It’s Alive, It’s Alive, It’s Alive: PC Gaming

By Adam Smith on July 23rd, 2012 at 10:06 am.

John Riccitiello, yesterday

If PC gaming had actually died on the numerous occasions when somebody has fumbled for and failed to find a pulse in its mechanical innards, I wouldn’t even be here to tell you that it’s alive again. Thankfully, as is clear by the amount of time and money it’s possible to spend in these imagined realms, the mighty PC is not only in rude health, it has a cocksure spring in its step as well. Even EA Chief Executive John Riccitiello has noticed the swagger, telling CNBC: “The fastest growing platform for video games today is the PC”. Thanks, Mr Riccitiello! “…but it’s growing through subscriptions, through micro transactions and through downloads.” Oh criminy, this isn’t just a pat on the back, is it?

Actually, it kind of is, although it’s also a chance for the big cheese to talk about the business models that represent the future of the PC and it’s not a game on a disc with a hefty manual in a cardboard box, although you knew that already.

“There’s a lot of power in free-to-play…and by the way, for what it’s worth, free-to-play is anything but free. We have lots of games that are ‘free-to-play’, where paying users are giving us ten, twenty, thirty dollars a month. What happens is the first game play is free, but then when you get into the game you have to pay for things.”

Well, that’s hardly news either, although I take a certain pleasure in the phrase, “for what it’s worth, free-to-play is anything but free”. EA are serious about that model though and if free-to-play games can make a decent profit, support future development and find intelligent ways to section off content, my instinctive reaction against them could definitely be nudged toward grudging acceptance. That’d be a start.

Later, calmer, on TV

Riccitiello apparently sees the strength of PC gaming in its diversity and versatility as a platform, with digital delivery at its core. Sales tracking, he reckons, is unhelpful: “Just five years ago people said that the PC game business was in a radical state of decline because NPD said it was down 10 percent, 20 percent, 30 percent, year-in year-out.” Because of the new models, sales aren’t accurately tracked and false messages can emerge.

There’s also a mention of The Old Republic and the recognition that a subscription model “is challenging” in a “free-to-play world”, but what I take away from this is that if a company as broad and established as EA can see the benefits of the platform, there’s space for a thousand other interpretations of its strengths. Steam, Linux, the return of bedroom programmers, indie bundles, Kickstarter…it goes on and on.

There are so many exciting, infuriating, contrary and confusing avenues to explore in PC gaming at the moment that the one thing we don’t need to be told is how alive it is. And it doesn’t live or die on the say-so of any Chief Executive because it’s not hooked up to any machine; this thing’s got a life of its own.

Via CVG.

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73 Comments »

  1. Bradeh says:

    Better PC based development and porting on the horizon then? I hope so.

    • RegisteredUser says:

      Or how about we make all games for the PC, and then port away/down from it. Not gonna happen in a million years, because exclusive-exclusives and other gagging mechanisms, but still.
      One can always dream.

      • DestinedCruz says:

        Years ago, that’s exactly how things happened back when id were the king of developers. Even as far in as Quake 3 and Unreal Tournament, consoles used to get crappy ports of those games whilst PC reigned supreme.

    • Shuck says:

      No, more like cheaper PC development and (since the console side of the business is drying up) fewer ports. The sort of “PC games” they’re interested in and talking about here aren’t the traditional varieties.

  2. emorium says:

    i just hope this means we get a few more exclusives. i want a true 3rd person shooter where i don’t have to glue myself to cover every 5 seconds or right click and move like a snail to be able to shoot. oh and i also want to actually JUMP.

    • onsamyj says:

      In “Red Faction: Armageddon” there is no cover system, you can shoot how you like, and even jump and roll.

    • BrendanJB says:

      Saints Row: The Third is a surprisingly fun romp. I got a good 25 hours out of messing around in the sandbox and the main story; and I still haven’t tackled the DLC missions yet. That’s far more than I put in to most games these days.

