6 Reasons Why PC Gaming Lags Behind Family Gamer Market

6 Reasons Why PC Gaming Lags Behind Family Gamer Market

Family gaming is on the rise and has an untapped potential for developers, hardware manufacturers, and subscription services. That’s according to a recent report from Newzoo. According to its analysis, of the 68 percent of households that have children, the parents and kids all play games together. Likewise, family gamers are more likely to play a gamut of genres, not just puzzle or casual games. The report also mentioned that family gamers tend to spend big. In terms of PC gaming, 16 percent of family gamers spend bigger compared to 12 percent of all other gamers.

Of the market leaders, Nintendo maintains a strong grip on this market owing to its family-friendly stance. Nintendo consoles have long been known for emphasizing co-op play with family and friends. Likewise, cutesy mascots and characters have become the norm. Kids love them while adults are reminded of fond childhood memories. Newzoo also surmises that family plans, which Nintendo offers, could work well for other console passes such as Xbox Live and PlayStation Plus.

However, despite the untapped potential, PC gaming lags far behind when it comes to family entertainment. Here are the reasons why.

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1. The Interpersonal Personal Computer

By its very definition alone, the personal computer emphasizes individual control and ownership. It is exclusive to your usage and management. The best example would be when someone tries to use your PC to play some games. There might be some occasions wherein you had to quickly clear your browser history or ensure that your Facebook, Paypal, or Steam accounts aren’t tampered with.

We place a lot of emphasis on our personal computers because of this idea of personal space, personal ownership. This device is ours. There might be a few instances when someone else can use it but, it will probably need to be monitored.

Conversely, consoles with multiple controllers immediately suggest group play. There are no self-imposed barriers to entry and comparatively fewer security concerns outside of their respective digital stores.

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2. All Work And No Play

Even budget-oriented gaming PCs can cost far more than consoles. Given cost and space considerations, it’s unlikely that families will invest in multiple computers for gaming when everyone can just sit in front of a single console. So, there are generally two predominant reasons why adults get PCs for the household: work and homework. Do you need to analyze the stock market while reading your email and social media? Check your PC. Does Little Johnny need to do a book report? Go do that on the PC, Little Johnny.

In households that only have one computer, PC gaming takes a backseat compared to tasks from your job or school. As a result, many see PCs as work devices rather than gaming ones. Since someone else has to use the computer, your best bet to continue playing games would be on your console or mobile device.

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3. Comfort Zones And Comfy Chairs

There have been numerous efforts to bring PC gaming to living rooms, with the Steam Link, the Nvidia Shield TV, and a handful of small form-factor computers being prime examples. However, none have gained a major presence in comparison to console systems. Although desktop computers and laptops can be hooked up to televisions, and there are hundreds of local multiplayer games available, PC gaming is largely a one-person-per-PC experience. As a result, PC gaming setups tend to be more personalized while consoles are set up for living rooms.

Comfort means that everyone who wants to play or watch you play will have access to a seat. They’re not merely standing behind you or trying to find a stool. Ease of use and accessibility also come into play. Sitting down next to you on a couch in front of a large screen television is far more inviting than having to peer over your shoulder or crowd around a computer monitor.

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4. Gadgets Galore And Co-op

If there’s one thing that emphasizes multiplayer/co-op gaming in the household, it’s controllers. A show of hands for those who bought a PlayStation, Xbox, or Steam controller for PC gaming? Quite a number, I would surmise. Next, how about those who bought extras for Player 2? Aww shucks, what do you mean they can just use the keyboard?

Yes, we can tell that this situation has happened numerous times in countless households everywhere. Let’s say you find a two-player, co-op game. One person uses the controller, the other uses the keyboard. If you don’t have controllers, then one person is using the WASD keys and the other’s using the numeric keypad or arrow keys. Oh, joy! Let’s be honest, that just doesn’t make for a wonderful gaming experience, does it?

