Digital Sales Mean PC Games Can Happen

By Jim Rossignol on June 12th, 2011 at 9:59 pm.


I’ve just been transcribing an interview with Marek Spanel, the boss of Bohemia Interactive and one of the most PC-focused developers in Europe, and this came up: “If it were not for digital distribution we would no longer be doing PC games. It’s as simple as this.”

Obvious to us, perhaps, but it’s an interesting measure of where we are now with PC gaming. You might still be able to get a cheap boxed copy from a mail-order outlet, but the chances are you won’t find PC games at all in the shops at all. And as far as PC developers are concerned, digital is all. Retail is over. Which reminds me, I really must write that thing about Steam’s hegemony…

The Spanel interview – containing details about Carrier Command, Arma III, and Take On Helicopters – will appear tomorrow.

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174 Comments »

  1. 12dogs says:

    it’s true. the golden years of racks upon racks of pc games are long gone :C

    • Pathetic Phallacy says:

      Thank God for the evolution of PC game distribution. We have more games coming out now than we have ever had before.

    • Lightbulb says:

      If it weren’t for digital distribution high street/online PC games sales would be much higher. I don’t see why this is so profound?

      If supermarkets hadn’t opened the small shops would still be charging higher prices!

      If the industrial revolution never happened I would be a servant.

      —-

      I guess the interesting thing is when people point to sales charts which ignore online sales you can point out how irrelevant they are…

    • Nick says:

      The decline of shelf space for PC games came BEFORE digitial distribution took off. Don’t fool yourself into thinking otherwise, the huge popularity of the PS2 and Xbox with the general public was what caused it.

    • Archonsod says:

      Nothing to do with popularity and everything to do with money. Console pre-owned market is a gold mine for retailers, PC pre-owned was DoA thanks to one time registrations, DRM and the rest of it.

  2. RiptoR says:

    I really hate the digital-only direction things are going. I for one love looking at my rather large collection of gameboxes that are nicely arranged on the shelves in my room. Digital-only screws this up…

    • johnpeat says:

      Yeah, because cardboard boxes and plastic DVD cases are really what it’s all about.

      Use your shelves for objects of beauty like books or something which has a physical form which matters eh?

    • Dexton says:

      Books are going the same way you know.

    • McDan says:

      I agree with you RiptoR, I prefer physical things of all media, like CDs, vinyl, dvds and pc games. For the aesthetics as well as the knowledge that I’ll always have it right there. It just feels…better.

      I’m not against digital distribution, I’ve got most my games that way. But I still like the old ways.

    • Zenicetus says:

      I’m taking the selective approach — going digital with some things (music files and games), but not others (books). I finally ripped the last of the CD’s and old vinyl I cared about, and our home music archive is 100% digital on redundant servers (I’m not sold on the cloud concept yet). I only buy boxed games if I can’t find them as digital distribution, and I think it’s been over a year since I’ve done that. Steam is fine. It may be close to a monopoly, but I like not having to manage logins, passwords, client updates, and credit card data in too many places. I only go to non-Steam online distributors if it’s something I really care deeply about, and can’t get any other way (like Rise of Flight).

      But books? Really great books that aren’t disposable one-read-through novels, that I might want to come back to one day? Nope, no way. As long as books are for sale as physical objects, I’ll buy them in that format.

      My wife has a Kindle and buys a few books in that disposable category for reading when traveling, but that’s about it. We actually have a library in our house — a room with floor-to-ceiling bookcases, comfy chairs, and a fireplace (a fake propane fireplace insert, but hey, you can’t have everything). There is nothing like settling in on a Winter night with a good book, surrounded by hundreds of books on shelves. There’s a real 18th-19th Century vibe in that room, and I love it. It keeps me from spending all my free time staring at a computer screen. Books will be the very last things I give up, as the world goes digital.

    • Froibo says:

      God I hate CDs

    • MiniMatt says:

      Physical books do seem better suited to flipping through (particularly non-fiction / reference) and curling up on the sofa. Plus you can’t get pop-up books on Kindle.

      PC wise, digital is in many ways more convenient; the risk is that digital distribution seems to enforce the software as a service model rather than software as a product you own (and can still play five years after the publisher goes bust, takes their authentication servers offline, are allowed to give to your friend when you’re done with it etc). Only other concern with digital is bandwidth caps – with games regularly approaching 10gb a lot of people are going to bust bandwidth caps if just a couple good games come out one month.

    • RiptoR says:

      @johnpeat: got over a hundred books on the shelves in my living room already ;-)

    • The Army of None says:

      You might in a site called Darkadia, then. For example, my library: http://darkadia.com/member/Armyofnone/library . I can look at all the pretty box arts, for the most part.

    • RiptoR says:

      Nice share, might put my collection on there too.

    • LarsBR says:

      I bought a Kindle the moment I had packed my books in the old flat. Let’s try to keep that nonsense to a minimum the next time I move, shall we. Right now I’m reading through a book I bought pre-Kindle, and I’m wasting a lot of reading time trying to figure out where I was the last time I nodded off…

    • Pathetic Phallacy says:

      I don’t need to display my books to prove to people how well read I am, nor do I need to display my games to prove my nerd cred.

      Thank you digital media for freeing up space in my home. Bless you!

    • gwathdring says:

      Oops. Wrong place.

    • Dao Jones says:

      @LarsBR
      “Right now I’m reading through a book I bought pre-Kindle, and I’m wasting a lot of reading time trying to figure out where I was the last time I nodded off…”

      I use to hate that! Love my Kindle so much since I can carry tons of books in one convenient little device on the go, too! I do love the physical books, still. Was going to buy Mr. Rossignol’s book in paperback since it’s cheaper then the Kindle version (!), but a friend gifted me the Kindle version so there goes that. :p

      I don’t get the hate on digital. Not like physical is out… yet. :o Maybe sex will be digital too, like that Demolition Man or whatever that comedy was called foretold!

    • Saleck says:

      People need physical media. Not everyone has an uber fibre-optic broadband connection because it isn’t everywhere.
      I live out in the countryside. The best I get these days is 40kbs. A friend of mine recently said I should give League of Legends a go. It took me 4-5 days to grab the download file and the patches it auto-downloads and that was only about 2GB. Bigger games (in the 8-16GB area) may take up to 2 weeks even longer. And that’s IF I don’t go through a time when my connection just flat out refuses to work for a few days or even randomly disconnects when I’m 98% done downloading a huge file.
      This friend also bought me the Hitman collection on Steam and whilst I appreciate it very much, I could still buy all the game DVDs on eBay and have them posted to my house faster then I could download them :(
      I’m hoping Retail stays alive for PC cause some of us need it.

    • John Connor says:

      If my Steam library was all physical games, I would need a warehouse and a half to store it all.

    • Barman1942 says:

      You realize digital distribution is about far more than simply making it easier and quicker to deliver games to you, right? The big deal with digital distribution is that many devs who in the past would have had to saddle themselves with a big name and possibly restrictive publisher no longer have to. We now live in the age of PC Gamer where a small developer doesn’t need a huge publisher to spend millions of dollars on advertising, they do it word of mouth via the internet, and they don’t need the publisher to pay for boxes and discs and shipping, they make the game available as a download.

      It’s freed up indie devs immensely, which is a fantastic thing for PC gaming.

    • Tarn says:

      The difference between, say, books and games, is that the ‘physical media’ for a book is the book itself – it doesn’t need something else to ‘work’. With a game, the disc and box are completely irrelevant – they’re just the delivery mechanism to get the game onto your computer.

      Hence why books are still cool, but boxed games aren’t. Unless it’s The Witcher 2′s Absurd-o-Edition, of course.

    • Cinek says:

      Yep, I agree with RiptoR.

      Moreover: For me digital distribution feels like an expensive way to get pirated games. All I have is chunk of data that can be taken away from me when crap like Steam D2D or other decides to give up their business. Yes, it might be on the edge of impossibility but you have no idea how fun it was for me to have my father find games on attic he used to play and give me them to play. Smells like I won’t have a chance to do this to my children some time soon.
      DVDs and CDs equal to “ownership” for me, getting DD game is more like downloading pirate data and using legit key acquired somewhere – might work, might be legit, but feels wrong.

      Besides that there’s a problem with network connection many people through the world still have – if guy has to download game for 6 hours – he will get retail copy. Simply because even if he gets the game – re-installation will another 6 hours of painful download which is unacceptable.

      And finally – as long as Consoles are based on physical drives – we won’t see complete extinction of retail games.

      And even if we would one day – I hope we gonna see at least a collectors editions sold as physical discs.

    • battles_atlas says:

      Whilst I’m a bit misty eyed about the loss of physical media as well, its worth considering the environmental side to all this. The dematerialisation of entertainment media is quite probably the only example of high-technology consumerism actually reducing its resource footprint as opposed to ever increasing it. In other words its the only evidence that our current way of living is even remotely sustainable.For carbon-lite power you can build however many nuke power stations or windmills you like, but making a physical object still means materials in, pollution out.

      (Of course there is still the footprint of your ipod/quad core desktop to consider).

    • icupnimpn2 says:

      @Tarn
      Having delivery mechanism & content in one makes things cool? By that measure Tiger lcd handhelds are totally awesome!

    • Sigh says:

      @Zenicetus

      One of the most beautiful comments I have ever read on RPS. You made my day.

    • Carra says:

      I had the same problems at first. Now however? It’s far easier to right click a game and pick install than having to walk to the attic to find my game and install it.

      And I do love my 100+ books collection and haven’t given in to digital yet. However, once the day comes that there are steam like deals for books where I can buy a great novel for €2 I’ll follow.

    • Wisq says:

      The “what happens if Steam goes bankrupt?” argument against digital delivery is bunk, quite frankly.

      Almost any boxed copy game you buy these days is going to require some form of online registration using the CD key on the box. It’s either because its a multiplayer game, or because it needs updates (usually released unfinished) and those need online validation, or as a form of DRM even for singleplayer games, or because the devs are sadists and use GFWL.

      In each of these scenarios, when the publisher goes out of business or just shuts off the activation servers, you are left with a paperweight. At best, it might save you a little bit of a download because you only need to download the crack rather than the whole pirate copy.

