latch onto when they say that PC gaming is dying, the NPD numbers. In 2007 PC game sales were $910.7 million, but in 2006 they were $970 million, and back in 2004 it was $1.1 billion. It sure appears that PC gaming is dying. There is just one small problem, the NPD numbers are completely broken. I'll sum it up in 5 words: steam, casual, subscriptions, ads, and worldwide. Ok, now I'll explain. :)

1) They don't include any digital distribution sales like Steam, Reflexive, Arcade Town, Gamer's Gate, Big Fish, RealArcade, AOL Games, MSN Games, ... This list could go on for a long time.

2) This feeds into #1 quite a bit, but much of the casual market is on the PC and a lot of it is purchased online, so it isn't included either. Last time I heard the casual market alone was nearing $2 billion.

3) It doesn't include any subscription fees. So how much did WoW's 9 million customers pay in subscription fees? Yeah, well this isn't in the NPD numbers either or any of the other MMO games out there. The PC still dominates in this genre.

4) It doesn't include ads in any way. More and more games are being supported by ads, either free MMOs or web based games and guess which platform most of these are run on? Yeah, PCs.

5) It only includes the US in the numbers. This effects the consoles as well as the PC so it is not PC specific or anything, but the gaming market is becoming more and more worldwide. Just as an example, our own game Depths of Peril has sold in 33 different countries so far and almost half of our sales are outside of the US and this is with a game that is English only.

The PC market is far from dying. It's just changing faster than the stats people can keep up. I am very curious what the PC numbers would look like if they actually factored all 5 of the above things into them. I would bet the PC would look pretty damn good against the consoles then.

03-13-2008, 03:29 PM
I agree. The NPD figures have been a useless metric in the PC market for years. Its a lot easier to consolidate sales figures for a console platform, as the distribution model is so much simpler.

That being said, I am still worried about the future of the PC gaming market. I have seen too many big name developers second rate the PC or abandon it altogether. Producing a cross platform game, its almost a guarantee that a larger profit will be made with the console version, so you can see why.

As you noted in your post, I think the PC will still be the place to go for innovation and casual gaming. All of the console platforms are too tightly controlled for this market to flourish there. XBLA is a step in the right direction, but its far from an open channel. I honestly don't see any of the big three loosening the chains any more than that. The death of the big budget PC game is certainly a possibility though.

03-13-2008, 04:48 PM
The death of the big budget PC game is certainly a possibility though.

For some reason, I doubt that will ever happen. Just reading through even the most recent issue of PC Gamer shows that there are still big budget titles being produced. There's also the fact that there are more and more 'big budget' games being produced by companies outside of the US, or at least it seems so to me.

03-13-2008, 06:09 PM
Well, I'm not sure how many big budget games will really leave the PC market completely. I do think more and more will ship the PC version at the same time as the console version or even ship the PC version later. Of course, this really depends on the genre.

However, I also think that if big budget games do start abandoning the PC market, more indie companies will come along and fill in the gap.