The only way for your family member to get the full experience is to get a second controller and maybe wireless adapters, and those are additional expenses on top of the PC itself. Games such as the Jackbox Party titles can use smartphones as controllers, but there aren’t nearly enough games like them. Sure, you could bring your controllers over from your console to your PC, but it’s far easier to just load up a game on the device it’s already connected to.

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5. Family-Friendly Doesn’t Always Mean Multiplayer

Games such as Cities: Skylines, Planet Coaster, and The Sims, and Farming Simulator offer family-friendly experiences, but unless you set up awkward hot seat arrangements, they’re also solitary ones. They often relegate parents to sitting behind their kids, monitoring their gameplay without necessarily playing alongside them. Meanwhile, multiplayer games such as Minecraft only offer split-screen on consoles. Also, features such as copilot mode, where two controllers are linked to act as one, haven’t made their way to PC yet.

Perhaps the best games that can bring the family together are those that support cross-platform play, which includes Fortnite and Rocket League. But I’ll admit that it’s not exactly using the PC for family entertainment the same way consoles are.

For the most part, there isn’t much reason to treat PCs as family gaming devices. Nintendo rules the family-friendly genre because of how it designs and markets its games. Kids and adults go ga-ga over Mario, Yoshi, Link, and Kirby. Meanwhile, most kids will probably think of Gordon Freeman as Uncle George from Miami. Steam has a slew of titles in the family-friendly genre, but the vast majority of them are available on other platforms.

6. Understanding The PC Gamer

Esports has been booming in recent months. First-person shooters, MOBAs, and battle royale games have taken the world by storm. Unfortunately, many of the most popular games aren’t exactly child-friendly. Outside of Fortnite’s cartoony graphics, very few shooters can cater to kids, and parents are likely to keep these titles away from the little tykes until they’re older.

MOBAs are a different mix since they’re not as violent and kids certainly play them. But unless the parents are already dedicated players, they’re not likely to join in a League of Legends or Dota 2 match for the family game night.

Even though the report from Newzoo assumes that family gamers can be core gamers as well, it’s not purely definitive. Hardcore PC gamers may upgrade, mod, and otherwise customize their rigs for personal enjoyment, not necessarily so others can enjoy it. Quite a number of users will probably just focus on maximizing gaming performance for themselves while letting the kids have a go at consoles or tablets.

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PC Gaming For The Family

Even when the opportunities are there to try out various games, there still needs to be some realignment between what kids enjoy and what the adults are familiar with (and vice-versa). When someone says, “Let’s just play Mario Kart,” there’s very little guesswork about the game and its content. That’s not always so for PC gaming.

Even though it’s an untapped market with unlimited potential, family gaming remains just beyond the reach for PCs. That said, there are a few shining examples here and there. Humble Bundle has a slew of games from their Humble Monthly offering that caters to various needs and dispositions. Fortnite and other games with cross-play provide fun for the entire bunch no matter the system. Likewise, technologies such as VR may become a key ingredient as they become more commonplace.

For the most part, however, PC gaming needs to step up to cater to family gamers everywhere. Whether it’s hardware companies imagining PCs for interpersonal use or developers creating more couch co-op games, there needs to be a way to creatively emphasize that PCs are great for family entertainment.

The moment parents decide to buy or upgrade a computer so that everyone in the household can play instead of turning to consoles, that’s when we know PC gaming has tapped the family gaming market.


I’m a small business owner who’s also writing on the side, contributing in various websites under the Enthusiast Gaming umbrella — Destructoid, Flixist, Daily Esports, PlayStation Enthusiast, and PC Invasion.
My Steam library has 1,131 games at the moment so we definitely have a lot of things to talk about.

  • Ossi Hurme

    1. Don’t people know you can have more than one account on your computer?
    Almost as much hazzle to create another user for consoles. Luckily these days there is guest option.

    • ShammyDubz

      * Hassle

      Hazzle isn’t a word

  • lon3wolf

    The only way for your family member to get the full experience is to get a second controller and maybe wireless adapters, and those are additional expenses on top of the PC itself.

