PCGA President Randy Stude Talks Methodology

By Jim Rossignol on November 23rd, 2008 at 11:19 pm.


Last week I spoke to Randy Stude, director of Intel’s gaming program and the president of the PC Gaming Alliance (PCGA). The PCGA is an industry consortium made up of hardware manufacturers and PC games publishers, each with a significant commercial interest in the platform. The PCGA has so far released a couple of studies (pdf link) to its members, each looking at the numbers of PC gaming, for both hardware and software sales. They regard these as the most comprehensive studies so far, and Stude was keen to point out they didn’t support the figures we mentioned previously from Jon Peddie Research. If anything, the PCGA suggest, PC gaming hardware sales are even bigger than that. And they should know: the PCGA members make all the components.

I was keen to learn a little more about what Stude’s intentions were, and what the PCGA really intended to do for our chosen platform. The answers were encouraging, and Stude seemed straightforward about the intentions of this, an industry business consortium, as well as the methodology that such a group should expect to employ.

RPS: We’ve been following the PCGA stuff since we attended your press conference at the initial announcement at GDC in 2008. Can you explain a little more about how this came to be, and how you came to be the spokesman for the consortium?

Stude: The PCGA was actually first casually assembled at GDC in 2007. A bunch of us said “let’s get together and talk about what’s going on with PC gaming”, to see if we could come up with an agenda for dealing with the challenges that PC gaming faces, from an industry perspective. This is stuff that no one company can address without help. And it’s a unique challenge, because the PC is a mix of parts and software where the chief competitors are consoles controlled by one of the three major companies each. There was some noise being made about inconsistencies in approach for PC, and inconsistencies in the platform, and there was the problem of how we communicate with, well, not the hardcore.

Your audience, for example, generally knows how to get most games running, knows where to go for drivers, or to buy games. They know how to make what they like work. Our focus is on the mainstream consumer. They want to be able to play games on their PC too, but they won’t have the knowledge to know if this hardware and this software works together, and that’s what we were trying to sort out.

As we spoke to more publishers along the way they said “that’s fine and dandy, but can you try and do something about piracy, because that’s our big issue for PC games.” So that’s what we’ve been looking at.

As for the second part of your question – we’re a non-profit corporation, and we had elections. I was voted in as president a little more than a year ago.

RPS: So what’s the methodology? What has the PCGA done in the past year?

Stude: Well first up we’re a non-profit consortium, based out in Oregon, which is a friendly place for this kind of technology company. The structure is in place for companies who all want to collaborate for a particular direction on the PC to do so – the USB forum is here – and to be able to address specific issues together. So that’s what we’ve been doing. We’re not doing so casually, but also it should not be misconstrued as our trying to control the market, that’s not what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to solve problems, rather than scratch each others’ backs.

RPS: And so far you’ve been gathering data, including the Horizons report, a report for your members which states that PC gaming software accounts for $10bn worth of the gaming industry in 2007. NPD’s retail report puts the entire industry in 2007 at around $18bn. That means that PC games software is half the industry in cash terms? Is that correct?

Stude: It’s more than half. The NPD and other reports always include console hardware, and it was our approach with our Horizons reports to announce software and hardware separately. PC hardware is about $43bn, when you add that on top of PC gaming software it’s huge. We knew it was a big market – we know the subscription, casual, free-to-play people were out there, and we wanted to record that. What we didn’t like was a retail-focused report like the NPD one saying that the market was heading in a certain direction, when we knew otherwise. Retail, as a percent of the market, is only 30% of PC gaming software. NPD aren’t measuring the majority of PC gaming software sales.

RPS: So if 30% still makes up half of gaming in total, then PC gaming software sales are still pretty substantial? You mentioned that publishers still wanted solutions to piracy: how much of a problem is piracy for the PC, really?

Stude: If a publisher says to me “I don’t want to release this game that I invested $50m in on PC, or I want to hold back release for six months” and the reason they cite is that of rampant piracy on the PC – whether that’s a legitimate concern or not, whether their business would really be impacted in that way or not – I stand up and pay attention. There’s an evolving problem there that is a real concern. A trend is evolving there that is disturbing. PC gamers who copy games exist everywhere in the world, and they may know it’s wrong, but it’s easy to do, as easy as it was to get music when Napster kicked off. It’s so easy on PC – it’s much, much harder to be a consumer of pirated materials on the console side. So we formed a committee to come up with data on piracy, and some of the best methodologies for dealing with it.

When I say “best methodologies” I mean that we want to know how big the phenomenon is, what the methods are that are being used today, and what our members can do to deal with it. We don’t want to alienate loyal customers, and we want methods that won’t cause a revolt against PC gaming. Rights management doesn’t have to impede on gaming.

RPS: Do you agree that big publishers are harming themselves with over-zealous rights management?

Stude: I agree that some of them are. I think they are losing some potential sales. The most controversial one recently was Spore, but Spore is selling insanely well all over the globe. So while the Amazon one-star blitz had impact in terms of creating awareness, I don’t think EA are that concerned about it impacting on their sales. Would they do things the same way next time? Probably not! They’ve probably got that message loud and clear, that the method of rights management implementation they used on Spore (and Mass Effect I think) was not friendly to the gamer.

