PCGA: Lots Of Gaming PCs Sold In 2009

The PC Gaming Alliance has released its annual Horizons report to its members, and a press release to the rest of us. Said release indicates that PC gaming hardware sales were pretty healthy in 2009, totaling “over two times larger than the combined Wii, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 console units shipped in the same period.” They also make some predictions about the future, saying that “the worldwide number of consumers gaming with discrete graphics solutions on their PCs (Desktop and Notebooks) to be 212.6 million for 2009 and expects this to grow to about 322 million by 2014.”

I suppose we can draw some conclusions from that, eh? (And, as for software, which folks have been talking about in the comments, this NPD report is all we have at the moment.)


  1. DJ Phantoon says:

    PC Gaming is on its last legs, etc?

    • RC-1290'Dreadnought' says:

      @DJ Phantoon The amount of computers sold has never been this low, or something :P.

    • bob_d says:

      More accurately: PC gaming *as we know it* is (and has been) in decline.
      The thing is that PC game development has had issues for years; recent trends (down OR up) don’t really come into it. There are two problems:
      1) Growth of development costs long ago outstripped the growth in PC game buyers, so it has become harder and harder to actually make money producing AAA games (this is also true for console games).
      2) As the report says, “The Asia Pacific region continues to be the world’s largest hardware gaming market,” i.e. expect to see more free-to-play MMOs, and fewer single-player games aimed at the western market exclusively. (And given the development costs of MMOs, each MMO takes the development money away from two or three single player games, so fewer games get made over all.)

    • Zogtee says:

      “PC Gaming is on its last legs, etc?”

      It’s declared dead or dying every year.

    • geldonyetich says:

      As if the majority of those PC hardware sales are going to people who would buy their games rather than pirate them.

    • BAReFOOt says:

      What do you mean “pirate”? They’re coming to us with ships now? And possibly parrots?

      *slaps geldonyetich out of the **AA propaganda delusion*

      Protip: File sharing is not piracy, Copying information that you have access to, is not a crime.
      Spreading lies, intimidating people, living in a delusion, manipulating and buying governments, and generally acting like a mafia, on the other hand, is a crime.

  2. ReV_VAdAUL says:

    Major publishers reacted to this news with dismay stating “This is a clear sign that piracy will increase dramatically in the coming year and thus we are forced to focus even more on console sales.”

    • sassy says:

      Microsoft also stresses couch sales are still strong. Proving yet again that people buying console accessories in huge numbers.

      (p.s that was a badly done reference to Alan Wake >.< )

  3. Diogo Ribeiro says:

    In related news, Sony says everyone loves Move and Microsoft has seen hardcore gamers absolutely adore Kinect.

    In other words, it comes across as a little biased. What to they mean by “PC hardware”? My PC has a floppy disk, a DVD reader/writer, a sound card, a graphics card and some LAN thingy – I don’t necessarily use them all, together or individually, to play games. Are we talking “full” PCs versus “full” consoles, or a part by part affair? Are they considering things like Xbox 360 controllers for PC, either?

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      “consumer PCs capable of gaming that shipped with a discrete GPU”

    • Diogo Ribeiro says:

      But being “capable of gaming” doesn’t mean they’re actually used for gaming. Sound and graphics card are used for gaming but they’re also used for audio, video and image editing, for instance.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Sure, but the guy who uses his 360 to watch DVDs isn’t using that for gaming either. This is a report about installed user base, not consumer habits.

    • Aemony says:

      A floppy disk? That can’t be a good computer…

    • Diogo Ribeiro says:

      @Jim: Exactly, which seems there isn’t much of a conclusion to be drawn. Many people have gaming rigs, but many people may not use them as gaming rigs. Doesn’t seem like there’s enough to start thinking about some “breath of life” into PC gaming. Not that I think it’s dead – far from it – but this doesn’t seem like the ultimate evidence.

      @Aemony: Actually, the floppy doesn’t work anymore. It’s just… There. It died, not sure how.

    • yhancik says:

      Suicide. It realised its existence had become useless in this age of USB sticks.

    • Garg says:

      With the arrival of HD stuff on youtube and iPlayer some people will be buying independent GPUs in order to stream effectively. As a percentage I would guess it’s larger than the number of people who buy a console and just watch DVDs.

    • oceanclub says:

      “the guy who uses his 360 to watch DVDs isn’t using that for gaming either. ”

      I think I am that guy – we probably spend 10x more time using the XBox 360 to watch downloaded “True Blood” than playing games on it.


