In a recent interview, Kinect
creator Kudo Tsunoda shared his thoughts on Microsoft's new gaming platform and the future of gaming in general. when asked how Kinect would be integrated into future titles he described the rise of FPS shooters for consoles, then drops this bombshell. "Halo did an awesome job of building a first-person shooter exclusively for the console, and now hardly anyone plays first person shooters on the PC anymore. It’s all about the console."
This is precisely the sort of statement that normally causes PC gamers to rally round the flagpole, declare their undying devotion to PC/FPS gaming, and tell stories about how even the newest titles still control like a 500 lb porker in a mud wallow. As fans of PC gaming, we're sympathetic to such arguments, but the unfortunate truth is, Tsunoda has a point. PC game sales are tiny compared to console titles and the old argument that digital downloads represent an unmeasured quantity that puts PC gaming back on the map compared to the XBox 360, PS3, and even Wii has been proven inaccurate.
Up until now, analyst groups have avoided measuring digital downloads as a part of game sales, but NPD has just issued numbers for PC game sales (retail and digital) for the first six months of 2010. According to the group's report, 8.2 million PC games were sold retail from Jan - June 2010, while 11.2 million copies were sold online. Digital downloads really were masking PC game sales that should have been accounted for, but the news still isn't very good—revenue in the first half of the year is down 21 percent, while unit volume fell 14 percent after
counting digital downloads.
Just because we don't like them doesn't mean they aren't true.
One major finding from this latest report is that the 'big got bigger' in the first half of 2010, with both Steam
and Bigfish capturing a bigger share of full-game PC games digital download sales than they did last year," said Anita Frazier, industry analyst, The NPD Group. "The overall decline of PC games when combining sales via both digital downloads and physical retail sales is impacted by the expansion of social network gaming as well as the continued expansion of free game options."
It's not time to sound the death knell of PC FPS games, but if you check sales numbers for 2010 releases like Battlefield: Bad Company 2 or Aliens vs Predator, the difference is stark. In BF:BC2, the XBox 360 and PS3 outsold the PC version by a ratio of 8:1 and 6:1 respectively. PC gaming may not die, but it's time to admit that the category has lost its position as industry leader. Even graphic engine updates have been delayed; the sources we've spoken with at ATI/NVIDIA and various gaming studios have all admitted that since consoles represent the bulk of sales and are only DX9 capable, the incentive to invest in DX10/DX11 support is very low.