You know the gamer will often say in the same breath “DRM is hurting the games industry, but you what? If you’re doing to use DRM, Steam is great.” It’s what I see on gaming websites: people see Steam as an acceptable way of dealing with rights management. Personally I had a laptop stolen, and all the games on it were on Steam, and all I had to do was retract rights on my machines, and then reissue. It was really easy to make sure that the fool who stole my notebook didn’t get several hundred dollars worth of games with it.

Another thing about rights management is that the companies that offer the solutions, offer very flexible systems, and to attack these companies, such as Sony for example, is probably not the right thing to do. If you look at say, Spore’s implementation of rights management and say “that’s not a good example of how to implement DRM”, that’s not necessarily Sony’s fault. With SecuROM they offer quite different options. One of the PCGA members, Christian Svensson of Capcom, corrected that notion by our own members who were not familiar with the system: Sony give you the menu, and you pick and choose how you implement this rights management. We want to look at all these options, see what works for gamers, and see if we can’t suggest a consistent approach. We’re going to say “this is what our research suggests” and “this is how you could implement rights management, based on what we’ve found”. We’re certainly not going to be issue claims against people with pirated games or anything like that! We just want to find the best method for approaching this challenge.

RPS: So you want the PCGA to be a centralised voice for the platform, just as Nintendo is for their platform, or Sony is for theirs? Although clearly not analogous in any controlling sense – not that there’s got to be a ruling body or anything like that – just that there should be a central body speaking for the platform?

Stude: That’s right.

RPS: Shouldn’t that be Microsoft’s responsibility? Hasn’t it fallen to everyone else associated with PC gaming because of the Xbox project?

Stude: Microsoft are a major component of gaming on the PC, and their focus as been a lot on the Xbox. But they’ll also be the first one to tell you, and show you, the legions of engineers that work on the Windows gaming technologies. I’m talking about the core toolset that all the publishers rely on to bring their products to market. The DirectX updates are far more aggressive than anything you see on the consoles. They’re static for five or six years at a time, and we’re getting DirectX 11 just a couple of years after DirectX 10. That’s important because the platform I enjoy the best has the potential – via Moore’s Law – of doubling its performance every few years.

Now some people think Microsoft should take the lead from a marketing perspective for PC gaming, and some people don’t. I’m in the camp that says the industry owns the platform, not any one company. If someone wants to play games on the PC there’s as much Microsoft involved in that that equation as there is Nvidia, ATi, AMD, or Intel. The marketing falls to Acer or Dell, or anyone else involved in selling on the platform. If there are people rowing in the wrong direction, well, that’s why we’ve got a Consortium to pull it all together: the consortium can speak for PC gaming, as opposed to one company saying how they think the world should be.

RPS: So there’s an extent to which you need to change perceptions about the PC as a gaming platform, both inside the industry and among consumers… Could there be a situation in which you can encourage people to say that buying a laptop for your family is better value for money than buying a next-gen PC and an HDTV?

Stude: I’d love to be able to make that claim! As an Intel employee and shareholder I’ve certainly enjoyed the success of laptops, but there’s a bunch of challenges to be resolved with that, in terms of consistency. A consumer wants to buy a laptop and they want to be able to go to a laptop sales men and have them say “this one gets seven hours of battery life, but it’s not PCGA compliant,” just for example. What does PCGA compliant mean? Well that standard doesn’t exist, of course, but let’s say in the future it could, and what would that mean? Well it would mean that a laptop was compatible with a certain category of games. No one is telling the consumer that today. They’re going out and buying something on a bunch of criteria which might be the operating system, a few other criteria described by the OEM. The consumer should feel comfortable that if they buy a notebook that it should play games, and we’re going to address that with our min spec.

We want there to be a min spec that says that a notebook is gaming ready, and that should be based in a set of criteria that an independent industry body came up with, that really makes sense. With that information a consumer can make an informed decision – and if they’re not buying for gaming they can buy something else. Those little netbooks, for example, aren’t really gaming machines, and people buy them for quite different reasons. But they should be able to buy that knowing that it isn’t designed to play games.

RPS: That will sidestep some disappointments, I guess. So you are going to suggest standards for rating PCs?

Stude: We try to stay away from the term “standards”. A stable minimum spec is probably the best way to look at it. Minimum game specifications are published on every game box and supported by most developers, so what we want to do is to stabilise that, and make them consistent.

RPS: Do you have a timeframe for that? Do you have a min spec release pending?

Stude: We’ll be announcing our approach next year, around GDC, but we’re still settling that.

RPS: So we were looking at the John Peddie research this week, which shows that there’s tens of millions of gaming PCs out there. And that seemed to suggest that the health of PC gaming, and the health of the PC gaming business were actually two different things. There are millions of gamers, but a lot of them are just settling on playing one or two games for an extended period – World Of Warcraft, for example. Or I play Eve Online regularly, and my comrades regularly play that to the exclusion of other games. Then there are mods which extend the lifespan of a single game indefinitely. The idea that the PC is in any way struggling is based purely on the picture of sold products, isn’t it? When in fact gamers are happy playing the same game for year on year. That’s a really significant aspect of the PC, isn’t it? It’s a cultural difference between PC gamers and console gamers, and one that people need to understand. Do you agree?

