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PC Game Sales: The Mysterious 14%

A number you might see a lot over the next few days is 14%. This is, according to the US games sales data compilers NPD, the percentage drop in PC game sales in 2008 from 2007, the market pulling in $701m. As reported by GameDaily, the figure suggests the PC has fallen in sharp contrast to the soaring figures for console sales. But of course this number doesn't mean an enormous amount - it does not include so much of the PC market, including digital downloads, micro-payments or subscriptions. Which is a big deal.

As GameDaily mentions, NPD has recently started recording data that will hopefully give a better impression of the reality of PC game sales, and we might see the first of that as early as next week. And, as always, NPD is North America only, which is never the whole story.

But in the meantime, be ready for this 14% figure, that could be used as a weapon by those who want to imply the fall of PC gaming for many and various reasons. From the evils of the Big P to claims that the future's all about consoles, it's a number that meets the agenda of many. But it's a number that, if anything, is likely to demonstrate the evolving nature of PC sales. Clearly we don't know, and they could be falling, but this isn't the data to show it.

It'll be interesting to see how NPD calculates figures for digital transactions. Especially when companies like Valve are so peculiarly quiet about their numbers, and so much of the money changing hands for PC gaming is going directly into the pockets of independent developers, and not giganto-publishers who might need to boast such figures.

It certainly makes for interesting times. How interesting we'll hopefully find out soon, as more relevant data becomes available. At the moment, measuring PC game sales by the number of boxes shifting from stores is like announcing a drop in album sales by the amount of vinyl being sold.

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John Walker


Once one of the original co-founders of Rock Paper Shotgun, we killed John out of jealousy. He now runs buried-treasure.org