In an earnings meeting earlier today (during which he hinted at GTA V being ported to the PC), Nvidia's Senior IR Director Chris Evenden talked about the future of the industry, and his organization's belief that many users are going to be investing in new hardware - enough to overshadow spending on next-generation consoles.
"The PC market is evolving as entry level laptops face pressure from tablets," said Evenden. "Yet sales of specialty PCs like gaming systems and work stations continue to grow. The disparity reflects how consumers use these different classes of PCs. Many consumers look for PC as a general purpose device they can use for browsing, email, social media video. But much of this can be better served by a tablet. In contrast, gamers are preparing their systems for a strong roster of games coming this fall, including blockbuster franchises, such as Call of Duty: Ghosts, Grand Theft Auto V and Assassin's Creed IV."
"Open platform such as PC and Android are outgrowing the world gardens of the traditional console market," he continued. "They benefit from more innovation. Nearly half of the developers surveyed at GDC recently who are working on PC games compared only 11% on Next Gen consoles. PC game revenues are expected to reach around $20 billion annually by 2015, whereas the total for both PlayStations will be less than $10 billion and Xbox is only around half of that."
At first glance, Evenden's argument certainly makes sense. After all, people tend to spend a lot more money on their systems - and on purchasing gaming hardware- than they would on consoles. It's for this reason, however, that I'm not entirely certain things are going to evolve the way Evenden suspects. Certainly, the PC as a platform is more open, both for development and innovation. Not only that, a gaming PC is still more powerful than any console on the market - and a top-of-the-line system is still likelier than not going outpower both the Xbox One and the PS4.
Factor in digital distribution and the thriving indie games market, and things look quite excellent for the platform.
At the same time, however, more people are going to be purchasing those consoles. Not everyone has the disposable income to afford a top-notch gaming rig, and not everyone is going to be willing to shell out a mint to get their computer up to snuff; it's easier to pay $400 for a console than it is to pay $2000 for a PC. As for the digital distribution thing, Sony and Microsoft have both established that their consoles will feature full digital storefronts.
Still, it's easy to see where Evenden is coming from, and there's still a very good chance things are going to happen just as he's predicted. It's simply not an absolute - we're just going to have to wait and see what happens.