PC Gaming Isn’t Dead, Just Cyclical

By  |  Friday, November 11, 2011 at 2:11 pm

Nvidia’s third quarter earnings are in, and apparently, quite good, with a revenue increase of 4.9 percent over last quarter. While you might expect the company’s Tegra smartphone and tablet processors to be the stars of the show, Nvidia’s actually attributing much of its revenue growth to desktop graphics cards for PC gaming.

That’s right, the gaming platform that conventional wisdom loves to declare dead is actually a big money-maker for Nvidia right now, with revenue growth of 23 percent over last quarter. And Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang is not surprised:

“This happens every major game console cycle toward the second half of its product life, because PC technology advances on a regular basis instead of once every seven to ten years,” Huang told investors.

As PCs become more powerful, game consoles’ technical limitations are showing. Battlefield 3, for instance, only runs at 30 frames per second and 720p resolution on consoles, whereas the game looks much smoother and sharper on high-end PC rigs. I must admit, as a die-hard console gamer, even I’ve become tempted to splurge on a speedy desktop.

The bad news for Nvidia–and for rival chip maker AMD–is that we’re starting to hear rumblings of new consoles from Microsoft and Sony, and Nintendo has already announced its next-generation Wii U. The latest scuttlebutt claims that Microsoft will announce a new Xbox either at CES in January or at E3 in June. If graphics card sales peak when game consoles get old, they’ll surely drop when new consoles come around.

So perhaps PC gaming wasn’t dead and isn’t dying. It just comes and goes as gamers demand more power.

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62 Comments For This Post

  1. Keith Says:

    Yeah, but what games are out there that people are only playing on the PC? Other than MMOs, that is… Would all of the big PC Games also be available on Xbox or PS3? PC gaming as we know it is dying, it might be evolving into the social game arena, but all you need to do is go to a Best Buy or GameStop and look at the amount of retail space dedicated to PC games vs. the platform system to know that it's not as good as it used to be…

  2. NanoGeek Says:

    There are many game types that are better on PC. Stuff like Civilization and SimCity come to mind. Not to mention that it allows a better development platform for indie developers.

  3. Joomla Design Says:

    I agree here, the possibilities are numerous with brilliant prospects. The PC gaming experience is something which will continue still.

  4. Tim Says:

    CounterStrike, Minecraft, RTS,

    Gamestop has never had a large PC display

    mod support and creation

  5. bob Says:

    how can minecraft be popular? ive never seen it on any shop shelf

  6. Sharkboy Says:

    From what I saw at the BUILD conference in September the line will really blur with Windows 8. In addition to traditional controllers and Kinect type camera based interaction you will have touch screen, and tablet and mobile devices possibly all interacting in real time. XBox live is not just for XBox but also for PC and Win Phone.

  7. thoiness Says:

    Dying? Really? I play all the Assassin's Creed series, Mass Effect 2, and many other titles on my PC over my XBox. Why? I prefer true 1080p with stellar frame-rates on my big screen.

    Download Steam, look at the selection of games, get yourself a half-way decent video card, and play a few, and tell me if PC games are dying. Consoles are dying, and they know it. That's why announcements are coming out all over the place about console upgrades. A 6 year old console is going to look pretty stupid when you compare it to a PC made in the past 3-4 years with a half-way modern graphics card.

    Besides that, have you ever compared the cost of an XBox game to a PC game? Try a Steam sale event sometime, and tell me if MS could even ever dream of competing with the prices?

    I have a few X360s, and while I enjoy them, they are no match for the PC 1080p+ experience. Think: "Games, like they were originally intended to be seen."

  8. David Says:

    Games I play that you can ONLY play on PC: The ArmA series and the X-Plane series for a start. Limited versions of X-Plane have started appearing for mobile platforms, but it hasn't come out for console to my knowledge. ArmA is far too complicated for the console control-wise. Even having played the game for years, I still don't know all of the controls by heart on PC.

