Budget’s PC boost

We ask:
* Garry Williams, Business Development Director, Mastertronic;
* Simon Reynolds, European Games Director, Avanquest Software;
* Craig Johnson, Managing Director, Focus Multimedia;
* Paul Andrews, Chief Executive, Entain8.

Industry pundits have been predicting the death of the PC market for years, but it seems that budget is playing a key role in keeping it alive and kicking. By how much do you think budget games are boosting the PC market?

Garry Williams: The PC market is alive and well, it has grown wider and gathered new users. In gaming, there has been a steady increase in PC sales over the past decade, with laptops and casual gaming now added into the mix, the genre has never been so healthy. In the gaming sector many publishers abandoned the PC as a lead platform, looking for the possibility of the more lucrative rewards in the console sector. Value offerings (depending on how you apply your definitions) probably account for around 60 per cent of the PC games market.”

Paul Andrews: The PC market has always been the key to budget games, and with the current financial market consumers are increasing their buy in PC as it represents value for money.”

Simon Reynolds:
The budget market is reassuringly steady, with no major peaks or troughs. The full price market, however, is totally dependent on new releases, September being a good example of this.

"Assisted by the releases of Spore and Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning, the total unit sales of the top 30 full price titles, (which is over 14.99), was almost four times that of the August sales figures. By comparison, the top 30 budget title unit sales were maintained month-on-month. Retailers should consider budget sales as consistent, similar every month, regardless of what might be happening in the full price market.”

Craig Johnson: Budget games are adding a fresh new dimension to the PC market. With gaming crossing over into the mainstream, and far more female gamers now coming on board, there are many reasons to be cheerful about the future of PC gaming.

"We’ve addressed the need for change by being the first UK publisher to introduce premium quality PC casual games into retail at a sub-10 price point. One of our key publishing partners, PopCap Games, is pushing the market forward by developing new and innovative games which appeal to a much wider cross-section of PC and laptop owners.

"Ubisoft are doing a great job of servicing the tween market with the Imagine range, which we have licensed exclusively on PC, while THQ continue to supply us with fantastic kids’ games like Ratatouille and Disney Pixar Cars Mater-National.”

Is the rise in laptop sales one of the key reasons for consumers turning to budget priced PC games, rather than full priced versions?

Garry Williams: Value priced games are interesting for laptops as these are generally new owners who need to be tempted over to enjoying an enriching gaming experience – rather than email, Facebook or other PC-based activities. Price is obviously important in tempting them to try a new area. Strangely, laptop versions often seem to be more expensive. I think that is because some people see these owners have less choice in terms of what will run on their machine, so they can charge more.

Simon Reynolds: I’m not sure the laptop is specifically contributing to the sale of budget titles, but the proliferation of ‘free’ laptop deals available with mobile, as well as the cheap laptops now available, has had a positive effect on the PC game market; the PC is back in vogue again, after being tucked away in the bedroom for years. The downside is that cheaper laptops are not always powerful enough to run all of the latest games, particularly those with 3D graphics. But this may benefit the casual games market in the long term where system spec is less of an issue.”

Craig Johnson: Demand is being driven by mobile broadband promotions, with more and more retailers offering ‘free’ laptop deals. Even without that activity, the PC’s userbase already dwarfs that of even the best-selling games consoles.”

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