3 Key Misconceptions in the PC vs. Console debate

I'd like to address what I believe are some key misconceptions in the PC vs. Console debate.

Since about 2000 I've been tracking PC and Console Hardware and Software sales. I first started doing this to project Minimum System Configurations for PC titles when I worked at Microsoft Game Studios. I never thought I'd still be looking at these various reports going on ~9+ years now while working at Intel. However; I enjoy tracking these data sets and it's likely more important now than it ever was.

While I won't be going into any level of granularity from the reports I look at. Suffice it to say that I track most of the usual suspects: NPD (PC Data), DFC, Mercury, Gartner, Jon Peddie Reports, IDC, Futuremark, Valve's Steam Data, VGChartz, etc to name but a few.

Misconception #1 - PC Gaming is dead. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Misconception #2 - Console game sales are beating the PC game sales. Again.. not really true.
Misconception #3 - Console gaming is more profitable than PC gaming. False again.

Here's why I believe what I do.

Firstly - PC Gaming continues to thrive. Quite frankly... almost in spite of itself. I say this because there truly isn't any (1) company that owns the PC gaming platform. However; due to the large Total Available Market (TAM) for the PC - Games companies continue to create games to address the various PC Gaming markets and Geographies. However; there is no (1) company that has really invested and dumped the billions of dollars necessary into the PC Gaming ecosystem as a platform to make it better. Imagine what the PC gaming ecosystem would be like if just a few key things like ease of use and piracy were addressed!

Secondly - One of the biggest, and what I'd even go so far as saying unfair, ways that the PC vs. Console debate is characterized is that it's exactly that... PC vs. Console. Say what? So when did all the Console gaming companies gang up on the PC? Obviously they haven't. The better way to characterize the issue is that it's PC vs. PS2 vs. PS3 vs. GameCube vs Wii vs 360 etc. The fact is - is that they all compete for mindshare and dollars against each other. They even have to worry about cannibalizing their own markets part of the time. For example: some analysts like to beat up on the PS3, one could argue that the PS3's biggest competitor last year and the year before wasn't so much the 360 or Wii, but the success of their own PS2. So yes if I add up all the Console game sales and compare that against the PC then of course those volumes would crush it. However; when you split all the platform unit sales out to compare them side by side, then the PC definitely continues to hold its own quite nicely.

Third and lastly - PC gaming has had to evolve to also stay profitable. The most obvious examples being the MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online) and DLC (Downloadable Content) games. Game Developers and Publishers taking advantage of the PC platforms strengths are actually doing quite well. The real irony here is that Consoles in order to get those same advantages are starting to look more and more like PC's with each generation. So one has to ask themselves what platform is really winning over the long term? Truly... what does a Console look like by the year 2020? I'll leave that up for you all to decide.

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