I'm not quite sure how it happened, but PC gaming seems to have gotten a bad rap over the last several years. It isn't from journalists like me, and it's certainly not coming from sites like Tom's Hardware; but at some point "they" decided that the PC should play second fiddle to the Xbox and PlayStation, instead of the other way around...or at the very least, seeing every player in the gaming space as equal.
Nvidia certainly has something to say about that, and the company's response isn't a sleek new near-$3,000 gaming laptop, nor is it some hot new PC title...despite Battlefield 3, Skyrim and Rage being right around the corner. Instead, Big Green is bringing cold, hard facts to the table. In short, it's all about the almighty dollar and how that cash is wielded by you, John Q. Consumer. I met with Nvidia recently to talk about gaming in general, as well as look at some exciting new hardware coming out in the near future. The latter is hush-hush until next month, but when it comes to the state of PC gaming, it's open season.
While Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo continue to sell consoles, game software sales for their respective platforms are stagnant, and Nvidia's research says that trend won't be changing anytime soon. Despite a 41 percent buffer in 2008, console software revenue will be eclipsed by PC games revenue in 2014. Console software revenue is flat, floating between roughly $21 and $24 billion, yearly, while revenue generated by the PC gaming market balloons from $13 billion in 2008 to a projected $23-ish billion in 2015. Nvidia breaks it down even further, showing that the bulk of PC games revenue is coming from digital downloads (Steam, Direct2Drive, etc.), meaning we're all spending less and less money on PC games when we go to Best Buy or GameStop. And rightfully so, since the latter's "PC Games Section" is one wire shelf amidst a sea of console paraphernalia and preorder-crazed salespersons.
Nvidia doesn't break down its data according to genre or service, but much of this newly-discovered cash is coming from the social gaming crowd, as well as from new business models. There's no denying that Facebook games like The Sims Social and micro-transactions in more "hardcore" titles like World of Tanks and League of Legends are pushing revenue streams and profit margins up for many developers and publishers. If that means publishers are either going to pump more money into PC games development, or come back to the platform that they've abandoned (Epic Games, anyone?), then I'm all for it.
Of course, the PC crowd should take these figures with a grain of salt since this information is coming from a company that eats, sleeps and breathes PC gaming hardware. That said, there's only so much you can do with numbers to make a given side look good, and these figures are painting a pretty picture for the PC gaming sector. If a mouse and keyboard are your weapons of choice (and I've been wielding mine since the days of Space Quest III and Catacomb 3-D), then believe me when I say PC gaming isn't dead. In fact, it's very much alive.
In other Nvidia news, the graphics hardware maker is tickled pink about the impending release of Battlefield 3, as it should be. The game is going into beta early next week (and by beta, EA really means "demo"), and quite frankly...the game looks incredible. Nvidia is throwing a huge LAN party next month to commemorate the launch of this latest BF title (rest assured, Tom's will be in attendance), and it should be one for the ages, especially since it's being held on a decommissioned aircraft carrier.
If you doubt how sweet Battlefield 3 is going to be, or how stunning the graphics and visuals are, here's a side-by-side comparison with an old favorite: 2005's Battlefield 2. A lot can change over the course of six years!