Lead Warcraft Dev Says PC Is “Re-Emerging”

By Jim Rossignol on September 1st, 2011 at 12:36 pm.

Tom Chilton, yesterday.
World Of Warcraft lead Tom “Kalgan” Chilton has been talking to PC Gamer about the recent decline in World Of Warcraft subs, which are down to 11.4m worldwide compared to a 12m high. What is interesting, however, is his citing of “complexity” as a reason why PCs might be “re-emerging” as a platform, suggesting he sees a shift in developer attention back keyboard-baring beast.

“In a lot of ways I see the PC as potentially a re-emerging sort of platform,” said Chilton. “I think that the PC has always offered ways to approach games that you can’t necessarily approach on console, even if it’s just because of UI restraints. Keyboard and mouse opens up options that you can’t get replicate as easily with a controller in RTS games like Starcraft 2. If you look at the way we do an MMO like World of Warcraft, our communication method and all that kind of stuff, it kind of implies a level of UI complexity that would be really hard to pull off on console.” Chilton’s focus on the PC has been continuous, of course, but it’s interesting to see so many developers now expressing this sentiment. (Basically: Devs are so hot for hotkeys.)

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69 Comments »

  1. P7uen says:

    We aren’t coming back…. we never left.

    *violins*

    • banski83 says:

      Jesus Christ, so true it hurts.

      Can we lose the naysayers and pessimists? I’m fed up of hearing that PC gaming is dead, or dying, or being resurrected. This year alone, we’ve had massive games like:
      Portal 2
      Shogun 2
      Limbo
      Bastion
      Deus Ex: HR
      Witcher 2
      Dirt 3

      Last year we had:
      Mass Effect 2
      Starcraft 2
      Civ 5
      Bioshock 2
      Bad Company 2
      Fallout New Vegas

      2009 had:
      Dragon Age
      Batman Arkham Asylum
      Street Fighter 4
      Braid
      L4D2
      Empire Total War

      You telling me that all these games mean PC gaming is dead or dying? Wake up. Somebody’s buying these games in decent enough numbers for devs and publishers to keep considering it worthwhile (regardless of the draconian DRM on some titles; Ubisoft can jump off a pier right now), and I’m pretty sure it’s not just a collective effort by the mums’ of the developers…

      Sorry, rant over, just sick of hearing this hobby of mine is on its arse. Clearly it isn’t. If anything, it’s approaching yet another strong year of damn good games, such as Arma 3, Planetside Next, Mass Effect 3, XCOM, Colonial Marines, Borderlands 2 Bioshock Infinite, Hitman Absolution, Guild Wars 2…

      We are in a veritable deluge of good games right now and coming next year.

    • Prime says:

      Absolutely. And what’s interesting about Banksi’s response is he’s looking solely at triple-A gaming, which is only part of what the PC does best. We have so many fantastic Indie and niche market things going on, too, not to mention the rest (double A?).

      Consoles just can’t compete with the PCs flexibility.

    • Antsy says:

      I bought a pentium 2 in 1997 and people were saying ‘pc gaming is dead/dying’ then…..

    • Shuck says:

      @banski83: Well, sure, but the real health of the platform is indicated by the answers to these questions: how many of those games didn’t come out on consoles as well, and what were the PC versus console sales numbers for the games that did?
      The PC was “dying/dead” as a platform only in the sense that the PC AAA game sales were low relative to console versions, so console versions got the primary focus from developers. Console sales have heavily eroded in recent years as the market has become more fragmented thanks to phone/web games. So those small PC games have more market share than they used to: a lot of development tools make it easy to port phone games to the PC, and those web games are technically PC games. “Indie” developers are also getting a lot more revenue thanks to distributors like Steam and marketing aids like Facebook. But while those small, cheaply developed games are doing better than ever, AAA titles are hurting like never before.

