Dead or alive? PC gaming generates a record $18.6 billion in 2011

By on March 7, 2012, 5:14 PM

A report from the PC Gaming Alliance (PCGA) suggests the industry is alive and kicking with record software sales of $18.6 billion in 2011, a 15% increase over 2010. That's partly attributed to China, which is growing nearly twice as fast as the global market, generating $6 billion for a 27% jump on-year. No geographical market declined in sales, while the US, UK, Germany, Korea and Japan felt an 11% boost with $8 billion in revenue.

The PCGA noted that free-to-play games (ironically) produced a sizeable portion of the revenue, with Zynga reporting $1.1 billion alone. Chinese outfit Tencent specializes in free-to-play titles and when 2011's figures are fully crunched, it's expected to surpass Activision Blizzard as the company which generates the most revenue from PC games. Tencent and Riot Games' League of Legends hit 32 million registered players last November.

"The PC gaming juggernaut continues unabated, across the industry and geographic boundaries. While reports of gaming sales at retail show signs of struggle, the impact hasn't been as great for PC gaming which had an earlier adoption of newer formats, business-models and delivery..." the report reads. It concludes that annual PC gaming revenue will grow 37% to $25.5 billion by 2015 as broadband Internet and digital distribution expand.

See! PC gaming isn't dying after all!

We're not taking sides, but to be fair, just because it generated buckets of cash last year doesn't mean PC gaming isn't dying -- at least not to those who say it is. When someone claims PC gaming is dying, it's never about sales figures. It's usually about the loss of what made PC gaming great: bleeding-edge graphics, highly customizable, mod-friendly platforms, "hardcore" gameplay, huge expansions and strong communities.

That has given way to stagnant engines/APIs, closed platforms, bite-sized DLC and gameplay that is more palatable to mainstream gamers. Profits come first. It's increasingly rare for games to be created specifically for PC and even when developers make such claims, they're often misleading. Battlefield 3 comes to mind. So does Crysis 2, which launched without support for DirectX 11 along with other console-centric elements.

Glancing back at PCGA's report, growth in 2011 mainly stemmed from improving distribution and reaching larger audiences, not necessarily polishing the formula that attracted early PC gamers. Again, we're not saying we think PC gaming is dying (or dead) but it's easy to see why someone might. Dying seems exaggerated, but the industry is definitely changing. With the launch of Mass Effect 3 this week, BioWare is a convenient example.

Speaking with Escapist, industry veterans explained how the culture at BioWare shifted from ambitious and passionate to restrained and resentful following EA's acquisition in 2007. Technical artist Dan Fedor described his early contributions as a labor of love. Toward the end of his seven-year tenure, the corporate setting smothered his creative drive. Are money-hungry mega-publishers spoiling the essence of PC gaming?




User Comments: 27

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computergeek said:

PC gaming forever!!!

Guest said:

Reading this article I find it amazing that all those greedy producer bastards are complaining. They really need to wake up; more wants more is becoming tiresome. Too bad they are too old and scrupulous to still be alive to witness the revolution. Maybe one day their spoiled offspring will not inherit the earth.

NTAPRO NTAPRO said:

Would more be generated if their prices were at $60 also? :o

TomSEA TomSEA, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

"Are money-hungry mega-publishers spoiling the essence of PC gaming?"

I don't think so. You still have a lot of high-quality games out there. Yes, there have been some duds and you can more than likely attribute those to corporate "streamlining" for the sake of the almighty dollar. But take a look at games like Skyrim, Battlefield 3, Deus Ex, StarCraft, Star Wars: TOR and many others - those are some of the best games ever created for their genre and all developed by big gaming conglomerates. As a consumer you just have to pay attention to what you're laying out your cash for.

H3llion H3llion, TechSpot Paladin, said:

NTAPRO said:

Would more be generated if their prices were at $60 also? :o

haha so much this

soldier1969 soldier1969 said:

Nice sideburns and stache in the pic above lol. Tell that guy its 2012 somebody! They say this about PC gaming every year and every year it flourishes more and more. Too bad the gaming industry still focuses on the outdated consoles cause more people have them naturally.

Tekkaraiden Tekkaraiden said:

Zynga make 1.1 billion, that's crazy.

Rasta211 said:

I think the direction PC gaming is heading is micro-transactions for in game content. Games that don't have micro transactions will be subscription based. Games that don't fit into either of these categories will be games that require some form of online game check to ensure your game is legit.

There will be fewer and fewer "single player / offline" games.

That's my 2 cents.

Guest said:

The publishers ultimate goal is to ween us back onto the arcade buisness model where you have to insert a coin each time you play.