Stude: Right now it’s not part of our research agenda to look at how many gamers are playing a game that is a year or older, but that would be really interesting set of data. But yes, what’s powerful about the PC is how gamers will often have a love affair with one game, or with several games. That love affair doesn’t end when the game isn’t in the shelf any more. The console model relies on an attach rate of six or seven games per year, per console, right? If they don’t get that kind of sell-through, they don’t have a viable business model for selling the hardware in the first place. They have a demand that there’s a constant pipeline of games. I guess there’s this danger that games become too good, and players would play it day in, day out. If that happened then the console business model would fall apart. In PC gaming some gamers will have half a dozen games and play, say, Team Fortress 2 for a few months, and then maybe go back to Unreal Tournament 2004, or play World Of Warcraft or Civilisation for a few months. They cycle through these games.

Look at what sells so well on PC: Sims expansion packs. There is no comparison for that in console gaming, apart from experiments in downloadable content. And on consoles there is no modification of the games – which is particularly interesting for PC games. That could potentially be stopped overnight, and then it would become more like a console and we’d lose what was great about PC gaming.

The people who really address the PC market well – Blizzard, Valve, the Epic licensees – understand that you’ve got to keep it fresh. The PC market falls in love and sticks with a game for years on end, and they cater for that. Also Crytek are really starting to realise that, even if they’ve not had huge retails success so far. When we see more high end mods arrive for their games I think you’ll see more success there.

RPS: The console manufacturers are able to sell their consoles with the “next-gen console” and “next-gen game” message. Shouldn’t we be seeing the PC sold as “next-gen platform” and also “oh and we also have a twenty-year back-catalogue”? Could the PCGA members utilise what is unique about their platform a little better?

Stude: Well as someone who works for the producer of one of the most important components of the PC [Intel] I am guilty of the “next greatest thing” mentality. To provide value for the guy who decides to upgrade this year, I need some showpiece titles. If I don’t have a game like World In Conflict that scales to Quadcore, he might settle for Dualcore instead. We want games to make use of additional computing power, for games to evolve to do more – to wave your arms around to make things happen, to control games with your mind, right? To need the computing power to do that! That’s the reality of our business. We need the audience to buy into the need for computing power. That said, we are cognisant of the World Of Warcraft phenomenon and we do multi-million-dollar marketing campaigns with Blizzard. That’s a game that runs on a PC that is a few years old, but if you’re in a PvP scenarios or quests with forty people on screen it won’t run fine. I mean the big guilds might say you need a particular spec PC so that you don’t slow everyone else down, that kind of thing. That’s the last thing you want, if everyone’s experience in a dungeon run is slowed down because one guy is running on five year old gear!

RPS: Agreed. Okay, thanks for talking to me. We look forward to seeing the PCGA “min spec” announcements in the new year.

__________________

« | »

, , , .

80 Comments »

  1. Nimic says:

    Very interesting interview. I know a lot of people were very skeptical about this whole PC Gaming Alliance concept when it was first announced, and probably still are, but in my mind it can’t do any harm. If it’s purely a marketing ploy, and fizzles away in a few months or years, then so be it, no harm done. On the other hand, if it really manages to create greater cooperation between the big participants within PC gaming, then that could be a wonderful thing.

    In a few years, we could be saying how the PCGA revolutionized things, or how it hardly accomplished anything, but I doubt we’ll be saying it was entirely pointless.

  2. Jon says:

    RPS did a pretty good job of asking some hard questions, and Stude did an equally excellent job of not answering them. ‘What has the PCGA actually done in the past year’ is a case in point.

    The sales data is really interesting.

  3. fulis says:

    They want to be the voice of PC Gaming but they’re never heard? ugh

  4. Trezoristo says:

    It will definitely be interesting to see where these guys are going. The concept of having companies that benefit from PC gaming sit down together certainly makes sense.

    It seems that so far PCGA got communication with the community down, there’s more interviews with Stude to be found. So Talking? Check! Doing? Let’s hope so…

  5. rocketman71 says:

    Whoa, it took Randy exactly 2 paragraphs to get to piracy. They have no fucking clue about where the real problems are (here’s one, Randy: you have most of them in the PCGA board).

    Also, it is hard to pirate on the console side?. Really?. I know people who don’t know shit about computers who got a chip installed in their consoles and then just download the game. Easy as going to the store, pay 50 euro, and start playing.

    The PCGA is a joke as long as they have members like PC haters Epic and Microsoft as part of the “team”.

  6. boatorious says:

    Good interview. Good to hear about something like this, the PC gaming market always does seem unnecessarily messy.

    It would be really nice to say “I’m going to buy this video card and along with the rest of my computer that will allow me to run games X, Y, and Z at 1600*1200 at 50 FPS.” Because right now it’s pretty much a crapshoot :)

  7. TheDeadlyShoe says:

    rocketman: I don’t see how “Piracy is way easier on the PC” is even arguable. Look for a torrent and nab the file. Install. The Napster comparison was a pretty good one.

