The overall CG market grows to $147 billion by 2021

Industry increased to 2% CAGR growth for next few years

Robert Dow

Ever since it came into being during the 1970s, the computer graphics (CG) industry has been a mixed bag of technologies, users, and applications, and has had for the most part a consistent (and lumpy) growth record. The growth, largely influenced by hardware, has slowed in the past couple of years and will be low to slow going forward—but growth nonetheless. 

The chart shows the growth in hardware and software, and whereas the software aspects of the market have been slow to flat, the hardware segments have been varied, influenced by consumer products such as game consoles. Virtual reality, which has gained so much attention, is hardly a factor in either hardware or software, and despite some glowing forecasts, we don’t think it will be for a while. The main point of exploration for VR today is in content creation and design for professionals. 

Figure 1: Overall Computer Graphics Market


The computer graphics hardware market was worth $130.2 billion in 2017 and is expected to drop slightly to $129.6 billion by 2021, with software growing slightly better than hardware.

Table 1: Computer Graphics Hardware Market


The hardware segment of the CG industry has seen steady overall growth, with some ups and downs due to product cycles and the irregularity of the PC market. The largest growth has been in game consoles, gaming PCs, and workstations, with the mobile graphics segment declining due to fewer units being sold and dropping ASPs as the suppliers compete in a rapidly shifting market.

2017 did not see the introduction of new GPUs and add-in boards (AIBs), however, several new CPUs and upgraded game consoles were introduced.

The market for CG software in 2017 was worth $16.1 billion (not counting services, maintenance, and other aspects) and is expected to grow to $17.7 billion by 2021 as the industry shifts its sales model moving more services to the cloud, and transitioning to a subscriber system.

We will see the development of traditional segments like CAD/CAM expand as new design approaches in automotive, aerospace, and architecture are adopted. The visualization market is growing due to the availability of more powerful and less expensive visualization technologies and also as more customers add design analysis to their portfolio. GPU compute employing OpenCL and CUDA is penetrating further into new industries as well as traditional applications.

Table 2: Computer Graphics Software Market


The demand for programmers, artists, scientists, and designers continues to be strong and we’re seeing startups arrive in emerging and reborn markets such as augmented reality, virtual reality, and casual games. The arrival of new APIs, and platforms are also stimulating development. Firms are actively looking for people who can use and exploit these new programs and their associated hardware accelerators.

New opportunities are also growing out of mainstream applications for the web and consumer applications. The social web remains a strong engine for growth. Social networks are encouraging people to learn new tools, create content for pleasure, and even look for jobs in the field. What used to be a very closed society of experts is now opening up due to the democratization of CG, fueled by Moore’s law and price-elasticity due to lower software costs. We believe a new generation of content creators is being born. Video is rapidly replacing text as a form of communication and 3D is finding new outlets. Early examples include the Creative edition of Windows, Adobe’s Project Felix now known as Dimension CC, game engine tools such as Unreal and Unity, rendering programs galore.

Cloud-based creation tools have been a bit of a disappointment: those designed to be easy are usually not easy enough and the results are unsatisfactory and professional tools are also not designed for the creatives, but for engineers. However, attractive pricing models are emerging, and the tools will adapt.  

Given the trends in dropping costs, and the increasing users and usage of CG tools and hardware, we predict that the rate of growth for the CG industry will remain fairly steady for the foreseeable future. Computer graphics is truly a worldwide industry now. JPR will have a press-only discussion on this topic at SIGGRAPH in Vancouver, at the Pan Pacific Hotel, on the 15th of August at noon—all press and analysts are invited.


About Jon Peddie Research
Dr. Jon Peddie has been active in the graphics and multimedia fields for more than 30 years. Jon Peddie Research is a technically oriented multimedia and graphics research and consulting firm. Based in Tiburon, California, JPR provides consulting, research, and other specialized services to technology companies in a variety of fields including graphics development, multimedia for professional applications and consumer electronics, high-end computing, and Internet-access product development. Jon Peddie's Market Watch is a quarterly report focused on the market activity of PC graphics controllers for notebook and desktop computing.

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Jon Peddie, Jon Peddie Research
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Robert Dow, Jon Peddie Research
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