MMOs keep PC as top gaming platform

WOW makes USD 1 billion each year.

The MMO genre has cemented PC gaming as the most lucrative of our industry, according to new research by the PC Gaming Alliance and Screen Digest.

The State of the PC Gaming Industry in 2008 report by the PCGA claims PC software (retail, digital distribution, online subscription, advertising and other business models) made USD 11 billion in revenue last year.

That's more than all of the consoles put together, and makes the PC platform "by far the no. 1 for gaming world wide", according to Randy Stude, president of the PCGA, who has a brilliant name.

World of Warcraft accounted for USD 1 billion of that figure, while several Asian MMOs pulled in over USD 100 million each.

Screen Digest research, in a report on the BBC website, claims the MMO market has grown by 22 per cent in Europe and North America alone, where it's now worth USD 1.4 billion.

World of Warcraft's share of the market may have dipped slightly to 58 per cent due to competition from Age of Conan and Warhammer Online, but both sets of research agree this was a significant factor in the growth of, and interest in, the MMO genre.

Furthermore, Screen Digest provides an illuminating and surprising list of the top 10 money-earning MMOS, in terms of subscriptions and micro-transactions.

  1. World of Warcraft
  2. Club Penguin
  3. RuneScape
  4. EVE Online
  5. Final Fantasy XI
  6. The Lord of the Rings Online
  7. Dofus
  8. Age of Conan
  9. City of Heroes
  10. EverQuest II

Warhammer Online launched too late last year to be included, we're told. Next year, Screen Digest predicts a top-three finish for the Mythic MMO.

The PC Gaming Alliance goes on to highlight the rise of digital distribution platforms such as Steam as one of the major trends dominating the PC market. The Valve platform has attracted considerable publisher support as of late, and counts all the major players among those selling their wares, although EA's stuff is still only available on the US version, with the exception of Crysis and Crysis Warhead.

Other major trends include the rise of free-to-play, micro-transaction-based business models, plus the increasing amount of game cards - offering game-time or in-game funds - sold by high street retailers and even non-specialist outlets such as newsagents.

"The biggest story in PC games is the expansion beyond retail," says the PCGA report. "PC games have successfully pioneered online subscription and distribution models that have resulted in a global boom that shows no signs of slowing.

"Despite the advances of the likes of Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network, the online platform that remains the most accessible and most robust worldwide is the personal computer."

The PCGA reckons there are 1 billion computers active around the world, and that 250 million of them are used for playing games. To capitalise on that number, the PCGA wants developers to focus on minimum system requirements to reach a broader audience.

Battlefield Heroes and Quake Live are early adopters of this belief, and the enormous success of World of Warcraft can also be attributed to fairly undemanding system requirements.

But the problem of system hardware diversity remains. A survey by DFC/GameShadow included in the PCGA report identified 752 different CPUs, 539 different graphic cards and 142 variations of operating systems - amounting in some 50 million different possible hardware combinations. And that's excluding factors such as hard-drives and memory.

In World of Warcraft alone, we're told there are over 500 different graphics cards in use. The top five of which are apparently all NVIDIA-based GeForce 8000 series cards.

The PCGA also highlight piracy as a major concern for the future, particularly in the most rapidly emerging markets of the last five years: China, Russia/Eastern Europe, India, Brazil and Southeast Asia.

And if you read all that, perhaps you would like a lollipop.

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