December NPD: PC gaming on the rise, influenced by WoW factor

Each cycle of consoles brings with it the exaggerated tale of PC gaming slipping into the abyss, slowly coughing binary blood into its pillow and begging for a merciful shutdown sequence. The last batch of NPD results, recently updated to include data for PC software, indicates that PC gaming still has some life left in it. GameDaily BIZ reports that the PC sector saw revenues in excess of $970 million, a one percent increase over last year.

A minimal improvement, to be sure, but a turn-around from a steady decline witnessed in the last few years. Blizzard's World of Warcraft being the biggest selling game of 2006 is no surprise, but the rest of the top ten might raise an eyebrow or two (three for our deformed mutant readers). PC gaming might not be dead, but it is being dominated by a single game -- The Sims. Five of the ten top-selling titles are part of the Sims franchise, with The Sims 2 and a duo of expansion packs besting even Bethesda's Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.

Though WoW has several stereotypical nerd connotations, it actually boasts a lot in common with The Sims. Both have been shown to draw in male and female players, presenting experiences that unfold within as much time as the user dedicates to the game. They both center on a social experience, even though that's largely personified by lumps of polygons and AI routines in The Sims. Is a more social, more casual experience the key to retail success in PC gaming? It seems that way. It could also be attributed as the source of PC gaming's supposed death, with hardcore gamers feeling alienated and seeing fewer traditional titles climbing up the charts and onto their hard drives.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.