NPD paints mixed picture of PC gaming in 2005

As traditional retail sales slump 19 percent, the trade-industry group admits the rise of MMORPGs and digital downloads has changed the PC game landscape.

by

Overall, 2005 was a record-breaking--but not earth-shattering--year for the gaming industry. US retailers sold $10.5 billion of gaming hardware, software, and accessories, some 6 percent higher than the $9.9 billion they flogged in 2004.

However, the figures from 2005 appeared grim for one game platform in particular--the PC. According to a report released late yesterday by the industry-research group NPD, 2005 saw PC-game revenue slide from 1.1 billion in 2004 to just $953 million, a 14 percent decline. By volume, the drop-off was even greater, going from 47 million games sold in 2004 to just 38 million in 2005--a slump of 19 percent.

How can PC gaming be going down in flames when World of Warcraft is topping five million players by itself? The short answer: it isn't. NPD's numbers are based on the number of boxed retail PC games sold. It doesn't cover games sold via digital download or the subscription fees that massively mutliplayer online role-playing game users pay each month. It also doesn't address the numerous smaller units of content--both free and paid--with which publishers like Blizzard Entertainment and Sony Online Entertainment update their MMORPGs regularly.

By NPD's own account, it will be changing how it defines PC gaming revenue in 2006. "While we have seen retail sales of PC games decrease for several years now, we know from talking to consumers about their online gaming behaviors that playing games on the PC, whether it's via online casual sites or through MMO subscription play, has been increasing," said NPD analyst Anita Frazier in a statement. "As a result, NPD will be launching its new definition of the US PC game market this spring, which will include a combination of sales from retail, downloads, and both casual and MMO subscription revenues. We expect this will add significant dollars to the PC game market size."

As one might expect, the number one game of 2005 was World of Warcraft, with 957,000 units sold. Taking both second- and third-place slots was Electronic Arts, with The Sims 2: University's 574,000 units and The Sims 2's 559,000 units. The rest of the 2005 PC top 10 is as follows:

TOP PC GAMES OF 2005
RankTitlePublisherRelease DateAverage Price
1World of WarcraftVU GamesNov-04$47
2The Sims 2: UniversityElectronic ArtsFeb-05$33
3The Sims 2 Electronic Arts Sep-04$45
4Guild WarsNCsoftApr-05$48
5Roller Coaster Tycoon 3AtariOct-04$30
6Battlefield 2Electronic ArtsJun-05$48
7The Sims 2 NightlifeElectronic Arts Sep-05$32
8Age Of Empires IIIMicrosoftOct-05$47
9The Sims DeluxeElectronic ArtsSep-02$43
10Call Of Duty 2ActivisionOct-05$46

Discussion

63 comments
dagamer667
dagamer667

I remember reading Alex's response to someone's email about PC gaming's death. Of course Alex said that everything is nice and dandy. If I had an Alienware rig, I wouldn't be complaining either. PC gaming is finally starting to price itself out of the market. A console costs ~500 dollars. A halfway decent PC starts at 1500 dollars and up. That's why you are not seeing FEAR on that chart, awesome as it was. Those graphics were simply far too resource-intensive for most people to play the game comfortably and not many people wanted to upgrade over one good game.

2bitSmOkEy
2bitSmOkEy

lol if they added in how many people simply downloaded their pc games for free off of...well wait i cant tell u where (cough cough it has 2 do with torrents) then i think those numbers would go up considerably.

grasu
grasu

This is for everyone asking about FEAR and Civ 4: If the NPD's figures and assumptions are accurate, the reason why those games are not on the list is because they are both digitally distributed on sites such as Fileplanet. And, as far as FEAR went, Fileplanet went berserk at launch with demos/digital releases.

Myugenjin
Myugenjin

Ahhh man it grouped all my paragraphs together sorry peeps!

