Just recently Electronic Arts (ERTS) has announced that they are cutting back on their boxed PC releases, including Madden NFL ‘09. Some have interpreted this with doom and gloom as being a sign of the demise of the PC as a gaming platform. In fact nothing could be further from the truth, the Electronic Arts announcement is just symptomatic that people find that it is cheaper to steal boxed PC games using bit torrent instead of buying them. There is far more to gaming than boxed product and it is in these wider areas that the PC is king.
The PC is ubiquitous in a way that consoles can only dream of. They are in every office and most home in the west and many people use two or even three different PCs every day. Most of these PCs come with Microsoft Windows and that means they come with a bunch of games, including solitaire, probably the most played video game in the world. So many times in offices I have seen bored secretaries playing this. And so many times on airplanes I have seen bored executives get out their laptops, to play solitaire. Amazing for a game which was originally written as a mouse usage trainer.
Then there are the 200+ million people who play online casual games every month. Both downloadable and browser games. Services such as Pogo.com, Sandlot Games, Big Fish Games, Boonty, PlayFirst, Reflexive, RealArcade, and Trymedia Systems. These are growing at a huge rate and as Flash becomes more powerful, so casual games become more sophisticated.
MMOs have huge audiences. World of Warcraft has over 10 million subscribers. And there are a whole pile of games with millions of players: RuneScape (6 million), Habbo (86 million avatars created, 8 million monthly unique users), Maple Story (nearly 60 million), Dofus (4 million), Ragnarok Online (25 million), Guild Wars (3 million), Club Penguin (4 million) and Webkinz (over 3 million).
As gaming and social networking slowly converge we are seeing more games played more often on the big social networking sites. The 69 million users of Facebook have a wide range of games including the famous Scrabulous. This is a massive growth area of gaming and we have a lot of innovation to come.
I have written about Steam many times before. A digital distribution, digital rights management, multiplayer and communications platform with 15 million accounts. This could very well become the replacement for boxed product when it comes to traditional PC game releases. Certainly there is no reason for every publisher not to put every PC title they publish onto this platform.
There is more, but just looking at the above you can see that consoles pale in comparison. The PC is truly the gaming king.