As overall PC market declines, growth expected in gaming hardware

PC sales are in decline, a fact highlighted by the latest market report from Canalys. The research firm says second-quarter desktop and notebook shipments fell 7.4 and 13.9%, respectively. Tablets are apparently to blame; sales of those devices surged 42.9% for the same period.

The Canalys report certainly fits the narrative we've been hearing quarter after quarter, but there's a new wrinkle this time around. While most folks predict that PC sales will continue to decline, John Peddie Research is forecasting growth in one segment of the market: gaming hardware. JPR expects 2013's PC gaming hardware sales to be 3% below last year's levels, but it anticipates 6.5% growth in 2014 and continued expansion through 2016.

Although casual PC users may be switching to tablets and other mobile devices, hard-core gamers appear to be sticking around—and prepared to spend. According to JPR Senior Gaming Analyst Ted Pollack, the upcoming Arma 3 will inspire $800 million in spending on PC gaming hardware. Interestingly, Pollack contends that PC games are putting additional strain on the CPU, encouraging users to upgrade more than just their graphics card.

Forbes did some additional digging and found that sales of ultra-high-end graphics cards appear to be particularly strong. The GeForce Titan is reportedly the highest-selling graphics card at boutique PC maker Falcon Northwest right now. Impressively, "a huge number" of customers are reportedly ordering systems with multiple Titan cards. Falcon Northwest has observed a 16% increase in GPU spending versus last year, too.

The average Falcon build rings in at around $4,000—similar to the average quoted by Maingear. That vendor told Forbes that its most popular graphics cards are the GeForce GTX 770, 780, and Titan. The GTX 770 is a $400 card, while the 780 and Titan retail for $650 and $1,000, respectively. Boutique builders obviously cater to folks with deeper pockets, but it's telling that both AMD and Nvidia seem to have focused more attention on high-end offerings lately.

It seems inevitable that mobile devices like tablets and smartphones will service more of our basic computing needs moving forward. That trend may fuel a decline in the PC market overall, but gaming enthusists have good reasons to stick with PCs. Revenue from PC games seems to be on the rise, as well, suggesting our corner of the market is faring much better than the industry as a whole.

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