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Video Game Market Overview: Console vs. PC vs. Mobile
by Ulyana Chernyak on 05/27/14 06:54:00 pm

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

Within the last twenty years, video games have been one of the most quickly evolving and expanding areas of the tech industry. And it’s true that games have exploded onto the global market in the last few years, with powerful consoles in more homes than ever and smartphones in nearly everyone’s pocket. Over the last decade, games have started to split into a few major categories, according to how people could play a game. Today, we will take a closer look at the specifics of each industry through infographics and compare the three market branches.

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The categories we can break the gaming sphere into are Console, PC, and Mobile. PC dominates the gaming market with 51%, followed by console at 30% and mobile at 13%, according to this new report. Let’s examine and compare each one, see what consoles are popular to who, and analyze the pros and cons of each category.

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Consoles

As consoles get better and better and offer a wide range of titles to play, The ESA announced their findings last year that 51% of US households own a game console, with an average of two units per household. In addition, with the rise of non-gaming content such as apps and video players on console systems, we can expect a rise in console owning households in the future. Now that consoles also accept downloadable content, 31% of the gaming industry’s sale as non-boxed purchases. Let’s take a look at each one of the bestselling consoles.

Wii

According to ESA article article, as of a few years ago, the Wii was the most popular console around the world, with strong demographics in young boys and women ages 25-34. However, the core audience scores low with the Wii, most likely because of the limit of hardcore-style games offered on the Nintendo platform.

Xbox 360

Microsoft’s popular system, the Xbox 360′s largest percentage of users are in the 12-17 age group, older than Wii, but younger than PS3. For females, the 25-34 age group had the highest rate of use, according to findings from Nielsen. These users, such as the young female audience, may also like its other services like Xbox Live. This service boasts online play, audio, chat, downloadable and streamable movies, DLC for games and music videos.

PS3

Sony’s wildly popular has a large user base perhaps because of brand loyalty. Sony has been a console leader ever since 1994, follower by the PS 2 in 2000. Many gamers may stick with Sony out of familiarity, and see the console as a strong and reliable option. The highest rate of use came from the 18-24 age group for both genders, according to Nielsen.

Non-gaming Content

The addition of non-gaming apps such as social networks and TV viewing abilities can account for the rise in the number of devices in US households. Unlike with older consoles, these days, users can download content and don’t necessarily need to go to pick up hard copies of titles they wish to play. In-app purchases have started to make appearances in many titles, now, as well. This means consoles will be able to offer more to users than the traditional core gamers who could only play one version of a hard copy game offline, and will continue to grow in the marketplace.

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PC

As you can garner from this infographic above, PC games appear to be making a comeback.GamesIndustry.Biz says on the subject of games and then specifically PCs:

In a survey of more than 8,800 gamers conducted earlier this year, 72% of US respondents said they played games online, up from 67 percent last year. They also reported gaming more, with the average weekly time spent playing online up 6 percent… The PC remains the most popular choice for online gaming, with 68 percent of the respondents using that platform. However, that’s down from 72 percent last year.

Technical Specifications

PCs can be bought ready to go, or users can build or mod their own. Taking this into consideration, a player could have as powerful a computer as they desire, with an average GPU from this infographic pegging power for PC gamers around 1GHz, according to Destructoid. This is very impressive compared to the 250-550GHz range of popular consoles, which in addition are not really modifiable and can only play games that were created for that specific platform. Users can also swap out graphics cards and processors when new ones become available, to improve their graphics and speed.

Game Cost

The price of PC games can range from $7.99 to upwards of $75.00, which puts PC games as the more affordable between consoles and PCs, says Destructoid. When you see that PC players are spending an average of 8 hours playing their games, the cost over time renders the average price per hours of play considerably low, especially when compared to console games. Including browser titles, which are often free to play and subsist on micro transactions and in-app purchases, the cost of PC gaming is considerably lower than that of console gaming.

Better Game Selection

With a PC’s ability to be customized and to support many types of operating systems and software, developers have more opportunities to create a wide variety of games for one platform. With the ability to play virtually any game that meets the technical requirements and the operating systems specifications, PC gamers have a wider range of games to engage with. Popular titles include massively multiplayer universes such as World of Warcraft or Second Life, board, puzzle and card games, sports titles, and browser games.

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Mobile

Technically a personal device, smartphones and tablets have succeeded in totally changing how the video game industry works. Such devices saw a double-digit percentage point increase this year, with 56 percent of gamers using them to play games.

Demographics

Mobile game users, according to Flurry, are 53% female and younger than the average console or PC user. The highest number of mobile games players comes in around the age range of 18-25 for both female and male mobile games players.This may be because of an increase of disposable income, and attracting younger users who may not be able to afford more expensive consoles or PC rigs. Users spend an average of 4.7 hours a month, which is not as much as console and PC players, claims this infographic on TICS y Informacion. However, most mobile gamers are spending $8-15 a month on their games, which is a higher price per time played than the other two gaming segments.

Global Spread

Interestingly, which will bode well for the future of mobile games, the audience for mobile is so large that it trumps the worldwide user install base of console game leaders, around 180 million, combined and portable gaming, which is around 200 million says Polygon. Smartphones are world wide now, with access to a variety of parts of the world that both consoles and PCs may not have. This opens up user bases and the ability to offer an even wider array of game choices than even PCs.

Game Costs

The top grossing games on mobile are free to play, and the rest are at an average of $0.99-$1.99. In comparison to even PC’s lower cost games, these are the best price points of the three major segments of the gaming industry. In-app purchases and micro transactions, when spread across the globe, means revenue is small but coming in constantly and more frequently than on either PCs or consoles. Driving down game costs for content and the widespread nature of mobile devices is a winning combination for mobile games.

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Summary

Consoles, historically the way to play games from the earliest days of video games, are a growing industry still, as apps and non-gaming features start to make their way onto each new console model. PCs are pulling out ahead of consoles recently because they offer a wider array of games, more on- and off-line choices, hardware customization and upgrade ability. However, besting both of these video game segments is mobile, which has revolutionized the industry in the last 5 years. With 93% of smartphone users willing to pay for games and the global spread of mobile users estimated around 1.2 billion, the mobile market is the cost effective for users and the most wide-spread of the three categories. Each segment has its own demographics based on the content and services they provide, but all indicate that the global market for video gamers has grown exponentially and is one of the most viable and lucrative industries today.

This estimated $11.4 billion dollar industry is encouraging for developers across all platforms, and should prompt designers to want to do their research to realize the strengths and weaknesses of each segment of the market.


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