Retail PC Game Sales – Off 57%

[Edit - There is a newer post on this same topic here, with data through 2007]

Not really surprising, but retail PC game sales had another terrible year – off 14% in 2005.

It’s actually more bleak than that – the 14% fall is on top of big falls almost every year since the peak year in 1999. In absolute dollars, the decline has been 44%. When you adjust for inflation, the decline is at 57%.

This data only reflects traditional, brick and mortar PC game sales in the U.S. Of course, console game sales have been much better, and the two strongest segments of PC gaming – MMORPGs and casual game downloads, are omitted from this data. But if you’re looking for traditional shrink-wrap PC games like The Sims, Age of Empires and the like, you’ll still find the heavy-hitters, but almost all the games outside the top 10 have had disastrous sales, and you’ll see very few AAA PC-only games in the years ahead.

Note, sales data in the charts are compiled from a variety of IDSA and related press-releases, and compiled (except for the 2005 figure) by Rob Merritt here.

PC game sales chart

Year Raw Sales In Millions Inflation Adjusted Sales 
1994 $966 $1,273
1995 $1,400 $1,794
1996 $1,700 $2,116
1997 $1,800 $2,190
1998 $1,800 $2,157
1999 $1,900 $2,228
2000 $1,600 $1,815
2001 $1,750 $1,930
2002 $1,400 $1,520
2003 $1,200 $1,274
2004 $1,080 $1,117
2005 $953 $953

9 Responses to “Retail PC Game Sales – Off 57%”

  1. Game Producer Says:

    Looks like more opportunities for indies.

  2. euplayer Says:

    Lets clarify. This INCLUDES brick and mortar sales. It excludes downloads, via Steam and the like. Its still not clear to me if it includes internet orders for shrink wrapped product – IE Amazon, Chips and Bits, EB’s website, etc. My impression in the past was that it includes some but not all.

    This is a concern – even if the PC death spiral is a brick and mortar only death spiral, losing brick and mortar would mean the loss of an entry point to the hobby. But im still not sure we can charecterize PC gaming overall without the other sales.

    And of course I wonder whats happening by genre. Most of my favorite PC games are already either niche or quasi niche games anyway.

  3. Steve Says:

    There’s just too much product out there. Handhelds were the biggest winner in 2005, but the PC wasn’t the only loser … console game sales were down too … PS2, Gamecube, and Xbox sales all showed a 12% loss for 2005.

    With the PSP and DS entering the fray, there’s just too many choices for too few dollars. Something has to give, and in 2005, both PC and console sales made the sacrifice.

    2006 has the entry of the next-gen consoles to contend with, so it’s going to be another year where new products will have an impact on what’s already out there. Or … people may just get tired of spending so much money on games and wait a while, putting the entire industry into a bit of a slump. Since the next-gen systems only really show their true colors with HDTV equipment, the investment will be a bit higher this time around …

    In any event, it will be interesting to watch. But I wouldn’t count on the PC being down forever, just yet.

  4. Phil Steinmeyer Says:

    Yes, consoles were down in 2005, also, but that was after many consecutive years of gains for them, whereas the PC has basically been on a 6 year losing streak.

    I remember that the conventional wisdom used to be that PCs would prosper when there was a transition year – the old console platforms aging and the new ones not yet in full flower. That certainly describes 2005 (and also why console sales were off), but PC games were still off sharply.

  5. Steve Says:

    The PC’s casual game market looks like it has a lot of potential though, even as the ‘big game’ industry is experiencing problems. Since people spend a great deal of their time at work, limiting them to their PCs as ‘entertainment devices,’ they’ll always be looking for quick, uncomplicated games to play on them when the boss isn’t looking. I don’t think that’s a market that’s going to slow down any time soon. ;)

  6. Game Tycoon»Blog Archive » PC Games in Trouble Says:

    [...] [...]

  7. PhilSteinmeyer.com » Blog Archive » U.S. Casual Gaming - only $52 million? Says:

    [...] A report from NPD came out today putting overall [US] PC game sales at $1.4 Billion. This is MUCH higher than their last estimate, issued just a few months ago, showing [US] PC game sales at only $953 million, off 14% from the year prior and over 50% from their peak around 1999. [...]

  8. Brandon Says:

    Console = cheap, PC = expensive

    GM= world leader in auto sales
    Mercedes = better car, but more cash

    This trend will most likely continue as long as video cards are capping out at $800.00. That is just some straight BS. The top of the line video card in 2002 was $400.00 Ther is no reason why top of the line should cost more than that with inflation considered.

  9. PhilSteinmeyer.com » Blog Archive » Retail PC Game Sales - Still On Life Support Says:

    [...] 2007 data 2006 data My old post on this topic, with older sources. My old post was, in turn, largely based on data and sources collected by Rob Merritt, at this link. [...]

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