PC Gaming Is Dead, Long Live PC Gaming! Part 1

6 01 2010

by xeroxeroxero

It’s a long held belief that the hardest of the hardcore gamer, rocks a PC. Near infinite expandability, game modding to the point that entirely new games can be fashioned out of others (e.g. Portal) and an always on community linked directly to the greatest online gaming experience available; the untethered internet. But PC gaming has seen a serious decline in press coverage recently from the major blogs and gaming sites out there and for one very good reason; the ‘PC gamer’ is very much a dying breed.

It was, with the widespread use, integration and acceptance of the internet and a rapid increase in bandwidth from broadband suppliers, almost inevitable that PC gaming would flourish beautifully for a moment and then die, like the Christmas trees we threw on the compost heap last week. With the transfer of goods comes piracy and it is this that has left the bigger publishers reluctant to put out IP with the lead skew being the personal computer. There have been attempts to counter the illegal sharing of games across the internet of course, though most have been unsuccessful and even detrimental to the growth of gaming in this sector. Digital Rights Management has gamers up in arms with boycotts, the threat of any other DRM except Steam is apparently just too much for many spoilt by the freedom to do with their games whatever they please. The ability to play on dedicated servers has also traditionally been a great benefit for PC fans, however this feature is quickly being removed as an attempt to control large and significant portions of several titles, with the heavyweight that is Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 being widely panned by critics and PC gamers as having this method of multiplayer being the only way to play one of the most anticipated games for WASD heads across the globe.

Arrr, we've destroyed sales of Spore and Sims 3 me laddos!

But look beyond piracy and there are further problems; society at large is still not particularly comfortable paying large quantities of money for non-physical products, yet for many PC gamers digital delivery services such as Direct2Drive are the only way to access most titles, with major outlets such as Gamestation and Game having an extremely limited choice of titles available. Speaking of which, the issue of choice may well have been null for years, with seemingly only real time strategy and first person shooters getting any real attention in the PC charts. The nail in the coffin though is the potential to upgrade machines I mentioned earlier. Being able to purchase and easily install the latest tech is a fantastic thing, enabling games to be created that simply aren’t possible on current home console technology. However this is ultimately a double edged sword as it negates the PC being a standard platform, designers wanting to appeal to a traditional PC gaming audience must decide whether to risk poor reviews of visuals but create a game a majority of people can play, or create a high end showpiece that only the elite can access. With a modern console the specifications are set, designers work within them to get the best whilst any person with the hardware can run any product available for it.

Crysis - Beautiful, detailed and an absolute bitch to run.

The market is then, for all intents and purposes, on its last legs. With FPS and RTS titles now truly possible on console, it seems that PC gamer numbers are dwindling as fewer and fewer people reinvest in gaming rigs, newer players skipping PCs altogether in favour of their Wii, 360 or PS3. In Part 2, I’ll tackle what can and, most importantly is being done to revive the PC arena and why, in some regards, PC gaming could well be the future of video games…




6 responses

7 01 2010

True enough, PC gaming has declined from it’s once dominant position but some of the games you can only find on PC outshine their counterparts quite considerably. Take Machinarium for instance, a beautiful little game with strong production and a great art style which (to my knowledge) has only appeared on PCs and Macs. Other games like Mount and Blade may look like they were from the 90s but offer fantastic gameplay and significant value.
Assigning the decline of PC games to a lack of physical product doesn’t sit quite right with me. PC games players are by and large (sweeping generalisation?) technologically minded types who aren’t against getting their music in the form of a download. I can’t see there being much reticence there. The big problem with download-only games is the pricing, most downloadable titles cost £5-10 more than their equivalent physical version.

7 01 2010

Thanks for your comment NeilH. I agree that some titles only appear on computer, though this is becoming less and less frequent and I stand by my point as to the number of traditional PC gamersfalling. As for players having an issue with non-physical product, I’m referring to ‘society at large’ and not ‘gamers’ necessarily. I think casual gamers, by which I mean the type of person who purchases a game every three months or more, the people that make up the bulk of the game buying public, are still very cautious when spending money on ones and zeroes, though I agree with you that hardcore gamers have embraced the digital age.

7 01 2010

Wow, probs to NeilH there, he’s vocalised some points I am far to unarticulate to make.
Also, with the MW2 point, it is the lack of dedicated servers thats got our knickers in a twist. If anything, dedicated servers are a form of freedom, allowing all sorts of mods or rulesets to be run. Instead, Activision’s IW.NET is handling all matchmaking and then using P2P to host the games. This is the main reason of only having 6vs6 games (I am aware there is a mode for 9vs9), as the host’s upload speed is likely inadequete to handle more players.
The thing that sticks in my craw the most is being presented with a watered down version of the game, trading off huge benefits of dedicated servers, just so that Activision can squeeze more money out of people by trying (unsuccessfully) to reduce privacy and ensure any DLC is payed for.
You can’t blame Activision, they’re used to the console players not having a choice. Having to swallow anything that is slapped around their face.
And a large reason that PC games are dying is because companies would rather make a substandard product to sell to people who don’t complain, then laugh all the way to the bank.

7 01 2010

Thanks for clearing the server issue up. My mistake, I’ve now corrected the article. To the point you raise about substandard products, too right, it’s something that seems to be creeping into console games more and more now also.

7 01 2010

I do apoligise about my mini-rant there, it may have caused offence.

21 01 2010
PC Gaming Is Dead, Long Live PC Gaming! Part 2 « MidLife Gamer

[…] couple of weeks ago I argued that traditional PC gaming was dead. Through a combination of rampant piracy, a dwindling market and a technologically divided player […]

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