    • Fumarole says:

      I’m kind of in that camp too. My Xbox’s sole purpose these days is to play DVDs. When my DVD player died a ways back it was much cheaper to buy the DVD remote thingy for the Xbox from Ebay for a single dollar (no tax/shipping) than to buy a new player. In fact, at that price I wish I had bought several just in case.

    • bob_d says:

      @ Jim Rossignol:
      Given that I recently read an industry report that claimed that the majority of “high-end gaming PCs” sold in recent years were actually Macs, that would indicate that gaming *isn’t* the primary use for these machines… but that’s all academic anyways, as the real issue in PC gaming is that development costs have grown faster than the audience has for many years now.

    • Deston says:

      I don’t think Jim was supposing this is conclusive or “ultimate” evidence of anything at all – read his post again, he makes it pretty clear that a) this is a press release and b) we don’t have much else to go on.

      He’s right there too, we really don’t have much else to go on. The PC has been an extremely varied and hard to define “platform” for years now, particularly when it comes to gaming.

      Even discounting the whole piracy debate, legitimate digital distribution of games alone has complicated things by an order of magnitude, particularly when the dominant player is privately owned and only releases an inconsistent trickle of figures and statistics for anyone to analyse. The undeniable rising popularity of hardware-agnostic browser based games doesn’t exactly help the situation either.

      My point is, don’t expect to see any concrete or all-encompassing figures on “how well is the PC doing at gaming today?”, because you simply won’t get them – long gone are the easily defined days of the IBM Compatible. I bet even amongst our well-versed PC gaming community here we couldn’t fully agree on exactly what a “PC” is any more. Are laptops considered PCs? Most would say yes, I expect. How about netbooks? If not, why not? They perform the same tasks in the same fashion with the same operating systems. Stretch the logic even further out to tablets, PDAs, smartphones and embedded devices which can and do run flavours of Windows, Mac OS and Linux and are most definitely used for all manner of online and offline gaming…

      Where can the line even be drawn today?

      I don’t think we can reasonably expect any organisation to track conclusive and accurate statistics when there are so many factors involved, when we collectively don’t know the defined boundaries of the physical platform, and potentially have to consider everything from a Flash version of Snake streamed over HTTP to the collector’s edition of DA:O sold at a Game store.

      When it comes to the vast, glorious and ever-changing realm of the PC, all we can do is guess, speculate and theorise based on digging out and piecing together the tiny slithers of information like this admittedly fluffy press release and the debatable data collected by organisations like the NPD may provide. This is exactly what vexes publishers and investors (and interested observers) alike, and I suspect may have caused many of them to make some poor decisions in recent times.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      The conclusion, if there is one, is that the excuses the likes of Epic were making – that all new PCs were laptops that couldn’t play games – probably aren’t the real reason why their PC line was suffering. This suggests that the retail model so many companies depended on for profit is what is dying, rather than the PC as a platform. The issue is now how to make money from PC users if they won’t buy $40 games from Walmart. It seems that some companies are able to do that, while others have given up and moved to the consoles. Whether that exodus will be sustainable remains to be seen, but most signs point to change.

    • subedii says:

      What signs are you specifically talking about here? And more importantly, what kind of change?

      Not being sarcastic, genuinely curious as to what you mean by that.

    • PurpleMonkeyDishwasher says:

      EA’s (yes yes, I know they are child killing monsters etc. but they are a good company to look at for these kind of broad industry signs) recent quarterly report was quite interesting actually:

      link to investor.ea.com

      The two things that stood out for me this quarter were firstly, out of their net revenue breakdowns PC platform revenue accounts for (going by their own internal non-GAAP accounting measurements) 25% of the entire company’s total net revenue, with the PS3 at 22% and the 360 at 26%. Sure, “Total Console” revenue eclipses the PC, but it’s hardly a fair comparison throwing the PS3, 360, Wii and PS2 against the PC when they are all effectively separate platforms that require dedicated development efforts.

      Secondly, net revenue derived from their digital arm only accounted for 15% of their total this time last year, now it’s 35%. That’s a hefty hike, and a huge portion in total.

      There is of course many different ways to interpret the numbers, and this is just one company. But it’s a significant company (like them or not) in the games industry and if nothing else it points towards both the PC and digital distribution being an absolutely vital part of their business that isn’t showing any signs of dying off at all.

