It's no secret that the PC industry is in dire straits these days. Quarter after quarter, shipments of PCs either stay flat or go down. Even Apple, which has traditionally outgrown the rest of the industry, is seeing Mac shipments decline. Some analysts now believe that PC shipments may have reached their all-time peak two years ago.
One might think this slump extends to everything PC-related, but that doesn't seem to be the case. Earlier this week, EA posted earnings for the first quarter of its 2014 fiscal year. (The quarter ended on June 30.) EA's numbers include a breakdown of revenue per gaming platform, and they show that the company's net revenue from PC gaming actually rose by 8% compared to the same quarter last year. Not only that, but at $298 million, EA's PC revenue was higher than its Xbox 360 revenue ($256 million) or its PlayStation 3 revenue ($238 million).
Intrigued, I scoured EA's investor relations hub for numbers from previous quarters. Then, because my love for Excel knows no bounds, I entered the data into a big spreadsheet and whipped up this handsome graph:
The graph should be self-explanatory; it shows EA's net quarterly revenue over the past five years for each major gaming platform. As you can see, console numbers are subject to kind of a see-saw pattern, and PC figures have their ups and downs, too. Still, it's clear that EA's PC gaming business is growing. Also, especially over the past couple of years, EA's PC revenue looks very respectable compared to what the company makes from the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
We can smooth out the see-saw pattern by looking at yearly revenue. Doing so eliminates data from EA's latest fiscal quarter, but it still shows us an encouraging trend for the PC. Additionally, it reveals that EA's mobile gaming business isn't as big as one would think—nor is it growing as much as one would expect. (For the record, the "total mobile and handheld" numbers combine game revenue data for phones, tablets, and portable consoles like the PlayStation Vita and Nintendo DS.)
Now, there is a lot these numbers don't tell us. We don't know how much of EA's PC gaming revenue comes from triple-A titles like the latest Crysis, for example, or how much casual and web-based titles contribute to the total. That means we can't get a clear read on the health of the market for hardcore PC games.
However, the numbers make one thing clear: people are still spending plenty of money—and time—on PC games, even if overall PC sales are down. I suppose that should come as no great shock. Hardware requirements for PC games have remained largely stagnant for a long time. As a result, even today's hottest triple-A games can be enjoyed on older hardware, and free-to-play titles and MMORPGs run on positively ancient machines. That will no doubt change once next-gen games start to arrive later this year. For now, though, I expect there are many PC gamers perfectly happy to spend their hard-earned cash on games rather than new gear.