Innovation & Design

PC Gaming's Doing Just Fine, Thank You


Sony Online Entertainment President John Smedley says the doom-and-gloomsters aren't taking into account sales of online games, which aren't being properly tracked

While talking with Sony Online Entertainment President John Smedley about his company's integration with Sony Computer Entertainment, we also questioned him about the state of PC gaming. Little did we know that we'd get such a passionate response to our question.

Clearly, the assertions by certain people in this industry that PC gaming has to take a backseat to consoles and that the PC games market is in trouble has rubbed Smedley the wrong way. He told us, "It's ridiculous and foolish to say that PC gaming [is in decline]. I've seen some of the dumbest quotes out there about the business [falling apart]. It's just not true. The simple truth is the online business is picking up in a huge way. If you're able to add in—and NPD is beginning to track this stuff—the digital sales and regular sales and subscription money and all that stuff, the PC gaming industry is at its strongest point in its history period."

He continued, "I keep reading all this doom and gloom. It's the same guys that have been telling us for years that mainframes are doomed. If you just look at the actual facts on the ground, World of Warcraft —and I have to give props to our competition here—it sat on top of the PC charts for three years now. At some point, and everybody keeps talking about this, but they're just not realizing that a lot of people's dollars are going into these online games now and a lot of them you can buy truly digitally, which isn't getting tracked. It's as simple as that."

Recently Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney commented that the PC is "good for anything, not just games," and he talked about the decline of the PC as gaming platform. Naturally, Smedley doesn't agree with this viewpoint.

"I would argue greatly and disagree with his statements. In my opinion, PC gaming is at its brightest point ever. If you look at the number of people out there playing games like Runescape—11 million active players—or Webkinz or Club Penguin or WoW or EverQuest II... If you just start doing the math on all these games, there's just a hell of a lot of people out there playing. What's happening though is their playing habits are changing, and they're going more towards a different business model. So the Webkinz or the Runescapes, where it's free to play with sort of a velvet rope model, these are the new PC gamers that are playing this kind of stuff, or they're playing on Pogo or Microsoft's Gaming Zone... all these different things that are taking people's attention. It's not that dollar sales are down; it's just that retail PC sales are the narrow focus that ignorant people are looking at."

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