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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

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Hmmmm...

Top Spin 2. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07. NCAA Football 07. Star Trek Legacy.

Uh.... three out of my puny collection of four XBox 360 games are sequels, too.

But I'm not sure that sports game franchises are quite the same as other sequels. How many different ways of playing football are there, anyhow? But updated rosters and refined controls have some value, yet you can easily skip a year or two in the series and not miss much.

BTW, NCAA was only $30. Could be 'cause the college season was over when I bought it, so it's considered "obsolete" already? But that's been the exception to the rule. The others were all $50 or $60.

Doubtless the XBox license bumps the price up for those games compared to the PC. But I believe the PC market is still a great deal larger than any individual console market, and that volume may also have an impact on PC game prices. PC Gaming isn't dying any time soon, a high-end PC gaming setup will kick the ass of any console that comes out, at least 6 months before that console is available, just because of the nature of the beast. Consoles are designed around fixed components and those key components are not user-upgradeable (unlike the video and sound cards -- even the CPU -- in a PC). The downside is that a serious gaming PC is going to set you back $2500 (if not substantially more), so it's a major investment.

Since the XBox is still so new to me, I've not been paying attention to price differences between platforms for the same game. That $20 difference on BS:M is kind of strange. Does the PC version support online play? That might make a difference too.

Time for a little research:

Oh sure, PC games are far from dead. They grew 1% in 2006 to a total of $970 million in the US. That's just software, without subscriptions, which is important. One figure I found claims there are 8 million worldwide subscribers to WoW. How many of those are in the US?

The non-PC US video game industry totalled $12.6 billion for 2006. But that includes hardware. I wish I could isolate hardware from software. Maybe if I had a Lexis Nexis subscription:-)

#1 console game of 2006 was Madden '07 with 1.8 million units on the PS2. Sony has sold 37 million PS2s over its lifetime just in the US. Worldwide sales are over 100 million consoles.

Madden sold another 826,000 on the Xbox360, but Gears of War sold more than 1 mil on that console.

Kindgom Hearts 2 for the PS2 sold 1.5 million units. So did New Super Mario Bros. for the Nintendo DS.

At #5, Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter for the 360 sold 916,000 units.

#1 PC game of 2006 was World of Warcraft, which sold 967,000 units.

#2 on the PC was The Sims 2 at 598,000 units, and there were 4 expansions for it which also make the top 10 for the year.

So did Madden, across all platforms, make more money than WoW if you count subscriptions? You'd have to know how many US subscribers there are to make a good guess. It's apples to oranges anyways.

But your assertion that the PC game market is a "great deal larger than any individual console market" appears to be hooey.

Now you'll excuse me, but I have to go play my new video game.

Ahem. Hooey, indeed.

Well, I'll grant you that "a great deal larger" may be an exaggeration.

Perhaps "larger" is even an exaggeration.

But the PC software market is still way, way up there.

Here's a link to the press release for the 2006 market study report which several news sources have cited recently.

Total software sales (excluding downloads and subscriptions, as you noted) for the entire industry came out at $7.4B for 2006. Of that, $970M was PC game software sales, leaving (roughly) $6.4B for all console and portable games combined.

Portable system software was $1.7B, with $4.7B in console game sales.

So, yeah, my numbers were a bit out of date. Console gaming saw an explosion in sales over the past year and a half with the release of XBox 360, Wii, and PS3.

I didn't find the breakdown of software sales by platform, but given that the $4.7B in console game sales is split (albeit unevenly) among 6 distinct platforms, and the PC market represents more than 20% of the total console market, it's a fair bet that the PC ranks pretty highly in that list of platforms overall.

Apples and oranges, as you say. Assuming the general average game value of $60 for console games versus $40 for PC games (not sure if that's accurate, but we're just spitballing here anyhow), for comparisons of units sold you'd need to add 50% to the PC numbers. Which would put the equivalent PC sales (on a unit-value-basis) at around $1.5B compared to the $4.7B for all consoles combined, or more like 1/3rd of the total console market.

Oh, and a quick note on subscription revenues -- World of Warcraft apparently has more than 2 million subscribers in North America (over 8 million worldwide). At an average monthly subscription of $15, that's $360M potential annual revenue on that single game. Of course, not all 2M subscribers are likely to be actively paying, and some of those 2M are in Canada. But given the revenue potential of fully 1/3rd as much as the total PC game sales for the year, holy crap is that big.

But Madden '07 on the PS2 alone sold 2.8 million units in 2006 (the 1.8 you cited was total December sales across all platforms) so yeah, I've gotta guess that probably did generate more revenue than WOW subscriptions.

This episode of "Bullshit Analysis" has been brought to you by.... numbers I pulled out of my ass.

Bottom line, consoles are big business. PC gaming is big business. Licensing fees may drive up console game costs, but on an individual title basis they should be able to spread those costs over a larger number of units. So maybe it gets down to a bunch of software companies making a buttload of money off of fat, lazy, couch potato American kids (and, *cough*, 30-somethings) because they can. Feh. Wish I'd gotten in on that action... ;-)

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