PC “Far From Declining” Says Blizzard Boss

By John Walker on July 2nd, 2008 at 11:43 pm.

PC developers getting together to discuss piracy

Here’s my impression of the games industry:

“PC games are dead!”

“No they’re not!”

“Yes they are!”

I’m clearly the new Rory Bremner. Add another rallying cry to the “No they’re not!” column, with Blizzard getting all Gabe Newell about the nonsense while talking to Eurogamer.

Far better than a soapbox.

EG were speaking to Blizzard’s co-founder and chief executive, Mike Morhaime, who gave them this juicy quote in response to their mentioning Gabe Newell’s comments.

I think that it is just completely dead wrong to think about the PC gaming market and conclude that it’s a declining market. It is far from declining. If you look at the numbers, there are probably more people playing games on the PC than any other platform. More than there ever have been before. If you look at the revenue, it’s also growing. It’s only not growing if all you’re looking at is PC retail, and even then, I think it’s just flat, I don’t think it’s declining very much.

But isn’t it that retail decline that causes the fuss, ask Eurogamer.

“Yes, absolutely. Because historically that’s how the PC games market has been judged, by looking at retail sales. And so we haven’t evolved our metrics yet to look at the entire market for PC games, but if you include online subscriptions and microtransactions and advertising revenue and things like that, and just look at the volume of people, people are playing a lot of games on the PC.”

Hurrah! More common sense in the face of the more dubious suggestions from other companies, where their games didn’t review and sell as well as they’d hoped… Wait, sorry, I mean were horribly afflicted by piracy. Obviously.

Check out the rest of the interview for Morhaime’s comments on supporting old games, Diablo III and WoW, and the nerves it takes to make any game.

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36 Comments »

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  1. The Hammer says:

    Would it be wrong to cheer for Morhaime appearing on stage…?

  2. Phil White says:

    The big ‘if’ deserves a mention. It’s not a declining industry if you ignore breadth of genres. The FPS, MMORPG and RTS are popular as ever, but loads of other styles are dodoed.

  3. CajoleJuice says:

    Easy for Blizzard to say, since they pretty much OWN the PC market.

  4. Name (required) says:

    like he has room to talk…
    blizzard and their shitty wow is like a cancer to pc gaming..

  5. RichPowers says:

    The studios that cry about piracy and the “death” of PC gaming (*cough* Crytek and Epic *cough*) remind me of the music industry: both groups feel entitled to make money, the market be damned, and blame everyone but themselves for their failures.

  6. WCAYPAHWAT says:

    Perhaps if Epic made a new Commander Keen…. now THAT is where the money is.

  7. Frag.Stag says:

    I’m disinclined to believe Epic since they’re doing so well by the 360. They seemed to declare PC gaming dead not long after GoW2 got rolling.

    Crytek I’m not sure about, since they’re doing “one more game.” But I think there’s a reason Warhead is set before the aliens pop up.*

    *The game lost everything that made it fun as soon as the aliens appeared.

    (WCAYPAHWAT – I think you mean id?)

  8. WCAYPAHWAT says:

    quite possible. actually, yes. yes i did. but shh…. those were long ago days… and i just pulled an 18 hour graveyard shift…. fuzzy memories.

    but still…. it is one of the last great franchises that hasn’t been milked in recent years.

    Okay folks, back on track now…

    I know retail isn’t dying, at least not in my area. the local EB is always ordering in a backlog of PC titles for people. I’m not at all surprised when people say ‘oh, they’re out of PC copies, I guess I’ll just grab it on Xbox.’ Guess you can’t make money on a product, if you don’t have the product to sell in the first place.

    Question: has EA popped up to say PC is still alive and kicking yet? Or are they still keeping quiet?

  9. Andrew Wills says:

    You know what’s narking me off rotten. Everyone’s whining about PC games losing out at retail… yet in all the stores in my area, they don’t even stock PC Games anymore!

