PC Gaming Looks to Rebound in 2007

With sales increasing and growing support from the development community, PC gaming may at long last be on the rise, The New York Times reports. According to the NPD Group, sales of PC games across the first two months of this year were up 48% over those of last year, from $136.9 million to $203 million. Though these figures were no doubt aided by Blizzard's World of Warcraft and the expansion pack released this January, which has since sold over 3.5 million copies worldwide, a series of long-awaited PC releases look to make 2007 a big year for PC gaming, such as EA LA's Command & Conquer 3 Tiberium Wars in March and Splash Damage's Enemy Territory: Quake Wars (preview) later this year.

The two-month increase in PC game sales represents a substantial boost for a market that has seen little growth in recent years. PC software sales fell 14% in 2005, from $1.1 billion to $953 million, and in 2006, the market only saw a 1% increase, from $953 million to $970. Meanwhile, home console game sales added up to $4.8 billion in 2006, with portable software sales garnering an additional $1.7 billion.

The PC is also garnering support from Japanese developers. Capcom recently announced it will be bringing former console exclusives Lost Planet: Extreme Condition and Devil May Cry 4 to the PC. Traditionally seen as a console publisher, Sega has also been a major contributor to the PC market, with many of the company's recent efforts such as Sumo Digital's OutRun 2006 Coast 2 Coast, Monolith's Condemned: Criminal Origins, and Sonic Team's Phantasy Star Universe, ending up on the PC. Furthermore, Sega has branched out into the PC gaming sector with its acquisitions of Total War developer The Creative Assembly and sports management developer Sports Interactive.

Another factor in the proposed growth of the PC market is Microsoft's recent Games for Windows initiative, which seeks to simplify the platform by offering standardizing support for features such as controllers, online voice chat and friend lists. Aspects of Microsoft's new Windows Vista operating system also seek to eliminate many of the hassle associated with PC gaming. System score provides users with a rating of their machine's capability, and with future Games for Windows titles mandated to list their required system scores on the package, this allows potential buyers to easily determine if a game will run on their machine. Another new feature available to developers under Vista is the ability to forgo the lengthy installation process often required before playing a PC game for the first time. For example, Hired Gun's upcoming PC version of Bungie's Halo 2 (preview) can be played from the moment the disc is inserted and installs in the background during gameplay.

When questioned, industry professionals were split on the console-PC debate. "The PC is, no doubt, the gaming platform of choice," claimed International Cyber Marketing senior VP and general manager Michael Arzt. "Everybody needs a computer," he noted. "Not everyone wants to lay down the money for a console and a big-screen television to make it work."

"I think with three consoles out in the last couple of years, it's natural to focus on consoles," stated id Software CEO Todd Hollenshead. "There's a lot of excitement, a lot of marketing dollars and a lot of hype for consoles. We don't have any champion of the PC game business to step in and leverage those sorts of marketing dollars." Back in March, Hollenshead attributed his company's decision to pursue console versions of its games on losses stemming from PC piracy.