PC gaming in trouble? 20 million set to abandon PC for consoles and cloud

Image credit: Razer (Image credit: Razer)

A new report from an analyst firm suggests that the PC gaming market is set to cool down in the foreseeable future, and that some 20 million gamers are set to abandon the PC in favor of playing the latest and greatest titles in front of the TV on a console (or indeed potentially via the cloud).

This comes from Jon Peddie Research (JPR), an outfit that often chimes in on the PC gaming front, particularly when it comes to facets such as graphics card market share, for example (in which Nvidia has pushed further forward with its domination of late).

JPR’s new report contends that as we go forward through to 2022, some 20 million PC gamers will “defect to TV gaming platforms”, an umbrella which covers the big consoles, plus the likes of Apple TV, and cloud gaming such as the incoming Google Stadia.

This shift will apparently be ‘loosely correlated’ with the global decline of the PC as a whole, with most of the defectors coming from the lower-end of the market (gaming PC builds which cost less than a thousand bucks).

JPR’s president, Jon Peddie himself, observes that: “The PC market continues to decline because the innovation that took place in the past providing speed ups and clever new things has all but stopped, plus the product introduction times are stretching out to four years.”

However, he adds: “This is not a panic situation and the GPU market still generates incredible volume. However, there are forces at work that we predict will drive some of this business toward TV displays and associated gaming services.”

It seems that said forces will primarily consist of better consoles with some real power boosts, as well as further console-exclusive games, and improvements in the quality of TV panels themselves.

That will be exacerbated by the fact that Moore’s Law is failing to hold, Peddie argues, meaning CPU makers are struggling to keep boosting the performance of processors at the same rate as in the past – the reason that the aforementioned product cycles are stretching to four years.

For whom the bell tolls

If all this sounds rather familiar, it’s because we’ve heard the death knell being rung for PC gaming in the past – and we’re not convinced this isn’t another overly alarmist call for a coffin, or at least to begin measuring for one, as it were.

Granted, it probably is true that TV gaming platforms, particularly driven by consoles, will likely grab more attention over the next few years, as 4K (or 8K) TVs boasting jaw-dropping graphics become more affordable, and consoles themselves become more powerful.

But PC gaming will always offer more on various fronts, such as in terms of community, modding, more openness – avoiding the need to pay a subscription for online multiplayer gaming, for example – plus the ability to better customize your games and controls, or benefit from, say, 21:9 ultra-wide monitors.

And speaking of controls, the mouse and keyboard is obviously a major draw for many such as more serious shooter players. (Even though these peripherals have arrived for Xbox One recently, a living room couch is still hardly the ideal environment for using them).

Leaving aside the fact that it’s really very difficult to make predictions with any real conviction in this area, any impact that the cited slowdown in PC hardware gestation time stretching to four years will have is arguably minimal. What you’ve got to remember here is that processors are still plenty powerful today, with beefy models bristling with cores. Graphics card innovation continues, too, with, for example, DLSS boosting frame rates on Nvidia’s side, although it’s still early days for this tech.

And as for the threat the cloud poses in the slightly longer term, there are big worries about any potential lag from streaming games, for sure, no matter how insistent providers might be that latency won’t be an issue. We’re not convinced on this front, and there are plenty of further arguments why Google Stadia won’t be replacing a gaming PC any time soon.

Finally, as Hexus, which spotted this research, points out, it’s also arguable about how meaningful a 20 million strong defection away from the PC would be, as according to Statista, there were over 1.2 billion PC gamers as of the end of 2017. Other statistics previous to that (from the ESA) estimated some 1.2 billion folks gaming on a PC back in 2016, in actual fact.

So there are seemingly massed ranks of PC gamers out there, to which a change of heart from 20 million gamers would be far from catastrophic, even if that does happen – and as we’ve outlined, there are a number of fairly good reasons not to worry about that prospect, anyway.

Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).