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PC Gaming Rebounds?

PC Games, Once Down, Show Signs of Rebound (registration required) is a New York Times article (thanks PHJF and Matthew & Pauline) suggesting that sales of PC games are resurging on the back of a strong MMORPG market:

Not so long ago, PC titles were the mainstay of video gaming, but they have slumped in recent years, overshadowed by a new generation of game consoles. Now they are showing signs of a comeback.

Most prominent has been the strength of one of the most popular video games ever for PCs, World of Warcraft, a role-playing online adventure game that now has more than eight million subscribers.

But retail sales of other titles are on the rebound as well. PC manufacturers and chipmakers are promoting the game-playing prowess of ever more powerful computers. And Microsoft has inaugurated a program aimed at making PC gaming more attractive, incorporating console-like features and easier online play.

There is also considerable buzz about Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, a long-awaited game due in June from id Software, the creator of the blockbuster hits Doom and Quake in the 1990s.

Anita Frazier, an industry analyst for the NPD Group, a market research firm, noted that in the first two months of 2007, domestic retail sales of PC games reached $203 million, a 48 percent increase over the $136.8 million in the period a year earlier. She noted that these figures do not include revenue generated by PC game sales online, or online subscriptions to play PC games.

“Yes, it does look like a fluke, doesn’t it?” Ms. Frazier said. “Rest assured it’s not.”

She said the bulk of this surge in sales is rooted in the role-playing video game genre that, itself, grew 43 percent over the same period last year. “The robust performance we’re seeing in PC game sales can be tied to several key titles across several genres,” she said, “but we’d be remiss not to address the continued success of World of Warcraft.”

The upsurge comes after some recent reversals. Over all, retail sales of PC-based games in the United States exceeded $970 million in 2006, an increase of about 1 percent of sales the previous year of $953 million, which represented about a 14 percent drop from $1.1 billion in 2004.

By contrast, according to the NPD Group, retail sales for console games in 2006 were $4.8 billion; another $1.7 billion was spent on games for hand-held devices like Sony’s PlayStation Portable.

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