    I don't go to the store to buy PC games. I haven't for years. I have Steam and Amazon, and that's all I need. Besides, when I build a PC, I spend $800 and get a machine that does anything and everything, then I upgrade it every few years with the newest technology. I can keep up with what's coming out and I don't have to wait nearly a decade for a major upgrade. And when I'm playing a game, I want it to look like it was supposed to look, and not like I'm playing it on a cellphone from 2001. *cough cough Wii cough cough*

  9. rob Says:

    out of my two dozen friends that are hardcore gamers…all but maybe 4 are pc only. pc gaming is strong and getting stronger. get over it.

  10. Ulises Says:


    Your answer is based on PC games availability at your local retail store??? That is very weak support to back up misunderstood claims.

    PC gaming has never been dying, just over-shadowed by the mainstream consoles which are soon to be obsolete. PC gaming will always exist since that is where the games where created primarily, the most flexible customizations will always be on the PC.

    PC gaming will never become mainstream for the fact that you actually have to take care of your computer just as you take care of your car. So just as most people can't even change the oil on their car, they are making "Basic" PC maintenance a big deal(which is very simple).

    Consoles need to fear the massive mobile computing front that will have console quality graphics in smaller package and price. The "traditional" console will disappear and will go return to using the consoles as an arcade style of gaming because of the fact that gaming will be widespread that makes it less profitable for primarily SONY, but maybe also Microsoft. It's all about the money and right now the moeny is in the consoles for now. Soon the money will talk and Microsoft will listen by releasing some mobile/phone/media device. ZUNE-Phone is going to be a reality.

  11. thoiness Says:

    Retail stores? Only one word is needed: Steam.

    Anyone on a PC buying from a retail store is being ridiculous, or doesn't have an internet connection.

  12. Jono Says:

    The ZUNE-Phone is already here…

    Heard of a little OS called Windows Phone 7?

    Yeah, that one with integrated xbox live.

    Oh and then there is the fact that you can login to Windows 8 with your windows live account (yes, local machine, remote account). I think MS is nearly ready to take on the mobile gaming market. They still have a way to go, but let's face it, Sony has been behind the 8-ball with their PSN offering for quite some time.

  13. Rip Says:

    COD games sells 10mil+ on consoles less then 70k on PC. And only reason these games are on PC, because PC Xbox port is super easy.

  14. thoiness Says:

    Is this 1995? Games are written for the PC and down-scaled for the XBox / PS3. The PC requires far higher resolution textures to pull off a decent looking game on a PC. Mass Effect 1 is an example of a game that was ported FROM XBox to PC, but it looks like hell. Game manufacturers have grown past the poor ports, and now we have beautiful 1080p+ games with made for PC graphics.

    I own a few XBoxes and one powerful PC. I can say that console is pretty convenient, but also the quality of gaming is poor at best currently. 720p at it's best? I don't think so….

    Another thing to consider is the price of gaming. The cost of the initial PC is high, but I spend half or less on the games for XBox for my PC through Steam. Consoles will always have some exclusives I want to play, but I'd prefer my PC graphics over the XBox any day of the week.

  15. bob Says:

    you make it sound like it's all about graphics, but the biggest failing of consoles IMO is not graphics, it's the controller. Gameplay has really gone downhill with the influence of the poor console controllers on game interfaces, with developers supporting the lowest denominator (consoles). Everything from menu systems to player movement has been dumbed down.

  16. bob Says:

    look at the inventory interface in skyrim for example. To be fair I haven't seen the PC version, but I presume it's the same. It looks rubbish like a start menu for an office application or something. What they've done is make an interface that works well for a few buttons on a console controller rather than a much better interface a mouse and keyboard could support.

  17. Chemass Says:

    Agreed – the mouse/keyboard menu experience on Skyrim is AWFUL.

    Awesome game though!

  18. thoiness Says:

    Actually, I like the X360 controller on the PC for some games. I rather enjoy a good racing game or AC2/3 with a controller rather than a mouse (imagine racing with a mouse?). While I can agree in some aspects, controller is archaic in the gaming world (like Mass Effect 2), in some respects, it's a godsend. It really depends on the game. The bottom line is the PC can meet the gamer, no matter where they live.