    I was in WHSmiths the other day, and three people, not including myself walked up to the counter in the space of 10 minutes and asked “Where are the PC Games?” … we were all told “I’m sorry, we’re not stocking PC Games any longer.” Same bullcrap in Blockbuster. Rows and rows of Xbox, PS3, DS and Wii games though.

    Are the stores listening to their own rumours and removing PC Games from their shelves in response to the dumb ass stories circulating? Or has retail been hit so bad that shelf space is being reappropriated? If those customers are anything to go by, it’s most likely the former!

  10. RichPowers says:

    Wal-Mart, Target, and Best Buy all have at least two rows dedicated to PC games. Gamestop used to have a generous selection of PC games (including used ones!), but now it only has a rack or two of newer titles. (Gamers should know better than to shop at Gamestop anyway :) )

  11. Frymaster says:

    “Are the stores listening to their own rumours and removing PC Games from their shelves in response to the dumb ass stories circulating?”

    well, think about it… to if you’re a low-bandwidth pirate you can copy a PC game with a small crack off the internet; console pirate games require modified consoles, which is a speedbump to some but a roadblock to many. So that’s one reason stores might not want to sell PC games – they’ll get more dodgy returns.

    With install-retricted DRM (ugh), or even with account-limited multiplayer (a qualifies ugh; I don’t mind it when it ties in with, say, steam, and all that matters, but why you need a crappy EA account for C&C 3 when it does nothing with it you couldn’t do with a CD key I’ll never know) there can be trouble passing second-hand or returned games on, so any trade-in system is in trouble (a lot of game shops make most of their profitssss on them)

    Finally, you’ve got the whole minimum/reccommended specs malarkey. Not likely to be a problem for anyone here but I’ll bet grannies buying games for their sprog’s sprog fall foul of that sort of thing all the time. Again, more hassle for the shop.

    I suppose what I’m saying is even conventional PC gaming isn’t easily fitted into the retail mould; mumorpuguhs and other such things fit even less

  12. andy m says:

    “I was in WHSmiths the other day, and three people, not including myself walked up to the counter in the space of 10 minutes and asked “Where are the PC Games?””

    What nut buys their games from WH Smiths in the first place?!

  13. SwiftRanger says:

    If people keep referring to NPD sales then there is a small decline in PC retail sales, take the markets into account where the PC still rules the waves then you have another picture. You don’t even need the overhyped online revenues to prove that PC is still more than okay.

    The only thing I could wish for is that gaming sites stop talking about the perceived death of the PC as a games platform, they’re falling into the console fanboy trap. I am not saying they should be quiet about its problems (piracy, hardware compatibility and the awful trend to mimick console gameplay) but it’s pretty disheartening to see every journo talking about PC games as a thing of the past just because everyone thinks you can’t make money with them.

    Actually, the focus on moneymaking, pure business and the daily ‘what do the stock analyst prophets think?’ is what drives me away from more and more game sites. It’s awful.

  14. Nate says:

    What’s the most popular video game ever? I’d lay my money on MS Solitaire.

    There are 1 billion PCs in current use. There are 17.7 million X-Box 360s. I would estimate 30 million Wiis and 15 million PS3s. 75 million current era consoles in use, tops. Quadruple that to include old systems (just pulling guesses out of my ass here) and you still have a 4:1 ratio in favor of the PC as platform of choice. Now really– how many of those PCs have never run a game of Solitaire?

    Is PC gaming experiencing a recession? Yes. Fewer PC games are profitable than ever before. The best games continue to make money; but whereas, in previous years, a mediocre game might turn a decent profit, mediocre games are now losing money.

    Why is that? Why can’t mediocre games just drop their price and do well? One reason is distribution and marketing. Expensive games take up the same amount of shelf space as cheap games, but can drive higher production values and more marketing. Distro and marketing cost a proportionally more to a cheap game.

    (And so we see $10 games using Steam and turning a profit; and we see developers that guessed wrong, people who made mediocre, expensive games intended for mass retail distro, crying.)

