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.


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:

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

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