Common knowledge and the ‘death’ of PC gaming

I dislike common knowledge. The perception that something is correct merely because so many other people say it. It’s like the Wikipedia curse, whereby something isn’t true until it has a citation on the site – then it just so happens a news story pops up mentioning the (as-yet uncited) ‘fact’, which can then be used as a citation on the Wiki page. A self-fulfilling prophecy – as well as being something we were taught about at journalism school. Yeah for learning.

Anyway, I think common knowledge tends to travel similar paths – if something is repeated often enough, people don’t think they have to check it for it to be true. If so many different people are corroborating the story, how could it not be true?

What prompted me to think of all this may surprise you (or may make you not want to read on, as it’s about video games) – the ‘death’ of PC gaming. Apparently PC retail sales have been on a downward spiral for years, games just don’t sell anymore and the system as a platform for games is on its last legs.

This is something most often repeated by those who pay no attention to the PC market, or those who feel like being excessively lazy with their coverage – they might not usually talk about games, for whatever unbelievable reason that might be. But the result is the same: the casual observer comes to think the market is small, pointless and dying.

This might actually be true when it comes to retail – I’m sure PC sales have fallen through in that last few years. But rather than chanting of the doom of the market, a simple bit of paying attention or looking around reaps knowledge rewards. Steam – my mortal enemy – has millions of registered users across the world. You download it to your PC or Mac and immediately have a world of hundreds of games open to you – buy them, download them, play them. Simple.

Let’s look at right now – there are 1.6 million people online with Steam at the time of writing. This changes throughout the day and this number is actually quite low. Let’s pluck a figure out of the air and say 0.5 per cent of people online right now will buy a game. So that’s what – 80,000? Not bad for a day of sales, really. Except that won’t be the day – that’s my imaginary, conservative figure for the number of people online right now. Add into this the Americans waking up and logging on later today and you have a lot more potential.

The problem is digital distribution sales like these aren’t released in a handy batch of figures to show the world, so it remains ‘common knowledge’ that PC gaming is dying. It just seems strange to me that it’s considered to be dying when I’ve bought more games for PC in the last couple of years than I ever, ever did before.

But yeah, anyway, I lost my point somewhere. Common knowledge: always question it.

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