2009 PC Gaming Software Sales Up 3%

The PCGA (remember them?) have released a report to their members claiming that PC gaming software sales went up in 2009. The report apparently collated data on PC games software sales from all part of the world, in both retail and digital sales markets. “PC gaming software revenue was a $13.1 billion industry in 2009,” says the PCGA’s release, “up 3% from 2008.” While traditional mainstream PC games sales are still in decline, it seems that revenues across the globe have been boosted by online distribution. “In our surveys of PC gamers in North America and Europe we found that over 70% indicate they have bought a full game online. Furthermore, over 50% indicate that they have bought a virtual item,” said DFC Analyst David Cole. “This is very positive because, when done successfully, companies in Asia have found the digital distribution model to be significantly more profitable than the traditional retail boxed goods business.”


  1. Uhm says:

    Thanks to the support and effort of the PCGA, no doubt.

  2. Nick says:

    I find it amusing Epic is part of the PCGA. Microsoft are doing their best to fuck up gaming with GFWL too.

    • Jad says:

      Well, while Epic has not made a PC game in years, they still do produce the multiplatform Unreal Engine. And they released UE3 sort-of-free for indie PC developers recently. But yeah, there are groups in the PCGA that really aren’t very PC-focused.

    • PHeMoX says:

      Epic and Microsoft are one intertwined bunch anyway. I don’t take Epic seriously anymore, except for their great Unreal 3 Engine tech.

      I can’t wait for Unreal 4 Engine and had expected they would make an Unreal 3 already. Guess they are more interesting in Gears of War these days.

      It seems Activision Blizzard is reigning supreme on the PC platform, even though it’s games aren’t actually that good. They also charge loads for their games, so it’s no surprise gamers that did buy PC games had to pay more.

      Makes sense, as the average AAA title now will cost you at least 50€. Sometimes even equal as much as you’d pay for an Xbox or PS3 game.

  3. bookwormat says:

    Us micropayment people can’t complain. We’re launching 7 different clients this month alone.

  4. user@example.com says:

    Ubisoft’s DRM has saved PC gaming!

  5. pkt-zer0 says:

    Any console growth percentages and total sales numbers for comparison?

    • Nick says:

      Why are they needed? No one is saying they are selling more/less.

    • pkt-zer0 says:

      The decline is attributed in part to the worldwide recession (not quoted here), I was simply wondering if console trends showed a similar decline as well.

    • PHeMoX says:

      Actually you will see that the incline is somewhat virtual in nature anyway, as this year has seen more best-selling titles than the previous, even on the PC platform.

      It’s just that the recession effectively killed the strong growth of previous years over the entire games industry.

      Some PC games also took a while to really take off when it comes to sales, like for example GTA:IV, but also Modern Warfare 2. Sales on the Xbox platform grew a lot faster.

      I guess those gamers tend to be ‘richer’, although that might very well be a biased thing. I did hear about studies early on that talked about 6 games on average per console user, which is really not much.

  6. Carra says:

    “A virtual item”. That’s amazingly vague.

  7. jsutcliffe says:

    Nick said:
    I find it amusing Epic is part of the PCGA. Microsoft are doing their best to fuck up gaming with GFWL too.

    PCGA is more about “how can we make more money from PC gaming” not “how can we make PC gaming better.”

    • Nick says:

      True, but Epic not releasing one of their biggest named games at all on the PC doesn’t make much money either..

    • PHeMoX says:

      Epic already said they were less interested in the PC platform, in very much the same way as id Software. Not enough profit.

      They already claim they can’t actually survive without a very commercial-minded multi-platform approach, or even Xbox exclusives that float on Microsoft’s money like Epic basically did. They’re not really going to care indeed, as it’s all about how to make the most money and not about how to ‘save PC gaming’.

      I don’t think consoles have a very healthy customer base in the longer run either, games are similarly too expensive or even more expensive on those platforms. There really will be a time where people will stop buying games, even the richer gamers, because of a simple price-tag.

      60 to 70 bucks for a new game every month or so is a real deal-breaker in the longer run. I honestly do not know any PS3 gamer that has bought all the best games out there. Many only have a handful, purchased over a time of six to twelve months.

      That’s like maybe 1 game every 2 months. Compared to PC gamers, I am pretty sure they probably buy less games.

    • Wulf says:


      It’s probably no coincidence either that the realisation of this is in tandem with an indie development boom, with people leaving large corporations (whose intent is to create more and more expensive games for more and more expensive hardware) in order to do their own thing. The thing is, an indie development house doesn’t have to produce expensive games, nor do they have to rely on expensive hardware. With an indie development it’s the merit of the idea, and the execution of that idea. Whether that idea can push an imaginary-number related amount of polygons is irrelevant.