  3. ananasblau says:

    I don’t think PC is growing because of F2P, it’s just the consoles getting older and even small netbooks and compete with their performance. And, as Peter Molyneux has remembered us at EuroGamer: More people than ever do play video games.
    Just wait or the next generation of consoles and see that the industry will start to neglect the PC once more, leaving it completely to Steam and indies.

    • Raziel_Alex says:

      ^This, basically. Also, doesn’t Riccitiello mean Satan in Italian or something?

    • Syra says:

      Exactly this, it’s always been a cycle when the new consoles gain steam (pun not intended) PC will fall by the wayside again. Although I see that being eroded away a little bit if we do indeed start to see more and more online features and upgradeable hardware on console.

      • ananasblau says:

        Upgradable hardware on consoles, devs will sure hate this. I don’t see that coming. Ever.

      • RegisteredUser says:

        The single strongest point of consoles has always been that they are small, portable(as in take it to a friend’s house in a backpack) and just plain work.
        If you make hardware “too” modular/upgradeable, that goes away. If you make it so that you need to be always online or similiar BS, then that goes away, too.

        Basically if you do anything to make consoles in any way flexible or “DRM modern” in any way, you may as well plop a mini-PC under the TV.

        Then the only thing left is the old Weapon of Mass Annoyance: Games only allowed to be published for platform X, so that people will go and buy it for that game alone.

        Sad, and the epitome of “games as crack” behavior, but it has worked for 20 years.
        I’ve seen people buy 3 consoles just because they “had to” have 1-2 specific titles on them.
        But one can hope this isn’t a mass phenomenon.

    • blackmane says:

      You nailed it, dude. The giganto-publishers will always jump on the bandwagon with the biggest gold coffer.

    • Roshin says:

      Quite. I’ve said this before myself. We’re between console generations right now. The old generation is slowly fading away and the new generation hasn’t arrived just yet. When it does, EA and the other bigshots will forget the PC in a heartbeat.

  4. Njordsk says:

    They’re just where the money is.

    When next-next-gen will come out, PC will surely “die” again. and so on.

  5. Inigo says:

    Could we not ask someone from a company that isn’t haemorrhaging money?

    • byteCrunch says:

      Indeed, I am sure this change of heart has nothing to do with EA’s stock price dropping by 50% over the past 6 months.

      • Rinimand says:

        Or look at EA over the past 10 years. Steady from 2004 till 2009, then a 60% drop (not from a split) that has stayed till now and is (in the last 6 months) steadily going down even further. The 2011 release of BF3 looks like it may have helped, but not sustained. They need a game changer (pun intended).

        • bleeters says:

          Maybe they could try treating their customers like human beings as opposed to cash piñatas. Or stop buying up development studios and running them/their franchises into the ground.

          I’d settle for either.

  6. RedFaust says:

    The Pc gaming is like the phoenix . You can’t get out of the loop because it will always catch you later :).

  7. Retro says:

    Of course by “PC” I suspect not the always-cutting-egde-brute-power machine of old is meant but the ‘the run-of-the-mill machine located in every office”, which might have repercussion on the kind of games they are shooting for.. but then, this is EA, so who cares..

    • iniudan says:

      Actually I think a lot don’t want a mass return to cutting edge raw power model anyway, for that model is expensive for the both user and developer to sustain and for those last one thing are at a point where we are at the edge of the uncanny valley anyway and just take the risk of falling into it if they go for photo-realism, since tech is still not good enough to build a bridge over it.

      We are more at a step where efficiency is the aim of the cutting edge, so it mostly focus on thing that have less impressive basic spec for enthusiast, but increasing efficiency mean less energy and/or time are wasted on those basic spec.

      So in term of hardware it leave more room for the overclock enthusiast, while the underclocking enthusiast is just happy to make an even more efficient system (underclock enthusiast are mostly seen in Asia, due to combination of high energy cost along low expendable revenue).