      The chances of Steam* going bankrupt are much lower than the chances of a particular publisher going bankrupt. Furthermore, Steam does not put a sunset clause on your use of a game, unless the game has additional DRM of its own.

      Finally, of course, there’s the piracy option. I don’t think that any DRM should be justifiable by saying that it’s technically not a major hurdle because there’s always the pirate option. But we live with what we’re given, and this is our last resort. So I’m not particularly worried about replaying my titles ten years from now. Heck, it’ll almost certainly be harder to set up an appropriately ancient virtual machine / emulator than it will be to acquire the games themselves.

      * replace with reliable DD platform of choice

  3. SpaceDrake says:

    Yep, digital rules the PC roost now. Some people keep asking Carpe Fulgur where boxed copies of our games are, and my response keeps being “why would we ever bother?”

    I suppose a little something has been lost (I was a fan of the feelies in Origin releases back in the day as much as the next man) but if the tradeoff is being able to easily reach hundreds of thousands or even millions of fans and customers? I can deal with it.

    • johnpeat says:

      Books aren’t going anywhere – not the sort of books you’d want to display on a nice shelf anyway ;)

      Game boxes serve NO purpose – give it a few years and you’ll throw them all out when you life fills up with useful things instead…

    • somini says:

      I will throw my game boxes away the moment I rebuy all the games on Steam. Yes, I’m THAT young and with THAT disposable income…
      I still have no courage to try to resell my Steamworks games to my local GAME. The employees look savvy enough to know that.

  4. Kaira- says:

    Damn shame. The one thing I hate about digital distribution is that it means that I will surrender my “control” of games to a third party, who may or may not stop giving me access to “my” games at any time. And there are so few DD-services which provide DRM-free games, which is a shame.

    • Vinraith says:

      Indeed. I still buy boxed copies when I can. When I can’t I shop DRM free, or as close to DRM-free as I can. Failing that I at least buy preferentially from distributors that don’t require phone-home connections and can’t easily deny me access to purchased software. Data sovereignty is something few people seem to be concerned with, and I fully expect that to bite all of us in the ass at some point in the not-too-distant future. Hell, GOG’s little stunt was wake-up enough for me.

    • johnpeat says:

      The idea of you ‘owning’ a game is a nonsense anyway – it’s never really been the case…

      You think you ‘own’ all those old boxed copies, but one day the discs will stop working or you’ll lose them or they’ll not work on your new PC and there’ll be no patch – no different to a digital copy becoming unavailable…

      DRM – the problem is the same with boxed and digital copies – if the DRM supplier vanishes and/or fails to maintain their code, you’ll have to crack your games to make them work either way – so it has nothing to do with the digital market one way or the other.

      Client-DRM – the fact you need Steam installed and working to play (most of) your Steam games isn’t ideal BUT the amazing level of convenience Steam offers in terms of installing games on different machines, patching them, updating scores across those machines etc. MORE than makes-up for it surely??

      Bottom-line – the “ownership” argument is nonsense.

    • Vinraith says:

      @johnpeat

      Ownership, in practice, is mostly about control. I may never have legally “owned” my games but in practice, absent the authorities showing up at my door, the publisher/developer is powerless to prevent me from playing a game that uses disc check or a CD key, let alone something DRM-free.

      Retail games have one less layer of 3rd party control than Steam games, so your point there is simply self defeating. DRM can be cracked, and would have to be for either version in the event that the pertinent servers/control systems went offline.

      Convenience is less important than control to me, always. You’re welcome to think otherwise, of course, most people do.

    • allen says:

      as long as you have a copy of the game intact you should be able to play it no matter the drm. cracks exist and will exist for all games.

      and who knows, 30 years from now GoG.com (or a site similar in function) will be offering DRM free downloads of old classic games such as crysis 5, duke nukem forever 4.0, half life 5: episode eight, etc.

    • Kaira- says:

      @johnpeat

      Yeah, that’s why there were quotation marks around the word “my”. But I still prefer physical copies to DD-services, and as I mostly buy games that don’t require online activation, the DRM is just a slight inconvenience. And as most of the time I can buy the physical copies cheaper than their digital counterparts, where do you think I’ll turn to?
      Also, what Vinraith above said about ownership.

      As for the discs needing care… yes, I know, and I do take care. Not everyone keeps their discs lying around. And should the boxed copy not work on new PC, the chances are it won’t work either with DD-version.

    • Xocrates says:

      Problem is that buying boxed no longer serves as a guarantee of “ownership” since online activation is essentially omnipresent. Almost no game made today is safe from ceasing to exist at a flick from a switch on a publisher’s whim. There really isn’t any significant difference between buying retail and DD anymore.

      Honestly, it is a scary thought that our games are only available on publisher’s whim, but this market evolution seems to be more or less inevitable unless an utterly massive change in publishers politics happens.

      Personally I’m hoping that in the event that my favourite games/DD service goes down I still can get the games I care about either in other DD services (because a huge advantage of DD services is that years old games can be bought easily) or, worse case scenario, the less-than-legal corners of the internet.

    • johnpeat says:

      This “control” of which you speak is a total illusion – really, an utter and total illusion.

      If Steam stopped working tomorrow, I’m willing to bet there’d be patches out within days to re-enable your games (pirates routinely fool their releases into working without Steam/GFWL etc. already).

      End of the day you’ve made a personal moral choice based on nothing but your own view of things. To others your views will seem irrational – but if it makes you happy…

    • Kaira- says:

      @johnpeat

      Let me ask you a question. Which do you think is more likely to happen – DD-service going out of business or somebody deciding to revoke my license and ensure that my physical copy gets destroyed?

    • Vinraith says:

      If Steam stopped working tomorrow, I’m willing to bet

      I’m not the betting sort, better not to have to rely on such things where it’s avoidable. You can talk about illusions all you like, I’m quite aware of what I can and can’t install and run when I pull the ethernet cable out of my router.

    • CaspianRoach says:

      Here’s another thought: what makes you think you will want to play today’s games few years in the future? The amount of replayable and high-quality games is very low, the amount that don’t have new and upgraded versions/sequels is even lower. You may hate all things new but you can’t deny that game developing has advanced a lot in the past years. And face it, old games were “better” because they introduced you to gaming/game genre, not because they were actually better.

    • JerreyRough says:

      Fun fact: If you read the TOS of Steam Valve promises that if it cannot provide its titles any more, whether bankruptcy hits them or something, they will provide an alternative way of getting your games for free. It might be another service, steam-free patches to games, or physical copies.

      Thought I’d throw that out there.

    • Kaira- says:

      @JerreyRough
      Does it? Because I couldn’t find such thing from the TOS. It does say, however, “NEITHER VALVE, ITS LICENSORS, NOR THEIR AFFILIATES SHALL BE LIABLE IN ANY WAY FOR LOSS OR DAMAGE OF ANY KIND RESULTING FROM THE USE OR INABILITY TO USE STEAM, YOUR ACCOUNT, YOUR SUBSCRIPTIONS AND THE SOFTWARE”.

    • Dao Jones says:

      I never understood the part about if Valve went under, they would find a way to give you “your” games back”. Closest I ever found was a section that discussed they might, but are not obligated to, refund you/get you your games, what have you. Though, I could be wrong. Happens. A lot. :o

      Edit- Shit, Kaira- just rocked me. :D

    • Vinraith says:

      @CaspianRoach

      If I hated all new games, why would I even care about any of this? Why would I be concerned about preserving modern games to play years from now if I disliked them? Some old games were classics. Some new games are classics. I want to be able to play the great games of every generation for as long as possible. Why wouldn’t I?

      @JerryRough

      No, it doesn’t. In point of fact, no representative of Valve has ever made a claim to that effect as far as I know. Even if they had, I wouldn’t believe them. No entity of that sort can guarantee anything beyond the end of their corporate existence, certainly not without knowing the circumstances of said end.

    • Lukasz says:

      Long time ago valve said that there is a method for them to turn off the steam drm. that they tested it and it worked.

      it is not promise that they will do it in case of bankruptcy but i wouldn’t be worried.

      steam is not going anywhere and if it does then the games will be cracked very quickly and soon available to download via pirate bay or another site.

    • johnpeat says:

      @Kaira – I’m betting that by the time EITHER of those things happen you’ll be way, way, way past caring…

      So far NOT A SINGLE DD service has ceased trading and revoked licences tho – wheras LOTS of people have lost discs :)

      As CaspianRoach says – for the most part you only care about games for a limited time anyway. This idea that you might want to play something 5 years down the road is strewn with issues, a DD service still being in business is one of the lesser ones and for most games it’s entirely academic…

      Anyway – Retail/boxed PC games are dead whether you like it or not – get over it and embrace the digital future…

    • Kaira- says:

      @johnpeat
      If I care about games for a limited time, wouldn’t it be even better to buy them physical, so I can sell them later on?

      Well, truth be told, I don’t buy games as a single-time experience, I usually replay my games from time, and as I can keep my stuff in order, risk of losing discs is quite minimal. And if I do, then I’ve got no one else than myself to blame.

      As for “no digital service has yet gone bust and revoked licenses”, that sounds like “there are no notices of black swan, therefore black swan doesn’t exist”. Though on other hand, my argument here is pretty much “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”. Digital distribution is quite young, and as such what will happen is still ahead of us.

      And as for retail… it’s far from dead. If even GameStop claims that retail is alive and well, you know it probably is very, very alive. Also, retail brings more money in than digital, which in part makes boxed copies more tempting for publishers. And thirdly, as long there is demand, there will be supply.

      @Lukasz
      “steam is not going anywhere and if it does then the games will be cracked very quickly and soon available to download via pirate bay or another site.”

      Doesn’t pirating games you bought kinda defeat the point of buying them from download service?

    • idolminds says:

      @johnpeat: You don’t remember Triton, do you?

    • bill says:

      @JohnPeat:
      I’m not aware of any pure game DD services going down yet, but several major music (and other media) services have gone down in the last few years, including the ones from microsoft and sony. AFAIK they didn’t provide particularly satisfactory ways to get your media out.
      Plus we’ve had the GOG joke, Hellgate, plus a number of online games/services that have closed down just after lots of people have invested lots of money in them.