    I think a group like PCGA needs to establish ratings standards that they can update from year to year. Ratings would take into account compliace with technologies and certain standards of performance. A good example for this would be Bioshock, where a lot of gamers were forced to upgrade their otherwise-sufficient video cards because of lack of Shader Model support. If I knew my computer was “PCGA 2004″ but Bioshock required “PCGA 2006″ and I could run an app that told me what the problem was, that would be great.

    Stude kind of talks about that but “PCGA-compliant” seems very vague.

    The big missing question in this article seems to be “Games for Windows”. It’s not mentioned once.

  8. UncleLou says:

    Interesting read – would be nice if you could ask him about Microsoft’s dubious role a bit more. Their recent comments on PC gaming (“we’re shooting ourselves in the foot if we publish PC versions at the same time as the console versions”) makes you wonder if they’re schizophrenic.

    Whoa, it took Randy exactly 2 paragraphs to get to piracy.

    This is one of those moments where I am asking myself if people actually read what they’re commenting on.

  9. duhreem says:

    Microsoft’s DirectX engineers are doing it for the console as well, the next Xbox is going to use that technology too.

    boatorious – there are benchmark sites for that kind of thing, e.g. tomshardware.com. It’s a complicated issue though and there’s no realistic way of changing that at the moment.

  10. Novack says:

    “We want there to be a min spec that says that a notebook is gaming ready, and that should be based in a set of criteria that an independent industry body came up with, that really makes sense.”

    HA! That really makes sense… not like the shitty Vista Game-o-Meter?

    The last question (and answer) denotes why is difficult to give the PC a good marketting push: the better of the plataform gets obscured for the greedy of continuosly selling new hardware.

  11. Tunips says:

    I also want to control games with a mix of semaphore and cyborg brain devices. Such as the OCZ NIA.

  12. Novack says:

    @Tunips The go buy new hardware every 3 months!

    What a marketting hook, uh?

  13. Haradan says:

    “RPS: And so far you’ve been gathering data, including the Horizons report, a report for your members which states that PC gaming software accounts for $10bn worth of the gaming industry in 2007. NPD’s retail report puts the entire industry in 2007 at around $18bn. That means that PC games software is half the industry in cash terms? Is that correct?

    Stude: It’s more than half. The NPD and other reports always include console hardware, and it was our approach with our Horizons reports to announce software and hardware separately. PC hardware is about $43bn, when you add that on top of PC gaming software it’s huge. We knew it was a big market – we know the subscription, casual, free-to-play people were out there, and we wanted to record that. What we didn’t like was a retail-focused report like the NPD one saying that the market was heading in a certain direction, when we knew otherwise. Retail, as a percent of the market, is only 30% of PC gaming software. NPD aren’t measuring the majority of PC gaming software sales.

    RPS: So if 30% still makes up half of gaming in total, then PC gaming software sales are still pretty substantial? You mentioned that publishers still wanted solutions to piracy: how much of a problem is piracy for the PC, really?”

    - So you’re saying PC gaming software accounts for $10bn of the gaming industry, and NPD’s retail report puts the entirety of the gaming software industry at $18bn but only takes into account 30% of PC gaming software. So only 30% of that $10bn (=$3bn) is included in the $18bn, which means the entire gaming software industry is really at $25bn, of which $10bn is PC gaming software.

    That puts PC gaming software at 40% of the gaming software industry. This could be more than any other console but, notably, it’s still less than half the industry. Proof-reading + basic maths = good pie.

    If their figures actually show PC gaming taking up more than half of the gaming market, I’d very much like to see that research. Because that’d be awesome. Not that this 40% figure isn’t awesome anyway. It’s still close to half of the entire industry.

  14. Andy`` says:

    Haradan: What happens when you remove console hardware numbers?

  15. jalf says:

    What, they’re trying to actually *research* the piracy thing? Can’t you get disqualified for that sort of thing?

    Nice interview, and it seems they have the right idea (unlike GfW)

  16. RichPowers says:

    Excellent interview, though I still think the Alliance is somewhat worthless, especially with Microsoft and Epic involved. MS’s conflict of interest with the 360, as Lou mentioned, is particularly troublesome.

    The Alliance should issue a set of guidelines for making good PC games, if only to show it’s interested in quality control (how many PC games these days are either utter shit or half-assed console ports?)

    Namely, developers should create respectable multiplayer matchmaking services (if applicable), integrate mod support, and focus on system performance. Each area plays to the PC’s inherent strengths: multiplayer, mods, multitasking.

    It’s amazing how many multiplayer-centric games go to market with a god-awful server browsers.

    In any event, Valve, Blizzard, and Stardock (along with some others I’m forgetting) do more for PC gaming than just about anyone, and none of them are involved with the Alliance.

  17. Trithemius says:

    Hey Rocketman71,

    Randy implies that publishers are worried about piracy – I think that’s a fairly non-contentious statement to be honest. Where you go from there is the interesting part, and that appears to be one of the things they are thinking about. This doesn’t mean that piracy is or is not a problem – only that the publishers perceive it to be. If the publishers become nervous about paying for games because they are worried about piracy then I think everyone loses. Working out the actual impact of piracy, ways to reduce it if necessary, and managing the concerns of publishers is all good work.