      While in term of software it leave more resource overhead for thing like enhanced game modding, to run thing like uncompressed texture. (For example: Carmark give me my TB of uncompressed Rage texture instead of that low res console compressed crap that all over the place, that way that game will have a third good point beyond having been the only game where the boomstick feel rival id tech 1 games and been OpenGL based game engine [the reason why I bought at release, for I am a proponent of switching away from DirectX, has to increase portability of code between software and hardware architecture])

  8. Lord Byte says:

    I propose to rename “free-to-play” to the much more to the point, and realistic “free-to-pay”.

  9. Hydrofoil Goat says:

    Every time I see a game is F2P I instinctively want to avoid it, and I’m really struggling because I really want to play all the mech games this year. I hate that I can’t pay a lump sum at the start and then have access to all the content.

    • Spengbab says:

      Don’t dismiss a F2P game just because it has the F2P model – I used to think like you, but nowadays, Im not so sure. Tribes: Ascend is what convinced that it CAN work. The game is a free download, with 3 basic classes with perfectly valid weapons available, but you can unlock more suits and weapons with either earned experience or “gold” (RL rupees). Besides that, the game features its own “daily deal” system, where a certain item is discounted by a huge amount. I enjoyed the game so goddamn much that I bought some gold (€20,- for 3000 gold) to spend on daily deals – after 2 months of playing, I’ve pretty much gotten all the items and STILL havent spent all the gold on the account. And I’m still playing it at least 1 hour a day, so Ive gotten my money’s worth out of it.

      If other F2P devs would just take a look at Tribes… The above model just works for me – the game IS free, you CAN get all the content by just playing (Experience) but you can also spend actual money to either get more content faster/earlier or to support the devs

      • werix says:

        Exactly this. There are some bad FTP out there. But mainly after Tribes: Ascend, my attitude changed. I was always up to try some FTP MMO’s, and some did it better (DC universe) than others(City of heroes/villians). But FTP shooters always seems too Pay to win types, especially Combat Arms, wow did that game turn me off from FTP shooters for a long time.

        Another shooter that does it right I think is Blacklight: Retribution as well. Yeah, you can buy the “gold” to unlock an item, but for the most part you can still do well enough earning the in game currency to either permanently unlock the individual components, or rent them. You can even rent good pre-made guns for cheap too, about the amount of GP from a match and a half to rent the premade for a day.

    • PoulWrist says:

      Same :| I gess it’s down to “Free” usualy meaning what mr. Riccitiello says; 10-20-30$ a month for just some bits of content.. I don’t want to spend that much money for stuff in THAT way. I’d much rather pay my 40-50€ entry fee and then buy an expansion with more content in some months time. For instance the way they do it with BF3. I like that. I buy a good sized game with plenty of content and I get to have expansions that will with regular intervals reinvigorate my desire to play the game and come with a very modest entry fee.

      I’m down with that. What I don’t like is the way F2P is done in general, like on my Android device. Almost every game on there, even the ones you pay for, comes with some sort of way too expensive scheme. Sure, maybe you can grind the same level 50000 times to get enough “gold” or whatever to buy access to the next one, but that’s unfeasable. Noone wants to sit there and fight the same fight so many times to get the 10000 gold they need to buy that item that lets you beat the next opponent 9-10 gold at a time. That is what I see on my phone and that’s why I never download games on there anymore. Though I have seen games like GTA3 and Final Fantasy 3 sit on there at amounts I’d be willing to pay for the amount of content they offer. That’s a start and it’s great. I hope to see more of it.