      I personally use DD and accept the risk/benefit balance… but on the whole i’d say retail was safer… digital more convenient.

    • johnpeat says:

      @idolminds I’d never heard of Triton before, no (I’m assuming it was US-only?) – the owners of it’s one game appear to have gotten 2 copies (physical and Steam) for their troubles tho!

      It does raise the sensible issue of not leaping onto a brand-new service feet-first ofc. Several new DD players have appeared recently and more will do so soon I’m sure…

      @Bill What has the GOG joke got to do with anything? – GoG offer DRM-free games so that they don’t have to be there forever – it’s a bizarre thing to bring into the discussion?

      Ditto Hellgate (or a better example – APB) – nothing to do with DD at all. Retail and digital customers were screwed alike by APB’s closure and Hellgate wasn’t available on DD was it!?

    • Kefren says:

      @JerreyRough: “If you read the TOS of Steam Valve promises that if it cannot provide its titles any more, whether bankruptcy hits them or something, they will provide an alternative way of getting your games for free. It might be another service, steam-free patches to games, or physical copies.”

      If a company says that then alarm bells should ring. A) When a company goes bankrupt it may well be bought at a bargain price by someone else, along with all assets. The bankrupt company isn’t allowed to give everything away DRM-free, any money that can be clawed back would have to be. B) Do you think EA, Activision, Ubisoft et al would allow a company to make their games available with fewer restrictions?

    • Lukasz says:

      @Kaira

      It does not in my opinion. It will be legally a piracy but I personally would not care. I did buy the game didn’t I? I do have the right to play it.
      what happens to steam is non of my concern.

    • Robert says:

      Control is nice and all, but I can’t run three quarters of the boxed pc games in my house anymore. Between scratches, lost cd’s and incompatibily with my current pc, I don’t have a whole lot of control anymore.

  5. Paul says:

    That does not mean they would go console btw. It probably means they would focus only on professional military grade software.
    But yeah, digital rules all…just yesterday I bought DNF and MW2 on game.gamesplanet.com.

  6. Po0py says:

    I would really like to know what you think about Steam’s dominance.

    • DigitalSignalX says:

      Steam is great for distro, but in the end it’s just another form of DRM.

    • sinister agent says:

      I’d imagine it may boil down to something like “Any one company utterly dominating the distribution is utimately a Bad Thing, however excellent that company may be.” But of course, I could well be terribly wrong. That’s also probably a bit too obvious.

      The possibility of the competition putting together a workable plan to challenge steam’s status might be worth looking into, though. I personally like steam less than a couple of alternatives, but then I don’t care about a game ‘library’ or chat rooms and that, whereas many people clearly do, and the other services haven’t really matched that. If that were to change, who knows?

    • Wisq says:

      What’s interesting about Steam’s dominance of the DD market is that they continue to offer amazing sales, regardless of the reality that they barely have any real competition. They’re an online retailer that has discovered the magic of impulse-buy pricing, time-limited sales, and making up the price gap via quantity sold.

      The reality (IMO) is that while the Steam userbase is of course important, it’s not their target audience. They don’t need to convince people to buy on Steam, they need to convince developers to publish on Steam. The users will come naturally after that.

      That makes it all the more interesting to see how consumer-friendly Steam is, despite the users being a secondary target in a lopsided, uncontested market. I thought this was the sort of thing we consumers only got if there was stiff competition to drive prices down and drive quality up? Seems to be working fine without that.

      If Steam were to abolish the retail market and assume total dominance of the DD market, and yet continue to do things the way they do them now … I’d be happy.

  7. mbp says:

    Digital download has been a real boon to PC gaming and many folks are proclaiming this a new “Golden Age” of PC gaming – see post on RPS forums from last week.

    However – there is still an even more serious threat to PC gaming and that is the end of the PC itself. While PCs will always have a role in the work place or for power users the average household has long since replaced the desktop PC with a laptop and it looks like they will soon be replacing the laptop with a tablet.

    Just look at the average age of posters to RPS. We are all getting on. I am not convinced that anyone under the age of thirty knows what a gaming PC looks like any more.

    • choconutjoe says:

      How do you know what the average age of posters on RPS is?

    • Nathan_G says:

      Come on now, that’s pushing it. I’m 24 and most of my gamer pals are PC gamers rather than consoles, and many of them are younger than me.

    • Vinraith says:

      There was an age survey of the site perhaps a year ago that completely undermines several of your assumptions about the demographics associated with PC games, mbp.

      Also, until and unless it becomes practical and convenient to run word processing software on a tablet, you’re not going to see people surrendering “real” computers, even if they are just laptops or netbooks. Tablets are great for content consumption, they’re nigh useless for content creation.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Anecdotally, at least, I find young uns less and less familiar with the PC as a games machine, although they tend to be blown away when they see games running on it.

    • johnpeat says:

      The OP has a point – it used to be that there were just 2 types of PC, laptops and desktops.

      Gamers simply bought the desktop – specced it high and stuck-in some hardware to make it play games – but the desktop market is almost extinct!!

      The VAST majority of PC sales now are cheap netbooks, laptops, mediacentres, all-in-ones and mini-towers – none of which support the hardware you need for ‘high end’ games.

      I suspect most ‘gamers’ now make their own PCs from scratch – which means ‘PC Gamer’ and ‘PC Builder’ are much more heavily overlapping demographics than they used-to-be. I sure some folks but XPS/Alienware or other ‘gamer-aimed’ systems but the prices are rather bonkers and the lack of competition suggests it’s not a keenly fought part of the market.

      This issue is something which isn’t often discussed but it must be a major factor in the number of people playing PC games these days, surely??

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      I feel like the PC high end thing overcooked itself by releasing too many graphics cards, and then hit a gap post-2007 where there really weren’t any games which too advantage of them. It’s only been this year that building a new gaming PC has felt worthwhile.

    • Kaira- says:

      PC is not going to die anytime soon. It may take different forms (laptops, desktops, idontknowwhattops), but that’s just the way it goes. I personally don’t use desktop computers anymore outside of university, as laptops are nowdays good enough for gaming and can be carried around and are quite convenient in all ways. Of course there’s the thing that laptop is not nearly so customizable as a desktop, but that’s a trade I’m willing to do.

    • Raiyan 1.0 says:

      I’m 18, and I never touched anything that said ‘Alienware’ or ‘console’.

      @Kaira: I’m looking forward to a day when laptops will be highly modular where you can swap hardware just as easily as you can on the desktop. Otherwise, the desktop market will never die out completely. Or at least I hope it won’t.

    • johnpeat says:

      Another factor in the PC market is that the financial crisis threw a spanner in the endless “cheaper by the day” nature of PCs.

      I bought a PC in early 2009 which I’d intended to get in late 2008 but ended-up too skint to buy. The PC cost slightly more than it would have – and when I looked a few months ago, a similar PC was only £20 cheaper.

      The PC market relied on the endless price-drops to keep people shopping – when prices stagnated, so did buying and thus so did new product releases.

      End of the day, the PC gaming market is about such a wide range of games now tho – the games which require the high-end hardware make up just a small % of that (and it’s getting smaller I suspect).

    • skinlo says:

      I’m 20, custom built myself a PC when I was 16/17. I will admit I am a rarity though.

    • thesisko says:

      Is there any evidence that the absolute number of PC gamers has decreased in the past 10 years? I don’t know about you guys, but I don’t remember a new PC RPG selling 400.000 copies in a week back in 2001. And that’s a supposedly “dead” genre.

      The big money has always been on consoles, going back as far as Pac-Man selling 7 million copies in 1980. The so-called decline of PC gaming during this console generation is more about high profile PC developers simplifying their games to sell more copies (and thereby going multiplatform by necessity to penetrate that market) than actual decrease in sales of PC games.

      It makes me cringe every time I hear how “the rising cost of game development”, “forces” a developer to dumb down their games. Maybe they’d like to explain exactly how expensive the development of the top grossing game on Steam right now is (Terraria)?

      It baffles me how ridiculous this argument is since it implies that their previous fans would actually prefer a more expensive, dumbed down game over a complex one that keeps it’s budget.

      I guess it isn’t good marketing to just say: “We think we can make more money if we make a simpler game”.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      The crazy thing is they could do both. Have a big studio to work on big AAA games, and a small one to work on indie-style games.

      After another few Minecrafts and Terrarias and Mount&Blades and Magickas and Recettears, surely somebody at a major company is going to realize that there’s serious profit to be had when you pay only a handful of people for a couple years to work on a slightly-out-of-the-mainstream idea, and you can sell hundreds of thousands or millions of copies.

    • thesisko says:

      I used Terraria as an example because it’s actually pulling in more money than “AAA” games on Steam right now, which kinda nullifies the argument about “rising development costs”.

      There are a lot of recent PC games with good production values that have sold well enough to make their developers happy. STALKER series, Risen, Divinity 2. Add to that, a crapton of games from Russia of varying quality. Surprising that games like Space Rangers 2 and King’s Bounty come out from a country with rampant piracy isn’t it?

      It’s also important to keep in mind that PC games never were mega-blockbuster “AAA” productions with bigger marketing budgets than the GDP of a small country in the past, so it’s pretty ridiculous to expect complex gameplay from those games in the present.

    • sinister agent says:

      I can’t imagine how you’d conclude that young people will be less familiar with PC games than they used to. First of all, they’re more likely to have a PC than a console (if they are incapable of having both, which isn’t nearly as common as a lot of RPS commenters seem to think), as most families will be able to justify spending a few hundred quid on a computer faster than they could spend as much (if not more if you go back a few years) on a console.

      Secondly, they’re vastly more likely to use a PC on a daily basis as part of normal social interaction, so why on earth would they not also be playing PC games?

    • bill says:

      Not sure age is a big issue, but i think mdp is right that the age of the mainstream PC is essentially over.

      What isn’t so clear is whether that will impact the PC games market. Hardcore PC gamers have always been a small subset of the total home-PC market. If the home PC market dies (as it look to be doing) then will that affect the hardcore PC gamer market? Possibly not.
      When everyone had a home PC they mostly didn’t buy gaming pcs or play hardcore games. If they all switch to tablets and smartphones, they still won’t be playing hardcore pc games.