    • Jimbo says:

      About 80% of those games had one eye (or both eyes in most cases) on console gaming. So no, not dead or dying, just chained to console gaming, and very reliant on the console market to fund development.

    • shoptroll says:

      I think Shuck nailed it.

      It wasn’t so much that PC was dying, but the focus shifted from PC to consoles. Pretty much around 2000 when the XBox came out which seemed to grab a lot more attention from PC developers than anything offered by Sony or Nintendo.

      The other part of the problem is that AAA development budgets started swelling to the point that you had to go multi-platform (with a multi-platform engine… enter the rise of Unreal Engine in nearly everything) in order to bring your AAA to market and have more than a snowball’s chance in hell of at breaking even.

      Further compounding the issue is that GameStop scaled back their PC games section once everything started using online activations as a DRM solution, since those games could no longer be traded in. Then GameStop merged with EBGames/Babbages in 2005 and became the largest specialty store for gamers which deepened the perception that PC Games were dying. Fortunately, Steam started coming into its own around this time with the addition of non-Valve titles to the service.

      Unfortunately, NPD didn’t start tracking digital sales until this year or last. Lo and behold, the platform was actually doing quite well! Imagine that!

      And there you have it. We never left. The industry changed. The PC Gamer changed. And no one really seemed to connect the dots until recently.

    • Eversor says:

      Our electronic old men and their flexibility has allowed us to make progress in the mythical city on the hills.

      Old men. Running the world. A new age!

    • LostViking says:

      I think there is some truth to the whole ‘PC gaming resurrection’ thing. We as gamers didn’t leave, but PC gaming lost focus from many of the big developers and publishers mostly because there was more money to be made on consoles (so they thought anyway). Console players seem happy to pay much more for games, and piracy was less of an issue.

      The question is, has PC gaming really fallen behind because of the console boom?
      Sure, we have to endure a lot of shoddy ports, crappy UI’s and mediocre graphics, but all the money put into the gaming industry might benefit us in the long run, and I think we are really starting to see the benefit of it today.

    • Jahandar says:

      Not only do we get the new titles, but we can still play the games we bought 15 years ago, and play (virtually) any of them with little problems on the same box that we’re already using without have 4 different machines, without rebuying or anything.

    • InternetBatman says:

      @Banski

      I would say that more importantly we’ve had the humble indie bundle and Minecraft. They are proof that a developer can support themselves without publishers, marketing (if they know how to pitch it to the journalists), or the corporate constraints that most groups face. That alone will draw talented developers for a long time to come.

    • Defenestrated says:

      Don’t call it a comeback.

      I’ve been here for years.

  2. moarage says:

    How ironic you can play wow with 1 hot key

  3. Anthile says:

    I think it has more something to do with the current console generation being almost six years old and being artificially kept alive by gimmicky motion control, which is a nice thing but doesn’t add anything for more ambitious projects and on top of that, attracts an audience that is not really interested in “hardcore” games at all.

    • Vandelay says:

      I was actually about to post here that I think console developers should be pushing motion controllers harder than they are. I’ve spent quite sometime with my Razer Hydra and I’m very impressed. The keyboard and mouse still win out on flexibility, but the gap between the Hydra and m&k is much closer than your standard console controller and m&k. I’ve only dipped into the world of multiplayer shooters with it, but even there I’ve faired pretty well.

      Although console world seems to only care about making gimmicky 5 minute party games with motion controllers, there is a lot of potential for them in other areas too.

    • Rii says:

      @frightlever

      You’re four years late to the party, but still amongst the first to arrive!

    • Anthile says:

      @Frightlever: I saw that too and apparently it’s some fancy version of Rage HD, a promotional rail-shooter that came out on the iPad months ago.

    • Xerian says:

      Oi! HUGE SPOILER! (As in, he’s tried it before meee!) Havent seen the latest episode yet… I GOTS TEW! (Gods, I love Pinkman)

  4. Wyrm says:

    I’ve owned a console from each of the past few generations, and I cannot honestly think of one game that has kept me hooked long enough to complete it, whereas the PC has constantly called me back to it’s keyboardly shores and provided me with compelling entertainment that the tard-boxes always seem to lack.
    PC = Better.

