Considering PC as a much viable platform for gaming, it has invited a lot of flak from the gaming community over the years on account of poor sales and ignorance from the developers. The lack of concrete sales data and information has caused more damage to the platform than piracy ever could.
I’ve read through a good deal of articles and discussion threads pointing to the eventual demise of PC gaming since the advent of the new generation of consoles. Some of these talks suggest why PC gaming is nearing a fall down, while some defend it. These talks/claims are merely based on assumptions and aren’t backed with solid proofs, which is understandable given how badly PC sales are tracked. VGChartz is a joke when it comes to tracking PC games since, most of the sales data they provide is only confined to specific regions. It was quite recent when they started providing with more accurate estimates about PC retail game sales, which is yet far from sales figures the devs claim to have. Also, VGChartz doesn’t track the digital sales which sum up a chunk of the overall PC game sales. NPD is another source involved with this tracking job, but sadly, it isn’t enlightening either.
The reason why many believe the PC gaming market is suffering with a shaky feet, is mainly due to the lack of exclusives. The Xbox 360 and PS3 offer a good amount of exclusives dedicated for their systems. They sell mighty well too. What people fail to realize is that most of these exclusives are made by the first party studios of the companies that manufacture the hardware, or from devs who have been loyal to the system from the very beginning. Microsoft and Sony both have studios that develop games exclusively for their respective systems and they have to use this strategy to lure people into buying their hardware. If all their games were multi-platform, then consumers would only need to buy one system to run every game, which is not a profitable business model. Hence, the need for exclusivity.
PC falls into a different zone, since it is an open platform. The sales of PCs are not affected by games at all. The majority of PCs in the world today are not used for gaming and it’s usefulness far exceeds that. People buy and will continue buying PCs regardless of the gaming capabilities that it presents and companies which rely on the sales of PCs will continue to earn money regardless of the future of it’s gaming market. Hence, there are no studios dedicated for the system. Think about this, if you are an open developer, you’d rather make games for as many systems as possible, wouldn’t you? This is why some of the so called PC-only developers are going multi-platform and with game development costs on the rise, it only makes sense to bring your game to all three major systems. But, this is viewed in a different light by many.
Another culprit for the erroneous judgement is the lower game sales, relative to the major dedicated gaming consoles. Well, the consoles are indeed more profitable. In the same context, PC is profitable as well but the extent of this is not really known to many.
I’ve gathered and generated a list of successful PC games from over the years. I do not intend to compare these numbers to console numbers. All i’m trying to say is that gaming can be profitable. Where some of these numbers are extracts from the sales figures released by the game devs and some of them are source from VGChartz. (Please note that the numbers from VGChartz are not accurate. Some of them don’t account for sales from certain regions and digital sales. Hence, some rough estimates have been noted)
The game created a lot of furore in the gaming community when it was released. During the first week it only sold 87,000 copies but, a month later the sales graph shot up to a million copies. But, Crytek (the developers of Crysis) apparently weren’t satisfied and blamed it on piracy. They knew games of such quality sell 3 to 4 times more. Two years later, the game had already achieved sales of over 3 million which is exactly what they had expected.
When Bioshock was released, the sales on the 360 were really good. It was one of the fastest selling new IP’s on the 360. In contrast, the PC sales were pretty bad, accounting for only around 15% of the total sales. Many people stated this as proof that PC gaming was nearing its demise.
A year later, in a June 10, 2008 interview, Roy Taylor (Nvidia’s VP of Content Business Development) stated that the PC version had sold over one million copies. Lifetime sales of the game are supposed to be 50:50 for the PC and Xbox 360
An unknown game from a totally unknown developer. Minimal marketing, very little advertising, and allowing the game do all the talking. This was the motto of developer Ironclad games when they released this game. By word of mouth alone, the game had sold more than 500 k copies, which is good considering the budget for this game was just 1 million.