    Speaking more generally: this whole PCGA thing seems like a fairly good idea to me. I might be able to get games I want to play running on my machine – but I’d be really happy if it got easier. Lower that bar!

  18. Trithemius says:

    Hi Jon,
    Given all the vested interests involved with the participants I’m pretty impressed that they’ve got organised usefully within a year! I don’t know if that counts as nothing even if – in all honesty – it’s not especially sexy.

  19. Schyz says:

    Great interview, the retail sales info makes a good point.

  20. cyrenic says:

    I’ll echo the sentiments that too many of these companies have conflicts of interest. Microsoft and Epic are both focused chiefly on the 360 (Epic is the new Bungie, really :P), and Intel is one of the chief culprits when it comes to confusing hardware requirements so you don’t know if a PC you bought can run games or not.

  21. BooleanBob says:

    This story would be ~400% better if the guy’s name was, as I first thought, Randy Dude.

  22. James T says:

    Even Randy Dude would be no match for this guy.

  23. karthik says:

    The PCGA should sit through a torrenting session, surfing through releases on p2p, and come to terms with the notion that Console-or-PC, DRM-or-not, nearly all games are equally easy for the user to pirate and crack.
    They have likely done this at some point of time in their individual pasts (if only out of curiosity), but things have changed from, say, six (or more) years ago. Also, if anyone’s going to try and accumulate data on the state of PC gaming piracy, I’d rather it be them.

  24. Tei says:

    That’s the last thing you want, if everyone’s experience in a dungeon run is slowed down because one guy is running on five year old gear!

    I have played with people using a “Slideshow Viewer” computer, and is not that bad. Skills based RPG games are somewhat detached, hence lag or visual slowness is not critical. Theres also ventrilo and team speak, so these people can ask If his character is already dead (because on his screen show as still live). And for some reason, Ventrilo is lag free on that computers.

  25. Jim Rossignol says:

    @Haradan: Stude is saying that the NPD results include console hardware sales in the $18bn, hence “more than half”.

  26. cliffski says:

    There is no such thing as ‘gaming ready’. laptops that will play bejewelled and Diner Dash and Habbo Hotel might not play Crysis. A laptop that won’t run bioshock can still play almost all indie and casual games.
    I dread the idea of a triple-A retail focused group of devs declaring what spec is needed for ‘gaming’.

  27. phuzz says:

    Microsoft is quite big enough for one department to be doing something and another to be working opposite them, at the end of the day they make money from PC gamers and from Xbox owners.
    (another example would be Sony selling their Minidisk recorders which were basically meant for pirating music whilst another department are running a record label, not exactly joined up thinking in these big companies).

    The other point worth remembering is that we aren’t the side of PC gaming that they’re interested in, your average PC gamer is someone buying all those Sims expansion packs.

  28. PetitPiteux says:

    another thing: the idea that ‘PC=windows’ (in particular in the ‘why dont microsoft lead the PCGA’). Ok mac and linux are negligable, but the whole industry would be better without the microsoft arch-dominance.
    But seeing who is in that thing of theirs, guess we shouldn’t count on them to raise the awarness…

  29. Bobsy says:

    The people who really address the PC market well – Blizzard, Valve, the Epic licensees – understand that you’ve got to keep it fresh.

    Hm. Licensees? Is that meant as opposed to Epic themselves? That sounds like a bit of a dig at one of the apparent biggest of wigs within the PCGA.

  30. Stuk says:

    Exactly what I was thinking PetitPiteux. Linux users play games too!

    As was touched upon, the health of PC gaming, and the PC gaming business are different things, and this consortium is definitely focused on the latter. Hopefully not at the expense of PC gaming in general.

    Their “PCGA rating” seems to be there to get people to pay for a more expensive machine. As cliffski said, simple Flash games will run on an ancient PC, Half-Life 1 will run on a 10 year old PC. I don’t need to buy a “PCGA 2008″ machine to play Bejeweled.

    When one looks at the PCGA members, you have to retain a healthy air of skepticism. Lets see what benefits they actually bring (apart from higher profits for the members).

  31. jalf says:

    the whole industry would be better without the microsoft arch-dominance.

    Would it? Linux has already shown that it has absolutely no intention of being gaming-friendly. Would we all be better off if every developer had to struggle with this? For all their faults, Microsoft has at least put a hell of a lot of resources into making Windows a decent gaming platform. The reason Windows is the dominant gaming platform isn’t some kind of abuse of their monopoly or other hand-waving. It is simply that no broad, viable alternatives exist. OpenGL is *years* behind DirectX, has zero tool support making it hell to develop for, and so it is only used by companies who decide in advance that they want to go multi-platform, damn the cost. Audio is a mess on Linux, and even something as basic as mouse control has issues when used for something other than plain window management. The situation on Mac is somewhat better, but we’re still stuck with ancient obsolete OpenGL and of course, limited hardware choices. When the non-MS OS’es don’t show an interest in being gamer-friendly, who’s to blame for MS gobbling up that entire market?