    • zergrush says:

      Have you ever tried Demon’s Souls? Any Tactics Ogre? Odin Sphere? Front Mission? Don’t like fighting games?

      The PC’s also my favourite platform, but there’s plenty of good stuff on them console toys ( tho my ps3 has been pretty much a dedicated Tekken / Blazblue machine for the last year or so ).

    • funtard says:

      Demon’s souls is the only console game I’ve played beyond a few levels. It’s the only console game I’ve really enjoyed in the past 5 years or so.

    • Gary W says:

      @Wyrm

      So you’ve never completed Ninja Gaiden Black, God Hand, Silent Hill 2, Ketsui or Advance Wars?

      Sir, I demand you find the relevant tard-boxes (or good emulators) and finish them right now.

    • SLeigher says:

      Red Dead Redemption, Uncharted (both 1 and 2), Heavy Rain, Halo (Booooo!), Guitar Hero/Rockband and Assassin’s Creed are all incredible games on the consoles. AssCreed is on the pc too but is a bit dodgy what with the crappy ports and ubidrm. Last year I had just moved out of home and had no gaming pc for the first time in my life so I bought an xbox 360 (poor uni student) and while you lose out if you’re only into strategy gaming there is still a lot of great games on the console.

  5. Serge says:

    Hotkeys need to go.

    I sincerely hope what after Guildwars 2 and other “new age MMOs”(As I call them) developers will understand how important is to keep the experience fresh and gameplay active. Mouse clicking on buttons to see imaginary man stand in place and hit an orc with his axe was fun in past, but not now. Not for me at least.

  6. Teddy Leach says:

    He does know we never left? He does know that? Right? Guys?

    … Guys?

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      It does seem a bit off coming from the guy who has had 12m paying subscribers to his game the past few years, but I think what he means is that attention is shifting away from the excitements of 512mb consoles to machines with keyboards and annoying software issues. And that does seem to be true.

  7. Crimsoneer says:

    Want to know why less people are subscribing to WoW? Because currently, to buy it in store, you need to buy:
    A) the battle chest
    b) Wrath of the Lich King
    and c) Cataclysm

    Sorry, but this makes it INCREDIBLY HARD to play wow. Sell me one god damn box, for god’s sake.

    • zergrush says:

      Didn’t they lower the price or whatever after making the trial unlimited?

    • pakoito says:

      Pirate the client, buy the keys online.

    • Rii says:

      To buy into WoW all you need is the base game which is free to download and play through Level 20. Even if you’re buying it retail all you need is the Battle Chest.

    • zergrush says:

      There’s really no such thing as “pirating” their clients. You can simply grab any of their official torrent downloaders.

      Edit: Just checked and there’s a “One goddamn box” option on the blizz website, US$80 for base + all expansions. And only the base game is about US$18 in local currency, so it must be quite cheap everywhere else aswell (:

    • bonjovi says:

      Since June this year, you get BC with vanilla for free. So you only need to buy the original, and you set for long hours of game play before you will need to buy any more boxes :-)

  8. zergrush says:

    reply fail

  9. Howl says:

    Blah, blah, blah..

    Um, no. It has nothing to do with complexity and everything to do with the current gen consoles having crap old hardware in them. Come the next gen we won’t see the devs for dust… again.

  10. Derppy says:

    Just create World of Warcraft 2.

    They got insane amount of experience, cash and popularity from World of Warcraft. All their players want is a new engine and new content.

    Average of 7 million subscribers through 6 years, 10$/month subscription makes 5 040 000 000$ from the monthly payments alone. Add sales of the game and expansions and you got a ridiculous amount of money, nothing in the gaming industry compares to it.