      On the other hand, I did buy the 60$ founder’s pack for Mechwarrior Online… it seemed to offer the best value; 2 months of “premium” whatever that means (and does it work with the early access I get? Which is apparently beta? Unanswered questions galore :p), 80$ worth of gold and a free mech. I hope that’ll get me a goodsized portion of the available content without having to splurge out more… of course, with the bigger option, at 120$ (which I looked at more as a “fake” option to make the 60$ look great compared to the 30$), you get 3 additional limited content mechs and 1 more month of premium. Not more ingame gold. So I hope that new mechs won’t sit at 15-20$. That would seem a bit much, even if I do realise that gameplay could be radically different. I also hope that you won’t have to pay so much to get weapons… 80$ after all should be worth a rather healthy portion of the game’s content.

  10. Beanchilla says:

    It’s no small coincidence that he looks like Saul Goodman from breaking bad.

  11. rustybroomhandle says:

    When they say ‘growing’ they mean making an increasing amount of money from, while we’re hoping it would mean more awesome stuff.

  12. Spengbab says:

    “Actually, it kind of is, although it’s also a chance for the big cheese to talk about the business models that represent the future of the PC and it’s not a game on a disc with a hefty manual in a cardboard box, although you knew that already.”

    Welp, that’s what defines PC gaming for me. Not the actual manual and box thing, in this age of digital distribution, but the fact that PC games are a bit more complicated than the standard console fare (Case in point: Tribes vs Halo, X vs Starhawk, etc)

    • RegisteredUser says:

      Tribes isn’t complicated; it just requires fucktons of dexterity and experience, which in turn highlights the issue that consoles still rely solely on gamepads (although there were options, they just didn’t take) for control.
      And, although developers haven’t noticed, this means that some genres that require actual finer grain aiming just aren’t well suited to that interface and thus platform.

      I think various games where players end up knowing monster classes, memorizing spells, item combos, etc pp on the consoles show that they can cope with complicated, but just like many PC gamers, they just aren’t marketed to in that way mainstream.

  13. jezcentral says:

    The next console generation has a new problem, though. TVs only have a max of 1080p resolution. PCs can already outstrip that res. There’s no need for consoles to be hugely more powerful than they are already. Dear God, I hope that doesn’t drag our PC games development down even further.

    • ananasblau says:

      Well, 1080p is a lot better than the last TV I had. I have no more telly since 2005. But with all this high-res and Retina stuff, I can’t wait to see the first 8bit game running on a Retina display :D

    • John Mirra says:

      Most console games run at 720 or even 540p or less.

    • RegisteredUser says:

      Resolution per se doesn’t have shit to do with DETAIL.

      You can vastly increase complexity via polygon count and texture detail (i.e. how _actually_ detailed a texture map is and how it is applied, filtered, etc) for the same resolution and it will make your eyes fall out of their socket in terms of how different it is.

      Simple example would be taking any crappily made game running at 1080 and then comparing it to a fully high-end rendered CGI movie(think some of the most modern/best/recent cutscenes or animated movies you’ve seen). Or some of the tech demos for NVIDIA cards / AMD cards.

      We have an incredibly long way to go until something on a screen is “actually round”, or smooth. Or crisp. Or or or.

      And then there’s animations. Physics. Shadows. AI.

      All at the same resolution.

      Seriously, we have several exponential processing steps still left to go at the same HD resolution before we’re anywhere near “wow”. And THERE the issue is that even if consoles are three times as powerful as now, they will have another 3-10 year cycle locking shit down instead of “leveling up” towards those very things.

    • Stochastic says:

      As noted above resolution is hardly the only pusher of hardware power. I can tell the difference between a game and a movie at dreadfully low resolutions, sub SD even.

  14. Flappybat says:

    Thanks to Zynga there are more PC gamers than ever before!

    • MadTinkerer says:

      Aha. Hahahahahaha. Zynga. Like they actually make games instead of skinner boxes with cartoon stickers on the buttons. And those skinner boxes aren’t even their designs, they just steal other peoples’ skinner boxes and put Zynga stickers on the buttons. Yep, they’re totally a legit PC game developer.

  15. Ministry says:

    I’d prefer to pay 50 bucks flat for a good game then pay 30 bucks a month for an average game.