  19. bob Says:

    actually imo racing games are the only good games to play on consoles. but just my imo. Controller matters a lot for me (perhaps too much as in i should be locked up)

  20. thoiness Says:

    Yeah, I grew up with the Nintendo, SNES, etc, so I still retain my fondness for the controller. I did a lot of PC gaming as well, but I have a fondness for both. And when I can have both on my PC, well, that just gives me warm fuzzies…

  21. Dirk Says:

    PC gaming will always have a strong niche market of artistic and experimental indygames and complex strategy games that simply work better playing behind a desk. Overall, PC game programmers are the avant garde. Every new genre or ground-breaking innovation has been played on the PC first.

    But the high budget games will have to be catered to the consoles and PC games will have to do with cheap console ports. The technical prowess of a modern PC is actually irrelevant. People choose for consoles because they have superior usability.

  22. thoiness Says:

    Wow… See my reply to the previous post. Have you ever even seen any of the Need for Speed, or Assassin's Creed, or Mass Effect on the PC? Are you living 5 years ago? Times have changed. There's no comparison from the PC to console. The PC is HANDS DOWN the smoother and better visual experience. To say the PC is getting cheap ports means you are living in the distant past as far as gaming is concerned. Purchase yourself a mid to higher end Geforce times and get with the 21st century!

  23. bob Says:

    no he has a point. when the console market is much larger – and more importantly there is far less piracy on the console market – developers of mass market games are going to start (many have already started in fact) to develop for the console 1st and the PC second, because that's where the money is. As such many of the PC ports will be poor (noticed any "input" menus with console controller images?). It's even possible some will decide it's not worth porting to PC at all. There's going to be a lot of tacky ports in the future, developers forgetting to include an inverse y-axis option for the mouse, etc.

  24. thoiness Says:

    I thought a vast majority of PC games were implemented far better in their "ports" from X360. Like I said previously, look at AC 2/3, look at Mass Effect 2. Several years ago, we got the crappy end of the stick (see Mass Effect 1), but being an AVID Steam user, I've really seen the gaming industry go full bore on the PC. Now whether or not this will remain true with the next generation consoles, perhaps not at first, but eventually when the big game producers get tired of the restrictions, they will be back to make the bigger and badder "ports."

  25. thoiness Says:

    You really want to see some balls behind the gaming industry: Look at the NFS series on the PC or the Dirt series. These far outshine their X360 counterparts (assuming you have a controller), not to mention they come in at a fraction of the cost.

  26. thoiness Says:

    Oh, and piracy, I almost forgot that issue… Well, Steam, Onlive, and many of the digital outlet locations have been working on the piracy issues.

    The biggest thing that keeps me out of the piracy business is the cost of ownership on the digital outlets. $20-$30 for a decent game, I can swallow. $20-$30 for a 5 year old game, and $59 for a new title, regardless of popularity makes me a little ill. Sure, you have to wait for some of the sales in the PC arena, but they happen on a bigger scale, and much more frequently than in the console world.

  27. kurkosdr Says:

    PC gaming is dying because not everybody is a spoiled shopaholic that spends 300$ on graphics cards every 6 months. Having to buy both the games and to do the practically mandatory hardware upgrade every 6 months is too much for the ordinary prudent man. Unless you consider buying a gaming rig as buying your right to pirate games (like many gaming rig owners do). In that case, don't wonder why the PC version for Grand Theft Auto IV and other cool games get released months after their respective console versions and why when they eventually get released, they are hasty Xbox 360 ports. Also, for most people today, the laptop is the "fat" device and tablets the "thin" device, as oposed to 6 years ago where the desktop was the "fat" device and the laptop the "thin", so designing for desktop gaming rigs (like most game devs do today) really is designing for the minority.
    Sure, the PC has it's lows and peaks, but after the release of Xbox 1, you 'll notice the general trend is downwards.

    I personally expect the Gameloft/Angry Birds type of games to replace the graphic-rich games on the PC, and rich games to move to the consoles…….

  28. thoiness Says:

    LOL… No, seriously, I can't even comment on this.

    "I personally expect the Gameloft/Angry Birds type of games to replace the graphic-rich games on the PC, and rich games to move to the consoles……."


  29. bob Says:

    It's getting easier to make graphic-rich games on the PC. So I find your prediction unconvincing.