Myugenjin
Myugenjin

Trance Jeremy is right about the consoles, These last 4 years for Nvidia have been great for their yearly earnings mainly due to sells of the first Xbox. Now the same will be for both ATI & Nvidia. There really able to push the limits with the console market that was unethical to do with the pc market. I was looking at articles yesterday on how many PC gamers buy the sub $200 gfx cards that are AGP instead of their pricier PCIe counterparts or the new 7800 series because thats what is affordable. There were also 3dmark graphs that showed little real world perfomance gains from 6600 agps and up (6600 gt/PCIe-7800 GTX). Sure the tech specs of these cards are greatly differed but Nvidia did such a grand job of the 6 series that they still compete. I believe at the 1024x768 with settings on high most of the Doom 3's, Far Cry's, Fears, and Quake 4's all have roughly the same frame rate only changing after the resolution is increased is when the 6600 shows it's weakness. Even SLI scalability is only trully supported(profile was created by the game dev not Nvidia) by 13-16 PC games with the only one I like being Battlefield 2. It's no tlike PC gaming is going to die it's just being re-hashed. Look at the current trend in PC components. Not so much as coming out with something blazingly fast as opposed to being able to handle task better while keeping it's speed (i.e. dual cores, 64 bit, SLI, OC memory) With HDTV's in more and more peoples houses I think this console cycle is really gonna take the PC market for a ride primarly because consoles will now be able to display a game with PC resolution on a much larger screen. I'll bet you FEAR 2 will be a Console game but for our sake support a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard which I really think Sony will implement. There are only a few hardcore gamers and there money isn't enough to support growth in this market which is why you'll see more console sells. The only pc titles that'll sell in the future are more casual gamer types which don't require much upgrading. But lord knows as much money as MS and SCEA has they could easily buy out WOW and have it on a console making more money then before with spoiled kids accross America!

trancejeremy
trancejeremy

While I agree a lot of non-gamers play the Sims, a whole lot of gamers do as well. In a lot of ways, it's the ultimate RPG. And the Sims 2 actually needs quite a high end computer to run on high graphics, i know some people who bought 7800 SLI rigs just so they can play the sims 2. I don't understand why no major company has put out a Sims clone, given the huge success of it. The closest I've really seen are things like Singles and Playboy: The Mansion, but those focus more on sleaze and less what makes the game popular: Freedom to do what you want and customization. Anyway, the Xbox 360 is supposed to 720p, which is more or less like 1024x768, and the PS3 will supposedly be 1080p, which is 1920 X 1080 (GT4 for the PS2 was 1080i, and most Xbox games were 480p). What's really been holding back consoles is the TV, not the processing power power. Now that HDTV is going to be mandated, consoles can finally support it natively.

SimuLord
SimuLord

Wow...lots of hating on The Sims from this bunch. I own Sims 2 (and will probably end up dropping a few bucks on the x-packs before it's all said and done)---reason? It's the best co-operative laboratory thing out there. I go to work---my wife plays it on my PC. I come home---I play it. The way her sims (who are designed with her somewhat idealized ideas and sense of how people interact) and mine (who are built by a sick and twisted mind with a keen interest in depravity and human dysfunction) interact---neither of us know quite what's going to happen next. It's like watching TV, except the show never sucks. And consider---she's an avid Guild Wars player and I'm a huge fan of Rise of Nations and Empire Earth 2. We're not "silly teens" or "bored housewives" (well, maybe my wife is, but not in the "I'm a gamer, I play Bejeweled!" sense). Sims 2 reminds me of a box of Legos (not a "build this thing on the box", but a box of loose bricks). With the right mindset you can make a whole world out of it.

jaefrmbk2k
jaefrmbk2k

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

PutU2REM
PutU2REM

Might I add, consoles are NOT approaching PC performance. For starters, consoles are low-res by definition. SDTV is something like 768 X 576. On a computer, I don't play at anything less than 1024 X 768. Consoles get away with it is by having a big screen far away. There's no reason PC's couldn't do the same. Video card manufacturers need to plan on the death of the standard monitor (and TV) and the rise of the HDTV. 1080i has a resolution of 1920 X 1080, after all, plenty hi-res for word processing and web browsing. Think about playing FEAR at 1920 X 1080 on a 60" screen. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to clean the drool off my keyboard.

PutU2REM
PutU2REM

Piracy and inconvenience (not much troubleshooting necessary on a console) are crippling the industry. Ideas: stream content (every game an online game even if single player) and create standardized libraries for AI, physics, etc. so game programming becomes more modular and less buggy AND cheaper.

Goraishi
Goraishi

There is and has been for a long long time substantial development support for the PC. FPS makers in particular are always constantly pushing graphics to their maximum and surpassing anything seen on consoles. All of the new RTS games have been for the PC be it AoE CC or Craft, thats another genre thats really hard to have a good controler set up for. All of the MMORPGs except FFXI (which pretty much only does because its Japanese) are for the PC. The only genre I would say the PC really lacks compared to consoles are solid single player RPGs, but even then it still has D&D.