    Whoa, it took Randy exactly 2 paragraphs to get to piracy. They have no fucking clue about where the real problems are (here’s one, Randy: you have most of them in the PCGA board).

    Whoa, it took exactly 5 comments before some troll spotted the word ‘piracy’ without apparently reading or understanding the rest of the article. He said pretty clearly that if publishers are worried about piracy, then that in itself is a problem that has to be solved, whether or not their concerns are legitimate.
    Here, I’ll even quote the relevant bit for you:

    If a publisher says to me “I don’t want to release this game that I invested $50m in on PC, or I want to hold back release for six months” and the reason they cite is that of rampant piracy on the PC – whether that’s a legitimate concern or not, whether their business would really be impacted in that way or not – I stand up and pay attention

    All he is saying is that if publishers hold back on game releases because they perceive piracy to be a problem, then we have a real problem. And he’s right. In that sense, the amount of *actual* piracy doesn’t matter. If publishers *think* piracy is so bad that the PC isn’t a viable platform, they won’t release games on PC.

  32. Tei says:

    OpenGL is better than Direct-X, because OpenGL is a standard, and Direct-X a bunch of DLL files. DX is not serius.

    But Linux is not the solution now, because Linus Torvalds change the kernel api (the ABI?) randownly, and that make crazy all the drivers developpers, and make so version X for driver for kernel Z.Y can’t work with kernel Z.Y+1.
    Is driver unfriendly.

    Today, almost all game developers are windowze programmers, so a recycle will be really hard. Most game dev’s can’t make a game withouth Direct-X. Are as windows addicted as most users.

    I use Linux at work, and I love it, but for the gamming world is hard or imposible.

  33. subedii says:

    @ PetitPiteux: I hate to break it to you, but Apple THEMSELVES do not want to be associated with the concept of the “PC” in any way, shape or form. There are any number of their smug little adverts attesting to this if you care to look it up. “I’m a Mac, and I’m a PC” pretty much says it all. Apple are not interested in creating games machines, that’s not their business model, it lies elsewhere. For all the lip service that Steve Jobs paid to John Carmack just a few years, even Carmack has had to come out and say that they’re not interested.

    With regards to the article itself, I felt RPS asked some really good questions, and to be honest, I was impressed with the candour of some of the answers. But ultimately, I’m still not impressed with the organisation, nor do I have any expectations of it.

    The key thing for me was his response to the question of what they’ve actually “done” in all this time, which in actual terms is approximately nothing. They have not even so much as standardised naming conventions, and that’s something incredibly obvious that people have been crying for for around a decade. All in all, his answers we’re pretty much political. “We’re researching that, we’re looking into this, you can expect a response to that query “in the near future”.”

    But one of the major things that really gives an idea of why this isn’t going to work is his response to the very last question:

    To provide value for the guy who decides to upgrade this year, I need some showpiece titles. If I don’t have a game like World In Conflict that scales to Quadcore, he might settle for Dualcore instead. We want games to make use of additional computing power, for games to evolve to do more – to wave your arms around to make things happen, to control games with your mind, right? To need the computing power to do that! That’s the reality of our business. We need the audience to buy into the need for computing power.

    To me, this is almost COMPLETELY at odds with his suggestions of some sort of standards forming. Ultimately the organisation membership consists almost exclusively of hardware vendors, and that’s not the same as looking at the interests of the games industry as a whole. The hardware industry is always looking for pushing the most high tech and expensive solutions, that’s their business. However it is ALSO this kind of thinking that’s helped to get PC gaming into this kind of mess. The key thing is whether the developers are going to play ball with that and try to keep pace, and to be honest, I’m not sure they’re really interested anymore. The last really high-profile dev of PC exclusive high end games was Crytek, and despite his statements to the contrary, they are no longer interested in pursuing that path. Until the next console generation roles around, I can’t see devs really pushing things for the time being. Frankly, I see that as a good thing, but like I said, that’s completely at odds with the hardware industries’ goals.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Valve have done FAR more to push the agenda of PC gaming than organisations like the PCGA or even Microsoft themselves ever have. There’s been an incredible amount of forward thinking and standardisation, and it’s even forced MS to finally get up and try and do something with GFW Live (other than ignoring it), before they lose out completely to Steam.

    So far the PCGA has been nothing but a talking shop, occasionally putting out a press statement to say “Look! We’re still here!”. To me it’s very telling that most software devs aren’t even interested in signing up with them, all they’ve got is Mark Rein, and his company doesn’t even make PC games anymore.

  34. unclelou says:

    Hm. Licensees? Is that meant as opposed to Epic themselves? That sounds like a bit of a dig at one of the apparent biggest of wigs within the PCGA

    Apart from stating repeatedly that there won’t be a Gears of War 2 for the PC, Epic have repeatedly said very strange things about PC gaming in the last year or so – not constructive criticism, but rather of the “PC gaming is dead, consoles are where it’s at” kind, and in a rather obnoxious tone.

    To question that they are in the PCGA is more than justified.

  35. Bobsy says:

    Oh absolutely Unclelou. I’m just interested whether this was a position being taken by Stude, or if I was over-interpreting it.

