3 Billion People Worldwide are Gamers, and Nearly Half Play on PCs


A new report claims that 48 percent of all gaming happens on PCs, with a whopping 3.1B gamers worldwide across all platforms, consoles, and mobile devices. What’s interesting here is how the data breaks down across region and in terms of gaming spend.

The data here is from DFC Intelligence, via PCGamesN, and suggests that the PC-versus-console framing for understanding gaming is outdated. Only 8 percent of gamers identify exclusively as console gamers, meaning most gamers play across multiple devices. The study does not say if console gamers who only play ported console titles on mobile devices, such as Fortnite, would be considered console-plus-mobile gamers or strictly console gamers, but I’m assuming the former.

This makes sense. Even those of us who identify strongly with one platform — and I’m very PC-centric — still often have some other kind of platform. Technically, my Super Nintendo Classic and the old Wii we’ve got hooked up for some vintage Smash Bros makes me a console gamer. I’ve also got a handful of games on my phone. What am I? A PC gamer. But what am I technically? A multi-device player who has a number of avenues available for how to spend gaming time.

Chart by DFC Intelligence

Interestingly, those 8 percent of console players spend the most money per device. DFC Intelligence notes that their survey only includes gamers who spend actual money for games. Free-to-play games are not included. The company believes this eliminates double-counting across multiple platforms because people are unlikely to buy the same game for multiple machines. This control should help, but given that the Switch has a ton of ports of other games I doubt it caught everyone. There are undoubtedly some folks who bought games like Skyrim in 2011, then grabbed them again when they came out for Switch.

Overall, there are 1.42B gamers in Asia, 668M gamers across Europe, 383 million Latin American gamers, and 261M North American gamers. There isn’t an exact breakdown on console versus mobile gaming by area, but consoles have different availability in different parts of the world. Mobile gaming is the most ubiquitous method of playing because smartphones are now the primary way people worldwide access the internet.

Overall game spending has continued to surge during the COVID-19 pandemic. NPD estimates that July spending rose a whopping 34 percent annually, to $3.25B. What’s truly remarkable about this surge is that we’re seeing it despite the fact that we’re in the final year of the Xbox One/PS4 life cycle, when you’d expect software and hardware sales to be the slowest. Microsoft and Sony’s decision to add backward compatibility to their upcoming platforms may have been an incredibly wise decision given the disruptions COVID-19 is causing to mainstream game development.

Video game accessory spending also grew in July compared with the previous year, up 1.34x year-on-year, with full-year accessory spending up 1.24x. Video game hardware sales is down 2 percent. But keep in mind, that’s a drop of 2 percent at a time when these platforms are going to be replaced in a matter of months. Overall hardware sales are up 24 percent for the full year, at $1.3B.

This tremendous spending on games bodes well for the PS5/Xbox Series X launches, assuming the economic situation doesn’t collapse between now and then. Companies such as AMD, Sony, and Microsoft are all likely to see at least a small revenue uptick relative to the original expectations for console sales in 2020.

The PC gaming market isn’t the fastest-growing space (that’s mobile) or the highest revenue generator (also mobile), and PC gamers don’t spend as much as console gamers do. One interesting fact about the PC gaming market — and here, I’m drawing on a different report, by NewZoo — is that the PC space is much more static. It’s also sufficiently large enough that new releases rarely shift the market’s month-to-month performance.

According to NewZoo, the most popular games on PC right now are League of Legends, Rainbow Six: Siege, Valorant, Minecraft, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, GTA V, CoD: Modern Warfare, Overwatch, Apex Legends, and PUBG. The most popular games on Steam? CS:Go, DOTA 2, PUBG, Fall Guys, and GTA V. Here’s a larger list:

Steam-Top-Games

Most of these games are at least a few years old. A couple are closing in on a decade. NewZoo implies that the PC space is a bit unique in this way, with consoles tending towards quicker game turnover. I feel a bit less bad for playing Starcraft, Orcs Must Die, and Orcs Must Die 2 lately.

At any rate, the PC market was expected to grow at 3.5 percent CAGR through 2022 back in 2019. As of May, NewZoo was reporting a 4.8 percent boost for PC gaming, growth they attributed entirely to the pandemic. There’s an interesting implication there that overall PC gaming growth during the pandemic may have been slower or smaller than console game sales, but I haven’t been able to find additional data on that point. Either way, the pandemic has stimulated larger-than-expected sales in PC gaming too, not just in consoles.

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