Redhunt_86
Redhunt_86

hopefully there would still be a substantial development support for the pc in the future, since consoles had taken gaming by the helm. Or they can always create a hybrid pc/console machine, then i would be real happy...(now what was that phantom console again...)

terminus
terminus

consoles will always be in the shadows of pc's.......as the 360 and other future consoles come out, I will have a pc that is twice as strong. Even now, my dual core cpu,4 gigz of ddr400, and 7800 sli set up eats 360 now, and years from now. I like the 360, its an improvement, but it cant hang. The thought of wow on a console is scary too, it wont be done. And if it is, azeroth will be 1/2 the size....with a few creatures here and there. Pc's will not die, pc's are revolutionizing the console market. Basically, consoles are slimmed downed pc's.

Goraishi
Goraishi

For the love of... I know I seperated that into paragraphs...

Goraishi
Goraishi

I cant believe some one mentioned having FEAR on a console. Im totally against having the game butchered so people can play it on their console, and FPS games are NOT easy ports. Console shooters are far easier because they need to compensate for the aiming, sorry console fans but its just a fact. I can twitch my mouse just a tad and precisely and immediately turn and aim at what I want pretty much regardless of the speed it is moving at. And Im not even claiming to be one of the best, I still get totally schooled by some. Take Halo, its crap on the PC and FAR too easy even on that additional difficulty level they added for mouse users. And for those who said the 360 can play the same stuff, IIRC I remember several of the ported games being called slide shows so no obviously they cant actually handle it. You want WoW on the PS2/xbox/360? FFXI on the PS2 didnt actually displace PC users and its crap, they can take their sweet time loading while you can be playing. Despite being a worse version it also introduces a huge amount of kids which sorry to say is incredibly bad. Im not saying adults didnt use it but more kids have a console than a pc that can run games, and having the kids play with the adults is not fun for the adults who seek mature people to play with. By kids I mean before teens, yes there are a few kids that are actually pretty mature about it and there are a few totally immature adults. As for the piracy, yes it does hurt pc games sales, however it is equally easy to pirate ps2 games using the exact same software mentioned before. And personally I buy my games, but I cant claim to understand every situation, I mean I have enough money to buy them so I do (Im not rich or even close though). If sales simply included MMO fee's then it would have definately gone up. Games like Everquest, my character had over 50 days of play time and I knew some with over 300 (for those not firmilliar that is not how many days since you created your character but actual in game hours), and probably atleast 10 on WoW. Games like that have substantially more replay value than other games like not to mention every single console game, so as long as they are being currently played and you are paying more money for it then it should still count as a sale. I mean I seriously doubt anyone has spent 300 days on a console game. Personally its extremely unlikely for me to even touch a console game after 6 months or so. Pop in and play games are a BAD idea. It works on console because they are far far far slower than a PC. Until they make a CD or DVD drive that can load data faster than a good hard drive and a decent chunk of ram, there is no chance of that happening. Gamers HATE load time. In fact certain games that have even partially run from the disc are almost always critized for it because it slows it down. Also if I were to guess on the fanbase of sims I would bet that it has a substantial amount less of young adult males playing it. All of the people who play it that I know of are either girls or older. Where as FPS games are mostly played by young adult males.

bolonydo
bolonydo

I'm assuming none of the people who have left a comment so far is a "casual" gamer. We are after all, on a gaming website. WoW and Sims top out that list because both games appeal to casual gamers, plain and simple. You have to understand that gaming IS a big industry and hardcore gamers only make up a small portion of gamers in general. Just take a look at your own family. If you have siblings/kids, then I bet they play games too, just not as much as you. I've played most of the games on that list, with the exception of Guild Wars because WoW took up all of my time. WoW is #1 for two reasons, it's fun and it's easy to get into, just like Sims. Also, we can't forget that both games appeal to males AND females. Shoot, I even had a mom in my guild at one point.

MysticGenie
MysticGenie

koss2010: "To all those that are getting SIMS ... go grab FEAR next time or something seriously..." You realized that most SIMS fans don't care about any FPS games. Also, FEAR is a resource hog and you need a very powerful graphic card to be able to run this intensive game. Those who played SIMS games most likely have low-end graphic cards so you can't expect everyone to go out and upgrade their comp just to play one stupid game.

