Digital console revenue to surpass PC this year

IDC report forecasts new console launches as the catalyst for market shift

A new report from IDC predicts that console digital revenue will surpass the PC for the first time this year.

In part, the shift will be motivated by the launch of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 in November. IDC believes that the new consoles will mark the end of four years of year-on-year decline in unit sales, and serve as a catalyst for revenue generated through game downloads and DLC.

"The number of online console gamers around the globe is on pace to exceed 165 million by 2017," said Lewis Ward, IDC's research manager for gaming, in a statement.

"As a result, the opportunity to sell these gamers digital assets through Wii U, Xbox One, and PS4 online storefronts will grow substantially in the next several years."

IDC forecasts that the number of console bundles shipped in 2013 will be "marginally" higher than the 33 million shipped in 2012. It also anticipates that Sony will emerge as an early leader in the console race, in part due to the PlayStation 4's more competitive price.

This echoes the results of a Reuters poll earlier this week, which showed that U.S. consumers are more prepared to buy a PlayStation 4 over an Xbox One this holiday.

Latest comments (5)

Nicholas Pantazis Senior Editor, VGChartz Ltd4 years ago
A lot of different predictions going on to make this assertion, and I don't agree with it. The reaction the console gamers had to the digital-focused Xbox One shows pretty clearly that, for the foreseeable future, consoles will remain very heavily focused on retail, whereas PC digital is massive. They also really don't have much information to know the true size of PC digital spending, as that information is kept very private. We do know that many companies are practically sustained on PC digital though (SEGA, to name an obvious one), and that Steam and its sales generate massive revenue.

Until console publishing and platform holders are willing to entertain the sort of deep discounts Steam does I doubt they'll make much inroads for digital converts. Console platform digital purchases are also big gambles, as you are unlikely to be able to transfer them to your next system (only Nintendo has done that this generation), whereas with PC you can use your Steam library forever. People's lack of faith in long-term accessibility will be another of the (many) big hurdles for console digital sales.
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Thomas Dolby Project Manager / Lead Programmer, Ai Solve4 years ago
I think you've hit the nail on the head. Microsoft and Sony have yet to make me do a double take with any of their digital distribution features, there's a wealth of experience to draw upon from the years that Steam and (to a lesser extent) Origin have been active and not a lot of it seems to have been acted upon. It's important to note that it's still extremely early days for this at the moment though, so they may still have something up their sleeves.
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John Bye Lead Designer, Future Games of London4 years ago
Nicholas - "The reaction the console gamers had to the digital-focused Xbox One shows pretty clearly that, for the foreseeable future, consoles will remain very heavily focused on retail"
I'm not sure that follows. Console gamers are happy to spend money on digital content, they just didn't want to be railroaded into it. The biggest problem with the Xbox One's original plan was that Microsoft tried to limit resale rights for physical media and sharing discs with your friends, effectively turning your retail purchase into a glorified download key locked to your Xbox Live account. They also did a lousy job of communicating the benefits of this system to the user, and seemed confused about the details of how many of these features were actually going to work in practice. Combined with Microsoft's past policy of only releasing digital versions of retail games three months late at full RRP, it's not surprising people were sceptical.

Talk to a PlayStation owner, and I suspect they'd be much more positive about digital content. PlayStation Plus is fantastic value for money (PS3 owners got Far Cry 3 and Dragon's Dogma this month, Xbox 360 owners got a seven year old Rainbow Six game) and the PlayStation Store has constant sales which sometimes offer good value for money compared to retail. They're not quite at Steam Sale level yet, but it's not uncommon to find older retail games (including big hits) going for under a tenner.
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 4 years ago
At the end of the day it's about options. Steam is hugely popular, but it's primarily PC/Mac-only at present and between it, Desura and all the indie bundle hauses popping up all over, gamers worldwide are buying too many cheap games that they probably won't even get to play unless they can stop time or do nothing but sit in front of a monitor for weeks on end. That crowd is used to it because Steam has been around and easing people into mostly non-retail gaming through the service.

Console-only owners are a different bird, as most don't build gaming rigs and I'd bey many on the lower end of the education scale prefer popping in and playing a game they buy at a shop than dealing with setting up an account and going only through PSN to buy all of their content. I keep saying there needs to be a HUGE study done of these folks to figure out why they aren't hopping on board the digital bandwagon, but I don't think the industry will know how or what to do with that info if the recent past (#dealwithit) is any indication...

Based on the HDD-filling amount of freebies alone, PS Plus IS indeed a great thing. BUT Sony still hasn't addressed the relatively large (but small compared to the overall amount of consumers) amount of non PSN users who simply cannot get a decent home connection to take advantage of those deals.

I thought they would fix that (and see more Vitas in the process) by allowing the handheld to download, transfer and/or play PS3 updates and content (and soon, PS4) from any wifi hotspot the moment the system was announced, but that's just seeming to get off the ground now.


If they can figure out how to do this and stop leaving that money on the table, that would be a good thing.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Greg Wilcox on 6th October 2013 4:35am

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Andy Payne Chair/founder, AppyNation4 years ago
I am not sure this will be the case this year. Key issue for me is competition. Digital on a console is a monopoly because you can only buy from one place. PC is far more open. Steam are the giant, but GOG, GamersGate, Get Games, Desura, Origin, Green Man Gaming and others keep the pricing real. Price is the key driver in paid for games (assuming quality is a given). I wish the 'consoles' good luck with their digital offerings, but until there is competition, well it will be slow to gather pace IMHO>
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