      The only issues might be that a lot of gamers are also hardware nerds, and so they might also want smartphones and tablets… and might have limited disposable income (but maybe not) and that might cut into their games budget.

      (anecdotally, I have a laptop now, and it was a pain in the butt to find ANY laptops with a remotely decent graphics card – yet there were hundreds with intel cards. (then again, this is tokyo and pc gaming here is hardcore in a different sense :-( ) . But of my friends in the UK and US, I don’t know a single person who has a desktop. Not one. Desktop sales have been falling for years, and laptops rising. But recently they’ve started falling, saved only by netbook sales. And tablets appear to have killed netbooks…. Infact, not only do my friends and family not have desktops, their laptops are all 2-3 years old. I do know a lot of people who’ve just spent 500 on a smartphone though…)

      The wildcard factor, of course, is the developing world. PC gaming is much bigger in some countries like china that have limited access to consoles. So I imagine that as more countries tech-up and go online the total PC market might actually grow… but the west will become a smaller and smaller part of it. We can already see this in Wow, F2P mmos, the locations of our fave developers, and in other media like movies (where Hollywood 3d movies are tanking in the west and raking it in around the world. )

    • bill says:

      @sinister agent: but most family pcs won’t play pc games. other than facebook games.
      And most young (ie: under 18) will be using mobiles for social interaction more than PCs.

    • Cinek says:

      @bill – looking at current trend it’s more of moving towards consoles than mobile devices.

      Gaming on mobile platforms will co-exists with serious gaming platforms. It won’t replace them ever. Simply because it’s completely different comfort of entertainment (note word: different).

    • Michael says:

      Post PC era may sound buzzy but it is quite true. We may keep buying PC games but as we all get older we have less time so we’ll buy less. With new blood dwindling the market will only shrink. With less PC’s around in general fewer young’uns are exposed to them at all and just won’t get the opportunity to even become curious like we did.
      The other consideration is hardware cost. PC parts won’t be manufactured like recent current quantities so we could be looking at early 90s prices for a desktop. Which with inflation is like £4000 (backside math.) If games had not become so expensive to develop we may have even seen a return to that era. We may not even get tothat point before cloud computing and the local equivalent for businesses are common. So in that case we probably wouldn’t have access to proffesional workstation hardware.
      PC is dead I just hope it’s spirit continues. I think he best hope we have for traditional PC gaming would be steam hardware based on Intels newer integrated GPU’s. In the long term I expect it will be platform agnostic, cloud based in some way though that would probably increase costs for a small developer. In the medium term digital downloads on consoles and especially tablets will be where it’s spirit goes. Which I suppose is the new PC in a sense. Digital downloads regardless of platform.

    • thesisko says:

      I disagree, the only meaningful effect it would have if true would be less sales of “casual” PC games like “The Sims”. Complex PC games have always been targeted to “nerds” and I don’t see how that group would decrease in actual numbers just because the 2011 family PC is a 15″ laptop instead of a desktop with a 15″ screen back in 2001. The 2001 family desktop couldn’t run the latest games either and the “casual” gamers would most likely have bought a PS2 instead of trying to figure out how to upgrade it.
      It’s also a very US-centric view, in most of Europe (including countries like Germany, which are just as developed as the US) the PC is the dominant gaming platform.
      Oh, and the “rising cost” of game development is only true if you assume your consumers prefer flashy, shallow games with narration by Patrick Stewart to actually compelling and innovative gameplay. A developer like BIS probably has a pretty constant cost of development across games.

    • Archonsod says:

      Your average “family” PC nowadays is far better equipped to play the average game than a similar “family PC” of ten years ago, thanks in part to the fact that there’s no longer a requirement for dedicated hardware for gaming (plus of course the graphics card manufacturers are now owned by the CPU manufacturers).

      The “gaming rig” market is and always has been a minority niche.

    • Michael says:

      @thesisko How are nerds created?? I only got into PC gaming because I used someones PC and played their games, though I already had a NES or Megadrive at that point. The family computer will cease to exist. You’ll have multiple tablets in one household and each individual having their own smartphone. I would have used their tablet not their PC in my case. If the young simply are not exposed to PCs in everyday life then that’s that. When they need a word processor for school they will simply get a wireless keyboard. Assuming they do not stick to the touch keyboard they are familiar with. Also assumming voice recognition isn’t common by that point. The tech is already available. Being a Dragon Naturally Speaking user I know this to be true. Also its not much reported on but Microsoft and Google are both developing this aspect of UI as are Apple i believe.

      PC gaming is a niche anywhere in the west. Supported by the mass market nature of PC. That support goes then PC prices go up, exposure to potential PC gamers goes down and so does our ability to afford it and viability of development.

      I am no developer but form what I gather the rising costs is due to the increasing complexity of developing underlying systems like AI, animation, physics and the interaction of those systems as well as the increasing requirements of asset generation. Games like Uncharted 2, Assasin’s Creed and Bioshock Infinite best demonstrate this. The visual fidelity is the easier part assuming you can produce the necessary assets. It seems to me with the abundance of power its not a primary goal anymore. Many, possibly the majority of developers license an engine. The latest Call of Duty is still based on the Quake 3 Team Arena engine. John Carmacks work on RAGE has been primarily been systems and the multi-platform aspect of development. As a comparison look at the character interaction, movement and animation in Telltale games. Graphics fidelity has improved but the mechanics those games look like early 3D accelerated PC games from the late 90s.

      PC gamings spirit began with open platforms before we even had the IBM compatible. PC gamings spirit is the open platform and the modern day analogue is digital distribution where one does not need a publisher and is free to experiment and innovate. Not a particular hardware platform. Not the FPS, RTS or competitive multiplayer.

    • thesisko says:

      @Michael
      “The family computer will cease to exist. You’ll have multiple tablets in one household and each individual having their own smartphone.”

      Your statement is colored because of your interest in tech and gadgets. The only people I know who have iPads and use their smartphone for anything else than texting, Angry Birds, Facebook and listening to music are die-hard nerds. The average man will ask “can I open Word documents on this?” and “Does it run Windows?” when faced with a tablet PC.
      The average man’s OS is still Windows XP for christs sake! And no one will ever want to type out their homework on a tablet. Do you seriously think anyone will want to go back to 1985 and using 10″ screens for content creation?

      “When they need a word processor for school they will simply get a wireless keyboard. Assuming they do not stick to the touch keyboard they are familiar with. Also assumming voice recognition isn’t common by that point. The tech is already available.”

      How is exposing someone to a box connected to a monitor more likely to create a hardcore PC gamer compared to a tablet connecting wirelessly to a monitor and a keyboard? My girlfriend is 21 and her family has always had a Windows desktop PC at home, yet she only knows how to browse the web and write documents on it. I don’t see how having a tablet with a keyboard instead changes things. If anything, the wealth of information available to everyone due to internet makes it easier to become involved in the niche PC gaming compared to 15 years ago.

      “I am no developer but form what I gather the rising costs is due to the increasing complexity of developing underlying systems like AI, animation, physics and the interaction of those systems as well as the increasing requirements of asset generation. Games like Uncharted 2, Assasin’s Creed and Bioshock Infinite best demonstrate this. ”

      I don’t disagree at all that the newly invented “AAA”-blockbuster genre of games have a high development cost. But they do not represent the evolution of PC gaming to me. Voice acting and motion capture aren’t new technologies. The rising development costs are due to wanting to make games more like movies in order to sell more copies, not due to technological progress. Crysis 1 was technically more advanced than Crysis 2 (just compare the physics), yet cost a lot less to develop. I doubt modern hardcore PC games cost a lot more than past hardcore PC games to develop (say Risen compared to Gothic 3 or STALKER CoP compared to STALKER SoC).

      In conclusion, I’ve yet to see any evidence that the absolute number of PC gamers have decreased in the past 10 years. Just compare opening week sales for Witcher 2 compared to any RPG in early 2000 or opening sales for Starcraft 2 to any RTS from the same period.

    • Michael says:

      @thesisko I do not own a tablet. My 54 years old mother does though and my girlfriend a smartphone Let me tell you there is far far more than facebook and angrybirds going on. It is incredibly accessible so the types of problems the average person has if switching to Linux or OSX do not apply.I don’t believe people look at tablets and wonder where windows is. Why are iPad’s selling like hotcakes and Windows tablet’s still dead. People do not expect windows on a tablet as its is such a different device. Nor do people need it as practically all common usage is internet based, whether through a browser or increasingly an app.

      Those XP users are going to become tablet users. Those XP users can open documents on a tablet and tablet screen resolutions not much different from an average laptop. So really not a problem for word processing. Serious content creation on a tablet in its current form isn’t viable I agree but I am talking only of general usage.

      Exposure to a real PC doesn’t automatically create a PC gamer of course not but it is a clear stepping stone for those whose curiousity ‘is’ peaked. Would someone be more likely to download and and install a game on a PC for the first time or see one on a tablet then go and buy a £500-1000 PC and install it for the first time? Some sure but only a fraction of a fraction.

      I expect PC gamers have shrunk to an extent due modern consoles. But I expect its more about costs going up and the PC gaming market not growing with it. I believe that has spurred most PC developers to become primarily console developers. ID, Irrational, Lionhead, DICE, Infinity Ward, EPIC, Junction Point, Doublefine, Bioware, Obsidian, Illusion Softworks, Bethesda, Croteam, Media Molecule, Rockstar, Lucasarts, Remedy to name a few. The others have almost all gone out of business. The only exceptions are Blizzard and Valve which are special cases. As well as other MMO developers and of course a handful of east european developers like BIS and CD Projekt. The latter I bet will eventually move that way too.

      My statements about increasing costs come from developer interviews not just about costs but about current technological challenges. The recent Giantbomb E3 podcast with David Jaffe, two people from Doublefine and one from Naughty Dog was incredibly insightful.

      I am not saying we are there now. Not at all. But I do believe that is where we are heading.