    As for cost you don't need to buy a graphics card every 6 months. Mine was going for 4 years, still running mid level graphics on new games (before it melted – ha). Even on mid settings the games look good. And – remember quake, doom, red alert, etc – it's gameplay not graphics that really matters. Honestly once you are in you won't even notice the difference between top and mid level graphics.

    As long as you don't fall for fad stuff like direct x 10 vs 9 you can survive on the same card for a long time.

  30. Hornedrat Says:

    Every time I see this discussion it makes me chortle. Consoles are good for fps and sports titles but for things like civ, plane sims etc. a pc will always prove superior IF (and that is most deffo a big If) the companies develop with pc in mind and not a hybrid bastardisation of a console (see skyrim for a game that could have been more better designed to be PC then both)

    Consoles will always outsell and with little loyalty and easy resell options for games always be more profitable for companies hence the claim pc gaming is dying. It is no different to the days of the megadrive or Sinclair Spectrum.

  31. bob Says:

    they're not even good for FPS imo because the controllers suck.

    but you got it in one – hybrid bastardisation is total failure

  32. Snakesan Says:

    It is entirely possible to sustain a gaming level PC without spending hundreds in upgrades every six months. Video cards are becoming increasingly more powerful for their cost, RAM is still pretty cheap, and decent audio can finally come from an on-board chipset without much issue. Though the initial investment will hit you harder than a console, the outcome will provide you with a machine that can do much more than simply play video games.

    You can upgrade a video card for less than $150 per year, same with your processor. You don't need to spend $300+ per component just to stay competitive. About the only equipment you shouldn't or are unable to skimp on would be your hard drives and operating system.

    For those interested, both http://www.newegg.com and http://www.tigerdirect.com are excellent sites to help you establish your gaming build.

  33. Duke Says:

    Three years ago I bought a rig with Intel E4500 processor and and ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT with 2 GB DDR2, the cost then was 1000$ (also bought monitor and some nice speakers). I played with that rig until recently (titles like Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2) without any problems. About 2 months ago I upgraded to AMD 4X Black Edition and NVidia 465GTX 2GB DDR3 for aprox. 500$ and I am expecting to play another 3 years :).

  34. thoiness Says:

    PriceWatch.com – I purchased a Q9450 w/4Gigs of RAM several years ago for ~$400, tacked on a $169 GeForce 9800GTX+ and it's still going strong to this day.

  35. bob Says:

    Im lazy. I bought a $1000 quad core dell 6 years ago. Still using it. Graphics card died and I had to downgrade. But it still works. Given the lifetime it's working out less than $20 a month. Cheaper than my mobile phone…

  36. Duke Says:

    All those who are saying that PC gaming is dead, please point out a grate game published the 2 years where one dose not hear the following sentence somewhere in the review: "We expirienced some frame rate glitches/missing textures on the console version, but the the PC version looks awsome."

  37. Neb Says:

    Consoles are just weak PCs in a pretty box that you can't upgrade when they get out of date. Battlefield 3 runs WAY better on my laptop than it does on my PS3. And just try to use hotkeys and do quick selections of multiple units in a Real-Time Strategy game on the PS3. It's a joke compared to playing those games on a PC.

    My 4 year old Dell desktop STIILL runs many games smoother than my PS3 does, and at higher resolution too.

  38. Paul Says:

    – PC-Games are different. There are Games for PC and consoles but moste of them are not.
    – To make a game fun no big power is needed – To make it realistic power helps. Wii was sold as hell withou power.
    – If rumours are true, the next XBOX gets an ARM processor – So power wil not be very much on (nextGen?) console – only graphics better?
    – Even some Atari VCS 2600 Games are fun.
    – PC-Gaming is expensive in hardware.

  39. thoiness Says:

    XBox isn't going ARM. There's no reason for it to go ARM. ARM is specifically for power reduction which is why you see it in the mobile sector. They'd be shooting themselves in the foot if they even considered such a thing. Their current gaming rig is already underpowered for the current times. It would be a complete joke if they went backwards in technology…

  40. Rick Says:

    It's sad to see comments insulting one's system choice. With a 4-7 year refresh cycle for consoles, you better pick the right one for *your* needs, because you can't upgrade, and gaming's all you can do with it.