    But Epic are utterly barking. The same company that screeches about pirates and Gears of War has also gone and given Good Old Games the go-ahead to release the Unreal back catalogue, DRM free and super-cheap-times. It’s mixed messages, which makes Epic at best a volatile and dangerous cocktail and at worst a snarling lion eyeing up a defenceless Impala as it chews the delicious savannah of gaming.

  36. unclelou says:

    Yeah, sorry. I thought you had quoted a poster. :)

    So much for me having a dig at people commenting without reading earlier.

  37. Quercus says:

    I agree with some of the comments posted here. I had high hopes for the PCGA because it came after years of suffering the “PC is a dying games platform” message thanks to endless marketing pushes by consoles, but so far what have they actually done?

    As has also been stated there is a bizarre conflict of interest with some of its members who on one hand claim they love the PC and support it but on the other hand are constantly belittling it in favour of consoles.

    The issues that the PC has are very simple and have been the same for well over fifteen years:
    Clarity: The knowledge that as long as the PC meets certain minimum requirements, games will work on it. This is where some form of standards are vital. Here is an idea; PCGA Approved (it will run all current retail games at medium settings) and PCGA Recommended (it will run all current retail games at high settings).
    These could be applied both to whole systems and to individual components.
    Reliability: The concept that the games and O/S will work 99% of the time without crashes caused by software or hardware conflicts. Individual components (hardware and software) should be rated based interoperability with other common components and given the “PCGA Compliant” label or not based upon this.
    A big part of this resides with Microsoft. If consoles are so much more reliable and give more performance when using a cut-down version of the Windows OS, why not apply the same logic to the full Windows?
    For example, when a game runs, hibernate most other non-gaming related processes so they don’t interfere and allow the PC to perform to the best of its abilities.
    Value: PCs are more expensive than consoles because they can do more. But they should also be easier to upgrade to keep the initial investment valid. The Operating System should be cheaper and thus should reduce the overall price. Also imagine if hardware components such as audio and graphics cards were self-contained units that could be slotted into or out of the PC without having to take it apart? If the PC was more modular it would be more user friendly.

  38. Tainted says:

    I absolutely love the idea of a set of spec criteria to make buying games easier for the ‘mainstream consumer’. As previously mentioned you could have it as yearly benchmarks and all new games would proudly display how old a benchmark you need to play the game. So Crysis would be PCGA 2008 whereas Spore would be PCGA 2006. All owners would know what their PC is (through some downloadable tool perhaps) so when they buy a game they can be confident it will work.

    Microsoft had the right idea with their machine ranking idea, they just messed it up when implementing it. It would be great for somebody like my sister who loves playing ‘Sims’-type games but had no idea if Spore would run on her computer. Hell, it took me 10 minutes to figure it out and I’m a pretty advanced PC user.

    Elaborating on what somebody else said about a ‘minimum’ requirements to be PCGA certified would also be welcome and would make selling truly terrible games more challenging (an educated mainstream consumer in 3 years would notice there isn’t a PCGA symbol on the packaging and get suspicious maybe?)

    I really hope all of this works because it would be nice to have some nice clear leadership for the platform.

  39. Dozer says:

    Cliffski that wouldn’t be a problem – just categorise the games. Thinking from the top of my head, something like Casual, Legacy, Regular, Bleeding-Edge. Habbo Hotel would be Casual; Fallout, legacy; TF2, regular; Crytek’s latest and greatest Bleeding-edge.

    If you want to play ‘casual’ games like Habbo Hotel then you’d want a PCGA ‘casual’ laptop.

  40. Dozer says:

    I’m not sure modular graphics/audio cards would be a good idea. It would be more expensive, probably make cooling harder, and introduce a whole new physical interface standard. And it’s not hard to replace a PCI card anyway!

  41. Urael says:

    “Well as someone who works for the producer of one of the most important components of the PC [Intel] I am guilty of the “next greatest thing” mentality. To provide value for the guy who decides to upgrade this year, I need some showpiece titles. If I don’t have a game like World In Conflict that scales to Quadcore, he might settle for Dualcore instead. We want games to make use of additional computing power, for games to evolve to do more – to wave your arms around to make things happen, to control games with your mind, right? To need the computing power to do that! That’s the reality of our business. We need the audience to buy into the need for computing power. ”

    This group sounds very much like a conglomerate of businessmen looking to make more money for themselves, rather than a forum of industry participants with PC Gaming’s – and the consumer’s – best interests in mind. The push for new hardware, the focus on ‘showpiece’ titles to the exclusion of other forms of gaming, the inclusion of Microsoft and other PC-gaming haters of recent times…not to mention the fact they seem to have done sweet FA in the, what, year or so since their inception? They don’t sound likely to produce anything in the near term, either.

    Frankly nothing I’ve heard or seen about this PCGA as currently formed has done anything to inspire any confidence whatsoever. Brad Wardell’s statement of Gaming Rights was a far more worthy and inspiring endeavour, which more companies should be investing time in rather than this Sales Management Workshop.