    • thesisko says:

      @Michael “I do not own a tablet. My 54 years old mother does though and my girlfriend a smartphone Let me tell you there is far far more than facebook and angrybirds going on. It is incredibly accessible so the types of problems the average person has if switching to Linux or OSX do not apply.”

      I just don’t make the connection to replacing PCs that you seem to do. Those who play angry birds on their smartphones used to played Snake on their Nokias. Your mother has a tablet, my girlfriends mother plays Solitaire on her laptop. Neither is more or less likely to become a PC gamer.

      “I don’t believe people look at tablets and wonder where windows is. Why are iPad’s selling like hotcakes and Windows tablet’s still dead. People do not expect windows on a tablet as its is such a different device. Nor do people need it as practically all common usage is internet based, whether through a browser or increasingly an app.”

      Heavy internet usage of the type you mention is a relatively new phenomena. 10 years ago, PC’s were bought and used mostly for work and homework and they will continue to be used for that in the future.
      Going from “everyone has a PC for internet and Facebook” to “everyone has a tablet for internet and Facebook” might mean less PC’s in 5 years than today, but hardly less PC’s than 10 years ago.

      “Those XP users are going to become tablet users. Those XP users can open documents on a tablet and tablet screen resolutions not much different from an average laptop. So really not a problem for word processing. Serious content creation on a tablet in its current form isn’t viable I agree but I am talking only of general usage.”

      Are you familiar with what kinds of homework assignments schools give out these days? Do you think kids are going to be typing pages of word documents and doing spreadsheets on an iPad? Have you ever seen an MS Office document properly formatted by another Office suite? Do you realize many kids are given assignments in school which requires the use of specific Windows software? Are you aware that even though iPads are selling like hotcakes, probably only something like 0.01% of the total population has an iPad as their only computer? Do you seriously believe that fewer people own a PC of some kind today compared to, say 1995?

      “I expect PC gamers have shrunk to an extent due modern consoles. ”

      I expect that the total number of PC gamers has increased steadily. The average PC game in 2011 certainly sells more than the average game of 2001. How much did Fallout 1&2 sell, like 80.000 copies?

      “But I expect its more about costs going up and the PC gaming market not growing with it. I believe that has spurred most PC developers to become primarily console developers”

      Costs do NOT increase by themselves. It’s a CHOICE to make a simpler, flashier game and the developers you mention have made that choice to make MORE money. You seem to be unable to look beyond “AAA” developers. Maybe you should think about the fact that the “AAA”-business model didn’t exist back when they were making PC games. I doubt BIS is any smaller than the typical PC developer of 2001.

      “My statements about increasing costs come from developer interviews not just about costs but about current technological challenges.”

      Do you expect a developer to say “We want to make our next game simpler and easier because we think that will make a bigger profit for us. Since we don’t have any compelling gameplay, we need to spend a ton of money to make it look good in the marketing videos and have some Hollywood A-list actors do mo-cap and voiceovers so we can use their names in marketing”?
      The blame of “rising costs” is just a nice way of justifying dumbing down to your core fans.

    • Michael says:

      @thesisko
      I’ll try to clarify my meaning. I do not expect our mothers or girlfriends to become PC gamers. What I expect is their children, nieces and nephews, friends children to play on them. Thus being exposed to tablets instead of PCs therefore wanting a tablet and not a PC. Not even knowing what a PC is let alone PC gaming.
      If everyone does buy a tablet for facebook and internet then they may want to use what they have for everything else rather than a whole other system.
      I am not saying that the tablet ‘has’ replaced the PC but that it will. Though it’s not purely tablets I am talking about either smart ‘devices’ ine general. In terms of school work software requirements that is only a case of an app being released on the relevant device and a hardware keyboard is a simple addition. The only factor there is time.
      It is choice whether to make a game just like one from the 90s, sure in fact I expect it would be cheaper. But the modern equivalent does not cost the equivalent money. Also I have not been referring simply to triple A. Turns out BIS currently has 140 employees. Back in the 90s developers were between 10 to 30 people. Furthermore interviews and such I am basing this on are from all types of developers. Those developers I did mentioned are not all triple A but they are all from PC development in the 90s. Almost every other PC developer from that time no longer exists.
      Maybe we have different Ideas of what PC gaming is. For me it began in the late 80s/early 90s. Started going a little south from 2001 and continually shriveled after that.
      Again for clarity sake as I have stated this multiple time but it appears to have been missed. I do ‘not’ believe tablets and similar devices have replaced PCs. Barring smartphones they are a fraction of PC market. But what I do think is ‘that will change.’ “Goldman [Sachs] estimates that tablets will cannibalize about 35 percent of the PC market in 2011” http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/42670277/ns/technology_and_science-tech_and_gadgets/t/goldman-sachs-sees-tablets-eating-pc-market/
      Thats in year two of the modern day tablet.

      Only time will tell.

    • Sigh says:

      I am 13 and built my first gaming PC when I was 9. What is this “console” thing everyone keeps referring to?

    • thesisko says:

      @Michael
      “I’ll try to clarify my meaning. I do not expect our mothers or girlfriends to become PC gamers. What I expect is their children, nieces and nephews, friends children to play on them. Thus being exposed to tablets instead of PCs therefore wanting a tablet and not a PC. Not even knowing what a PC is let alone PC gaming.”

      I think you’re being overly dramatic. Not even knowing what a PC is? PC’s are everywhere! In schools, libraries, shops, businesses. You can’t walk 10 meters without seeing some form of PC. I bet the number of people who can use a PC is far, far bigger today than it was ten years ago.

      I’m fully with you on replacing the PC as pure media/information consumption device – but that was never the PC’s primary function anyway. I find it far more likely that people will own a cheap laptop running Win8 or OS X that can wirelessly connect to their TV/external monitor than that they will carry around a 10″ tablet with a wireless keyboard and do all their work on that.

      “IIf everyone does buy a tablet for facebook and internet then they may want to use what they have for everything else rather than a whole other system.”

      I really doubt it. A tablet is so much worse at basic editing tasks that I find it more likely that someone who wishes to only have one device will stick to a laptop.

      “I am not saying that the tablet ‘has’ replaced the PC but that it will. Though it’s not purely tablets I am talking about either smart ‘devices’ ine general. In terms of school work software requirements that is only a case of an app being released on the relevant device and a hardware keyboard is a simple addition. The only factor there is time.”

      If a tablet connected wirelessly to a monitor and a keyboard “replaces” the PC in the future then I don’t see the problem. Such as system would support the same types of games a “PC” does. In fact, it would for all intents and purposes be a PC.

      “But the modern equivalent does not cost the equivalent money.”

      What’s modern about full voice acting, cutscenes and heavy scripting? I remember games in the 90′s having that. I think they called them, “interactive movies”. I think most of them flopped. Probably because PC gamers back then were interested in playing actual games. Maybe most of them still are?

      “Turns out BIS currently has 140 employees. Back in the 90s developers were between 10 to 30 people.”

      So PC gaming must be doing okay compared to the 90′s if it’s able to support BIS, no?

      “Furthermore interviews and such I am basing this on are from all types of developers. I do not base anything I say on ill informed assumption. Those developers I did mentioned are not all triple A but they are all from PC development in the 90s. Almost every other PC developer from that time no longer exists.”

      Why would this be surprising? Naturally most developers want more and more money. Don’t you think a movie producer making a successful niche film will want to make it to Hollywood next? The reason those developers stayed with the PC in the past is that there wasn’t a logical next step “up” for them since console games were markedly different from PC games back then and not just dumbed-down PC titles.

      “Maybe we have different Ideas of what PC gaming is. For me it began in the late 80s/early 90s. Started going a little south from 2001 and continually shriveled after that.”

      I think that perspective comes from looking at what was considered popular and seeing declining quality. Which will lead you to comparing a game that was targeted to 100 000 people in 2001 with one targeted to 10 million people in 2011. Naturally the latter will be a watered down product.

      “Goldman [Sachs] estimates that tablets will cannibalize about 35 percent of the PC market in 2011”

      They will cannibalize PC “sales”, which means lots of people are going to buy a tablet instead of a new PC. I doubt any of those are going to throw their existing laptop in the bin.

      And to use myself as an example – I’ve bought 2 iPhones and 2 iPads the past 2 years, and I’ve never bought a laptop or a PC in my life.

      Naturally I’ve built my own PC’s but that doesn’t factor into any statistics. During the past two years I’ve only bought one graphics card for my PC. I’m not remotely interested in buying MW3, Skyrim, ME3 or any other PC version of a dumbed down “AAA” game.

      I only play games a few hours a week and I only buy a few games a year. I would probably measure into statistics as a casual gamer and positive proof that hardcore PC gaming is dying, even though I’m very much a “hardcore” PC-gamer in terms of what kind of games I like :P

  8. Freud says:

    I don’t mind this development at all. It’s cheaper and more convenient. I buy more games now than ever. I think the number of new games I’ve bought is about the same as it ever was. What has been added has been loads of games I’d never buy at release, but I now can pick up on sales because the price is so low. I can gamble more on games that I might or might not enjoy. I have bought games I probably never will play but it doesn’t bother me.

    At the same time I have become more rabid about not rewarding publishers going too far and taking advantage of the situation. I’ll never buy a game with Ubisofts DRM. Either they change their way (which they slowly seem to be doing) or I’ll go through life without playing Ubisoft games. My stance might be a drop in the ocean but hopefully more people think like me and it hurts them in the only place where they care. Their wallet.

  9. brulleks says:

    @Kaira.
    Or you could, you know, back them up to another device perhaps? (Oooh, arcanery). And as far as I’m aware none of the DD stores I’ve ever bought from impose any DRM that isn’t inflicted by the publishers on retail versions as well. D2D, Gamersgate, GOG or Impulse. I won’t include Steam, as much as I trust Valve and frequent their service, because I’ve never tried to reinstall a Steam game direct from a backup – I imagine it still requires Steam installed and an internet connection though.
    Personally I think this is great news. Less waste, less transport and less embedded energy costs involved in creating a product. For an industry as hideously wasteful and resource-intensive as computing, that is a step in a beneficial direction.

