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Digital Distribution Numbers Speak To Health of PC Game Industry 192

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-demand-a-recount dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this quote from PC Authority: "Over the years many voices have declared PC gaming dead. We have seen developers abandon the platform for consoles, citing piracy as the cause. Game stores have slowly relegated PC games from prime shelf position to one tucked away in the back corner — even Microsoft dumped AAA PC game developers from the company. It seems, though, that the demise of the PC as a games platform has been exaggerated, because until very recently sales data ignored digital distribution, with the latest data released by US company NPD revealing that 48% of PC unit sales in the US in 2009 were digital. That translates to 21.3 million games downloaded in the US. Interestingly, although 48% of games were sold online, it only worked out as 36% of the revenue. This highlights the fact that it isn't just convenience that has PC gamers shopping online; it is also that games are generally cheaper than in stores."
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Digital Distribution Numbers Speak To Health of PC Game Industry

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  • In Other News... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Inschato (1350323) on Friday July 23, 2010 @03:32AM (#33000376)
    Software box companies continue to dislike digital distribution, oil companies lobby away from nuclear power, and the middle east is still a warzone.
  • by unity100 (970058) on Friday July 23, 2010 @03:33AM (#33000386) Homepage Journal
    digital download. permanent. always there. nothing less.

    gamersgate.com works great. i have a hoard of games there. no client, no strings attached, you download, install, play. then you may delete the game. if you later on want to play it again, you just download it again. no client, no strings attached, dl, install, play. rinse and repeat. all games permanently stay in your account as accessible.

    also very cheap. they make huge sales. apparently online distributors can afford to sell prime time titles from $3 (with loyalty discount - depends on member status, it hits in between $3-10 for prime games).

    what this has over steam is, it doesnt need a client, hence no mods etc will have issues, and difference with direct2drive is, gamersgate is much cheaper.

    as you see, i counted 3 major online digital distributors... didnt even need to mention countless smaller ones. so, digital downloads can be said to come at last.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 23, 2010 @04:10AM (#33000578)

    is the industry itself.

    All the reasons that it's "dying" are reasons the big players make. The pc is open, anyone can make a game, and don't need publishers. Publishers hate this. Much how the RIAA hates P2P and the internet in general because Artists can just bypass their robber baron horseshit.

    1, Piracy. aka, "we dont control the hardware and software, and cannot fully exploit the people who buy our crap"
    2, Forced obsolescence. Many big companies are trying to make PC games a second rate citizen, Microsoft gives bigger perks to those who develop games using the "games for windows" moniker, which essentially makes them develop it for the 360 first. The big development houses are pushing for consoles to make console makers happy.
    3, see number one

  • by Skuto (171945) on Friday July 23, 2010 @04:43AM (#33000682) Homepage

    >I haven't even touched on the low price aspect of Steam which, except for some AAA new releases, sees software available for quite a bit less than in retail stores.
    >I don't think I'm alone in seeing single games or multi-title packs priced at what could be said to be impulse buy pricing.

    Only if you're in the USA. In Europe, Steam games are ludicrously expensive compaired to retail.

    That said, the convience is huge. So if there are sales (which undo most of the price differential), I'm buying.

  • Contested Numbers (Score:4, Informative)

    by Tridus (79566) on Friday July 23, 2010 @06:08AM (#33001098) Homepage
    According to Stardock's CEO, these numbers are wrong. Going by raw sales numbers, he says the digital number is actually closer to 25% [elementalgame.com].
    Why the discrepency? Well, he has actual numbers for retail and Impulse (which he happens to own). He doesn't have numbers for Steam. Of course, neither does NPD. Their digital numbers are based on an online survey. These are not real sales numbers by any measure of the word, they're the sales equivalent of a biased online public opinion poll.
    If I stood in the electronics aisle of Walmart and did a survey there, I'd find shockingly different numbers too. Unfortunately since we don't have accurate sales data for anybody, we're left with this kind of guess work.
  • by Xest (935314) on Friday July 23, 2010 @06:27AM (#33001164)

    The problem is, I'm not convinced that the prediction is actually wrong, and this article despite what it says, seems to fail to demonstrate that.

