VGChartz has sales data from 2005 onward. They began to track this data in 2005, and have expanded retailer participation each year.
VGChartz asks gamers, retailers of new and used games, and game publishers for sales and usage data for every console and pc. They cover data from the USA, UK, Germany, France, and Japan. They are expanding their coverage with contributors from Canada, Spain, Italy Latin America, Australia, and Asia for greater global accuracy.
This data is from their global yearly chart indexes covering global software by platform. I have combined all consoles into a total value, since we are comparing PC versus Console usage.
The listed hardware within the Console list is the year in which the stated hardware was released. I listed this way because I thought it might be interesting to see which year each piece of hardware was released. We may be able to explain some console sales trends based on new hardware releases, since everyone who buys a new console also buys games for that console, which of course leads to a greater diversity in titles consumed.
The numbers listed are figured partly like this. If I play five different games this week, and you play three, then the two of us combined have played eight games. Some of these games may have been the same game, but these numbers ignore that idea for both PC and console figures. Sales data from retailers and publishers are also considered, but only to make certain that sample methodology is similar enough to sales figures to assume an accurate sampling.
It is important to note that these figures are weighted more toward incidence of gameplay, rather than sales figures. A bad year for game sales can be a great year for gamer population growth. Proof would be 2007 and 2008. Look those years up on gaming news websites.
The following numbers are representative of a sample size that is almost certainly different with each year. The differences in sample size are normalized between years to create values that can be directly compared to one another. The numbers are not raw data, instead they have been altered proportionally. They are not the literal total game sales, total gamers, or the actual number of games played. They only represent these values, just as 1/5 represents 2/10. Keep that in mind when viewing the data, and do not think of total game sales per year.
PC games played by year, with % change from previous year.
2006 558,074 (-2%)
2007 2,920,185 (+423%)
2008 5,857,447 (+101%)
2009 6,187,437 (+6%)
2010 15,728,587 (+154%)
2011 29,631,542 (+89%)
2012 33,355,879 (+13%)
Console games played by year, with % change from previous year.
All Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony combined, including portables.
Hardware listed is the year in which the hardware was released.
2005 48,621,847 XBox 360, PlayStation Portable 1000
2006 140,890,341 (+290%) DS Lite, PlayStation 3, Wii
2007 321,998,102 (+229%) PSP 2000, PlayStation Eye
2008 578,241,141 (+80%) PSP 3000
2009 570,507,923 (-3%) DSi, DSi XL, PSP Go, PS3 Slim
2010 614,779,227 (+8%) Kinect, 360 Slim, Playstation Move
2011 578,873,094 (-6%) 3DS, Wii Family Edition
2012 445,278,842 (-23%) 3DS XL, PlayStation Vita, Wii Mini, Wii U
In 2005, PC popularity was 1.17% of consoles.
In 2012, PC popularity was 7.49% of consoles.
+5863% PC gain from 2005 to 2012.
+916% combined console gains from 2005 to 2012.
PCs have increased six times as much as consoles have.
PCs are trending up much faster than consoles.
Consoles won 2006 growth rates. PC and Console both saw huge gains in 2007, with consoles maintaining momentum and PCs doubling their growth. This could imply that many console gamers were purchasing PCs or playing a greater period of time on PCs than they used to.
2007 brought us the first expansion to World of Warcraft. As the number one MMO, they definitely caused PC sales as a whole to plummet as most PC gamers stuck to a single game.
While PC game sales fell in 2007 and 2008 (source is 99% of gaming news sites), actual PC gameplay rose. The media may also be failing to take into account that 2007 saw the after-holiday purchase rush of PS3 and Wii games, which continued well into 2008. The media also combined game and hardware sales into one figure, which is misleading, as money spent on hardware is money not spent on software.
In 2008, we see similar gameplay growth rates in both PC and console. This is despite a reported shrinkage in game and system sales in 2008. We appear to have been content to play the games we already owned. 2009 saw the first console playtime shrinkage, and the second PC expansion. PC has grown since, while consoles trend downward to today.
445 million console games played in 2012 is still nothing to sneeze at, but is losing ground to the exponential growth seen in the PC market. They still lead in pure population figures, however.
It is important to note that gaming as a whole still trends upwards, though it is slowing. I suspect market saturation, meaning that we're reaching a point where we have more games than we can play. I myself could stop buying for the next ten years and still not empty my backlog, THANK YOU EVERY GAME I HAVE YET TO PLAY SINCE 1988.
Market saturation could be to blame for slowing console growth. There is a console in nearly every home, regardless of income level. PCs are getting cheaper, and games for budget PCs are getting more plentiful. If you already own one console and have a favorite genre, you are extremely unlikely to buy into another genre next year unless it is a sequel or you have grown tired of your current games.
PC gamers live in a world where cross-advertising is frequent. When they visit a community website for their favorite game, they see advertising banners for competing games. PC gamers have a wider array of free games and demos of full games, and typically have much larger storage space and greater download speeds. This may lead to a greater willingness to try new games.
Console gamers tend to stick to their console-given online communities, with the closed nature of consoles being to blame. PC gamers tend to drift out a bit into places where they will come into contact with a wider array of interests, due to the open-ended nature of PCs in general. This is strictly concerning software flexibility, both for consoles and PCs.
As PCs and consoles are platforms with different goals in mind, not everything that applies to one may apply to the other. The apparent ignorance on both sides suggests to me that more study is required to fully understand our differences and similarities, both for our benefit and for the benefit of our entertainment providers, regardless of which sources they may be.
Real-world concerns, aka reasons for PC and console gamers to work together:
Older people tend to be more stubborn and resistant to change, even when it is inevitable. Old people who have never been on the internet, let alone played any game more high-tech than solitaire with REAL CARDS or any game more complex than 'whose sister is the better kisser' are currently writing laws that affect video gaming. The ignorant have no business writing laws for things they have no experience with.
PC and console sales combined are still trending upward, which means there are more and more of us gamers appearing with every passing year. The majority of us are old enough vote. Many of us have the mental focus necessary to successfully run for senate. Imagine if we, gamers of all ages, started writing laws to protect and promote gamer rights.
EDIT: edited some preamble text for clarification of what numbers mean.
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