H3llion H3llion, TechSpot Paladin, said:

rasta211 said:

I think the direction PC gaming is heading is micro-transactions for in game content. Games that don't have micro transactions will be subscription based. Games that don't fit into either of these categories will be games that require some form of online game check to ensure your game is legit.

There will be fewer and fewer "single player / offline" games.

That's my 2 cents.

Yep, infact I believe subscription games will vanish overtime. Maybe the big "good" games which have been invested to will be subs but most MTs.

This is MMO wise though. But yeh agree, fewer "single player / offline" games.

Marnomancer Marnomancer said:

No matter what, there's no way I'm migrating from PC gaming to console. XBOX just can't beat my beloved desktop.

Guest said:

I didn't realise anyone still cared about the whole "PC gaming is dying" thing. That was something people said in the mid 2000's when you got the first generation of consoles that could do more or less what PCs could, rather than arcade style platformers.

It's pretty much accepted by all now that the console/PC distinction is dead and gaming is now a multiplatform blend of both them both, neither being traditional pick-up-and-play console gaming, or the rich, complex, customisable experience of old fashioned PC gaming.

Titles generally sell just as well on PC as they do on Xbox, and significantly ahead of the PS3. Digital distribution has boosted PC sales as well. If anything dedicated gaming consoles will die off in favour of PCs. Far more people have a PC of some description than a games console, and as IGP's improve in capability even budget laptops should be game-capable. Digital distrubution makes the buying and installation process as simple as using a app store, and eventually everything might just be streamed, in which case you could just game using your television's built in internet access (which will become standard in the near future).

But yes the days of "hardcore", desktop PC gaming will probably continue to be relegated to enthusiasts and outside the mainstream, however. But overall things are shifting back towards PCs.

hitech0101 said:

Still people keep whining about piracy causing loss of revenue!

Marnomancer Marnomancer said:

Those Wall Street parasites claim to be representing "the industry", when the are representing no one but their own narrow interests. Honestly, the internet is just propagating the industry, and these parasites claim it's damaging it. Utterly BS. I'm with the UK Pirate Party.

And Steam really blows my steam off! Ignore the pun.

Content delivery and online distribution is making me skeptical about the future of gaming altogether though.

Darkshadoe Darkshadoe said:

hitech0101 said:

Still people keep whining about piracy causing loss of revenue!

Because piracy is bullshit. Its a tool these industries are using for control and greed. Plain and simple. Just like the propaganda that developers are starving. I'm still waiting on actual proof that a company has went out of business SOLELY because of piracy.

Guest said:

I'm sure PC gaming is rockin' in Beverly Hills or where ever but in the real world nobody is buying.

We haven't sold a high end display card in years.

These figures are pure fudge.

Guest said:

thats cause no one buys crappy out dated overpriced cards from brick and mortar stores. They use online retail.

treetops treetops said:

LoL is free to play, idk if id use those numbers as a judge to anything. Id say pc gaming is peaking not dying, well at least in america. Peaking being the percent of people in america who own a rig capable of decent gaming then actually buying pc games.

@guests yeah most people who build there own rigs are aware of online retailers that are wayyyy cheaper then brick n mortar

Piracy only hurts the single player market, Im 29 and have a few gaming friends none of which pirate only a few have a clue how and still dont.

No one likes the stale corporate taste, look what big music companies did to music, they started paying radio station to play their newly signed or created from thin air bands. Nudging out a huge part of new artists who before got a chance on the radio based off requests. Hence the monotony of the last decade+ of music(or maybe im getting old lol). EA eating up other gaming companies turning them into game factories has the same effect.

The duke nukem people said it takes a team of at least 4x more people to push out decent game then it did in the 90s, really smashing out the small companies or groups of individuals striking with their life savings. According to them it also costs far more then it used too, yes even with inflation considered.

Consoles are holding back graphics but not gameplay, cant really blame them.

there will always be obstacles but i dont see any remotely close to making pc gaming die anytime the next decade, maybe when they invent the holographic gaming watch

i dont feel like editing atm hope i didnt kill anyone with all my blah

edit

@tom oh yeah big companies do make some great games that people love to bits, but they tend to be afraid to take risks on trying newish genre of games, dota meets fps yeah baby, heck the back street boys sold a lot of records, so did new kids on the block and insync, not that i need to tell u just sayin ^^

Guest said:

pc gaming will never die! will grow much more!

Phraun said:

Guest said:

I'm sure PC gaming is rockin' in Beverly Hills or where ever but in the real world nobody is buying.

We haven't sold a high end display card in years.