    With a PC, you can upgrade whenever you want, but you'll need to spend more to get a gaming rig *if that's what you want*. You have the ability to do other things besides gaming of course, which can satisfy the mid-level gamer or cost-concious buyer. We don't all need 120fps to pwn n00bs 😉

    No PC games? Steam, which provides many popular titles from Left 4 Dead to Civilization, has really taken off, and provides updates, multiplayer and copy protection.

    Claiming PC's are dying and people are going to laptops or mobile, or consoles are dying, is something I expect from media looking for page hits, not users. We know what we need, and we'll buy that. Whether it's an uber tower for CAD or video crunching, or a thin, bare PC for cashiers, or a console for gaming, or something in the middle, we have a choice and don't need a drooling, rabid fanboy of either side.

  41. thoiness Says:

    Or you could be like me, and not be forced to make the choice, and have both?

    Why not have your cake and eat it too?

  42. Ricardo Says:

    While PC gaming isn't death. Almost all games are being made with console controls in mind first. Is a pity to have 105 keys and have no way to assign hot-keys. A fault that, unfortunately, too many games of today have (and trivially easy to fix, if they cared to).

    PC have the advantage of Mods. Like we see on Bethesda products (Oblivion, Fallout, etc). Although they too have the flaw of not allowing hot-keys. PC also have some categories that are just no good using a gamepad. MMOG (for lack of hot-keys) and RTS. There is also a category that plays better with a mouse (or a trackball) than with a gamepad (FPS). As its much easier to aim with a mouse (or a trackball) than with the sticks of a gamepad.

  43. bob Says:

    hey exactly right! its the controllers that are the main problem with game consoles. Not graphics. Why people focus on the wrong issue all the time?

  44. Enrique Says:

    I am a hardcore pc gamer, but I got married 🙂 Every time a new game arrived it demanded a hardware upgrade, Fear and far cry were just a few that required new processor, more memory and of course, a new graphics card. The last one was starcraft. I have an xbox since a year and have happily being playing rented games like crazy with minimum investment at all. Yes, it is not the same, but is close enough. If any console would allow the use of mouse and keyboard as a standard input device, pc gaming would be in a really tough spot, let's be honest we all want to plug and play the game out of the box.

  45. Peter Says:

    In my houshold are 4 PC´s from (P4 to i7 2600k) for different purpose but none for Gaming: Is use an Xbox (and some older consoles) for that. To use the Machine for Gaming there has to be spend a lot of extra money for extra hardware.
    But if I want to ply a game with mouse control, then a console is nothing I want. A joystick does not work for that games!
    But if I wand racing games like forza then a F1 simulation with steering wheel on PC is no option.
    How often a games on PC has to buy new hardware? Every 18 months? Expensive but best you can get for shooting!

  46. nickels Says:

    I quit buying new PC games when they starting requiring a lot of online stuff, like installation and logging in to play. Steam killed PC gaming for me.

  47. Mr.Orion Says:

    I understand where you are coming from, but buying into Steam nets you a whole lot of benefit. When I switched to Windows 7 from XP (clean install) – All I had to do was download the tiny Steam client, install it and then tell it to re-download my entire game library. I was back up and running with nearly all my games overnight. No searching for CDs and license codes.. it is all there. It is brilliant and it is the future of pc gaming. THAT is why the store shelves are empty of pc games. We all have better ways of buying, storing, and maintaining our game licenses now. I only visit a GameStop or best buy when my kids need a new DS game. I do my pc purchases ALL online.

    My suggestion is to try it again nickels and just give it a chance.

  48. vuk Says:

    Sure, until get your account hacked, or your game doesn't launch for whatever reason.

  49. Flynn Arrowstarr Says:

    I was against Steam when it first came out, but decided to give it a try when I wanted to try out TrackMania. While there are still some games I prefer to buy on DVD, most things I get through Steam now. Latest game was DC Universe Online when it went free to play, but I also have Test Drive Unlimited 2, Back to the Future, Portal, Portal 2 and TES 4: Oblivion (to name a few). Unless there's something worth it with a physical disc (usually a special edition with something I want), I'll pick it up through Steam any more. 🙂


  50. bob Says:

    I hated steam originally. Think it was halflife 2 that forced me to install steam.