    • Kaira- says:

      It seems the comment system ate my response, so let’s try again…
      You know, every time I buy something from DD-service which has no DRM or at least no client-DRM (like Steam), I immediately download what I bought and make a backup or two of it. It’s a bit annoying, but such is my life in DDville. Other people do things other way, and I’m not going to tell them that they are wrong, as there is no “right way” of doing stuff. You do what you feel is right.

    • Spooner says:

      “Less waste, less transport and less embedded energy costs” – I’m all for that, but buying something physical is often 50%, or less, of the cost of buying it digitally. Crazy!

      Yes, the Steam sales are nice, but most of the time, with most of the games, Steam sells at high-street prices, not online-retailer prices.

    • Xocrates says:

      EDIT: Nevermind

    • malkav11 says:

      This really seems to be a regional – particularly UK – thing. It’s not that I’m all that fond of Steam’s day to day pricing, but there are no retailers here selling boxed copies significantly cheaper, by and large. Around the same price if they sell it at all is far, far more common.

    • johnpeat says:

      You don’t ever need to backup Steam games – that’s the whole point of the service – but you CAN copy all your games from one PC to another, I’ve done that several times, so it would clearly work if you felt the need…

      The odds of Steam simply stopping working one day, without any warning whatsoever, are probably somewhat lower than the odds of an asteroid wiping-out the planet (actually not THAT low!!)

      If it bothers you that a game MIGHT not be playable in 5 years time tho – I think you need more things in life to bother you – like the obsesssive collectors of plastic boxes, more important things will come along soon…

    • johnpeat says:

      @Spooner – the physical copy you get from an online retailer, who has to post it to you, is almost always cheaper than the one on the shop shelf – that makes no sense either until you realise the online seller works from a shed in their garden and not an expensive retail unit…

      I suspect part of the DD pricing issue relates to publishers not wanting DD to finish-off what’s left of retail (bricks or online) – so they make DD prices a bit higher and limit some titles availability (the alternative being no retail at all).

      I’m guessing the reason Brink and Hunted (and Blur and other games before those) disappeared from UK Steam is that the publisher had a deal with a retailer to not sell them there – whether that was a wise choice for those games in particular is doubtful but there are wider deals going on I’m sure.

      MS decided to charge £50 for DD Halo Reach on XBL MONTHS after launch – despite it being half that or less “new”in a box” at the time. Their other DD content is similarly overpriced/late in arriving BUT the convenience and the lack of need to stick in the disc (handy when your XBOX drive is knackered in particular!!) are not inconsiderable benefits (XBL GoD games will probably last LONGER than retail ones – given the rate of 360 drive failures!!)

  10. CaLe says:

    I like Steam’s hegemony..

    • Aedrill says:

      Well, this is my problem with DD. I don’t want PC to become PS3 in terms of vulnerability to hack attacks. One of the best values of PC I treasure the most is freedom of choice. In the world where there’s only Steam, PC is just another console, but more expensive.

    • johnpeat says:

      @Aedrill – your comments make no sense whatsoever – no really, not a single shred of it.

      No PS3 has been hacked – account information (such as that stolen from PSN) is stolen from other websites every day – most recently from Codemasters where PC GAMERS were registered!! :)

      Your PC, by comparison to a PS3 or 360, is a vulnerable woman walking semi-naked through a park full of psychotic sex criminals!!!

      and who said anything about Steam being the only service? Most of the main competitors have been around a while and seem to be doing fine despite Steam’s popularity!?

  11. Raiyan 1.0 says:

    I was curious: does digital distribution have less carbon footprint than retail hard copy? Does manufacturing plastic discs and transporting them to retail shops consume more energy than running massive servers 24/7?
    It would be interesting to have a study on that…

    • MiniMatt says:

      Now that would be interesting. My hunch would very much side with DD being less carbonated but that is only a hunch. I guess server hosting, while they’ll be beefy servers, in the grand scheme of things won’t actually be particularly energy intensive – particularly as one server cluster will host thousands of games – disks are relatively cheap to keep spinning and in five or so years time when even bulk storage is solid state they’ll be even cheaper. I guess most of the money is spent on networking kit – and that’s generally fairly energy efficient thanks to comparatively low CPU power requirements and no moving parts besides cooling.

    • johnpeat says:

      You need to study whether making plastic discs/boxes (from oil), printing sleeves (based on paper pulp with ink made from oil), putting them into other boxes (more paper pulp), sealing them (with tape made from oil), putting those onto planes/boats/trains/trucks (powered by oil predominantly) and sending them worldwide where they’re stacked on shelves, perhaps in a retail unit which has to be lit and heated (using electricity generated mostly from carbon-based fuels), is less environmentally damaging than copying a file onto a server…

      Really?? @)

    • Wisq says:

      You could probably reduce it to just the electrical costs of the DD servers and infrastructure (network, air con, etc.) versus the electrical costs of manufacturing all those games and boxes, and DD would still come out as greener.

      Remember, those “massive” DD servers can support millions of gamers, often with multiple games per server cluster, and are housed in specially built buildings with other unrelated servers, sharing infrastructure costs. Whereas manufacturing has to produce millions of copies each, for many different games, at a much higher power usage per machine, to have the same effect.

  12. Risingson says:

    For all the people that praise the “hard” copies, the boxes and all that stuff: wait until you are 30, and you have no spare space left for any game, any cd, any dvd, any book, any comic, anything. And then you have to give away your stuff.. and sometimes throw it away. Like useless garbage. Wait, wait and see.

    • bleeters says:

      My entire assembled gaming roster, amount to everything I’ve played in the past eleven years, sits comfortably on two shelves. I don’t really foresee amassing such a collection that I’m incapable of physically storing it anywhere.

      Seven years worth of PC Gamer copies, on the other hand… ¬_¬

    • Daiv says:

      I moved internationally. I packed up my life in a suitcase and carry on. Eight months later I bought a PC with the exceas from savings. I have never been so grateful to live in the digital age as when I started Steam and had two dozen already-bought titles to download and play right off the bat.

    • Vinraith says:

      I’ve been collecting PC games since 1994, love box copies, and everything worth having out (new and old) comfortably fits in and on my desk. The “archives” of inactive stuff fit comfortably in a couple of shoe boxes. I have problems finding room for all my books, but games take up very little space.

    • Acorino says:

      All my game boxes are at my parent’s home. It’s a big house, so…
      I own a lot, and there’s not enough space on the shelves for them, so I had to put many of them in a cardboard box. But as long as there’s enough space, they’ll stay.

  13. The Great Wayne says:

    Blah. Bullshit. No one really knows what would PC gaming look like in the hypothesis where steam would never have appeared.

    Just like companies told us not so long ago that pc gaming was dead – even though I’m convinced it’s always been above consoles in terms of profits (appart maybe from years where popular platforms were released) – they still hold tight about this self deprecative idea that non-console/mobile gaming is on the verge of oblivion.

    Digital purchases aren’t a prosthetic to a failing PC gaming genre, it’s a logical evolution. Consoles not benefacting from it for quite some time was a disability, another proof that they are sub par gaming devices as far as potential for innovation is concerned, in a broader sense.

    And I’m not even talking about the fact that: more digital stuff = better for the environment. Which is not to be discarded these days.

  14. Flint says:

    It’s weird. I love physical material: I’m a passionate CD collector and my collection of old PC game boxes (the proper big ones) is one of my favourite things in my old room and is something I always treasure, to name a few examples. But for some reason I don’t feel a tinge of any sort of melancholy with the PC gaming industry’s constant shift to digital exclusivity. The standard of game boxes has gone downhill for a long time so it’s not like there’s much to treasure anymore, my current life under a budget prefers the cheaper digital prices, Steam just is too damn convenient in what it offers, and maybe I’m just too much of a defeatist to fight against the overwhelming new standard. I wouldn’t say I embrace the shift to digital but despite being the sort of person who would frown upon it, I find myself being bizarrely nonchalant about it.

    If it keeps the PC gaming business floating, it’s something.

  15. Mark says:

    We struck it lucky that Valve became the dominant force in PC download distribution. It could have been worse.

    Also, yeah, Valve probably holds a monopoly in the market, but that’s only because better services rivalling Steam have yet to appear. We need more than competition just for competition’s sake. Valve’s dominance is worrisome, but I won’t blame them for offering a service so convenient to the point where people are actually saying they’ll only buy a game if it activates on their network.

  16. Dandi8 says:

    This is bullshit. Still plenty of games on my store’s bookshelves. It’s just that the idiot companies keep ignoring the PC market for no good reason (it’s more capable than any console and saying that piracy only happens on PC is even bigger bullshit).

    PC gamign is only alive because not all devs/publishers are d*ckheads and they know that Ubi-like DRM is NOT the way to go.

    There, I said it. Now it’s time for the long-overdue sleep…

    • Lars Westergren says:

      > It’s just that the idiot companies keep ignoring the PC market for no good reason

      I think you’ll find they have pretty well thought out reasons. It’s their job after all, and if they get it wrong they might have problems paying their monthly bills and putting food on the table.

      And the reasons in this case would be risk minimization and profit maximization.

  17. PopeBob says:

    Good god, please don’t write a “Steam is a monopoly” article, Rossignol. Those never go anywhere positive and are almost always silly.

  18. El_MUERkO says:

    Steam Hegemony?

    The majority of my digital purchases are via Steam sales but if I’m buying at launch and Amazon/Play/Gameplay/etc aren’t posting it to me then I’ll buy from the cheapest/best source and that isn’t always Steam.

    Also Steam versions of games may not be the best versions to play. For example the best version of ARMA if you like mods is the retail version installed to your 64bit program directory.

    I see Steam as the sweets beside the checkout at the supermarket rather than the only shop in town.

  19. SwiftRanger says:

    “You might still be able to get a cheap boxed copy from a mail-order outlet, but the chances are you won’t find PC games at all in the shops at all. And as far as PC developers are concerned, digital is all. Retail is over. “

    Then why would so many companies (Bohemia included with their gazillion stand-alone addons for ArmA II all listed in most retail stores in Belgium here) still sell their PC games in brick & mortar stores? Because digital rules the waves? And why would a digital-only future be positive for us, PC gamers? We only lose purchasing options this way, which is never a good thing. People who don’t want to exchange money through the internet lose out.

