Nielsen's Top 10 PC Games and Consoles of 2008

World of Warcraft, Tetris, and the PlayStation 2 make strange bedfellows, but they each topped Nielsen's 2008 year-end scan of popular media trends in the U.S. World of Warcraft's a no-brainer on the PC games chart. But what about Alexey Pajitnov's twenty-some-year-old Tetris for mobiles? And are people really still playing the PS2?

And then some, according to Nielsen. In fact the PS2's "usage minutes" -- 31.7% of total -- were actually double the number two console on the list. Surely the Wii, right? Think again: The Xbox 360 topped the Wii, 17.2% to 13.4%.

The PS2's lead (down from 42.2% in 2007) should surprise no one when you factor the console's mammoth install base and the increasingly vibrant secondary market for used games.

Curiouser: The old black-and-electric-green Xbox, which held 13.9% of Nielsen's console usage numbers in 2007, beat the PlayStation 3 in 2008, 9.7% to 7.3%. There's a splash of cold water to the face.

Tetris led third quarter mobile revenue shares with 7%, followed by Bejeweled (4%) and Guitar Hero III (3.6%). Nielsen didn't track mobile games in its annual 2007 report.

Bungie's original Halo beat The Sims and The Sims 2 for "average minutes played per week" in PC gaming, though Halo 2 dropped off the chart after tying its predecessor for 4th in 2007. I would've guessed Team Fortress 2 (first appearance this year), Counter-Strike, and Counter-Strike: Source (the latter were numbers 6 and 10 respectively in 2007) for top 10 contenders, but check out Blizzard's Diablo II blazing to life at number 7 after a 2007 absence. Blame Blizzard's Diablo III announcement in June?

The take away: Everyone thinks no one's playing the Wii. They're wrong. The 360 can claim the slightly higher usage-to-units ratio, but the Wii leapt from 5.5% in 2007 to 13.4% in 2008, a notably larger increase than the 360's 11.8% to 17.2%.

The PS3? It's usage increase (2.5% in 2007 to 7.3% in 2008) was actually commensurate with the 360's. Still, Sony's got a year to really get the lead out if it doesn't want to be this generation's GameCube (which, speaking of, was actually number six on Nielsen's console usage chart with 4.6% of total, so that's not necessarily a slam). The PS3's doing much better than the gloomy picture CNN and the Wall Street Journal misleadingly paint, but it's still well off analyst's original predictions.

Total time spent top 10 PC gaming in 2007 = 86 hours per week.

Total time spent top 10 PC gaming in 2008 = 62 hours per week.

Is that a downtrend in overall PC gaming? A downturn, to be sure, but as for trends, it's hard to say with just these numbers. 2008 was kind of a mediocre year for PC games -- all the biggest releases were either MMOs or multi-platform ports. With PC exclusives like Diablo III and Starcraft II on the horizon, 2009 looks tastier.

Also: While World of Warcraft topped the PC charts, its average minutes played per week dropped from 1023 in 2007 to 671 in 2008, or from about 17 hours per week to only 11. Sound significant? We'll see. We definitely need more data to gauge whether the juggernaut's peaking, subscriber base increases or no. (Note that Nielsen's numbers predate the Wrath of the Lich King expansion in November, which might've skewed everything more favorably.)

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