abdu4
abdu4

What happen to FEAR

deadone1000
deadone1000

kretyn u r an idiot.. actually u are what your name says!!!! i hate people like you.. "ohh pc is only for grown ups .." ur lame.. i know alot of people in their "teens" that dont play sims, what kinda statement is that anyway.. its more liekly that sims are played by people in their 30s and 40s anyway. u think teenagers would rather play a game where u hav to tel people to do everything form eating to taking a dump then shooting someones or somethings head offf???? have you gone out n conducted a research on what teenagers play on their pcs???? Didint think so Maybe the probloem with this industry is alot of old men that dont seem to have lives n consider the pc platform their god given right!!! Well its not.. ive been playing on pcs since i was 8 and i never owned a PS or xbox.... As for the PC market.. well it will never die bwecouse as long as there are PCs there will always be games fr it.. furthermore there would be no 360 or ps3 if it wenrt for PCs all those componenets that make up the nex gen consoles (minus sony's cell proccessor) have come from the pc industry that evolved around PC games!!! Also the sooner that game companies realise that charging

thesam_man
thesam_man

PC figures would be a LOT higher if it weren't for programs like nero and alcholhol being miss-used, and the huge file sharing networks. As soon as anyonne gets a game in my circle of friends gets a game, everyone else has it too thanks to the easiness of piracy - note: without trying to sing my own praises, I have never in any way pirated any music, game or other media. Saying its the industry's fault is rediculous. On any forum about PC just search steam or starforce and you'll see HUNDREDS of threads complaining about the invasiveness of the software - its a no-win situation for PC gaming. I'm in favour of a steam-like service for games, and to those who aren't, either you're one of the unlucky *few*, or you've brought it upon yourself so tough.

pal_080
pal_080

Next Time use at least two paragraphs, heh heh. I know what your saying and as much as I'm on your side I can't help but feel sick insdie to say I agree because I'm being hypocritical, and I'm sure you are too. I couldn't give two shakes of a stick about sustainability and all that jazz. It may be a bad adittuted but I don't plan on making a massive difference in my life style just to change things. On another note: Todays Copy-Write/ Anti-Piracy protection is a joke! Everything that is put together can be taken apart, it's as simple as that. As smart as the people who make these things are, there are always people working against their acomplisments who are just as smart, if not smarter.

dwharris
dwharris

I totally agree with crippla87 that piracy must be a huge reason why PC games don't sell as well. It's a myth that you NEED a brand new computer to play new games. They might not look as good if you've got an old graphics card or whatever, but they still probably look as good as a PS2 game. The real problem has to be how easy it is to illegally download a cracked version of a game the day it comes out. I mean, anyone who knows anything about PC's can do this, or learn to do it in a couple of hours. And before you shout that they shouldn't do it because it hurts the industry, you should wake up and remember that consumers don't actually, and can't be expected expected to behave in a way that is rational in the long term. That's just not how our economic system has come to work. If it did work that way, people wouldn't buy half as much disposable (or at least so fragile that it's practically disposable) junk. Like it or not, sustainability is not even close to a priority in our culture, whether it's buying Hummers or illegally downloading stuff. I will say, although this is an argument for another day, that it's a shame that we consumers are sent such conflicting messages these days. After all, one of the very premises of the way the marketing industry is run is that we are slaves to our irresponsible, short-term desires. But then, when their encouragement of those faculties backfires, and we find a way to satisfy those same desires without anyone making money from it, we get ads pleading with us to be responsible and support the industry that entertains us. I'm not trying to take the side of illegal downloaders or whatever; I'm just saying that this tension is contributed to by the very industry's own marketing tactics. Don't ask me what the solution is though, although I must say that copy-protection seems to be addressing only a symptom rather than the deep-seated problem itself.

darcybaston
darcybaston

You can't call the list sad. It's just how the sales added up. To call it sad is to say that your preference is superior to the rest of the PC gaming industry. That's really arrogant.

Igiss
Igiss

Where's City of Villains?

forever_blank
forever_blank

Ah.... so it is true... even if it did manage to scrap over the profit line, in other better than last year, the point is that it is still the smallest market at the moment.

stfcrz
stfcrz

koss2010, read crippla87's post again. He wasn't advocating piracy at all. Why are people buying Sims games? Why shouldn't they? Clearly a lot of people like that type of game so they go out and buy it. You may not like the game but so what? Everyone is supposed to like the games you like?

koss2010
koss2010

crippla87 PIRATING is not a good thing it only hurts the market you moron

koss2010
koss2010

I would really like to know how the "adjusted" figures look. Pretty interesting stuff though. Not sure why ppl like Sims .. its soo boring. The PC market is for a certain crowd, like its VERY unlikely to have a 11 year old playing WoW. When im in XBL I hate hearing little kids with headsets, b/c parents dont want to put down the cash for pc we get a more mature audience. It might be smaller but its one that ive grown accustomed to .. To all those that are getting SIMS ... go grab FEAR next time or something seriously ..

