Half of PC gamers wait for sales to buy - Survey

NPD Group finds 37% of US plays PC games, but cautions price drops have created expectations that could limit spending

Steam sales and pay-what-you-want bundles have helped make PC gaming more affordable for players in recent years, but they might also be stifling revenues in the market, according to a new report from the industry-tracking NPD Group.

The Understanding PC Gaming 2014 report, based on a June survey of 6,225 individuals in the US ages 9 and older, found that 46 percent of PC gamers have bought titles digitally in the last year. Additionally, those who download their games are "far less likely" to pay full price than those buying physical copies. The NPD Group said half of all PC gamers now make a habit of waiting for price drops before they'll buy a title.

"Consumers' expectations may be the greatest barrier to maximizing spending in the PC gaming space," NPD analyst Liam Callahan said. "Since half of PC gamers who play digital and/or physical games on the computer are expecting there to always be a sale right around the corner, publishers and retailers alike need to better manage these expectations."

Of those surveyed, 37 percent were classified as PC gamers, with that group playing for an average of 6.4 hours a week, but Callahan noted that PC gamers are not a monolithic market. Roughly 56 percent of PC gamers were classified as casual, with the remaining 44 percent of core gamers defined as those who play action/adventure, fighting, flight, MMO, racing, real-tiem strategy, RPG, shooter, or sports games.

Men outnumbered women among PC gamers, but only by a 51-49 percent split. However, the casual market was "overwhelmingly" female, with the core gamer audience lopsided in favor of men. The survey also found that PC gamers average 38 years old, with an average household income of $69,000.

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Latest comments (4)

Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 7 years ago
(Genuine question)

Has there been a recent survey which asks if console players are more or less likely to wait and buy their games second-hand? Also:
Additionally, those who download their games are "far less likely" to pay full price than those buying physical copies.
I don't know what to think of this. Considering almost all PC games released require registering the game to either UPlay, Origin or Steam, this is... pointless, surely? Or at least, phrased like this, it doesn't really say much (other than PC gamers are still clueless about DRM).
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Neil Young Programmer, Rebellion Developments7 years ago
Not sure that 50% waiting for sales shows that sales have created the implied expectation - it could be that most of those people wouldn't be buying pc games at all without the sales.

Also, 50% who buy at full price is pretty hefty. Glass half full?
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Thomas Dolby Project Manager / Lead Programmer, Ai Solve7 years ago
My personal situation is:
- I buy games I really want as soon as they are released
- Games I'm not sure about, I'll wait until they come down in price to reduce the risk
- Sometimes I will buy games on sale that I hadn't seriously considered up until that point

That's just me, but it seems to be a common purchasing habit from a lot of people I speak to. Technically I would contribute to both sides of the statistic. Does this survey have a 'both' category? It's not a blanket yes/no answer for me, I'm pragmatic about it.
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Steve Wetz Reviewer/Assistant Editor, Gamer's Glance7 years ago

Sounds like everyone I know, and I play it the same way. You can be certain those impulse buy games, most of which sit in my now massive Steam catalog with little to no playtime, would not have been bought otherwise.

I think this survey should have been broken up a little further. Perhaps a good question would have been, "Of the games you buy at full price, how many of those are largely multiplayer games?" (Keeping in mind it makes no sense to buy the majority of multiplayer games any later than six months after launch)
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