A new report from IHS Screen Digest estimates that annual industry-wide revenues from PC game subscriptions in North America and Europe declined in 2010 for the first time since the group began monitoring the sector in 2002.
The report estimates that combined subscriptions from both MMO and non-MMO subscription-based PC titles amounted to $1.58 billion in 2010, down 5 percent from $1.66 billion in 2009. The decline comes after two years of double-digit percentage increases for the sector, and seven total years of measured increases.
IHS Screen Digest expects the decreases to continue through 2015, when subscription revenue will fall to an estimated $1.33 billion for the year.
The cause of the decline, according to the report, is an increased industry-wide focus on microtransactions, which were up 24 percent to $1.13 billion across the North American and European online game markets in 2010.
"The focus of many PC game operators has clearly shifted to microtransaction‐based models," IHS Screen Digest senior analyst Piers Harding‐Rolls said in a statement, "in part due to competition in the subscription market especially in the high‐end MMOG segment, but also because of the flexibility microtransactions offer operators in monetizing gamers."
The microtransaction boom meant total revenues for online PC titles were up 5.3 percent to $2.7 billion in 2010, representing nearly 10 percent of the $31 billion gaming market in North America and Europe.
The report expects MMO revenue of $2.2 billion in 2010 to stay relatively flat through 2015, while revenue from other online titles, including social and casual games, will increase from $500 million in 2010 to $900 million in 2015.