50 years of PC vs console gaming revenue visualized, PC maintains lead over consoles - VR, mobile, and handheld market data included

An infographic of 50 Years of Gaming Revenue from Visual Capitalist, reflecting data originally sourced from Pelham Smithers.
(Image credit: Visual Capitalist)

Visual Capitalist recently released an infographic and article showcasing the market share of video game revenue, scaled to the massive success of mobile gaming at $101 billion in 2022. PC and console, meanwhile, were at $45 billion and $30 billion, respectively— and data available in charts at the source reveals PC revenues outstripping consoles since 2013. 

If the PC lead held into 2023, it would mean PCs have enjoyed a solid ten years, trouncing consoles in gaming revenues. That said, the same data also reflects a mobile gaming revenue lead since 2009, at $18 billion to PC's $17 billion and console's $25 billion of the time.

(Image credit: Colorful)

Mind you, this is a measure of revenue, not necessarily unit sales. For example, it most likely includes MMOs like World of Warcraft (2004) and live service games with or without functioning economies, like Team Fortress 2 (2007, live service since 2010), in its calculations. And yes, both of those games still run today — TF2 is still in Steam's Top 24 Most-Played in 2023, and both titles receive semi-frequent updates from their developers.

Unit sales aren't bad on PC either, though. On Steam alone, over 14.5 thousand games were launched in 2023, and Steam revenue has been estimated at $9 billion in 2020 by itself. Even consoles have also seen a fair surge in 2023, following the release of many AAA and AA games delayed by the pandemic. This includes the likes of Final Fantasy XVI (2023) and Spider-Man 2 (2023) on PlayStation 5, especially.

While we typically focus on PC and console gaming at Tom's Hardware, it's impossible to look at this infographic and not remark on the status of the mobile gaming market. 

Beyond the Free To Play and microtransactions for ad-removal or playtime models adopted by the majority of mobile games in the 2010s, pushing closer to the 2020s has also seen "gacha games" rise from a mostly Japanese thing to a global sensation. Of 2023's Top 10 Grossing Mobile Games, two of them are gacha titles from Mihoyo, the developer of Genshin Impact (2020).

While there's no end to debate around game publishers, developers, and business models, the statistics show that the industry is relatively healthy...at least, in terms of revenue. These numbers by themselves can't reflect the realities of an industry with AAA players that regularly perform mass layoffs after successful game releases. Reports suggest that, somehow, not even Spider-Man 2 (2023) broke even.

  • ezst036
    I'm a little perplexed that handheld is so minuscule in the graphic for 2022. Where does the handheld Steam Deck fit in?(ROG Ally, etc.) I suppose that could be squeezed into the PC category.

    But what about the handheld Nintendo Switch? Isn't that the best seller currently, as a handheld-first? It's not a "console" any more/less than the Gameboy was, though, alternatively, I have seen the Gameboy referred to as a "console" many times. (Corrected by another user, below.)

    In any case, why a computer dominates the consoles is not actually all that surprising. First, emulation. It's easy to emulate an NES or Atari 2600 or Sega Game Gear all day. Every new console generation requires once again re-inventing the emulation wheel if it even achieves emulation of older units at all. And often times consoles do not cross-emulate. Playstation can more than likely emulate older PSs, but will it emulate Nintendo Switch? Probably not. PS emulate Gamecube? Probably a thorny topic. PS emulate XBox? Get a lawyer on the phone. PC emulation has had it's legal battles of course, however all consoles are subject to emulation equally once the way to do it is discovered. XBox, being the closest to being an actual PC might be the best when it comes to running emulators of other systems. But when the new XBox comes out there is at least some re-inventing of the wheel required.

    Secondly, each console generation is an all-new again environment. Consoles have a limited lifespan of 6, 7, 10 years or so. On a PC you could presumably play Dungeon Master on a brand new machine with an RTX 4090 in it in DosBox and do it again when the RTX 5090 is released. On the console side, the increasingly online-dominant style lets console makers flip the kill switch and effectively destroy the game in total, limiting the game's ability to last for decades upon decades. This is going to get worse as consoles increasingly turn to that online-dominant style. At least I can still grab a Sega CD and play Sewer Shark and it doesn't have a server somewhere ruining the whole thing. To be fair, the server-kill does exist in the PC world as well, but with the flexibility of a computer I do think I remember reading somewhere where fans spun up their own "server" to keep a halted game running, independent and perhaps to the chagrin of the parent company who wanted to kill that game forever.

    In both instances the game library generally lasts longer on a PC with the PC doubling-up and playing the role of a "revivalist" for the console who's lifespan came to an end and was thusly thrown to the side of the road by the parent company like a piece of garbage.

    Thirdly, PCs will receive "crossover titles". So why buy a console to get the game, just wait for the port. Sometimes. I don't know which is more prevalent to be fair. PC <--- Console, or PC ---> Console. I suspect PC reception is more common as its a bigger market. And. Each console does to some extent operate as a sub-market wheras the PC market is unified. (That is: the Switch market vs Playstation market vs Xbox market, due partially to their exclusives) Or in the end if there isn't a port just wait a tad bit longer and grab the emulator on PC anyways.

    Software is king. PC is unlimited software. A console is not.
    Reply
  • hotaru251
    ezst036 said:
    Where does the handheld Steam Deck fit in?
    likely pc as it basically a custom desktop OS running on a portable pc.

    ezst036 said:
    But what about the handheld Nintendo Switch? Isn't that the best seller currently, as a handheld-first?
    Switch is a console thats portable (its not really handheld 1st)


    tbh mobile is a toxic group. its so profitable because its predatory.
    Reply
  • ezst036
    hotaru251 said:
    Switch is a console thats portable (its not really handheld 1st)


    tbh mobile is a toxic group. its so profitable because its predatory.
    Thank you for the Switch correction.

    The point about predatory mobile games deserves mention.
    Reply
  • stonecarver
    Also don't forget you can use Bluestacks to again play mobile games on a PC.

    Back in 2011 or so trying to get on steam was a nervous time. PC games were pulled off shelfs at Walmart/Target. Game crazy shut it's doors. Amazon pulled most of the PC games off there site. It really dried up as far as feeling PC gaming was still alive.

    As long as all three outlets PC, Console, and mobile are living I'm cool.
    Reply
  • Neilbob
    And this is why the proliferation of awful pay-to-win trash with 'Best Value' and 'Most Popular' in game currency purchases won't be going anywhere any time soon.

    Luckily, my phone is one that still has physical buttons so I'm unlikely to fall prey to this any time soon :)
    Reply
  • usertests
    It's difficult to believe that VR/AR gaming revenue is at $5-6 billion when consoles are at $30 billion. Does that number include all headsets sold?
    Reply
  • peachpuff
    Neilbob said:
    And this is why the proliferation of awful pay-to-win trash with 'Best Value' and 'Most Popular' in game currency purchases won't be going anywhere any time soon.

    Luckily, my phone is one that still has physical buttons so I'm unlikely to fall prey to this any time soon :)
    You mean power and volume buttons? Or a keyboard? 😱
    Reply
  • Thunder64
    usertests said:
    It's difficult to believe that VR/AR gaming revenue is at $5-6 billion when consoles are at $30 billion. Does that number include all headsets sold?

    VR never really took off. Not surprised either.
    Reply
  • usertests
    Thunder64 said:
    VR never really took off. Not surprised either.
    My point is that $5-6 billion seems too high. VR gaming is making 17% the revenue of console gaming? Looks inflated in some way.
    Reply
  • MisterZ
    I don't understand how mobile game revenue started back in 1995? Paid mobile games didn't exist back in 1995/late 90s??
    Reply