By Mandy Mock
Do you know what the opportunities are in PC gaming? They’re probably better than you think. The PC gaming market is much bigger than consoles, both in installed base and in money made.
Sound hard to believe? Between how fast changes are happening in game models and distribution mechanisms, and the fact that industry reports only give a piece of the whole picture, it’s hard to get a really good feel for what’s happening in PC gaming. And yet, knowing things like how many gaming PCs are out there, how much revenue PC games generate, what the most popular gaming styles are, etc., is critical to deciding what kind of game to build, how to generate revenue from it and how to distribute it.
Let’s start with the question of whether there are more consoles or gaming PCs. I’ve consulted reports from the usual suspects -- IDC, DFC, Mercury, NPD, In-Stat, Screen Digest, the PCGA and a bit of my own data -- to come up with the estimate in the graph below for how many units of each platform there are out there today, and how many will be out there over the next 5 years.
For the console numbers, I used the number of active consoles globally (in other words, consoles sold minus an estimate of how many have gotten broken or lost or stuck in the back of the closet). For PCs, I took two years of cumulative sales of DirectX 10 and above discrete graphics cards to estimate the number of enthusiast PCs that are capable of playing most games. That means the estimate might be a little high, since some of those cards might have gone into the same systems or non-gaming systems. At the same time, the estimate might be a little low since I only used two cumulative years’ worth of sales, which is a little short for a PC lifespan. I think those two factors probably balance each other out, and that this estimate is pretty close.
What’s interesting to see is just how much larger the PC base is than any of the consoles. To tell you the truth, I really hadn’t realized how large of a difference it is until I put this chart together. Enthusiast PCs are 62 percent of the total market, and there are four PCs out there for every Wii, seven PCs for every Xbox360, and eight PCs for every PS3. Wow.
The second interesting thing is that almost all of the forecasted growth is in notebooks. For a lot of people now, a notebook is the only way to go. I think there will always be a place for desktops, especially with really serious gamers, but a larger and larger percentage of gaming is happening on notebooks.
Now on to the question of how much revenue from gaming each platform generates. I used a similar process to develop my estimate here as I did for the chart above.
The top three sections of the chart show, in U.S. dollars, the total amount of revenue generated globally from all types of games on the Wii, the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3.
The bottom three rows are all gaming revenue from PCs, broken into three categories. The bottom category I called PC Traditional Game SW. This basically covers games that you pay for upfront. Whether purchased in retail or downloaded online, if you paid for the game before playing it, we put it in this category. The PC MMOG category covers subscription-based gaming. And the PC Free to Play category includes games that are based on transactions (like buying equipment or upgrades in the game) and on advertising.
Today, PC gaming generates 43 percent of the total gaming revenue. The next closest platform is the Wii, which generated 24 percent of the total gaming revenue in 2009. And the PC share is growing -- by 2013, the forecast is that PC gaming will represent 56 percent of the total pie.
It’s interesting to see that the growth in PC gaming revenue is predicted to come from the newer business models -- subscription and online transactions. This matches my intuition -- with piracy being difficult to overcome in the traditional games model, the newer business models are increasingly attractive. And a good chunk of that growth in the number of units of PCs out there is due to growth in developing markets. In those markets in particular, lower upfront cost models are extremely popular.
So, there are my estimates for the number of PCs out there versus consoles and the revenue generated from PC games. I think it paints a pretty compelling picture for developing games on the PC.
Mandy Mock is a program manager for Visual Adrenaline, Intel’s program for gaming, graphics and media. She’s worked at Intel for nearly 15 years.