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NPD: BioWare Wrong; PC Games Down 14%

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 26 comments

With the ever growing popularity of the console market, especially those connected online, PC gaming’s always been under some sort of doom-and-gloom cloud. Numbers released last week by the NPD Group won’t do much to make things any better -- but are they telling the real story?

According to GameDaily, PC sales in 2008 totaled $701 million, which is down 14 percent from 2007. Before anyone is quick to declare the decreased sales figure as just another nail in the PC gaming coffin, NPD Group tracks retail sales, and even then, not all retailers.

Even copies of retail games sold through online merchants such as Amazon aren’t counted in that $701 million total. Furthermore, games sold digitally through online services such as Valve’s Steam are also neglected in the figure. This means that we’re missing a big part of the PC game sales picture.

Of course, it’s worth noting that console game sales revenue saw growth during time of PC’s downward trend, which does indicate that, at least on the retail side, PC games are slipping.

The hardcore PC gamer, however, is much different than the mainsteam console gamer. First of all, the console gamer is limited to fewer options when purchasing a new game -- it’s either through an online retailer or from a games shop, and even then, the games shop is best for instant gratification. The PC gamer has those two options, but with the addition of digital downloads, which can provide even more immediate instant gratification. Games can often “pre-load” and download to a user’s hard drive and be unlocked for play before stores even open for business on the day of release.

Games bought online also don’t rely on keeping track of physical media, or in some cases, even serial keys. With PC gamers almost required to have a broadband internet connection, the convenience of purchasing through new, non-retail channels is increasingly more attractive.

So while NPD’s numbers showing that PC gaming sales are down are true in one regard, but don’t show that the growth on the online side. Let’s not even get started on the money generated by the World of Warcraft.

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  • 10 Hide
    yoda8232 , January 21, 2009 8:02 PM
    Honestly I HATE why the NPD doesn't count online sales on a PC. As Tom's says "Let’s not even get started on the money generated by the World of Warcraft."
Other Comments
  • 10 Hide
    yoda8232 , January 21, 2009 8:02 PM
    Honestly I HATE why the NPD doesn't count online sales on a PC. As Tom's says "Let’s not even get started on the money generated by the World of Warcraft."
  • 5 Hide
    LordPie , January 21, 2009 8:17 PM
    seriously. the decrease in retail sales is greatly surpassed by the increase in digital sales from places like d2d and steam. why do all the "pc gaming is dying" articles NEVER consider this??
  • 4 Hide
    rmicro1 , January 21, 2009 8:28 PM
    Personally I haven't bought a single PC game retail in over a year but just in the last 4 months, I've gotten around 8 games through steam, not just old cheap ones either.
  • 4 Hide
    LATTEH , January 21, 2009 9:08 PM
    PC GAME SALES ARE DOWN?!?! TIME TO GO TO GAME STOP AND DO MY PART
  • 3 Hide
    eklipz330 , January 21, 2009 9:19 PM
    i've bought my games, i buy all awesome single player games for pc, and some pc bound multiplayer games like tf2... single player games like deadspace or mass effect are just better on pc, i have my wired 360 controller, and great graphics, ima get myself a 7.1 headset, and im set. i don't really care much for these numbers, the company knows when they're selling well, im sure of it
  • -2 Hide
    yoda8232 , January 21, 2009 9:26 PM
    We should like attack NPD headquarters, like a fucking protest right in front of the entrance so they can't continue doing this. This is like brain washing people who no nothing about the real PC gaming state.
  • 3 Hide
    tipmen , January 21, 2009 9:31 PM
    I use steam to buy all my games because i know i will always have it. When i do a whole computer upgrade or formatting i have no worries of finding the discs or having that dumb securom limitation for installs or that software to begin with... Worst thing EA ever did... Just 2 weeks ago i bought 3 games when steam have that big sale. Anyways, i guess its soon going to be pointless to buy a nice computer for games seeing how alot of games are just poorly made ports or just not going to be made for the PC sorry crytek i like Crysis graphics wish to see them more in other games.
  • 2 Hide
    ricin , January 21, 2009 10:07 PM
    I'm sorry, but saying that BioWare is wrong is flat out blasphemy.
  • 1 Hide
    DJ898 , January 22, 2009 12:12 AM
    +1 ricin
  • 2 Hide
    mdillenbeck , January 22, 2009 12:23 AM
    So lets take their biased research for what it is - an indication that PC game sales are decreasing overall at the retail locations they currently monitor.

    However, any conclusion that PC game sales is declining is obviously wrong. They are taking the data gathered and generalizing to a population much bigger than what they sampled.

