League of Legends made a couple hundred million dollars last year. That is just one of a number of games that one analyst claims are leading the resurgence of the PC as the dominant gaming platform in terms of spending.
The growth of free-to-play games on PC as well as the continued success of digital platforms like Steam have pushed PC spending beyond consoles worldwide, according to industry analyst David Cole of DFC Intelligence. In an interview with PCR, Cole explained that while premium-priced triple-A games continue to make quite a bit of money on PC, free-to-play releases like World of Tanks, League of Legends, and Dota 2 are still growing to new heights. In 2013, 10 online PC games made more than $100 million in microtransaction sales. One of those was World of Warcraft, which made that money on top of the millions it generates from subscriptions. Those kinds of PC games are especially lucrative in Asia. The Chinese PC gaming market generated $8.7 billion on its own.
Cole also believes that the PC usurping the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and other consoles has just as much to do with stagnant spending on those platforms. Industry-tracking firm The NPD Group documented the decline in spending on the last gen, and the DFC analyst thinks that trend could easily reverse with the Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
“On a global basis, PC games have surpassed console games,” he said to PCR. “But the new console systems mean consoles should show an increase [in spending].”
Cole believes that the pervasiveness of the PC is one of the major reasons it is now such a powerful platform for gaming.
“Among core gamers, there is a heavy overlap with most console gamers also playing on a PC,” he said. “The big difference is that consoles are now the luxury item and PCs are the necessity. Just a few years ago, the reverse was true. This means PCs have the broader audience.”
GamesBeat reached out to Cole to ask if that means that even when Xbox One and PS4 games nail the free-to-play business model, PC will still make more.
“I think that is definitely true,” Cole told GamesBeat. “The free-to-play business model works best when you have a huge audience to reach. Consoles have a smaller, albeit more dedicated audience.”
The analyst instead thinks that the best bet for making money on console is with a hybrid model. This will likely see publishers charging full price up front, and then instituting free-to-play-style microtransactions to supplement that initial income. We’re already seeing that with Grand Theft Auto V’s GTA Online and in shooters like Call of Duty: Ghosts that sells players cosmetic items.
“So it is like F2P, but you eliminate the free part as they pay upfront,” he said.