    To put the statistic they gave as an example into context, 21.3 million total PC games sold online in the largest market for games purchases is roughly around the same amount of units sold as for an individual game in roughly the same period- Super Mario Kart wii.

    That figure doesn't help their case, if a single console game can outsell every PC game distributed online in a similar period in the largest market for games then I'd say PC gaming does in fact have a problem still.

    Even if it's not declining, it's clearly a relatively small market, it doesn't look good when you factor in console sales of games beyond Super Mario Kart Wii like New Super Mario Brothers, Wii Fit, Call of Duty MW2, Uncharted 2 and all the rest.

    I'm sure some people will jump on me for hating the PC, but that's stupid I don't, particularly right now as I'm sat like a kid at Christmas hoping my collectors edition of Starcraft II arrives tommorrow and I don't have to wait until next week, but I'm not convinced that pretending there isn't a problem, when there is clearly at least one problem- that the PC is, relatively, an extremely small market is the best way forward. As for whether there's a decline, it's hard to tell, but as I've pointed out previously, this list is a little disconcerting:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_best-selling_PC_video_games [wikipedia.org]

    Most of the top selling PC games are years, many over a decade old now, newer PC games just aren't even breaking their way onto the list. If the PC games market is healthy then why aren't many modern games managing to do this? Particularly as there are more PCs in the world than there have ever been nowadays.

    It's a sad state of affairs, but for whatever reason it's pretty easy to see why many companies focus on console platforms nowadays from a commercial perspective. Personally I wish I knew what the answer was, I don't really know how the state of PC gaming can be improved as much as I'd like it to be- I'd love nothing more than to have the glory days of PC gaming back when we saw the likes of Doom, Quake, Syndicate, Theme Park, Magic Carpet, the early C&C games and so forth, undoubtedly the PC has the most varied and innovative gaming history of any platform IMHO.

  • by dave420 (699308) on Friday July 23, 2010 @08:35AM (#33001768)
    If Steam goes down due to bankruptcy, or simply being closed down, Gabe Newell (Valve's CEO) said they'd turn off authentication for all games. They've tested it, apparently, and it works a charm. So nothing would need to be done. Your downloaded games would still work just as they did before.
  • by smallfries (601545) on Friday July 23, 2010 @08:41AM (#33001790) Homepage

    Wrong, wrong, wrong wrong. In fact you are so wrong that I'm undoing mods to reply to you.

    You take the figures from the summary and then produce some figures from your arse, claim they are bigger and therefore the article is wrong? Who says that Super Mario Kart wii sold 21.3 units in the US in 2009? Your claims are at odds with wikipedia which claims that 22 million copies have been sold world-wide in the two years since launch.

    Although I can't find annual sales figures for consoles in 2009 I have at least looked a bit harder than you to find some real figures: NPD sales figures for the US in 2009 show 22.6 million units sold for the Wii, 20.4 million units for the xbox360 and 8.7 million for the PS3.

    So the PC market for digital downloads is the same size as the most popular platforms, and the total PC games market is twice the size. Quite the opposite of your conclusions, but then I used real numbers instead of those stored up my arse.

  • by Zironic (1112127) on Friday July 23, 2010 @09:08AM (#33001968)

    I'm not sure where you're getting that number from since NPD says the total US sales up to march 2010 is 10 million, the first month it sold 6 millionish.

    If you take the top games of 2009, you have:

    Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Activision 8.82mil
    Wii Sports Resort Nintendo 4.54mil
    New Super Mario Bros. Wii Nintendo 4.23mil
    Wii Fit Plus Nintendo 3.53mil
    Wii Fit Nintendo 3.60mil
    Add them all up: 24.72 million.

    While that shows that the console market is bigger then the PC market it shows that it's not nearly as dwarfed as you seem to think it is. You seem to keep stumbling over wildly inaccurate numbers which causes your conclusions to be off. You also have to take into account from the publishers perspective it's rather expensive to develop separate versions for the PS3 and XBOX360 and that the higher price on Consoles doesn't go to the publisher, it goes to the console maker as their publishing fee.

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