Consoles Making Comeback Among Gamers

Just when you thought PCs were becoming the dominant gaming platform, new hardware leads to a renewed interest in gaming consoles, according to Jupiter Media Metrix.

There were 46.7 million wired computer users at home in the United States who played a PC-based game application in October 2001, up 10 percent from 42.4 million users in January 2001, Jupiter Media Metrix found. While the number of people who used PC game applications increased, the percentage of PC gamers among all computer users decreased slightly, from 52 percent in January 2001 to 48 percent in October 2001.

“Gamers tend to be early PC adopters, but as the mainstream population adopted computers for a variety of utilities other than games, the percentage of total PC game users decreased,” said Billy Pidgeon, Jupiter Research analyst. “Interestingly, the slower percentage growth of new PC gamers is mirroring a plateau in new PC buyers, and this trend is coinciding with a renewed hype and interest in game consoles such as the Nintendo GameCube, the Microsoft Xbox and Sony PlayStation 2.”

The games that come bundled with Microsoft Windows are by far the most popular among PC users. Solitaire was No. 1 with 21.3 million users in October 2001; Freecell was No. 2 with 14.8 million users; Hearts Network was No. 3 with 6.6 million users; and Minesweeper was No. 4 with 5.4 million users.

Among the most popular store-bought premium titles are: The Sims with 1.6 million users; Microsoft’s Age of Empires with 805,000 users in October 2001; Diablo II with 624,000 users; and Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun with 563,000 users.

“Premium blockbuster game titles are more prevalent in the top 20 ranking this year,” Pidgeon said. “While the majority of computer users, especially new users, will start off playing free and low-end games, more high-end titles are debuting and finding their niche.”

This holiday season is a big one for gaming consoles, their fans and their manufacturers. Jupiter Media Metrix found that 45 percent of U.S. consumers who own a video game system intend to purchase a new game console or handheld game device this holiday season.

The convergence of the Internet with gaming consoles will lead to 12.3 million households owning a gaming console connected to the Internet by 2006 (up from 700,000 households in 2000). Online PC games, however, will continue to account for the lion’s share of gaming subscription revenue. Jupiter projects that subscription revenues from online PC games will total $1.5 billion by 2006, while subscription revenues from connected console gaming will only reach $250 million in the same period.

“Stakes for the connected console video games market are growing rapidly, but don’t signal a goldmine quite yet,” said Billy Pidgeon, Jupiter analyst. “While revenues from software for offline consoles remain two to three times higher than offline PC games revenues, subscriptions for online PC games will continue to exceed subscriptions for online console games in the immediate term. By the end of 2001, when consoles from all three games system manufacturers are in play, Jupiter forecasts that there will be over 100 million console gamers in the U.S. Even though the new generation of consoles will not deliver the true breakthrough for online functionality, they represent a significant step forward in revenue potential. Publishers and media outlets must prepare for innovative digital marketing possibilities and new revenue opportunities that will stem from broadband connected consoles with hard drives.”

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