      What we’re seeing here though is just the tip of the iceberg, not the big picture. Admittedly, what we’ve witnessed thus far is absolutely amazing, brilliant even, with some truly astounding stuff out there, even things that could almost challenge commercial efforts (look at the Mirror’s Edge person working on Dear Esther, and mods going gold like The Ball), but again, these were developed based on the idea, instead of the profit. They’re going to be sold, sure, and they’re going to make money, no doubt about it, but they have a greater understanding of what the PC is.

      Competition between indies is going to get very interesting in the future, whereas conglomerations are going to form for the consoles. Games will become expensive services, likely, which won’t benefit from the same level of competition, or the virtue of the idea. Publishers will mash together, and they’ll only produce new content by assimilating developers like the borg (we’ve seen the beginning of this already). And eventually there are going to be perhaps two or three big names, all fighting for the monthly pay-cheque of the console owner.

      Again, this isn’t unrealistic because we’re already seeing the beginning of this, now, and I think that eventually over-expensive games will evolve into a contractual service, where people pay perhaps £50 a month for a gaming service, it’s going to become like television, I say this because a monthly £50 is far more reliable than risking everything on a triple-AAA game that would have to be sold for £60-80 (and that’s the way console games are going already, scoff at that pricetag now but if you could take a trip to 2013…).

      So the major two/three publishers are going to get locked into a technology/content arms race, and it really won’t be so much about the quality of the content, just the advancement, thereof. Assassin’s Creed VIIi, now with lifelike hair, realtime blood splatter and whatnot. That’s the way it’s been going for a while, and this is where I see it ending up. I imagine it’ll be fairly choked of any level of creativity or ingenuity, much like is increasingly true of the mainstream at the moment, with games like BioShock becoming ever more rare.

      The end result? Disaster.

      So what are we seeing? We’re seeing people resetting the cycle, we’re seeing people hop off the Armageddon Bus in order to return to their roots. Eventually the cycle will reset for everyone post-disaster, but a few people are getting an early start. It’s sort of like the beginning of the home computer days, right now. It’s the ZX80, and we have a lot of bright people with creative little ideas, yet more complex ones than back then, admittedly, but you get where I’m coming from with this. They’re back there because they’re further ahead in the cycle than everyone else.

      What will be really interesting is when we get to the Amiga/early PC part of the cycle again, that’s when I expect PC gaming to becoming dominant once again.

      For now, I’m just happy to sit back and watch all this unfold. It’s going to be one hell of a ride.

    • Gabe says:


      “….we’re seeing people hop off the Armageddon Bus in order to return to their roots.”

      That’s a marvellous piece of writing there, thankyou. :-)

      *Gabe hugs the hivemind community, again.

  8. oceanclub says:

    Um, since Valve/Steam don’t release sales data, isn’t this worthless, or do the PCGA have inside knowledge?


    • pkt-zer0 says:

      Well, they probably do base their numbers for online purchases on something.

    • oceanclub says:

      “Well, they probably do base their numbers for online purchases on something.”

      Erm , yeah, but what? They claim they collate data, but if they don’t get the data, do they just extrapolate? Previously sales figures on the PC were published without taking into account digital sales _at all_ (and were therefore utterly worthess); I’m wondering are these figures that much better.


  9. Mario Figueiredo says:

    As long as they don’t see in this a sign to slow down and eventually stop distributing games offline, I’m fine. Nothing replaces things I can touch with my hands. That’s how I like games. I like to hold my boxes, read my manuals, collect my collectibles, and fill my games closet with new additions every year since the 80s.

    • Clovis says:

      After watching a marathon of the tv show Hoarders, I through away (recycled) about 50 beautiful game boxes. I kept the disks\manuals\codes though. I’m pretty much fine with just downloads. You should consider doing the same if your “game closet” ever becomes your hallway (and bedroom and kitchen).

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      It could eventually come to that. But currently is just a closet indeed (with the exception of ZXSpectrum cassettes that are packed on the attic on a box the size of your average TV set) . It’s a packed closet however, but I don’t see it getting filled much more. Certainly not at the speed it used to be:

      For the past 5 years I purchase 2-3 titles an year, at the very most, with some years being 1 and others 0. With time I grew increasingly critic of how I choose to spend my video gaming time. And usually I do not always find in independent studios what I’m looking for (much of the indie community gives itself more credit than it deserves in my opinion. But that’s controversial and worth a more profound debate).