    The percentage of digital sales are nowhere near as much as some folks would want you to believe, even after all those years on PC and to be honest, that’s actually a good thing. Not necessarily a good thing for developers themselves (retail copies don’t earn them as much) but for the consumer it’s a pure win. The perfect PC release that’s good for all parties involved? A lush boxed copy, with all the contents of those golden years (manual, map), no DRM and an online service required to patch the game. The Stardock way (let’s not talk about the finished state of the game itself).

    A game is a luxury product sold at a luxury price. Just a digital download code or a simple box with the activation code in it is like a slap in the face, also because the price always stays the same. Environment? If you really cared about the environment you wouldn’t be gaming on such a power-hungry machine. Don’t be such hypocrites.

    • Raiyan 1.0 says:

      It’s a little amusing how Valve and CDProjekt, owners of Steam and GoG respectively, sold a massive amount of hard copies of Portal 2 and TW2, respectively.

    • sinister agent says:

      They still sell some hard copies via retail because there’s still profit in it, but that profit is (I’d imagine, given these statements) dwindling. As long as there’s money to be made in it, why not keep doing it? But the minute retail sales stop providing 1p in profit, they’d have no reason not to stop them entirely.

      Besides which, if the publishers decide that retail is dead, then retail will die. It’s self-fulfilling, whether they’re right or not – if the suppliers stop supplying, the merchants have nothing to sell, so nothing will be sold. The industry decided the amiga was dead in, what, 1993? And a couple of years later, rightly or wrongly, it was dead, because publishers had already made up their minds.

    • SwiftRanger says:

      Well, if retail dies, boxed copies probably won’t die but then we would have to buy them through the publisher stores. Somehow I don’t think they’ll be ready for that.

    • Wisq says:

      I agree that losing purchasing options sucks. But I also disagree with the notion of preserving them if they’re holding us back.

      If a good, creative development shop feels enough pressure to “go boxed” that they sign a deal with a publisher, and they get their game mass produced and put on shelves, and it gets glowing reviews but sells badly due to niche appeal and limited marketing, and the publisher drops them or otherwise cripples their ability to put out more games, and all their IP is now owned by the publisher and they have to strike out and start from scratch or just disband and hope to meet again later … then I feel the retail industry has failed them.

      This is not hypothetical. It has happened dozens of times in the pre-DD industry. It’s happening less and less now, because now we have the publisher-free indie market. But until DD becomes the norm rather than the exception, those deserving studios will be operating at an unnecessary disadvantage to the retail publishers.

      If it comes down to preserving my option to buy retail, and seeing these studios get the money they deserve, I’ll pick the latter every time.

  20. Bilbo1981 says:

    I nearly always buy a hardcopy, its easier to install and I don’t need to wait ages to download it every time I want to reinstall. Also I tend to lend, swap and sell my games as I see fit, they are my property, online services do not allow me to do this. There was a recent case where someone tried to sell their steam account and wasn’t allowed, this is crazy and highlights major flaws in these digital distribution services. Boxed copies are nearly always cheaper than steam prices, you pay top dollar on steam it should be cheaper no?
    It is sad the lack of shelf space pc games get in shops these days when the pc outsells every other platform like for like. When they say consoles outsell pc, well yes they do but thats because theyre comparing the combined sales of xbox, ps3 and wii to the PC. If it was PC vs 360 or PC vs PS3, the PC would win.

    • skinlo says:

      Nope, in Portal 2 , both the PS3 and Xbox 360 completely dwarfed the PC version in retail at least.

    • Delusibeta says:

      I’d also wager that for Valve games, sales over Steam dwarf their retail PC sales (especially, in this case, with all the Potato Sack shenanigans going on).

  21. lurkalisk says:

    While you can’t find quite as many in stock as in the days of yore, I’m always able to find plenty of PC games in stores (and anything I want from online retailers).

    Then again, I come from the land up over, where women flow and beer does plunder… er, The US. Men at Work references are just impossible…

  22. d3vilsadvocate says:

    I see myself pirating more and more games because of this. If I can’t own the game on a disc, where’s the point of buying it in the first place? I get a more convenient version with a crack anyway and don’t have to run 3rd party apps such as steam. I’m close to buying a PS3 because on a console you can just put that DVD in your drive and get going without any registration or intrusive DRM!

    • Raiyan 1.0 says:

      Good luck with the PS3.

      But just so you know, PS3 owners were locked out of playing their Capcom games due to DRM when the PSN was down.

      Just saying.

    • d3vilsadvocate says:

      could you tell me what sort of games need to be activated in order to be played on the PS3?

    • Pathetic Phallacy says:

      That is the dumbest fucking argument for the avocation of piracy I’ve ever heard.

      Congratulations.

    • d3vilsadvocate says:

      there is no good argument for piracy. I just do it because I can and because I’m not willing to put up with all this DRM fuck they are throwing at us.

      I enjoy my games far more if I own a boxed copy of ‘em, believe me.

    • sinister agent says:

      Putting aside the lunacy of equating digital distribution with DRM (and lo, GOG did vanish), let’s just get this clear: You don’t like DRM… but you think a console is the answer?

      Okay then.

    • lurkalisk says:

      There are a decent number of folk who go and actually buy a game, then pirate a copy to avoid any DRM that might have deterred them otherwise. Not an ideal solution, but far from the worst, I’d say.

    • dsi1 says:

      I enjoy your name d3vilsadvocate, I can only assume you’re acting in character.

  23. Stardog says:

    PC is the best place to be. Dev’s just need to pitch their game accordingly for the market. If they try to make a $50m PC-only CoD clone then it’s not worth it.

    Whereas, if they make a Minecraft or Terraria then they’ll be counting their millions.

  24. gwathdring says:

    I love digital games. I’m wary of cloud games. While I’ve certainly amassed quite the collection on Steam (I have a horrible weakness for steam sales) I’ve always been a little nervous about it. I understand that pirating is complex, and that digital goods need to be prevented from becoming collective goods for our current game marketing/development system to work properly … but I really won’t feel entirely comfortable with games and DRM unless I can guarantee that the company going under doesn’t eliminate my game collection.

    On a slightly related note, digital content means that nothing ever needs to go “out of print” as long as one copy exists somewhere on the Internet. If I were selling a game I controlled the rights to, and I went out of business or stopped digital distribution I would try very hard to find a way to allow the games to be distributed freely after that point as long as I still had my creative rights in the bank. I’d be willing to sacrifice the rare chance of being able to sell that particular game as-is at some point in the future so that it could be played by more people. Of course,most companies don’t digitally distribute their own games which complicates matters—it never has to go out of print, and you can keep making money years later.

    Unfortunately for bargain hunters, the last few copies of digital games never need to be flushed from store inventory, because there are no “last few copies.” As such price decay is entirely market dependent and there’s now a weird balance between game companies knowing people wait to buy games at lower prices and thus keeping prices at the medium price point for as long as possible to try to lure bargain hunters out of their dens … and bargain hunters waiting for digital sales or for the distributors/publishers to give up and toss the game into a digital bargain bin.

    A last in this disjointed collection of comments: I’m not convinced that gaming companies have properly set the price point for digital games. Looking between digital and retail prices, and how they change over time for a particular game and so forth … something doesn’t quite feel right about it.

  25. sockeatsock says:

    I would buy PC games regardless of the distribution model. It just so happens that digital distribution is all the rage at the moment. I think Captain Bohemia’s comment could be a little sweeping.

  26. TormDK says:

    We need more developers to go down the Digital Distribution path, and let us for the love of god have global releases! It’s effing 2011 already!

    It will be interesting to see what happens when Windows 8 pops around, adding a global markedplace by default to the worlds PC’s as they get upgraded.

  27. Gadriel says:

    There are complaints to be made about Steam and digital distribution in general but damn am I grateful to Valve for being there with a solid platform for devs to release stuff on. When Steam first was in development I, and others, thought it was a terrible idea. It would never work. No one would give up their boxes, the physical evidence of their purchase. Boy were we wrong. It was a brilliant move by Valve, both for their own business and for the PC gaming industry at large.

  28. Malleus says:

    Heh, I remember many years ago, a rumor circulated that Game 2 (which became Arma 2) will likely be the last commercial game from BiS. Glad to see things turned around…

    • Corrupt_Tiki says:

      I like to think that I helped that along a bit by buying ArmA 2 at least 3 times, and one of every expansion :3

  29. tehfish says:

    One of the scariest things about digital sales is realizing how bad it *could* be.

    Go back 5-10 years and imagine if the steam network got taken over by EA or Activision (or similar) and fast-forward to now: It’d likely be the thing of nightmares…

    Valve is heavily restraining the capitalist instinct to horrifically rape the consumer, i’m very grateful for this but am terrified about what we’d end up with if they weren’t around to prevent this.
    Valve are clearly still made of gaming fans and so will continue to do this, but allow profit to trump everything and it’ll end up a horrible thing.

    • Cinek says:

      @tehfish – simply: Valve enters stock market and this whole “state of good things & profits for both sides” is over.
      That’s why I don’t thrust Steam much even despite of being very aware of all the advantages.

  30. MythArcana says:

    Please define “can happen”. If they are talking about simply porting over a console version to the PC crowd, then, no…it is not happening. It’s the worst technological trend we’ve ever seen; having the blazing power of the PC to produce amazing, new technical delights…or pander to the console kiddies for more revenue. It’s a touch call for developers, but an easy one for me to make come purchase time.

    • kibayasu says:

      As he’s talking about an interview with Bohemia, it’s probably safe to say “can happen” refers to PC exclusive games, whether they’re sprawling sandboxes like their own ArmA or little quirky titles like Magicka and other Paradox titles.

  31. Vexing Vision says:

    This is definitely true for the UK market.

    However, in Germany and France, boxed PC games are still vastly outnumbering and dominating space of major electronic and computer retailers, such as Media Markt or Saturn.

    When I came back to Germany from living a few years in the UK, I cried tears of joy regarding the selection of PC Games available again.