    The patch notes of World of Warcraft could probably fill a couple of books and they practically overhauled all the old content with latest expansion. No doubt they learned a thing or two in the process.

    So yeah
    1) Create a new engine with one billion dollars
    2) Create content with one billion dollars, slap World of Warcraft 2 logo on it
    3) ???
    4) (Even more) Profit.

    • bonjovi says:

      that would not be a good idea.

      Unless you could transfer your current wow characters to new wow2 for free.

      People get attached to their toons.

      Also by having two games you will need to run two separate ones, much easier to keep expanding this one.

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      They’re already hard at work on Titan. It’s probably not wise to make it ‘WoW 2.0′. Rather they should try to make a different type of MMO. At least until WoW dies off.

    • lonesock says:

      1) Make Blizzard DOTA a standalone game
      2) Keep the core game mode and add Dominion-style variants with battle.net matchmaking, replays, and spectate
      3)???
      4) Profit

    • InternetBatman says:

      I think WoW 2 might be a bad idea. A new MMO would be nice, but for the love of god the WoW lore is tired. In the newest expansion they had to bring back a boss that you killed in the original game. They are running out of people to kill because players are too goddamn powerful at this point.

  11. flipd58 says:

    *puts on hipster glasses* Welp, that’s it guys I’m leaving.

  12. blainestereo says:

    I like this “prominent pc dev assures us PC is not dead” genre of interview, I always feel so reassured afterwards. I bet you folks feel the same way, so let’s get together and chant: PC IS NOT NICHE! PC IS NOT NICHE! PC IS NOT NICHE!

    Ahhhh, feels good!

  13. cpy says:

    I FRIGGIN LOVE BLOOD ELVES! Also i don’t play wow anymore. I have active acc, but im waiting for random raids, then maybe i’ll be back, for a while, but not too much.

    • bonjovi says:

      I would reactivate my account if they implement random raids. I like the game, but I’m tried to guild dramas :D with random raids, that would be gone! :D

  14. Moorkh says:

    Keyboard-baring?! How obscene! We demand properly dressed beasts for healthy family homes!

  15. mbp says:

    While I am totally convinced that there has never been a better time to be a PC gamer for us old timers I don’t see where an influx of new PC gamers is going to come from. The average teenager no longer has access to a desktop PC. At best they will have access to a laptop or maybe a tablet computer.

    • Daiv says:

      And if they don’t, everyone has a microwave. Although that one comes free with the free game “wait until food finishes spinning”, but at least you get to eat when you ding.

      No, I don’t know what I was thinking when I wrote this.

    • InternetBatman says:

      I kind of wonder if computer gaming (besides flash and WoW) has always been limited to a certain geeky type of person, and the platform did not expand when gaming demographics did. Even if the number of PC gamers stays about the same I don’t think it’s a problem. It will survive and flourish in its niche, much like comic books have.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      As you say, the Bat-Man. I reckon it’s expanded a little bit, but the core audience is probably roughly the same size as it was ten years ago. The industry at large has exploded, but the hardcore “niche” is still there, albeit woefully under-served.

      Baldur’s Gate II and Neverwinter Nights each sold two million copies. That’s a good-sized audience for games which are reasonably accessible and well-polished, but not at all high-budget blockbusters.

      Nerds will always want more interesting games, because they’re nerds, and they’re not going away. If the PC doesn’t provide, they may have to resort to tabletop wargaming and RPGs, and nobody wants that.

  16. TooNu says:

    Wow dev speaks and I still do not care.
    Thankyou for bringing this to our attention though :)

  17. NothingFunny says:

    Yay! PC re-emerging cause people start playing other games besides this digital crack MMO that almost killed PC gaming

  18. PatrickSwayze says:

    What gets me about these statements is the (over) reactions from the PC gaming community afterwards.

    I think it says far more about the current personalities of PC gamers when they have to constantly clamour to defend their past time.