    But then on a later machine I installed steam…I can't remember why now…but it's really good. It's like buying stuff on amazon. You can browse games and buy a game saturday at 9pm and download it in a few hours and start playing. And the games are usually quite cheap (at least when they are not big new hits) and they do deals quite a lot. Also you don't have the hassle of boxes and dvds of games lying around.

    And if your machine is on the internet 24/7 you don't even notice steam needs to be running the play. I haven't had any steam downtime this year I think. I do remember there was a morning perhaps 2 years ago when I couldn't log on because steam was down. Many games have offline modes anyway.

  51. vuk Says:

    Yep me too. For example; Log into steam, attempt to launch game, nothing happens…search forums, no answer. Well, guess I can't play this game.

  52. thoiness Says:

    I'm a bonafied Steam addict. The pricing is perfect, and solid media distribution is a thing of the past. DVDs and CDs are done in my world. When you have kids, you'll understand why.

    Even in the media industry, I'm playing with Vudu, Netflix, Amazon vid & mp3. Every TV in my house is hooked up to the internet as a REQUIREMENT.

    I strongly believe this is where the future is going, and I think X360 is slowly starting to make that transition as well. Larger hard drives and over the wire distribution is where it's going to be at.

    The only thing I don't like about it, is I have a 25-35Meg connection, and Steam caps at 2, while X360 typically caps at 1??

  53. Derek Says:

    Interesting that I have not yet seen anyone mention what imo is a big contributor to consoles overshadowing PC gaming: cheating. Other than a lag switch, it is much harder to cheat on a console. Not impossible mind you, but much harder. Just google "Quake Live bot", "Homefront bot", or "<insert game here> bot" and see what I mean. Convenience IS a big part of why I game more on my XBox these days than my PC, but it is a also because I know that overall the games hacked less. Personally I am willing to trade a little drop in FPS and eye candy to get a more consistent experience while playing online.

  54. mtcoder Says:

    lol gaming pcs cost more NO THEY USE TO NOT ANYMORE. Heck you can get near top line PC that will dance circles around anything out there for 500 bucks. And note that is well able to play any game for the next 5 or so years.
    If you dumbed it down to a console power you could build one for about 300 bucks. Wait the same cost as a console.

    PC gaming isn't dead and it only struggles cause lame developers build for console first then PC port it. Skyrim is perfect example horrible graphics often show up all over xbox version, and FPS get laggy here and there and its single player. On a PC runs perfectly smooth. Also PC games are only thing that can run more than a handful of people aka players at a time. So till the MMO dies off, which I never see happening, then guess what PC gaming will be here or those some 10 million WoW fans that pay 10 bucks a month could be wrong I guess.
    PC games don't come out every year, ok actually PC games don't get a reskinned version of the same game every year like consoles do so they are less frequently out.

    For me I have a pc anyways adding 100 bucks to make it a decent gaming machine, isn't that much more, and I can see games how they fully were / should look fing amazing, at full 1080 without choppy frames and lag anytime an explosion goes off.

  55. Paulo Santos Says:

    I really don't understand why the game studios leave the PC gamers hanging dry.

    My last complains are about the two of the most awaited games (at least for me) this year: Arkham City and Assassin's Creed.

    OK, OK… They WILL come out for PC, but A MONTH AFTER the consoles. What gives?

    I prefer playing on the PC. I don't even own any consoles. My hands and fingers are too big for those controls and I get cramps every time I play for more than a few minutes with those blasted controls. On the other hand, I can play for hours with mouse and keyboard.

  56. Dave Says:

    I play on a PC because I like using a keyboard and mouse and having mods, but I understand developers make more money on consoles so I am not going to complain. Sure my copy of Skyrim has a console interface, but it isn't stopping me from enjoying the game and it will last years longer with all the mods that will come out for it.

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  58. pre order games Says:

    I think problem is with graphic card Pc gaming is not dead its right its just cyclical. Now a days PS3 is in boom so they are getting out.

  59. VmG Says:

    hmm..PC gameing is the best..nothing compares with the feeling you have when you`re staying in front of a big LCD with a mouse and a keyboard….you can feel every inch of the game you`re playing…

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  61. Serious Sam 3 cdkey Says:

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