Another example of an unknown developer coming out of nowhere and experiencing resounding success. The Witcher has won a lot of fans, and for all the good reasons. The game was released on the PC alone and went on to sell 1.7 million copies. A bulk of those sales came in the latter part of its shelf life, which shows how well good games continue to sell on the PC.
Data via [Gamebanshee]
Fallout 3 stood at 850,000 copies, as per VGChartz. But, these do not include sales from America and digital sales, which should account for more than 50% of the sales. Definitely closer to 2 million if you ask me.
This one sold 700k, as per VGChartz. It was immensely successful on Steam selling more than 300k copies in just 13 days after its release. It should at least match Fallout 3’s sales on the PC, if not more.
According to VGChartz it has sold 500k copies on the PC. Yet again, this does not include sales from America and digital sales which should be more than 50% of the sales. Lifetime sales should probably be closer to the million mark, which is roughly around 30% of total sales.
Another PC game which is severely undertracked. According to VGChartz it has sold 700,000 copies, but again no sales data for america and digital sales. Although not as successful as the console versions, its still not bad to sell more than a million copies of any game. And i’m guessing the sales are much more than that.
Another immensely popular but severely under tracked game series on the PC
Sold more than 4.5 million.
Valve has not released the sales data for digital sales. But the sales figures for the PC version are more than the sales of both of the console versions combined.
Another gaming series whose sales we cannot determine. Considering it’s popularity on the PC platform, we can be sure enough that it has been pretty lucrative for Valve.
Not as much as the console versions. Yet very popular on PC
Any Battlefield game
This is a multiplayer FPS franchise PC gamers love the most and the sales are a testament to that. The last game in the franchise, Bad Company 2 has sold almost 3 million copies on PC alone.
Any Sims game
Probably the most popular PC game franchise. Lifetime sales of almost 125 million copies and all of them on the PC.
The plethora of F2P MMO’s
Many of them have found enormous success after going F2P. Games like Perfect World attract almost 50 million players every day and earn a lot of revenue in the form of micro transactions. More and more companies are adapting this strategy as its a win-win situation for both the company and the players.
These are just a few games i’ve put forward to complement my point. There are many others which have achieved mainstream success on the PC market but are not tracked properly. One of the main reasons for this is that companies like Valve do not release their digital sales numbers. They prohibit other developers from releasing them as well. This often leads to people making presumptions about the sales of a game based on retail numbers alone. This type of fallacy is what causes the most damage to the reputation of the PC as a platform. All we hear is developers talking either about the console numbers or combined numbers without a breakdown of individual platforms. If there is a new developer on the market, not having a clear picture about the monetary gains to be achieved from a particular platform is not exactly a motivating factor.
Nvidia’s Roy Taylor states,
Pick any successful PC title you can think of – selling over a million is being done, and will continue to happen.
But, words alone aren’t enough to prove anything. The lack of solid numbers is hurting the industry in more ways than one.
So, on concluding this, it’s fair to say that the PC is not dying. Misinformation on the part of the developers and gamers is leading to more games designed for consoles and then being ported to the PC. Many of these ports are not optimised properly, and are often criticized by gamers. Low sales experienced by such games leads to the developers making outrageous conclusions about the PC platform. This cycle will continue unless developers put in more efforts to make better games on the PC. Games like The Witcher 2 have proved that good games will sell regardless of the platform and companies like Valve and Blizzard profit entirely from the PC.
What we need is faith on the part of the developers and clarity about the state of the platform. An article on IndustryGamers gives a much clearer picture of the state of the PC . If you go through the charts on the article, you’ll find that the boxed and digital sales for the PC are almost 4.3 billion. Compare this to the 8 billion from all the consoles combined and this paints a very healthy picture for the PC. Those numbers do not include sales from MMO subscriptions and downloads and sales of casual games. Combining both of them, its clear that the PC isn’t dying any time soon. Its shifting in a different direction, one which consoles which eventually choose to follow.