    So why else does PC gaming seem to be in a recession? Well, paradoxically, it’s because PC gaming is experiencing a Cambrianesque explosion.

    The best games of the past continue to thrive. People still play Nethack and Doom. The seas are already crowded with successful games.

    Increasing availability of PCs means more and more developers. Most of these developers are not addicted to crack; most of them are smart enough to realize that they will be most successful with a game that is cheap (free, really) and accessible (easily playable over the internet.) And so we see a horde of games, some of which are quite good, available for free, and doing a much better job of catering to their consumers than most top-tier games. That yeti doesn’t ask you to find the red switch; he doesn’t tell you that you need a Nvidia 8800 GT Turbo Apocalypse Infinity-vision; he unconditionally rewards you with splattered seal viscera.

    If developers feel that they can no longer afford to develop for the PC, they are probably correct. Their mediocre, derivatory games are unlikely to earn what those developers feel they deserve. Without them, the PC market will continue to thrive. Good developers will gain a still greater share of the market, while creative individuals will continue to flood the market with better and better free, fun games.

    At least until dwarf fortress goes Open GL on us. Heaven help the market then.

  15. MetalCircus says:

    All the marketing speak in this thread is making me vomit

  16. Biscuitry says:

    This whole argument is like the one about global warming. There’s only one answer that a calm, rational person will come to, but because of the dire shortage of calm, rational people in the world, the argument persists. Nate (comment 2 above mine) makes a staggeringly good case.

    PC gaming will never truly be in trouble until we can plug virtual worlds directly into our brains. Now that’ll be a good day.

  17. Noc says:

    The PC Gaming argument in a year:

    “In a new press release by Valve, the company answers continued statements of PC Gaming’s decline with a firm ‘Nuh uhh!'”

    “Epic released a statement in response, claiming ‘Yuh huh!'”

    “Valve has responded, addressing Epic specifically and saying ‘I know you are but what am I?‘”

  18. Web says:

    this is the reason why parts of the industry keep telling us “pc- gaming is dead”:

    http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/mgs-europe-simultaneous-releases-would-shoot-ourselves-in-the-foot

  19. Kommissar Nicko says:

    @WCAYPAHWAT & Frag.Stag : You actually mean Apogee. Commander Keen was Apogee. Unless it metamorphosed into id, but I don’t think it did.

  20. The Hammer says:

    @Web,

    Wow…that’s…enlightening.

    Thanks for the link. :)

  21. Meat Circus says:

    Can’t we refocus the discussion away from whether PC gaming is dying towards whether or not Epic are a bunch of dicks?

    I suspect that’s much closer to the core of the argument.

  22. PaulMorel says:

    IF you don’t count digital downloads, then PC gaming is dying …

    To me, the only reason that anyone is suffering under the misconception that PC gaming is dying is because people keep quoting NPD sales numbers that don’t include digital downloads. Personally, I buy most of my games through STEAM or GameTap or directly from the developer’s website (as with LOTRO). So boxed sales are hardly representative of the industry as a whole.

    The only boxed game I bought this year was The Witcher (only because it wasn’t on Steam).

  23. redrain85 says:

    @Web: Thanks for that link.

    The interview with Zetterberg from MS Game Studios on GamesIndustry.biz, is so utterly transparent. A pathetic attempt to try and make it look like they still care.

    First Zetterberg says: “The PC and 360 equally important to us.” But later, what he’s actually saying is: “Selling 360 consoles is more important, and we’re purposely withholding releases on the PC.”

    MS is just paying lip service to PC gaming these days. I mean – just as an example, to illustrate how they don’t care – why is GfW Live still totally worthless? They’ve had years to get their act together.

  24. Erlam says:

    I think one of the main reasons developers will say PC Gaming is ‘dead’ is because a game like Halo would have absolutely bombed had it been only on the PC. Why? Because the PC already has FPS’ that far exceed Halo in scope, fun, originality, accessibility, story, plot, graphics, sound, and so on.

