Over the last few years, there have been countless articles about the “decline” of PC gaming — articles by writers who were absolutely convinced that the industry was moving exclusively toward consoles and leaving PC gaming in the dust. At the same time, the economic forecast was chiefly positive, with just a handful of analysts preaching the doom and gloom of our current troubles.
Ironically, the roles have now been reversed: a weaker-than-advertised economic situation paired with solid proof that the PC gaming industry is stronger than ever. As we announced in our first Horizons Software and Hardware sales report, PC gaming was a $10.7 billion industry in 2007, a substantial chunk of what’s now being called a “recession-proof” industry. The same analysts and journalists who saw a decline are even starting to speculate that tough times may increase the number of people turning to games as cost-effective entertainment and escapism.
I don’t have a crystal ball, but I definitely think that’s a reasonable assumption. The PC Gaming Alliance (PCGA) was founded to help dispel myths about the industry, myths like: “PC gaming is too expensive” and “most people prefer consoles.” The reality of the situation is that PCs are not an expensive gaming platform; they’re something most families already have in their living room and use on a daily basis. Every single one of these families has a wealth of gaming options at their fingertips, ranging from popular massively-multiplayer online games (MMOs) and action-packed AAA titles to casual game portals and vast, community-based online worlds.
More importantly, PC games are a better value than other traditionally popular forms of entertainment. The most expensive games available for a PC, titles like Warhammer Online and World of Warcraft, are only $50 to $60 up front and $15 a month for literally hundreds of hours of content. By comparison, a trip for two to the movies is usually around $20, and that’s just two hours of entertainment. Buying a DVD is a little more cost-effective, but how many times are you going to re-watch the same content?
Casual games take this idea even further, ranging from free-to-play to “extremely affordable.” They may not have the same depth or longevity as your typical AAA title, but solidly designed and addictive gameplay can provide hundreds of hours of entertainment. The simplicity of casual games also means that just about anyone with a computer can find something to enjoy, regardless of how old or new that computer may be.
Of course, some people will say that I’m being overly bullish here, perhaps citing EA’s recently announced Q2 losses and “weakness at retail” or THQ’s recent studio closings as proof. What’s important to remember is that negative examples like these don’t consider the whole picture. It’s true that game sales at retail are proving to be just as prone to losses as every other retail market, but online sales are experiencing explosive growth that shows no signs of slowing down. Asia represents the single largest market for PC games currently, and almost all of that revenue is generated through online subscription, pay as you go, micropayment, or advertising-based business models.
PC gaming is going strong because it’s affordable, ubiquitous entertainment that has something for everyone to enjoy. The industry may not continue growing at the rapid pace of the last few years, but I guarantee it will weather the coming storm.
— Randy Stude
Randy Stude is President of the PCGA and Intel’s Director, Gaming Program Office. He has spent most of his time at Intel working with gaming software vendors to optimize for Intel’s Core 2 Duo, Core 2 Extreme and Core 2 Quad processors. Randy is responsible for managing the World Wide Gaming Product, Platform and Marketing Strategies for Intel Corporation.