  16. Flukie says:

    Lots of people are coming on board, There was a surge at the end of the last generations console lifespan and there is again here, however I believe people will stick around this time, the reason people went back to console gaming was services and exclusives.

    We now have Steam as a fantastic service and PC based exclusives are coming out from massive developers who see the sudden potential to them especially developers being able to essentially skip the massive evil in the industry retail and publishers.

    PC as a platform isn’t just about the fact that we build our own rigs and upgrade them or that it can be used for all different purposes, its about being open and free to do what you want not restricted by a small group of individuals.

    We will see open gaming machines appear everywhere soon enough.

    • MadTinkerer says:

      Well I’m hoping Ouya does well, even if it probably won’t beat the PS4 / XB4. That said, the console market cycle seems to be two generations of dominance (at most) per major company, and all the current closed console manufacturers are out of turns to be the top dog.

      Technically, we don’t even need the Ouya itself to be a huge hit right away, we just need a moderately successful open standard for the next generation of open console hardware to build on. Moore’s law and the enthusiasm of (EDIT: educated) hobbyists will take care of the rest.

  17. Koozer says:

    If you’re blue and you don’t know where to go to, why don’t you go where fashion sits…

  18. bitbot says:

    Don’t worry everyone, PC gaming will be back to dying soon again once the next console generation starts!

  19. Yosharian says:

    Riccitiello is a disgusting human being. I’ll tell you what’s growing, it’s the urge I’m feeling to punch this guy in the face.

  20. alilsneaky says:

    Man RPS writing is exceptionally bad lately, getting closer and closer to the IGN side of “news”.
    Sup next? 10 reasons why DLC is a good thing? Oh wait you already had that one…

  21. Bobtree says:

    Today’s GameFAQs poll was mildly surprising (besides it’s actually being relevant to gaming and on topic), as it says half of the voters bought nothing in the Steam sale because they don’t play PC games: http://www.gamefaqs.com/poll/index.html?poll=4789

  22. Stormdancer says:

    But… for the last 5 years they’ve been telling us PC gaming was dead!

    Is PC gaming now a zombie? Vampire? Mummy? Tell me what to believe, Fox News!!

  23. Rhalle says:

    PC gaming is alive in the same way, say, Ariel Sharon is alive.

    Maybe when the next generation of consoles comes out it will be declared dead again.

  24. wodin says:

    people forget the next gen consoles will be out soon, so the death of the PC will start all over again, but this time we have to compete with tablets and the like…mark my words that when the PC will have it’s biggest fight yet, oh and cloud gaming..I hope to god that doesn’t take off, as you’ll see tech development stagnate…like never before..I’d imagine AMD and NVidea are very scared of cloud gaming.

  25. terazeal says:

    “free-to-play is anything but free”

    Then stop calling it that!

    • Hoaxfish says:

      I suggest “the first taste is free” going by how he seems to describe it. Thus they can fully project their “drug dealer” style approach to their customers.

  26. Hoaxfish says:

    Why is it always PC that’s dying/growing? Why doesn’t the console market ever “die”?

    I guess it’s the fact that consoles are “generations” . Nobody is surprised that the PS2 died off when PS3 turned up.

    Probably the more interesting aspect is the effect of tablets/smartphones on the portable market (i.e. Nintendo DS/3DS/etc and Sony’s always the bridesmaid attempts)

    • UnSubject says:

      Because the PS2 didn’t die when the PS3 launched – it still had a ridiculously huge user base and still had titles released on it for quite a while (and probably still does out of Japan).

      There’s an argument that Sony didn’t push the PS3 as hard as it could have because they didn’t want to disrupt the highly profitable PS2 market.

  27. Jimbo says:

    The bit that’s growing is the bit I have no interest in. I’m not interested in ‘PC gaming’ just because it involves a PC.

  28. MythArcana says:

    PC gaming hasn’t died. I just simply went to Steam. *cough*

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