    • Urthman says:

      The issue is now how to make money from PC users if they won’t buy $40 games from Walmart.

      One of the reasons I was not surprised that Titan Quest had a long, slow, successful sales curve is that it stayed on the shelves at Wal-Mart for a huge long time while lots and lots of other titles came and went.

      Cause or effect, I don’t know. But I’m guessing a lot of TQ sales came through retail outlets like Wal-Mart.

  4. Ian says:

    This PCs-as-a-gaming-machine thing will catch on. You mark my words.

    • Zogtee says:

      I heard some fellow called Bill was going to make a big push to make these “PC’s” popular among our children.

  5. Turin Turambar says:

    I suppose we can draw some conclusions from that, eh?


  6. Exitalterego says:

    I believe the report mentions ‘PC’s capable of gaming’ which is about as meaningful as shooting yourself in the foot. Do they mean Farmville level gaming or Crysis?

    And because we all know that gaming is the only use for the PC, their stats must be accurate!

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      See comment above. They mean any PC that had a GPU.

    • Zogtee says:

      “I believe the report mentions ‘PC’s capable of gaming’ which is about as meaningful as shooting yourself in the foot. Do they mean Farmville level gaming or Crysis?”

      Does it matter? It’s still capable of gaming.

      On a PC.

      PC gaming.

  7. Tei says:

    PC Alliance members:
    – Sony DACC ( link to www2.securom.com SecuROM, SecuROM )
    – Microsoft ( link to xbox.com Zoo Tycoon, Fligh Simulator )
    – NVidia and Ati.
    – Epic Megagames ( link to epicgames.com, Gears of War 3, Bulletstorm, …)


    • minipixel says:

      Nobody invited Nintendo in the PCGA?

    • subedii says:

      Nobody likes them anymore since they started making more than both the other console manufacturers combined.

  8. pkt-zer0 says:

    So, why exactly do PCGA members still feel the need to turn a PC-exclusive game into console-exclusive one (hi there Microsoft!), or just plain not develop for PC anymore ?

  9. gulag says:

    Obv, PC gaming dead, etc.

    • bob_d says:

      Yeah, what do those developers know? They’re just losing money and shutting down to spite us!

  10. subedii says:

    I suppose we can draw some conclusions from that, eh?

    Only that the PCGA is still the most useless organisation on the planet, shortly ahead of the Committee to Bring Power Tools to Amish Villages.

    What does “PC Gaming Hardware” specifically encompass? It doesn’t matter if it had a “discrete” graphics card in it if it was a GeForce 6200 doing the rounds, that still won’t run anything of relevance. Certainly not of relevence to the companies involved.

    What does “More Capable” mobile gaming mean? Are people just after something with a little more RAM so that they can run Farmville whilst word processing and not have their netbook croak? For that matter, there’s always going to be a demand for higher hardware specs at cheaper prices, that’s nothing new.

    And what about software in all of this? The reason that summary is so hardware oriented is because the most major players of PCGA are all hardware companies, and they’ve always been part of the problem from the start. Blizzard’s not in there. Neither are Valve. Or even EA. None of the big software developers / publishers on the platform are actually involved in any way with this project to begin with. I mean the most significant software developer there is Epic, a company that last I heard from Mike Capps, is pretty adamant that the PC is completely unviable now except for facebook games.

    There is genuinely nothing that they can post that is of relevance, and all this report has done is prove it to be honest. As far as surveys go, I’d actually be more interested in the Valve hardware survey. At least that one’s dedicated primarily to games systems and provides a statistically meaningful breakdown by hardware, software, and accessories.

    This? This is a bit of a joke to be honest.

  11. Jannakar says:

    PC Gaming lobby in shock “PC Gaming not dead” statement.

    Nice bit of critical analysis there. Well done.

    Maybe if they would follow up with an survey of ‘circumstances under which people would be willing to actually pay for games rather than bittorrent them’ we might have a clearer idea of the direction of the PC games industry.

  12. Jim Rossignol says:

    This NPD report is probably the most accurate PC software, but it’s based on two surveys of several thousand North Americans, so it’s viability is uncertain: link to vg247.com

    Not least because we really have no idea how digital distribution is doing until Valve release some figures.

    • subedii says:

      At this stage, trying to judge the “state” of PC Games hardware is ridiculously daft, because there’s no real way to define just what that is. A console is a console, it has one real defined purpose. Just because someone somewhere sells a PC that might be considered as “capable” of playing games doesn’t even mean it’ll be used for games in the first place. And that’s important because what we’re really looking for is potential userbase, which is impossible to judge. Who exactly are games companies supposed to be selling to? They don’t know the numbers, those numbers don’t exist.

