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Bottom line: Video games, no matter what platform they're on, are big business. The amount of money they generate has increased enormously over the last 50+ years. And while the PC may have outperformed consoles for the last decade, their combined income still can't match the behemoth that is mobile gaming.
Visual Capitalist's infographic of the video games market since 1970 highlights how much the industry has grown and evolved over the years. From 1971 when arcades made $1 billion (adjusted for inflation) through the likes of Pong, to 2022, when games generated $180 billion. With some of the greatest and most popular titles launching last year, that number will likely be even higher for 2023.
Console gaming had outperformed what the PC could manage for decades. Famous consoles from the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s meant the console market was regularly the bigger money maker, but that changed in 2013. PC games made $1 billion more than consoles that year, the same one when Starcraft 2 arrived, and the platform has been ahead ever since.
In 2022, The console market generated $30 billion while PC games brought in $45 billion. But even their combined totals couldn't match mobile, which reached $101 billion. The figures, from UK-based market intelligence firm Pelham Smithers, measure revenue rather than individual sales, which is why mobile games, which mostly have a free-to-play-with-microtransactions model, are such big earners.
The chart also illustrates the decline of arcade games after they peaked in the mid-80s. Their popularity might have waned, but arcades still made $2 billion in 2022.
It's also interesting to look at the handheld market. It peaked in the mid-to-late 2000s thanks to the Nintendo DS but the launch of the iPhone in 2007 spelled the beginning of the end for traditional handheld gaming. The industry has failed to break the $1 billion threshold since 2020 – the Nintendo Switch is classed as a portable console rather than a handheld in this report.
The chart also includes the virtual/augmented reality platform. Since the launch of the first Oculus Rift in 2016, the market has regularly earned over $1 billion. It peaked at $6 billion in 2021, falling slightly to $5 billion in 2022.