OCT. 10, 2014 • PC shipments are on the rise again in Europe and North America, according to research firms Gartner Inc. and International Data Corp. Gartner found that PC shipments to Europe for the quarter ending September 30 rose 9.1% compared to the same period last year. In North America, Gartner estimated PC shipments had increased 4.2%, while IDC pegged the growth at 4.3%. Both firms found demand was for portables not desktops, with replacement of Windows XP systems strong in Europe, and a need for new systems for students in the United States. Worldwide shipments for the quarter were down 0.5% according to Gartner, while IDC said they were off 1.7%. Shipments for the Asia/Pacific region were down 5.3% during the third quarter.
Impact: While its good news for the games industry that PCs are expected to be selling better in two of the world’s major markets this fall, the systems in question are not game-specific hardware. These disclosures by Gartner and IDC are not good at telling us how high-end systems that can appeal to core gamers are selling. Corsair Components founder Andy Paul tells us that high-end PC shipments data that he sees are either flat or up. His estimate is that around 70% of those expensive systems are employed in gaming. The overall user base is higher, however, since 80% to 90% of all PCs used for core gaming are purpose-built by consumers. While it is true that tablet sales have leveled off significantly in Europe and North America, the PCs accounting for the rise in shipments are low-cost laptops and discounted two-in-one hybrids that are tablets with detachable keyboards. The latter may be attracting current tablet owners looking for a replacement. While fine for playing online browser games, these in-expensive units under $500 have little value in playing core PC titles. As for emerging markets in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East PC penetration is saturated. Those who can afford PCs already own them, which is the factor that brought down global computer shipments percentages despite increases in Europe and North America. In emerging markets low-cost tablets remain the primary option for consumers who cannot afford PCs. There is no doubt that playing games will happen on most new laptops sold, yet the fact remains a strong driver of increased shipments has been replacing Windows XP systems following Microsoft Corp.’s cutting off of security support. That replacement cycle is ending and it remains to be seen how robust this PC comeback remains.