      As for the NPD report, well, it’s uncertain, just like you said. I mean Gamersgate complained of being left off the list of DD providers since they weren’t even contacted for the survey. At least from anecdotal evidence I’d guess at them being more relevant than the EA store, a store that performed so badly that EA themselves eventually relented and put their games up on Steam as well. Putting your games on the competitors system isn’t something you traditionally do unless your current plan isn’t working out too well.

    • Lilliput King says:


      I reckon this is less of an issue than you think.

      I haven’t played a game on my PS3 for yonks. The fact that I have it, and that it can be used for games, doesn’t actually mean it is actively being used. In fact, I use it for blu rays and streaming video. How many other lapsed users like me do you think there are, who own a console but aren’t actually using the hardware for gaming? We don’t make up a ‘potential userbase’ any more than the people that own games-worthy PCs but dont use them for games make up a ‘potential userbase.’

    • subedii says:

      You’re right, there’ll be plenty of people out there that bought their consoles and then never touched them for months on end. I imagine similar happened after the hype died down on the Wii.

      The problem is that still doesn’t change anything with this report. Trying to judge the state of “PC Gaming Hardware” is a largely meaningless endeavour, at the very least until you get into some pretty hefty specifics.

    • bob_d says:

      I found the NPD report to be rather discouraging, as it indicated that people were playing WoW and not much else. A friend of mine, who was working at Blizzard at the time WoW came out, predicted that MMOs would be the death of PC gaming (when he saw what a time-sink they were), and I have to say it’s looking that way (if by “death” you mean, “making survival difficult for everyone who isn’t Blizzard”). Most of the people I know who are currently playing WoW had previously played a variety of games; now WoW takes up *all* their gaming time. They still would show up on surveys as buying gaming-capable PCs, and as regularly playing PC games, etc. while still not contributing to the overall survival of PC gaming.

  13. Xercies says:

    Shame everyone in the PC allience doesn’t really care about PC or PC games anymore hey.

  14. Heliosicle says:

    I’d like to know the number of individual discrete graphics cards that ATI and nVidia have sold, to PC manufacturers/consumers

  15. peter says:

    every pc has a gpu…
    the difference lies between discrete and integrated gpu…

    but even then:
    aren’t people who play old point and click adventures on their laptop with an integrated gpu also gamers…

    this statistic is most useless imho

  16. Carra says:

    I’m not surprised to see that there are still a lot of gaming grade PCs beings old. But how many of those consumers also buy their PC games and don’t just pirate them?

    I’d be interested in seeing a #games sold per pc/console comparison. That would tell us more.

  17. VonFIDDE says:

    We dont need new pc games… cuz we got WOW yay!!! and and.. Starcraft 2 yay!!!! and soon Diablo3 super yay!!!

  18. Urael says:

    Lilliput King, the keyword here is ‘potential’. Simply by you owning the equipment marks you as a ‘potential’ gaming user, regardless of your personal intent for the hardware. I would say if you have a console sitting by your TV, however unused, and however much your intention is not to use it in the future, you are still marked as a potential user. Same for ‘PCs with a discrete GPU’. User may want to do nothing but video-editing or even email but that doesn’t discount them from being ‘potential’ gamers. That’s what they’re trying to measure here. Not very clearly, as Subedii has pointed out, but still…

    • Lilliput King says:

      I was using the term in the same sense as Subedii used it, really. As in, people who are actually likely to buy games. Using hardware ownership to measure potential gamers isn’t actually what the report seems to be doing (as far as I can discern from the press release). All it seems to be trying to measure is, in fact, hardware sales.

      Regardless, I think there’s an issue with labelling hardware owners ‘potential gamers.’ Surely under this definition, anyone with the disposable income to spend on a console + games is a potential gamer?

  19. Netkev says:

    Like already mentioned, this isn’t really useful information no matter how you look at it, you can safely assume that a person who just bought a console didn’t already have one. The same cannot be said for PC’s, as you need to essentially buy a new one every 5 years to have it functional for simple tasks, such as locating an exit.. I mean stream videos.

  20. ZIGS says:

    Thank you PC Gaming Alliance, for popping out once a year to say the obvious. Where would PC gaming be without your valiant efforts?

