Industry PC gaming advocacy group, The PC Gaming Alliance, reports a sunny outlook for PC gaming in 2011. No surprise there, of course, especially with continued excitement over free-to-play, and the multi-billion dollar IPOs raised by Zynga and Nexon for their F2P businesses, but that's not the whole story: "While much of the growth in 2011 came from the growing F2P space, there were also some notable big budget game launches that enjoyed very strong sales, driven by the growing acceptance of digital distribution. These included the large subscription online games Rift, from Trion World Network, and Star Wars: The Old Republic from Electronic Arts... Sports games led by soccer titles from Electronic Arts and Konami also showed surprisingly strong sales on the PC." More below.
Really? Sports, eh? That is surprising. Also all this stuff does make me wonder how "dead" subscription-based models for MMOs really are, too. I am still paying at least one sub. Anyone else?
The focus for reports from folks like the PCGA continues to be the rapid shift towards everyone buying their games digitally, as their Intel-based bossman explained:
“The PC Gaming juggernaut continues unabated, across the industry and geographic boundaries. While reports of Gaming sales at Retail show signs of struggle, the impact hasn’t been as great for PC Gaming, which had an earlier adoption of newer formats, business-models & delivery with: Digital Distribution, Free to Play, and Subscriptions fueling PC Gaming’s strong global growth. For example: Valve’s market-leading Steam digital distribution service now reports over 40 million users, and traditional retailers are following suit by investing in this space more heavily such as GameStop’s acquisition of the Impulse digital distribution service,” said Matt Ployhar, PCGA president and Intel analyst. “Not only investment dollars, but real revenue and profits, are now being generated solely from purely digital business models, formats, and delivery.”
Still, interviews like this one still suggest that retail for the PC is not yet dead in territories other than the US and the UK, which is where I suspect the PCGA is focusing its marketing research. Nor should their numbers be taken as totally accurate. They're able to get some of the picture, with Steam not releasing figures, and thousands of indies untracked, we're still looking at guesswork. The true size of the PC as a market will probably always be unknown.