Surging PC game sales won't wither when new consoles appear, expert says

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Despite sagging PC hardware sales, the market for PC games continues to show strong growth.

The PC gaming market reached $20 billion in 2012, a healthy increase of eight percent over the previous year, the PC Gaming Alliance (PCGA) revealed this week at a news conference held in San Francisco.

More than a third of those sales ($6.8 billion) were fueled by increased interest in PC gaming in China, David Cole, an analyst with DFC Intelligence in San Diego, said in a statement.

"In spite of media focus on mobile games and struggling social network games, there are now over 1 billion PC gamers worldwide and that number will continue to grow as more PCs connect online," he added.

International markets are contributing mightily to the surging game market, according to Scott Steinberg, a video game industry consultant with

"Growth isn't just in the U.S.," he told PCWorld. "It's Brazil, Russia, India, China, Turkey, Germany—across the board internationally, you're seeing massive growth in PC gaming. It's experiencing a renaissance that we haven't seen in many decades."

Mobility—as in other areas of electronic entertainment—is affecting the PC gaming market, too, PCGA Executive Director Erik Noreke observed in a statement.

“We are experiencing a shift in the gaming industry," he said.

Microsoft's Surface Pro tablet is a portable PC gaming machine.

“The power of the latest portable PC hardware is allowing gamers for the first time to bring the full gaming experience with them on the road," he continued. "They are no longer confined to their home for game play."

"The traditional desktop is no longer the gaming platform of choice as we are seeing more and more laptops with powerful GPUs and high end audio systems," he added.

Although mobile devices—smartphones and tablets—continue to gain popularity as gaming platforms, PC gaming hardware has benefited from those devices, too, Steinberg explained.

"Thanks to the explosion in popularity of tablet PCs, you're seeing laptops that are lighter, that mimic the best features of tablets, like touchscreens and always on connectivity," he said. "What's happened is we've reached a point where laptops are delivering the right blend of power and performance and, while not as good as desktop solutions, they offer a great deal more versatility."

Will the expected refresh this year of major gaming consoles, the Xbox 720 and PlayStation 4, put a damper on PC gaming growth? Steinberg doesn't think so.

"What's happening is the PC gaming audience is continuing to grow with each passing year and while consoles are available, what you're seeing is overlap, where console players will play on PCs as well," he explained.

"You're going to see more and more gaming options that fit a customer's lifestyle," he continued. "So sometimes you'll sit in front of a TV and play an hour or two, but other times you'll want to play a game in your web browser when you have 15 or 20 minutes here or there."

"It's all additive," he added. "I don't think the introduction of new consoles is going to siphon away from the PC gaming audience."

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