  42. subedii says:

    I like Tainted’s idea of a “PCGA 200X“. A set standard so that when the back of the box says “PCGA 2004″ you happily know what kind of machine can run it, and when it says “PCGA 2009″ you know precisely what hardware will run that game best and it’s simple to understand your five year old PC won’t be up to the job. It would save a massive amount of confusion. It might even be possible to rate individual hardware components with that convention. It’s a ridiculous scenario that the average consumer is expected to know that GeForce 7950 performs better than a GeForce 8600. But if one was labelled as PCGA 2006, and the other was labelled PCGA 2005 (or similar), that would be a pretty clear indicator.

    The key thing is actually getting something like that implemented. Microsoft tried something similar with its Vista “experience” index, but I never saw that on the back of a single box. Well, it’s not as if that particular number was much use to anyone anyway, it was pretty arbitrary what games got what rating.

  43. unclelou says:

    This group sounds very much like a conglomerate of businessmen looking to make more money for themselves, rather than a forum of industry participants with PC Gaming’s – and the consumer’s – best interests in mind.

    I think that’s pretty obvious, but also not necessarily mutually exclusive.

    As for the PCGA standard – I predict fights between Nvidia and Ati which cards fall under which standard. :p

  44. jalf says:

    At least it’s a conglomerate of businessmen who stand to make more money if the PC gaming market does well, so they have an interest in it. Intel won’t profit if PC gaming dies out, so I don’t really see a problem with their motives. Yes, they’re in it for the money, that shouldn’t surprise anyone. But so are Valve, Blizzard and everyone else.

    OpenGL is better than Direct-X, because OpenGL is a standard, and Direct-X a bunch of DLL files. DX is not serius.

    duh.. VGA is better too then, because it’s a standard? 640×480 here we come!

    Whether or not it is a “standard” is irrelevant to a discussion if which is most powerful, easiest to use, most up to date, and best suited for games. DirectX is the clear winner in all of these, whether or not it’s a standard.

    OpenGL might be a “standard”, but it’s also one which hasn’t significantly evolved since, oh…. 1994? It’s ancient, archaic, obsolete, and you have to rely on *nonstandard* vendor-specific extensions for everything if you want anything above DX8 level functionality. So no, in practical terms, it is *not* a standard. Only the obsolete core is.

  45. salad'curce says:

    I find it pretty hard to believe that PC gaming is more than half the industry in cash terms. I mostly game on PC, but spend a lot more money on console/handheld games because they’re more expensive and often don’t last that long. Hell, the full band of plastic instruments I plan on getting to make the family xmas more interesting is going to cost as much as all the PC games I bought this year put together.

    (anecdotal evidence is an oxymoron etc)

  46. Bobsy says:

    In terms of game/machine compatibility, I think the solution lies in software, not checklists on the back of boxes. A tiny tech demo that can be easily downloaded and gives a fair impression of a game’s performance would be much, much easier.

  47. Stuk says:

    @jalf It’s all well and good throwing your OpenGL opinions around, but how about supporting them with facts?

    Wikipedia provides a good comparison of DirectX and OpenGL, and it turns out that for some strange reason the open source OGL is far more widely used and supported and not, as you say, “obsolete”.

    How widely used? How about Windows, Linux, OSX, Playstation 3, Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS, PSP, iPhone, Google Android and Nokia’s Symbian OS. Pretty convincing?

    And the proprietary extensions are one of the strengths of Open GL, allowing vendors to add cutting edge functionality to OGL before Microsoft has even considered adding them to DX. And each year these are standardised by a review board, meaning OpenGL is constantly moving forwards.

    Now I’m not saying DX is rubbish, but perhaps you would like to stop spreading lies?

  48. Pags says:

    I half expected the link in Stuk’s name to lead to the OGL website.

  49. reiver says:

    That he refers to himself as an Intel shareholder once and an employee at least twice is just one of the resons the whole thing rings hollow. The best thing for the future of PC gaming is not necessarily in the best interest of Intel or any of the other members and the language he uses about DRM shows just how political he has to be. A true spokesman for the interests of PC gaming would not hold Epic up as an example of a company that “addresses the PC market well”. If they’re going to be of any use they need to be critical of companies (within their ranks) whose actions are undermining the credibility of the platform and I don’t see that happening.

    The PCGA compliant thing is doomed to failure as well. The graphics hardware producers have been coining it in selling cards and onboard chips that are unable to handle 5 year old games. Intel especially. This is imo one of the reasons PC gaming is so esoteric and difficult for the average person to penetrate. Whether it’s AMD with their 1GB VRAM on a crappy card or Nvidia with their confusing nomenclature, so much of it is there to ensnare the unwary and non-tech savvy. This means that a lot of peoples first experiences of PC gaming is going to be an unsatisfactory one of slideshows and crashes. Are we to expect that this shareholder and employee is going to label the majority of his companies products not up to standard?

    I’m still no clearer on what they actually intend to do or can do.

  50. Stuk says:

    Heh, sorry, I just felt there needed to be an alternate viewpoint to the large amount of half truth in other posts. I only looked into it because of the one sidedness

    Since posting I’ve had lunch (bacon :D), and found this article which does indeed indicate that OpenGL has indeed fallen behind DirectX.

    But that doesn’t change the fact that for cross platform games, OpenGL is the way to go :)

Comment on this story

XHTML: Allowed code: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>