‘UK games stores made a major mistake ditching PC games.’
I’ve heard that said a few times, typically by smart PC developers who have made their fortune selling fun, affordable indie games on Steam.
The numbers back up their assertion. Depending on which data supplier you believe, between 550m and 730m was spent on PC games in the UK last year (SuperData, IHS and GfK figures). The boxed sector accounted for barely 20m of that.
Yet PC games have never sat well with the High Street. It’s a confusing market, beset by piracy and with DRM measures that prevent trading-in.
Steam’s success may have been at the expense of GAME, but if it were not for Valve’s platform, then the PC market frankly wouldn’t have flourished in the way that it has. Those multi-million indie hits may never have even been made if the business still relied on boxes on shelves.
PC hardware, however, is a different matter. If anything the High Street has been slow to react to the growth of PC, especially as it continues to show remarkable resilience in the face of a resurgent console sector.
This is a high margin business, with some consumers that are not averse to dropping 100 on a mouse or 300 on a headset (not to mention 500 on an Oculus Rift).
It is a tricky business to be involved with. Staff will need to be able to tell the difference between an Nvidia GeForce GTX 980Ti and an AMD Radeon R9 380. And PC gamers are, typically, price savvy customers, and they won’t tolerate ludicrously high prices.
But there’s a real opportunity here, and not just for the shops, but for the PC game makers as well.
Valve has made it a mission to try and increase the number of core PC gamers (particularly those on Steam). Its recent, belated attempts to take PC gaming into the living room – via the likes of Steam Machines and the Steam Controller – were designed to make PC gaming at least appear more accessible to people who prefer to game on a PlayStation or Xbox.
If this remains the aim, then getting PC hardware into more High Street stores – where consumers have someone to talk to (and complain to) – should be viewed as another means of bringing a wider, perhaps more sceptical audience, into the world of PC gaming.