    One conclusion is that PC gaming is collapsing. However, there are alternate conclusions that one can conjecture. Perhaps MMOs are eating up traditional game sales with monthly fees. ($120+/year plus the initial cost of the game and possible expansion packs equals a PC gamer who purchases 3-6 new games a year!) Perhaps digital downloads are taking a bite - such as Steam. Perhaps people are pirating the games instead.

    However, without further data on these alternative forms of game purchases, any of the above conclusions are just speculation and nothing more.

    Statistics - such a wonderful quagmire. Especially when combined with the modern media, which so often provides insufficient details on how and what data was collected for the numbers spewed to have any real meaning.
  • 3 Hide
    rta , January 22, 2009 12:23 AM
    "The hardcore PC gamer, however, is much different than the mainsteam console gamer."

    Couldn't have written it better myself.
  • 0 Hide
    anarchy4sale , January 22, 2009 2:38 AM
    I bought 3 games last year thought digital download... these numbers are greatly skewed for simple reasons they mentioned above. I rarely buy games anymore at the store if possible.

    I bought 2 WoW expansions, 1 Eq2 Expansion, all 3 of these online, and I bought C&C 3 at bestbuy.
  • 0 Hide
    invlem , January 22, 2009 3:28 AM
    Last few games I've purchased in recent months, no specific order: Left 4 Dead, fallout 3, assassin's creed, sins of a solar empire. I believe sins is the only game i had to go out and buy retail.

    My next purchase will be Dawn of war 2, you guessed it, steam again, I mean why not, they gave me a free pre-release multiplayer trial for my last 2 games, same thing is happening with dawn of war. The retail stores can't compete with that, heck I even get it tax free, thats 15% off the sticker price right there for us Ontarians.

    NPD really needs to update their metrics and get with the times.
  • 1 Hide
    jtabler , January 22, 2009 10:32 AM
    I buy all my games through amazon. I like free shipping and no tax.
  • 1 Hide
    Dave K , January 22, 2009 11:51 AM
    I believe that many of the hottest releases of 2008 were available for direct download. For me at least, if I can get it on Steam... I do.

    I also suspect that they're not tracking MMOG revenue... which is probably the biggest PC gaming segment by a wide margin these days.

    Single player gaming might be seeing some loss of ground relative to console gaming - but PC gaming as a whole is still making plenty of money. I also wonder if part of the decrease in SP gaming is more because game makers aren't releasing as many titles for the pc (Fable 2 for example, used to be PC, now 360 exclusive), which forces you to get the console version. I know I'd have bought the PC version of Fable 2 if it was available.
  • 0 Hide
    elbert , January 22, 2009 11:54 AM
    NPD's estimates may spell some trouble for for some gaming companys but in no way should they say pc gaming is down. NPD's $701 is only a little more than half what blizzard's WOW makes on subscriptions a year. Currently WOW has 11.5 million subscription at last count. I would estimate thats about $1.2 billion a year. Here is a URL to explain the subscription charges and a run down at 10 million subscriptions.

    PC gaming is making way more than $701 million so the NPD is wrong.
  • 0 Hide
    elbert , January 22, 2009 11:58 AM
    http://www.playfuls.com/news_12158_The_profits_behind_10_million_World_of_Warcraft_subscribers.html
  • 0 Hide
    Pei-chen , January 22, 2009 12:10 PM
    This report is akin to saying the personal computer market is down because desktop sales are dropping.
  • -2 Hide
    falchard , January 22, 2009 1:16 PM
    Don't forget the significant decline in PC games being developed last year.
  • 0 Hide
    Obadiah Teleo , January 22, 2009 1:28 PM
    Okay, let's look at it this way, $700 million in counted sales plus extrapolated sales of $350 million equals just over $1 billion in PC game sales. While this may represent a drop in sales over the previous year, it still remains that no company is going turn their nose up at a $1 billion PC game market!

    Moreover, there are likely very logical reasons for a dip in PC game sales.

    Most households have PCs and one or more game console. Those household gaming dollars are spread thinner.

    There are many new households with gaming consoles. The Wii has expanded to many, many households that would have never otherwise purchased a game console. These households are buying Wii Fit and such. They are also trying other games for their new Wii. It remains to be seen if these households will continue to support the gaming console market.

    I will say this anecdotally, I do think console gamers have much shorter attention spans than do PC gamers. That is, console gamers buy a game, play it for a short while, and are quickly bored with that game and then look for another "thrill me" new game fix. On the other hand, I think PC gamers are much more likely to thoroughly play a game and get involved with it, with WoW being just one example.

    The point is, just flashing out some half-baked sales numbers doesn't really tell the whole story.
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