  21. DMJ says:

    The PC Gaming Alliance has members who are either indifferent to PCs (epic) or who actually have a vested interest in a console (Microsoft natch).

    • ZIGS says:

      I thought it was common sense that the PCGA is a troll company

    • Commissar says:

      I just had a look at all their members and jesus christ, no wonder we haven’t heard anything from them since they were announced in 2008!

    • bob_d says:

      Microsoft has a vested interest in PC game development, too, thanks to this little thing called “Windows.” It does give them a bit of a split personality.

    • subedii says:

      Let me know when it becomes _actual_ interest, because for the past few years they’ve been doing jack all to improve the situation, least of all with GFWL.

      There are any number of a half dozen things they could do (or at least make a start on) right now to improve GFWL, but so far the sum total of their efforts have largely been focussed on trying to get people to use their lacklustre store, and show people that what a fabulous idea it is to buy DLC using MS Points, buying bulk increments of 1000 points off the system to purchase a 560 point item.

  22. mbp says:

    I am actually amazed at this. Based on recent experience of helping a relative buying a high street PC I had come to the conclusion that the market for Desktop PCs was almost dead and that most people were only interested in laptops that can’t play anything more sophisticated than Peggle.

    Long live PC gaming though. We may be some kind of bizarre nerds but by golly it looks like there is quite a lot of us.

  23. neems says:

    On a slightly related note, the last time I was in PC World I was pleased to notice that they have changed the descriptions on their desktop pcs so that they are no longer blatantly lying about their capabilities. The worst offender being ‘Plays the latest games’ on a system with a graphics card less powerful than the average mobile phone.

    They now charge only slightly-considerably-more than an internet / self build / decent shop gaming pc for a pc that has a Radeon 5750, described basically as ‘I guess it can play games, not sure, I imagine it’ll be fine’. Obviously if you want more information they’ll have to track down Bob, the only guy in the shop who actually knows what a pc is, and drag him away from installing dvd burners and reinstalling windows on 80 different machines at £50 a pop.

  24. UW says:

    I don’t know, I think these figures could be interpreted as being very relevant.
    One of the biggest turn offs with PC gaming is that having a capable PC is expensive. The price of gaming hardware is rapidly falling and (This is a completely baseless, sourceless observation) it seems to me that the actual requirements of PC games hasn’t been increasing as rapidly as in the past. I haven’t upgraded my gaming PC since 2007 and I am still able to play almost all games on it with very nearly maximum settings.

    People always want a high spec PC, often they don’t even know why, they buy something intending to use it for the most basic of tasks and still are willing to pay more for bigger numbers. After purchase, if they express mild interest in gaming and it turns out that the machine they bought is perfectly capable of it, will they pop down to a shop and fork out 20 quid to give it a go or will they go out and buy an XBox?

    With the advent of digital distribution, PC games are becoming more and more accessible and the average home computer is becoming more and more powerful. With these combined elements, I’m certain more people will be gaming on their PC in the next few years.

    • Nallen says:

      I think the reason PC gaming requirements are moving up slowly is that the cost of producing a AAA game for the current gen consoles is so high that AAA games now have to be multiformat to get a ROI. This means you’re targeting your assets at the consoles, and therefor the PC requirements have moved on very little.

      It’s interesting to see ATI move to multiple monitor support in such a big way, perhaps they sense that with so little movement in the technical requirements of modern titles (how old a PC could run Battlefield Bad Company 2 at 720p? 3 years at least I reckon) screen resolution and anti-aliasing is the only thing that’s really pushing PC hardware. We’ve got as far down the AA path as is required/useful so now all they can do is push that resolution up and up.

    • sfox says:

      Glad to see I wasn’t the only person to notice.
      For the last few years I’ve had the impression that pc game technology has stalled, and computers a few years old can still run the newest games with ease.

      I was thinking it was because most gamers haven’t adopted a 64 bit OS due to the incompatibility issues with many games, especially old ones, therefore don’t have a system that can access more than 3 gigs of ram.

  25. pipman300 says:

    civilization 5 is obviously the reason this is happening

  26. Ginger Yellow says:

    “They also make some predictions about the future, saying that “the worldwide number of consumers gaming with discrete graphics solutions on their PCs (Desktop and Notebooks) to be 212.6 million for 2009 and expects this to grow to about 322 million by 2014.”

    I suppose we can draw some conclusions from that, eh?”

    That a tiny, tiny proportion of people with “gaming capable” PCs buy PC games?