    Back in the late 90′s and early 00′s it was never like this. We just got on with playing our games rather than worrying.

    I don’t understand this constant desire to denounce the ‘console toys’ and champion the fact we get extra resolution on our poorly optimized versions of their games.

    • mickygor says:

      It’s called the internet, and it wasn’t big in the 90s and early 00s.

    • rocketman71 says:

      Back in the 90′s and early 00′s they treated us like adults and valued us like customers. Now they think we are idiots. And, seeing how much Call of Duty (for example) sells, I’m afraid they’re right on target, mostly.

  19. Freud says:

    Zombies are in fashion, so I guess the PC could come back from the dead too.

  20. Urthman says:

    It’s really weird that developers and publishers aren’t more self aware about this utterly, completely predictable cycle. Of course PC’s get more attractive as the console generation gets older. How is this not just a boring standard assumption that’s always in the back of people’s minds when they make long-range plans at a place like Blizzard?

    This is as stupid as farmers being astonished that Summer came after Spring (again!) this year.

  21. Arona Daal says:

    I was thinking about selling my Pc and moving to Consoles,with all those “Pc is dying” Stories i heard.
    Good to hear that the Pc is reviving,and the War on Piracy has been successful.

  22. Shooop says:

    Howl and Urthman know why this is – it’s got fuck-all to do with how many buttons are on a keyboard compared to a controller and everything to do with console hardware being too old to take on new demands. Once the shiny new TV boxes arrive all that excitement for PCs vanishes instantly and we start the cycle all over again.

    PC gaming is never going to have this grand revival you seem to be hinting at. Not when it’s so much easier to buy a box for $400, hook it into the TV and get the kids off your hands for a few hours than buy a computer and worry about them downloading Hustler pdfs or destroying a $800+ machine you probably use too.

    • InternetBatman says:

      That assumes that the price of a gaming PC will stay at 800 when it has been falling for years. It will fall even faster as developers run out of things to fill processing power with, a process that began a while ago. We are reaching the limit of noticeable graphic improvements with our current display technologies. As processing power gets cheaper and video cards become integrated there will be little need to buy a device dedicated solely to game playing. It’s function will be subsumed by other devices.

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  25. MythArcana says:

    Wait. The PC never went anywhere and has always offered the most intelligent lineup of games available. It’s just that the console platform has been sucking so damned bad over the years that the level of standards on the PC is godlike in comparison. Consoles are for corporate revenue, the PC is for generating art and content. Either be the sheep or be the sheppard; your choice.

  26. fooga44 says:

    The real issue is not that the PC is dead, it’s that game developers collectively suck as a whole. Few developers have the talents or the skills to make a good game for the PC audience. Deus Ex is a case in point being a multi-platform game, the problem is the performance on the PC is just horrible. If Deus Ex engine was used for first person shooters FPS fans would be screaming bloody murder. There is just too much incompetence in the game industry. Too many people don’t understand how to program games so that they run well.

    It never was about “PC’s are dead” it was about “Do you have the skills to compete on the PC?”

    If you look at all the developers that went to console-land they make the same rehashed game every year and have simplified games and watered them down from PC gaming of the 90′s.

    I often wonder how a game like Darksiders would turn out if they were full fledged PC games from the get go. Capcom has at least realized this to some extent with Street fighter 4 and the PC version is the best version.

  27. rocketman71 says:

    Oh, god. Are there only idiots at Blizzard nowadays?. Do they look at the world with their fucking ping glasses when they say things like “hey, nobody should have problems being connected in this day and age”?. “Keyboard and mouse opens up options that you can’t get replicate as easily with a controller”. Oh, really, Captain Obvious?.

    PC is not re-emerging because PC WAS NEVER SUBMERGED. Despite Blizzard’s evil koticky intent to do so via forcing us through Battle.shitnet, I might add.

    Sad to see Blizz like this, thank god we have a lot more options now.

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