    My consoles only came with one controller (as most do), so I did have extra expense anyway 🙂

    • Jason Rodriguez

      True. But coming with one controller means you’d only have to buy one extra. For the PC, you’d have to buy two (if you plus another player want a good gaming experience). That extra $50-70 (from one controller to two) can be a dealbreaker for some families.

      • lon3wolf

        That is assuming people are buying Xbox One controllers at that price by the looks of it, many controllers for PC can be bought for a lot less even Xbox 360 ones which are the most popular controllers on PC at the moment.

        • Jason Rodriguez

          360 controllers are actually around $30-35 (Amazon prices) which, again, some households don’t readily hand out on a whim especially if you’re buying two. Of course people might get the cheaper, non-Microsoft knock-offs as well. Here where I live (Philippines), we got CDR King controllers that are just $5. They break after a month, apparently.

          So yes, given that most gaming rigs can cost you twice or thrice the price of a console, knowing all the expenses you’ll have and on top of that having to buy a couple more controllers can be a bit of a turnoff. Conversely, a console (which is cheaper), already comes with a controller and you’ll just need to buy one extra.

          • lon3wolf

            You keep going to extremes on prices (Amazon is the not the cheapest for a lot of things) and you the go to really cheap controllers, but using Amazon 2 360 controllers are $60 -70, the price of one console controller. Also factor in the cost of being able to play online on a console over its lifetime, how does that work out?

            • Evan Lazer

              not to mention that you can buy logitech controllers hella cheap brand new like 12 bucks or less and you can get a used xbox 360 controller for like 14 dollars or use the ones you might already have and just use the wired play and charge cord or buy a 13 dollars remote to “wire in” on your pc remotely which is what me and my wife do on our pc’s . Unlike the rest of the word that shoves the pc in a extra room and calls it the work room our pc’s are in our living room next to our 43 inch led tv’s we both play on computers are our main form of use for everything from netflix to net crawling to gaming we don’t even us our tv’s to watch tv

          • Ossi Hurme

            You don’t just have to get knock-offs. This company called Logitech has made gamepads for years.

            • Jason Rodriguez

              Oh true, I get you both (you and lon3wolf) there. I’m just sharing an anecdote from my part of the world where both Logitech and Microsoft original controllers are fairly expensive in mall shops, and the only other option many PC gamers have is to get cheaper knock-offs.

  • ShammyDubz

    It’s just sad that there’s so many lazy consumers. You’ve got everything from A Hat in Time to Wandersong to Little Acre and Marooners or Catastronauts or Overcooked on PC first, but the vast majority of people don’t know that. Just like they don’t know what movies are out there beyond Marvel’s crap, or what music is out there beyond…. whatever crappy person sounds like Taylor Swift or Bruno Mars at the moment.

    Unless there’s something shouting at people as loudly as they can – and when you look at video games, all the commercials are just for Activision, EA and Ubi Soft titles and little else – most people will just continue to be ignorant. And when you’re ignorant, what’s the impetus to change and try something new? It won’t even occur to families that they could possibly have family gaming experiences through their PC. And since there’s no one to speak for PC Gaming as a platform (look how long it’s taken anyone to even finagle an E3 presser, and it wasn’t Valve or anyone who develops/publishes on PC, it was PC Gamer), there’s little that will change in the future.

    • Jason Rodriguez

      I’d say the onus is also on big-name companies to get in the mix. Ideally, you’d want bigger companies to also release titles that are family-friendly as opposed to the usual offerings they have (ie. single-player, online MP, “for hardcore” gamers sort of deals). Given their exposure and bigger market share, there’s a potential to harness these to show that family gaming can be done well on PC.
      A good example would be Ubi’s Just Dance franchise. Even though they’ve got AC, Watch Dogs, Ghost Recon/R6, they’ve also got Just Dance which is pretty much a party game for the entire household. Too bad it’s remembered as more for consoles than it is for PC.

      • Evan Lazer

        people still play dance dance games? i haven’t heard of a person using those games for at least ten years now