These figures are pure fudge.

PC enthusiasts don't buy high-end cards from brick and mortar stores. It's almost invariably more expensive (tax, markup), the selection is always lacking, and there aren't any customer reviews either, which is a big deal. And that's completely aside from the fact that hardware demands are so stagnant given the current crop of games that few people are buying new cards right now anyway.

If you aren't a major etailer, I wouldn't even bother stocking them.

Guest said:

** Check out the dinosaur the guy in the foreground is playing on **

Is that a 5 1/4 inch floppy drive!

and that looks like VGA graphics (256 colors) at best

I wonder how much RAM that beast has...4MB? Maybe 8MB...

woohoohoooooo!!!

Guest said:

Maybe not dead. But very sick. Matthew DeCarlo mentioned Mass Effect 3 in the lead article and it turns out that this is a good example of the sickness. EA/Bioware has to decided to sell the game piecemeal via DLCs. What happened to integrity? Quality? No now it's skin as much as you can from the rotten customer that you possibly can as fast as you can. Never mind fun. The bottom line is the PC isn't dead but the industry is trying to kill it. It used to be that Games drove PC advancement and in turn PC advancement drove games to be more involved. Now games are "dummed down" so that entry to a bubble gum level. Anything more advanced and it must be simplified. The problem with gaming is the same thing that is wrong with the American economy. Corporate interests striving to maximize profits. Make 1000 Chevrolet Aveos and stop making Corvettes because not as many people are buying big powerful cars. I say to game developers make at least one Ferrari for the PC and see what happens. Mass Effect 1 is a good example. Pushing the envelope complicated, intricate and immersive, Mass Effect Dumbed down simpler and more predictble but still good. Now Mass Effect 3 a ride at an amusement park simple, on rails and just sad. Where is the cool? Where is the advancement? Not here. The only thing stepped up is the price and the dirty tricks the publisher is willing to pull because the game is popular.

gingerbill said:

Guest said:

I'm sure PC gaming is rockin' in Beverly Hills or where ever but in the real world nobody is buying.

We haven't sold a high end display card in years.

These figures are pure fudge.

So all the figures say its making money , with a company like valve taking in 800+ million , yet because your local store is selling less you say its all made up , lol , what a load of nonsense your talking.

Pc gaming has never been dying , its just drama queens moaning all the time because the new game they got doesnt let them choose the colour of there hat or something trivial. There's been as many great games now as there ever has been . Older gamers (i'm one of em) like to pretend it was better in there day. The consoles simply sell more but that doesnt mean PC gaming is dying.

Guest said:

Plus a lot of garage companies are also contributing for this. Just look at Mount and Blade: Warband or Minecraft. And lets not forget it is much cheaper to have a gaming PC than a console for games and a cheap crappy PC for the rest.

I'm 43, been playing since 1990. I'm listening this stuff about PC game is dying since mid 1995.

Guest said:

Well when it comes to sales pc is always behind ps3 and 360. Sure there might be one or two exceptions but not many and the gap is ever growing. PCGA is a joke MS left it even Nvidia left it. They are talking total bullshit and they can't hide it anymore. Even they can't lie that it is the new big games that sell on pc. Single player games are destroyed by piracy just look at witcher 2. Most anticipated pc exclusive that year and was steamrolled by piracy and the sales hit a wall even with the major discounts. I can tell you that the 360 sales suffered greatly by the pc piracy. Hell most gamers I know have consoles and a gaming pc. They buy console games but not pc since piracy is so easy. Well im sure when CDProject push witcher 2 with 2$ price-tag like the first they make "good" sales numbers. If they would have just stopped listening to the crying pc fanboys (pirates) and released the game on 360 first they would have sold way more than the pathetic one million and they would have sold with a full price tag.

All the bigger companies have focused on consoles and pc is just an afterthought as it should be with those sales. Quick cheap late port is the right way to go. No reason to waste money on a platform where 90% of the gamers just steal your game and the rest just ***** and moan. Not to mention the numbers that buy your game are pathetic in comparison.

Diablo 3 is a prime example what pc gaming has turned into. If you wan't a big exclusive and a successful game just develop it for 10+ years and make an online DRM that is pretty much impossible to crack at first. Forget the single player offline and you might have a chance to make your money back. Single player games on pc are doomed.

Guest said:

I'm sure you recognize that screaming x286 he is rocking in that picture. The pixel dimension of the screen is another clue that them there sideburns are right when they belong. :-)

Guest said:

This is modern-day...look at the flat monitor in the background's aspect ratio. Mr. Chops likely wasn't even born when that thing was relevant.

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