  10. Frank says:

    “[R]evenue was [an] industry”, eh? The PCGAs press releases are pirated so heavily that it’s not worthwhile to invest in proper grammar.

  11. PixelCody says:

    How accurate could this 3% statistic be? I’m fairly sure Valve didn’t give them any sales numbers from Steam, so how can they be at all sure what the size of the PC gaming market is?

    I doubt Valve will divulge that sort of information any time soon, but surely Ubisoft and EA (by extension of being on Steam) are in an excellent position to tell the world the volume of games shipped digitally versus physically.

    Note: I’m honestly asking questions here, rather than trying to discredit the PCGA’s work.

  12. the wiseass says:

    Wait, there is a PC Gaming Alliance?! I’m flabbergasted.

  13. Labbes says:

    I don’t know much about this, but do these statistics already include inflation/deflation? At least for the US, that makes quite a difference (Germany had 0,4% inflation, while the US had an overall deflation in 2009).

  14. lewiep says:

    Most interesting to me is that retail is only 20% of the market.

    I guess DD is way big now.

  15. Bobsy says:

    In other news, the League of Nations have reported another Archduke-assassination-free year.

  16. rocketman71 says:

    OMG, those useless idiots at the PCGA are still at it?. Given their record, why don’t they buy a 360 and leave us alone?.

  17. ZIGS says:

    PC Gaming Alliance? This farce of a company is still alive?

    • Quercus says:

      @Zigs – spot on. The PCGA is a pointless waste of space.
      Instead of shouting from the hills to stand up for PC Gaming as a platform; whether positively with facts that show the industry is worthwhile or protesting against each and every deleterious decision from developers and publishers, they seem content to do nothing except pop up once a year with an article saying PC gaming actually isn’t that bad and then scuttle off again.

      The fact that members of the PCGA are the very people who are damaging PC gaming shows how pointless they are as an organisation.
      Where were the PCGA when IW blatantly lied to PC gamers about what they were doing with MW2?
      Where were they when PC developers state they are focusing on console games?
      Where were they when UBISOFT announced stupid DRM measures?

      If they had any backbone they might be useful, but they don’t and they aren’t.

  18. glargonaut says:

    The PCGA is concerned with big studios (its constituency), not indie devs and publishers.

    The bread and butter of PC gaming is indie and small studio development. They produce innovative games like Another World, Warcraft, TF2, Shattered Horizon, which are not related in any way to “AAA” titles like Street Fighter, NBA Jam, Guitar Hero, and MW2.

    Guess I’m just trying to say that PC gaming won’t fall off the face of the earth if big publishers flee the platform because of poor profits.

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      I guess. Who needs Starcraft when we can play Braid, right?


    • bookwormat says:

      Who needs Starcraft when we can play Braid, right?

      We don’t need Starcraft when we can play Mooncraft, the competitive traditional economy based real time strategy game that was developed after Blizzard for some weired reason stopped making games for the PC.

      A market does not rise and fall with its leading producers. It is healthy as long as there is consumer demand.

      If Activision and Blizzard and Valve and EA all abandon the PC, then there would still be demand for games, so other companies form to fill the gap. And a few of these companies will do it right.

      If there is one threat to PC gaming then it is the death of the PC. Like when we are all using consoles like IPads or Iphones and cloud services in our private lives. But this will hopefully never happen.

    • Vinraith says:


      If Activision and Blizzard and Valve and EA all abandon the PC

      …then it would really suck, even if some other great game makers came along. The simple weight of good franchises that collection of publishers own the rights to ensure that their absence would be deeply felt for quite a long time.

      I’m not really refuting your underlying point, which is that the platform can live on and thrive without them, but it’d still suck.

    • bookwormat says:


      I think franchises are only useful for PR, and for gamers they are vastly overrated. Do we really want Episode 3, or do we just want more games like half life 2?

      Dawn of War 2 is not a sequel to Dawn of War 1, they just reused the name to promote a (great) new IP. And if they make a sequel to Deus Ex, but the team who made it does not exist anymore, why should I care if it is named Deus Ex 3 or something else?

      That said, there would still be a lot of talent lost when companies like Valve suddenly leave. And the new games would not exactly play like half life. But over time, new teams will eventually form, and these teams will have talented people too, and they will make great franchises that are not being made now.

    • Vinraith says:


      See, the problem is I actually DO want Episode 3, specifically. I want to see the rest of that plot line with those characters in that setting. I’d certainly welcome other games like Half Life 2, but no one else can finish this one but Valve.