crippla87
crippla87

I dont believe Pc gaming is going down even if we didnt have MMORPG. People downlaod games and make copies to each other thanks to things like Kazaa and limewire. PC Gaming is still alive! And the big smack should be given to anyone who didnt get FEAR!

wokisan
wokisan

I'm a bit suprised not to see Civ IV and FEAR on that list. I guess their release dates were a bit too much to overcome. As far as Sims games go...those games never seem to die. I guess after the 118th Sims 2 expansion pack is released Maxis will finally turn their attention back to SImCity :-(

DRUNK_CANADIAN
DRUNK_CANADIAN

Sims are brutal, why play a game (and pay money) when you can walk outside and do the real thing

LordOfMidnight
LordOfMidnight

It's a flawed system if they only count "boxed" games. Perhaps they should extend thier staff and realize that there are other forms of distribution these days.

midfingr
midfingr

I wonder if factoring in parents buying games for their kids would have something to do with sales of The Sims and Roller Coaster Tycoon...? As for me. I purchased WOW and 2 copies of Guild Wars; one boxed and one digital.

LTM360
LTM360

This just justifies why F.E.A.R. needs to be on a home console. The fact it's not on that list disgusts me.

kretyn
kretyn

PC gaming is more alive then ever. The games that wil be coming out in the next two years are sick, I wont even bother naming some of them, look them up yourself. The more complicated and technical games have and always been aimed at ages of 18-40+. The Sims are a joke that little teens play. Nuff said!

Ima_Grey
Ima_Grey

I gave on on PC gaming about 5 years ago becasue of the constant demande to upgrade hardware to play the latest games as oppse to console hardware having a 4 to 5 year life span.

hittin
hittin

I have guild wars now, its awesome :D .

capuderg
capuderg

sorry but i have to say that WoW is on the right place! deffo!

runstalker
runstalker

Seriously, once they add those MMO figures you'll see a - ahem - massive increase in numbers. Hell, it'll give a big bump to the overall game industry figures. Consider all the MMOs worldwide currently sustaining between 50,000 and 4.8 million subscribers, at between $12.99 (asian) and $14.95 (west) per month. Just THINK of all that revenue coming in. I wouldn't feel crazy to say the PC numbers would inflate by another 1.5 billion with these sources taken into account.

duncanr2n
duncanr2n

I think it will be very interesting to see what happens to the PC game market if Microsoft is successfull in pushing their drop-in and play idea for PCs. Instead of buying a game and spending 15 minutes dumping all the data to the hard drive, MS wants the PC to work much like a console does, drop the game in and play from the disc. If the entire PC game market moves to that model, I think you would then start to see a rental market for the PC games as well as the consoles. That alone would have a large impact on the PC market I think.

Imavnas
Imavnas

FIJIDAWG that first part of your post is based on flawed Logic. Indeed the cross platforming makes it so i try it on xbox and buy it for PC for example. But if you have the ability to try it on the xbox in the first place, as well as can rent it on said box just like the latter part of your post explains, then many gamers see no need to go out of their way to then buy it on the PC when the differences are quite small if any. Especially considering costs and system requirements that PC games always carry. A good example of this is the very list of top ten games in this article. Notice that the top game, which is beating out the other 9 by a considerable margin, is a PC only game. I can as good as guarantee you that if WoW were made available to the 360 or later on the PS3, the installed WoW PC userbase would CONSIDERABLY decrease. Id almost go as far as to say half of the installed userbase would go to the console version. On a different Note: The two FPS's on that list, although multiplatform, have good reason for still being in that top ten. Well, one MAJOR reason; which is that many FPS' fans dislike using a controller to play an FPS' to quite the astounding degree. (I dont either personally).

MetaMods
MetaMods

yes PC games is decline but Mouse and keyboard still better then Console control

commanderleon
commanderleon

I'm missing Civ IV - don't tell me it didn't make the top ten...

FIJIDAWG
FIJIDAWG

While cross platforming is hurting the PC game market, it is also the power required to run the brand new hit games. Its very hard to keep up with the games pushing PC's harder and harder every year when a console stays the same for about 5 years. Also being able to rent a game before buying it is huge for people, because you have to put down $50 per game, so if more demos were to come out for games and people got a small chance to play them, then maybe it would help the PC games a bit more so that people can actually tell whether they like the game or not from playing some of it, as opposed to the marketing it gets.