PC Sales Decline Dramatically

Link: http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2016/01/pc-sales-fall-to-lowest-numbers-since-2007/

The summary is what it says on the tin: PC sales are hella low right now.

The question raised at the end of the article is interesting: will the Oculus Rift and Polaris architecture be enough to drive new PC sales next year, or will we continue to see anemic growth? I’m definitely part of the problem - I’ve been putting off a new PC for a few years now myself, and 2015 was the year where I went from “probably maybe might should upgrade” to “well overdue and now my computer is officially outdated.”

Conversely, PC gaming sales are better than ever and may overtake console gaming sales this year (random link). Which would casually suggest to me that much of the PC sales loss is on the business end and family “consumption” PCs (basically Google/Facebook machines) being replaced with mobile devices.

Of course, it’s probably a lot harder to track “Gaming PC” sales since many are either home/custom built or else piecemeal upgrades rather than a single trackable purchase from Dell, HP or Lenovo.

I’m always on a ~five-year cycle on replacing my PCs. I do things piece-meal, since I got an i7 last year I may be good for 5 more. Nothing I’ve played recently has taxed my machine at all.

VR may, may, get me to move earlier but I doubt it, I got burned on the ipad 1 so no more early adopter for me.

Does anyone know how these numbers are affected by the sales of parts? High end users rarely buy whole computers, after all, so it makes sense that Apple continues to see growth even in a declining market. You can’t really “build” an Apple computer.

I usually replace my PC every 3 years. This is the first time where I hit year 4 and still don’t have much reason to buy another. I can run most new games just fine. I think I’ll just wait for the Pascal GPU’s.

My guess (based on the chart of manufacturers) is that it’s based on prebuilt systems only and not parts. So I don’t think it tracks, for instance, the number of processors sold or motherboards.

That said, I’m sure gaming PCs represent a small fraction of the market against business PCs or even traditional home PCs. I don’t know if the contraction of the general PC market is meaningful in a gaming sense though.

I agree that looking at parts may be informative when it comes to gaming. It’d be interesting to see GPU sales numbers over the years.
The piecemeal approach may be more popular because performance improvements and requirements have been uneven across components; GPUs, displays and drives are several times better than 5 years ago and can make a big difference. CPUs, RAM and motherboards, not so much.

I think PC sales are getting hammered from a few sides:

  1. PCs last longer than they used to. I used to replace my desktop PC about every 3 years out of necessity. But the one I replaced just before Christmas had lasted nearly 6 years when I pulled the plug on it.

  2. New software has ceased to drive the PC market. If you’re a typical user, the PC that you bought 4-5 years ago will either run today’s new software just fine, or you’re perfectly happy without it. That didn’t used to be the case nearly so much.

  3. The action’s moved to smart phones and tablets. Why buy a new PC if you’re reading your friends’ Facebook posts on your iPad?

I’m another huge PC gamer who would have normally upgraded by now, but hasn’t yet. PC purchases/builds in late '02, early '07, spring '11, so pretty much a four year upgrade cycle. The exact box I put together in spring '11, with no upgrades, plays everything I want to play on high settings at 2560x1600. Now, I did finally have to stop just maxing everything out at ultra high and settle for high, and I play far more indie games than AAA games… but assuming I’m happy with that (I am!), I’m still going to get at least another year out of this build. And even then, the upgrade might just be $80 in RAM and a $200 video card next Black Friday.

And I suspect gamers were most of the people who bought or built newer, faster PC in recent years because they needed the added speed and performance. If things have moved to a point where people like you are satisfied with a longer cycle, what’s left?

What GPU bought in 2011 plays all the games you want on high at 2560X1600 today?

2x GTX 460 in SLI (combined: $260 after rebate in 2011!). They wouldn’t be able to handle Witcher 3 very well (not coincidentally, my only PS4 game purchase of the year), but they have zero problem with Starcraft 2: Legacy of the Void, Darkest Dungeon, Massive Chalice, Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky SC, or Pillars of Eternity on high at that reso, to name a set of 2015 releases that I put a combined several hundred hours into this year. A big part of it is admittedly what I play, which I did mention in the other post: lots of strategy games, RPGs, and roguelikes; not much at all in the action/shooter realm aside from the occasional Borderlands or Saints Row -type revelation. MMOs were the impetus for a couple of system upgrades in the past, but those aren’t really pushing the graphics boundaries these days, either. There is a lot of good gaming to be had out there.

That’s the overall pre-built PC market, and yeah they’re taking a beating, I mean they are still moving lots of units, but tablets are eating into that.

However, as I mentioned on another thread, PC gaming is another thign altogether:

High end desktops and laptops as well as the built it yourself segment is still growing, in fact it’s the fastest growing segment of the market.

The article is misunderstanding what the overall PC market actually is. People lookoing to pick up an Oculus or Vive are the people driving the high end desktop and laptop segments, NOT the people purchasing very low end or corporate machine.

So basically, this has nothing o do with PC gaming.

Businesses aren’t buying. If you’re just running Office and the like than you don’t need a powerful new PC. A 5 or even 10 year old PC - anything with a Pentium D or better - will do just fine. Put a new CMOS battery in, ensure the PC has 4-8 GB RAM, maybe a SSD, and you’re laughing. It’s only when you get to serious computational work that anything better is really needed.

Another factor is that most people don’t want to learn a new operating system (Windows 10), unless it offers compelling advances–and Windows 10 doesn’t.

I’m in the process of developing cloud/server based solutions to replace our aging software library. Thin clients able to run a browser is all we will need. Even office apps can be run on the cloud now a days.

It’ll be interesting to see if the “gaming PC” market starts to hurt when it’s no longer being buoyed up by other PC purchases. Will PC components start to rise in price because there’s just not as much volume going on? Or have these pretty much always been specialist goods (I’m pretty sure GPUs are) that the average PC purchaser didn’t buy anyway?

I think the real upshot of this is that the argument that “You’ve already got a PC that’s capable of playing most of these games” is going to become less and less true over time as the average “non-PC gamer” household stops upgrading their PC and may get rid of it entirely.

That actually probably won’t change either, at least not for a long time. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have at least a laptop, and those can indeed still run a LOT of PC games.

As for things like gaming GPU’s, no, the mass market were never purchasing them in the first place, but CPU’s might be affected, if it’s more profitable for intel to just make custom, embedded CPU’s for mobile/laptops vs releasing CPU’s for desktops.

Yeah, CPUs and higher end motherboards might be affected although I don’t know how many i7 processors are being sold to bakeries, warehouses and home offices.

Count me as another gamer who used to update on a 2 or three year cycle, but I’m currently on my fifth (almost sixth) year with this rig and Fallout 4 is the first game I’ve wanted to play that I couldn’t. My only upgrade from the original build is a new solid state hard drive (which is amazing bang for the buck performance-wise outside of games). Granted, I gravitate more toward strategy games and less intensive games, so demands are a bit lower, but I’ve been quick to jump on the Fallout and Bioshock series, which aren’t exactly 8-bit.

Even now, I’m debating whether I go with just upgrading my GPU (Radeon 5850) and waiting to upgrade my CPU (AMD Phenom II 4X Black) another year or two.

When I built my system, it was parted out and with the intention that I’d patchwork upgrade as necessary. Aside from the SSD, that hasn’t been necessary until now.