    Beyond the success of Steam and Blizzard’s.. well, everything, look at indie games. I own five, and that market doesn’t even exist on consoles in any meaningful form.

  25. Paul Moloney says:

    “”On a global scale the Windows Vista business is as important as our Xbox 360 business.”

    I’m sorry, but he’s insulting our intelligence expecting us to believe it.

    If this was the case – if both were equally as important – then he wouldn’t care if Germany gamers bought their titles either by PC or by Xbox 360. Money is money.

    It’s like saying “My son is equally as important to me as my daughter… however, I would prefer if 80% of people preferred my son.”

    P.

  26. Cargo Cult says:

    Halo? Erm… I seem to recall many fanboys salivating over it when it was just a PC/Mac game, and the Xbox (and Microsoft buyout of Bungie) were just a twinkle in Bill Gates’ eye.

  27. SuperNashwan says:

    What I find amusing is the naysayers always begin with “Ignoring WoW and The Sims…” as if that makes any kind of sense. If you take a pretend scenario of your own choosing of course you’re going to be right!

  28. Web says:

    @Paul Moloney

    pcgame = 50€

    xbox game = 60€ (+ the price of a box + what does xbl cost?)

  29. KingMob says:

    @Meat Circus:
    That’s the argument I want to have – the folks at Epic are jerks and horribly wrong about everything. Discuss.

    @Cargo Cult:
    I was definitely one of those fanboys – I was a PC player looking forward to playing my first Bungie FPS (I saw my friends playing Marathon and it looked pretty great), and horribly disappointed when they were purchased and Halo became an Xbox exclusive.

  30. UncleLou says:

    this is the reason why parts of the industry keep telling us “pc- gaming is dead”:

    http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/mgs-europe-simultaneous-releases-would-shoot-ourselves-in-the-foot

    Read that the other day, and couldn’t believe it. I feel particularly addressed because I am exactly the person they describe – a German gamer who prefers PC games/gaming on the PC and buys that version, and doesn’t really want to buy a 360.

    Instead of exploiting that market’s strengths, Microsoft tries to ram a 360 down my throat not by actually making it more attractive, but by trying to make the product I, as the customer want to use, less attractive. A product they have responsibility for (and earn money with) no less.

  31. fluffy bunny says:

    UncleLou: Well, it’s interesting they’re being honest about it at least. I mean, it’s something most of us have already been suspecting for ages, despite all their talk about how they’re going to revive the PC gaming business.

    Also, talking about shooting oneself in the foot, should Microsoft at one point or other decide that winning the console war is just not worth it, they’ll find that they’ve done just that on the PC. They’ve been actively sabotaging their own platform, and they might very well have done irreversible damage to it already.

  32. Paul Moloney says:

    “pcgame = 50€

    xbox game = 60€ ”

    Yes, but I don’t think the developer sees much of that extra tenner, since they have to pay royalty fees to Microsoft?

    P.

  33. Web says:

    @Paul Moloney: Of course not! I was not talking about Developes. Devs are most of the time at the bottom of the foodchain.

  34. Tims says:

    The real money is when companies own the hardware the software and there are no other options for that experience. For example iPod or Wii.
    I think that’s why they are so committed to the xbox at all costs. It’s a pity they couldn’t just innovate themselves into a good position instead of just trying to muscle in with cash. That’s just never been their strong point I guess.

    I think it’s good for pc gaming though MS being complacent about windows, eventually more people will have an open os on their pc’s. Then we’ll have a golden age of pc gaming! :)

  35. wcaypahwat says:

    That MGS article…. basicly they’re admiting that the PC would outsell xbox at a 4:1 ratio.

    So I guess we can change the whole scope of the argument from ‘dying’ to ‘being held back by monolithic corporations’

  36. Web says:

    @wcaypahwat: very true.