When you think of Great Britain you think of the Queen, bangers and mash, Dr. Ashens, and Worms Armageddon. What you might not think of is a country where PC gaming is poised to overtake console gaming: the traditional kings of the video game market. According to MCV’s data, PC gaming has reached twenty two percent of the UK’s total gaming market share, right behind the Playstation 3 at 25% and the Xbox 360 at 34% in the first and second quarters of 2013.
For those of you keeping score at home that’s a 5% rise from the previous quarters, and while that might not sound like a lot it really is a huge jump in terms of measuring market share. So why has this happened? One reason is that this is the end of a console cycle, but if that were the whole story you’d think people would be saving their cash for a Playstation 4 or Xbox One. The best answer is, that since all of the next gen consoles all have PC like hardware architecture, a lot of games will be on the PC as well as the consoles. Even the term console exclusive has shifted to meaning that a game won’t show up on another console but may still show up on the PC, like Titanfall which will only be available for Microsoft systems (but also on the PC).
So from the consumer’s point of view let’s look at the value of your investment. For between £400 and £450 you can have a piece of hardware that is guaranteed to play the games you put in it, and while it can play and stream movies and has access to some media options it is incredibly restrictive about how you can do these things. This is even more so in the UK, where services like Hulu and Netflix suck pretty hard compared to their American counterparts. For slightly more than the price of a console you can have a machine that does anything you want, is scalable and can be upgraded with better hardware over time, and you can watch any movie you wanted ether through more open legitimate means or less than legitimate VPN access to other country’s streaming services (or piracy altogether). Best of all, it doesn’t look like you’ll be missing out on any of the major releases this go around, and you won’t have to pay an extra monthly fee to access online multiplayer services!
So what’s in store for the future? Well if the trend persists what will be looking at? Well, PC gaming might overtake the PS3 and Vita market penetration very soon, and with the Xbox One on the horizon the 360 will likely slip back and a lot of ground. But will the new console releases tip the balance back away from the PC? Probably not in the UK because many of those extra media options embedded into consoles aren’t nearly as appealing in the UK market as mentioned above, but also a lot of game releases are going to lag behind in the land of Queen’s English for consoles, but not the PC.
Why? There’s been some issues in the past with UK localization. You might be asking yourself why games that are primarily already in English need to be localized, and that’s not easy to answer. The UK has their own rating system that’s different from the US’s ESRB called the PEGI system that the rest of the EU uses. It’s a lot more relaxed now than it was only a few years ago, but there are still important differences that force developers to change their game which can push back releases for months. There’s also some minor technical issues, though PAL conversion isn’t something that is as imperative or difficult in a world where digital televisions rule. Sometimes, however, there is no good reason and games are delayed or never released in the British market due to some executive’s perceived lack of market for a game or just plain oversight.
PC gaming has none of these problems, as it takes very little to just tiptoe over to the American digital marketplaces and just download your game from there legitimately. If you don’t care about the law, then the door is thrown even further open as you can just nab the game for free, usually with less restrictions that paying for it at the end of the day. Then there’s emulation of old consoles and that whole grey area, which can mean that your rocking PC rig could become a virtual time machine of gaming, playing nearly everything ever published outside of the Sega Saturn and a few difficult to emulate platforms. A prospective gamer willing to skirt the law with a bit of technical no how could theoretically have access to every game produced from the Atari 2600 days all the way through today’s latest releases since most everything is cross platform. The list of what you can’t have on the PC is much easier to list as it is so short, with the aforementioned Sega Saturn library, Red Dead Redemption, and a handful of modern first party console releases being on the short list.
It’s not hard to see why the PC is the fastest growing gaming platform in the UK, and the world may soon follow in its wake. According to Newzoo the PC digital marketplace owned 42% of gamers per platform with boxed sales only being slightly smaller in the US, and that separated MMO gamers from the above demographics. Console gaming still has an iron grip on both the US and Japan’s gaming markets, but the appeal of PC gaming is growing.
What exactly constitutes PC gaming however is shifting, as there are now mobile devices and tablets that can run full PC operating systems and run high end GPUs. They aren’t as customizable as traditional PCs, so they don’t have the enthusiast angle that old school PC gaming vets are used to, but they have access to all of the same games and features a standard PC would with you on the go (more so than a laptop). Steam OS and the machines that will come to encompass its ecosystem will also likely completely change the game, consolizing PC gaming in many ways and thus making it much more accessible.
The good news is that even though it’s changing, PC gaming is hanging on strong. It was written off as on its deathbed only two years ago, and now it looks like we might be heading into a new PC gaming golden age, and the land of fish and chips may be leading the charge.