    • oceanclub says:

      Yeah; last time I was in Paris, it was quite a novel experience to see such a huge retail selection of PC games and peripherals. And on the Metro, there were huge advertising banners for PC flight-sim yoke-throttle combos, of all things!

      P.

  32. oilpainting says:

    There are complaints to be made about Steam and digital distribution in general but damn am I grateful to Valve for being there with a solid platform for devs to release stuff on.

    http://www.buysoilpainting.com/

  33. Betamax says:

    Definitely the way things are going, although there are still plenty of PC games stocked in my local Game at least. I think they have actually increased the shelf space given to PC stuff fairly recently. Consoles still rule the roost of course.

    Not sure how I feel about it in general. I tend to prefer physical products like some of those above, however not so much with PC games. I’ll get the odd fancy pants collectors edition here and there but other than that it doesn’t bother me whether it’s digital or physical.

    Books, films and music on the other hand, give me the physical item over a digital version any day.

    And now I feel like I am slighting my games collection in some way. :S

  34. mmalove says:

    I used to love my boxed PC games back in the day. But as more and more repeats and sequels have come out, I walk down an isle of PC games now and get nothing close to the nostalgia of going into a babbages/best buy/gamestop back in the day. And CDs/DVDs wouldn’t be so bad, if not for that you had to keep them in the drive.

    I bought a new PC last month. It’s sitting sideways on the bottom side of my desk, the DVD tray pointed straight into the desk wall. It’s never been opened, and I hope to keep it that way. I installed steam, piece by piece downloaded my library faster than I could have installed it from disk. Minecraft, dwarf fortress, rift, vent, and my CBT version of HGL (which is sickeningly full of cash shop gimmicks now, btw) I LOVE the digital age.

    • oceanclub says:

      Steam is a total godsend when you upgrade or re-install the OS. You just copy the Steam folder _and it works_. Sure, it takes a few minutes when you launch a game for the first time, but the pain is nothing compared to having to haul out disks and manually reinstall each game individually.

      P.

  35. drewski says:

    This might be true in the UK, but it’s certainly not true in Australia, where EBgames and Game tend to have PC sections as large as their Wii section as a minimum. Not as big as the PS3 or 360 sections, but still plenty of shelf space devoted to PC gaming. Even the chain department stores tend to have PC gaming sections – you can often pick cheap games up from Target and Kmart.

    Don’t know how much they actually sell, I guess, but they wouldn’t be maintaining the shelf space if there wasn’t money in it.

  36. edit says:

    What is the most efficient way to get data from one computer to another? Putting it on a disc, in a package, and physically transporting it to the new location? .. or transferring it at high speeds through this network thingy which was designed specifically to get data from one computer to another?

    • Wisq says:

      Don’t be so certain. In the general case, it completely depends on the volume of data being transported, and the speed of the network connection.

      “Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes hurtling down the highway.” —Tanenbaum, Andrew S. (1996). Computer Networks. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall. p. 83. ISBN 0-13-349945-6.

      But yes, in the case of today’s games (usually about 5 gigs) and today’s residential bandwidth (usually between 1 Mbps and 50 Mbps), I agree that digital is almost always faster in absolute terms — publisher to user time, transport included.

      Still, those users at the low end of the spectrum get more instant gratification from retail — they might well be able to pop out to a store, grab a copy, and get back home in a fraction of the download time.

  37. Valvarexart says:

    I read that as “Mean PC Games Can Happen”. Call of Duty, anyone?

  38. Zogtee says:

    It’s always doom and gloom and endless whinging with PC gamers, isn’t it? We have the best games, the best graphics and audio, the best prices for games, loads of *free* games, a shitload of controllers to choose from, free multiplayer, and a back catalogue that puts the consoles to shame.

    But oh no, things are not good. Steam dominates the market! That’s bad! Why is it bad? Well, I… I don’t actually know, but it’s really, really bad! Everyone says so, so it must be true. And what about the carbon footprint of these games! Yeah, that’s it! Carbon footprint, dude!

    FFS.

    • ankh says:

      I agree with you, but maybe everything is actually good because pc gamers bitch and moan so much? So dont discourage that. It might be helping? ;)

  39. mbp says:

    To those who have queried my assumption about the average age of rps readers, I admit I have no evidence. I guess my assumption is based on the general maturity of the comment threads and the regular allusions to games from bygone eras.
    I do however have direct experience of the younger generation’s attitudes to pcs. I teach twenty year olds for a living. They all have laptops rather than home pcs and none of them choose a laptop based on gaming capability. My own kids are a few years younger again and their contemporaries see even laptops as old fashioned. They want tablets.
    However if you want the most compelling argument for the death of the home PC just go into any high street computer store and try to buy a decent one.

    • Harlander says:

      However if you want the most compelling argument for the death of the home PC just go into any high street computer store and try to buy a decent one.

      By that metric the home PC’s been dead for a loooooooooooong time.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      When has that ever been possible? :)

    • Raiyan 1.0 says:

      On mbp’s comment about older gamers providing regular allusions to bygone eras: it’s actually one of the reasons why I hang around here. Like I already mentioned above, it don’t exactly fall into the subset of the older PC gamers, but I’ve had my fair share of old games by listening to all your recommendations. Currently hunting down a copy of Hostile Waters after reading the the Carrier Command remake comment thread.
      As for kids preferring tablets – *sigh* I guess I’ve to personally take up the mission of scratching the fuck out of all their tablet screens and teaching them the consequences of using a large portable device that has nothing to protect its screen.
      Also, there is certainly a large number of PC gaming young ‘uns. I regular Escapist as well, and it’s evident from the PC vs console threads that ensue there about, like, 5 times a day. (I mean, honestly, why is it so hard to accept the fact that we PC gamers are the glorious master race? Does the blinding truth not touch their unwashed plebeian senses?)

    • drewski says:

      Them dangnabbit kids don’t listen to CDs or read books, either.

      *shakes fist at kids on lawn*

  40. Alexandros says:

    “I guess my assumption is based on the general maturity of the comment threads and the regular allusions to games from bygone eras.”

    Well that’s just because PC gamers are more mature and tend to not dismiss older titles as “crap” without playing them. Yes this is generalization but those are usually fun :)

  41. terry says:

    Agree strongly. I wouldn’t be PC gaming if it was up to the high street shops – there’s no PC rack there, unless you count Super Garden Designer 2010 or 1000 Hilarious Clipart Mottos DVDs. Sales aside, I like that digital distribution gives a larger percentage back to the people that made the games, and reminds me of those days when the computer mags were full of classified ads of people selling their weird home-crafted text adventures with dot matrix printed manuals and photocopied inlays, alongside the big boy glossy 2 page adverts of Imagine and Ultimate : Play the Game. I think the sheer breadth of the indie scene and the open nature of content distribution really does the PC credit. Let’s hope it remains that way :-)

  42. daf says:

    Hum, I wonder if he means that due to profit margins. Afaik (correct me if I’m wrong) a DD asks a much smaller share of the sale price then the typical brick and mortar distributor, combining that with the zero cost in licensing to make a PC title it could make it quite profitable compared to consoles. Not to mention for the kind of title ArmA is, it would likely be very hard to make it work on a console…

    @Jim Rossignol, when you write that article on “Steam’s hegemony”, I hope your consider separating the DD side of steam from it’s social gaming framework, even for just a bit. While I fully agree Steam shouldn’t be the “only” DD around I tend to find that all my games being Steamworks would be a “good thing” in the same way Windows/DirectX dominance was for the PC gaming scene back in the day.

    In a perfect world Steamworks would be something like email which every publisher/DD site could have and they would all work with each other but like the mess done with the IM networks, everyone is trying to build their own island (origin, steam, gfwl, impulse reactor, facebook, etc) which in the end might hurt PC gaming a bit.

  43. thegooseking says:

    It’s worth pointing out that while Gamestation here in Edinburgh has a selection of about five PC games, GAME, just down the road, has a pretty huge PC section. Probably about the same size as any console section, maybe even bigger. (Certainly bigger than I remember it being a few months ago.)

    The thing is, the idea that retailers don’t support the PC platform is kind of old. Sure, I can remember GAME whittling down its PC shelf-space a few years ago. But some retailers (GAME in particular) have looked at digital sales, realised there’s still a PC market, and realised that they’ll have to support it to compete.

    Now, my evidence is of course anecdotal. I don’t know how GAME operates: how much managerial discretion is given to individual stores, so Edinburgh’s store might be an exception. But I doubt it. I think this is the beginning of a trend of resurgence in PC game physical retail.

  44. squirrel says:

    If you are offering downloaded copies which are DRM free, like what CD Projetky is doing, it would be a great feature. Imagine that you no longer have to shop for games and everything can be done online. Precious shopping time can now be spent on other goodies like books, fine food stuffs……

    If you are citing download-only as excuse for restrictive DRM, you are WELCOME OUT of the game market and we gamers are happy to show you the door. Dont bother to ever be back.

  45. rammjaeger says:

    I love how all these stories are coming out now about PC games and digital distribution being the wave of the future/taking over the world etc. I’m also glad that Tripwire figured it out 5 years before the EAs and Activisions of the world did :)

  46. Calabi says:

    I liked pc games being on boxes and in shops and on shelves. Its the impulse buy, just feeling like you want to buy something. Your not bothered with looking for reviews, or any sort of critical judgement, just look at the boxes, the pictures and what they say and buy it and see what its like, you never now, it could be good.

    I do that with books sometimes. I hope they dont go totally digital, otherwise you might as well just throw away a ton of great literature. It’ll just end up lost in the equalizer of digital detriotus. We still have not got the means to sort through all this junk to find the gems.

    Its why we use websites like, RPS, they get sent or see tons of junk, and sort out the good stuff for us, but what about the stuff they miss.

    Sometimes its just nice to look through a bunch of junk yourself and see what turns up.

    • DainIronfoot says:

      I do miss being young and discovering new and exciting games on cover disks and in shops.

      These days I’m more or less aware of everything that is coming out and find far less to be interested in.

  47. timmyvos says:

    And if it weren’t for Steam, Tripwire wouldn’t have released Red Orchestra and would have died a silent death.