      Now, your other examples make the case far better, and you’re right that in far too many cases franchises are simply used for hype and marketing with no real meaning, but there are enough exceptions to that rule that I’d still be troubled by the departure of the “big games” companies.

      I mean, if Bethesda left the PC, who the hell else is going to make games like TES? No one is right now, I suspect that particular RPG subgenre would just disappear. The history of gaming is littered with franchises that had a unique perspective on their particular genre that, when they stopped, they just stopped. There’s never been another Dungeon Keeper, even by another name. No one seems to want to make another Rise of Nations, either. Sometimes when the developer that was making a certain type of game stops making it, no one picks up the slack. I have to think we’d see a lot of that if the big publishers left the PC and took their affiliated dev houses with them. Ultimately it’s not really about the game names, it’s about the developers and their particular quirks and preferences. Losing development houses means losing a particular perspective on PC gaming. Others may follow after a mass of such departures, but they can’t really replace what was lost.

    • bookwormat says:


      I get your point. I do not care for the half life plot that much, but I would certainly miss the elder scrolls.
      I think however, that we currently miss a lot of great franchises as well, because fewer people dare to make their dream RPG because the market is already so crowded and they think they cannot compete with Bethesda’s money and its well known IPs.

      So we are missing out on a lot of games anyway. And maybe the only reason we’re not missing these not-yet-made franchises is because we never played them. ;)

    • Vinraith says:


      So we are missing out on a lot of games anyway. And maybe the only reason we’re not missing these not-yet-made franchises is because we never played them. ;)

      It’s a fair point, it’s just very easy to see gaming as a long line of great ideas that got lost along the way. That perspective badly undersells the innovations of future developers, though, and with so many of the big studios doing little more than treading water we might well gain more than we lose.

      But yeah, I’d really hate to lose TES. :)

    • glargonaut says:

      @Mario Figueiredo

      I see your point, but I never said consoles do not have indie games, only that indie titles are not a driving force behind consoles.

      Also, IIRC Blizzard was relatively independent from big publishers when Starcraft was released 12 years ago.

  19. geldonyetich says:

    I know I’ve certainly purchased a ton of PC games this year.

    Granted, I waited until they dropped to 75% or more off…

    There’s been no real shortage of discounted PC games lately.

  20. Foamer says:

    Is that it? A page and a half of bland summary and you have to pay for everything else? Meanwhile, there are endless reams of hardware and game sales figures for the consoles available for free.

    It’s no wonder there’s a general perception that the PC games market has crashed and burned. I thought the remit of the PCGA was to act as an umbrella body and counter that perception so it could promote PC gaming for the good of its members, not keep everything as opaque and hidden as before. Still, with such luminaries as Microsoft and Epic on board, it’s hardly surprising.

  21. Mario Figueiredo says:

    You folks….

    You hear an annual press release on sale figures and think that’s all there is to PCGA. Others don’t even know what PCGA is and call it a company. Please!

    I guess few here actually took a good look at the members of this non-profit organization and how they indeed traverse all the interests in the PC gaming industry. Let’s see:

    AMD, Nvidia, Intel, Corsair, Bigfoot Networks – Hardware manufacturers who can represent the backbone of PC gaming interests by insuring ever better gaming platforms through their technologies.

    FlexComputing (now Flextronics) – A service provider to OEMS. An essential type of business behind the analysis, design, building and shipping of hardware solutions that can help improve everything, from mouse design to gaming network topologies and assembly.

    EMG – The Entertainment Merchants Association, representing over 1,000 companies connected to the entertainment business across the globe. Its presence can help insure the continued interests on the PC platform.

    Digital River – An e-commerce outsoursing company and the owner of Simtel, the largest shareware and freeware archive on the internet.

    BFG Tech, Dell, Antec, Acer, Gateway – suppliers and manufacturers whose continued presence guarantees business to hardware manufacturers and help reduce costs to the consumer.

    The Guildhall at SMU – Which also introduces the education field, by guaranteeing part of their resources to the education and graduation of video game designers and developers on the PC industry.

    Gas Powered Games, CAPCOM, Epic Games – Studios and developers, whose presence guarantees continued interest in supplying for the PC gaming industry. Like some of these or not, is irrelevant. Epic Games for instance owns the Unreal engine which powers a good portion of the games you play by studios you like.

    As for the PCGA other activities, it will be present at PAX East this month with speakers and sponsoring through some of its members companies. Most of the organization activities however are not targeted at consumers. Stop thinking they do. This is a non-profit organization aimed at companies and other organizations in the entertainment industry for the continued presence and strength of the PC gaming platform.

  22. Pete says:

    I blame piracy for the increase in sales.