No Pressure: Lombardi on Steam and the PC

Sexy Valve
I’ve been meaning to post this Leigh Alexander interview with Valve’s Doug Lombardi since she mentioned it over at SexyVideogameLand. While it’s been over a week since it’s gone up, I think it’s still worth doing so as it’s probably the most concise forwarding of the PC position of recent times. There’s lots of interesting stuff. For example…

“I can remember this story coming around in the mid ’90s… and then 3D accelerator came out, and Carmack released that patch for GL Quake, and everybody shut up, because all of a sudden PlayStation looked like crap. There’s a big shift about to come in the post-GPU space… all of a sudden PC will leapfrog what’s going on on the consoles, in many other ways besides graphics.”

Which I have no idea what he means, but it does sound interesting. And if you were to play the PC advocacy role, you actually do need to denigrate the consoles a little….

“Somebody go back and look at next-gen console install base numbers since launch time, and compare it to PSone and PS2. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if we saw these guys stuttering out at 25,000 — nobody’s going to get to 100 million, which we saw from Sony on the last 2 [console generations]. I don’t think anybody’s even thinking of this.”

i.e. Is the console model actually sustainable? Which is probably one problem with the PC Gaming Alliance people – Microsoft can’t play those cards, for obvious reasons.

33 Comments

  1. Soul187 says:

    Couldnt agree more. No console selling at $400 will make it into 100million homes espicaly when there trying 2 push a T.V. upgrade.

  2. Kalain says:

    @Soul187:

    You are so right. The so called ‘HD’ consoles, 360 and PS3, have got games which are HD only and you need a HD TV which is of the required resolution to be able to play them properly. So, in reality, if you want to see all the swanky graphics properly on a console is to buy a brand new HD TV which will cost you upwards of £250. The Wii is an exception to that, but that console is more geared to fun with friends than HD ultra realistic gaming. So, in reality, you are spending upwards £500 for your console.

    I wonder how many of the HD TV manufacturers look at the console buying public as their new customers? Would be interesting to hear Panasonic and co’s view on it.

  3. Zuffox says:

    The pun-age beginning to turn sour at RPS. It’s more of a meme now. :P

    “Pure pun-age” – now there’s a pun.

  4. nakke says:

    It’s weird that MS hasn’t done more marketing for their VGA cable. It means anybody can hook up the 360 to their PC monitor, for which nowadays is likely to have a free VGA port (PC goes through DVI). Now that the 360 costs about as much as a new mid-priced graphics card, I think they’d sell many units if more people knew you can use your new widescreen “high definition” PC TFT monitor with it.

  5. etho says:

    Is 100 Million supposed to be the number of PCs in homes? ‘Cause I’d believe that. I don’t believe the number of gaming PCs is anywhere near that number, though.

    I have a 4 year old PC (configured for gaming at the time it was purchased) and a 7 year old PS2. The PS2 is only now coming to the end of it’s effective life cycle as a gaming appliance. So is the PC. And the PC cost a lot more to buy and has required a great deal more time spent maintaining it to keep it in working order. I have a hard time understanding how PCs are the optimal platform for gaming.

    PCs obviously aren’t going away though, and as long as they are around, there will be games for them. But I’d be surprised if it didn’t become a niche market compared to consoles. I mean, this leapfrog he’s talking about is going to be expensive and complicated, and with the next console generation, it will be matched by a $500 dollar machine.

    And just to clarify, I’ll keep gaming on a PC, but I’ll have consoles as well. The trick is to be a gamer, not a PC gamer or a console gamer. And it seems like it would be wise for devs to do the same.

    @Kalain: Which games are HD only? I don’t have an HDTV and I’ve never had any trouble with my 360.

  6. Rook says:

    100 million is the rough PS2 install base. PC install base total is something rediculous although the number of gamers is supposed to be around 1/4 billion, but a good indicator of core gaming strength is the 60 million or so DX10 parts shipped. One of the reasons I think the SoE president came out saying the “PC gaming is dead” is utterly retarded.
    link to dcemu.co.uk

    (Seriously Microsoft, if Sony is having to come out and say PC gaming isn’t dead, you’re doing something wrong)

  7. Kieron Gillen says:

    Yeah: 100 million is also the PS1 base, basically. Last two generations the “Winner” was a much bigger prize. This generation of console’s “Winner” doesn’t look like doing it. Or at least, that’s what Lombardi is arguing.

    KG

  8. Will Tomas says:

    I think that the downsides to both markets is the cycle time between upgrades looking to be fairly short, like three years. Which is understandable in an industry with such speed in advancement but doesn’t help customer confidence. In other words, like etho I have a four year old PC and am thinking of upgrading, but don’t know what better capabilities I could buy for the same money in 6 months time. What shape will post-GPU PCs take? How quickly will that change happen? Should I upgrade now, or wait a bit and then buy up the games I’ve missed out on in the intervening time? At least Valve still make games that work on older PCs without much of a loss of graphical quality.

    The console’s current problem is the cost of games. While most PC games float around the £30 mark, console games are (to my mind) starting to be prohibitively expensive. £50 for a 360 game, £60 for a PS3 game – who can afford that on a regular basis? That’s back to the days of N64 pricing, which was fairly insane way back when. Wii games are roughly £40 or under, which is better (not much), but then most of the games on that platform being rubbish doesn’t help it either.

  9. Down Rodeo says:

    “I think at the end of the day there’s going to be a continued group of people — us, Blizzard, Epic — committed to making great apps for PC.”

    An interesting quote from Lombardi given the recent news about the 4th incarnation of their engine… Still as you yourselves point out they are going to continue making PC applications.

    Personally I love Steam and Valve, and can only see that platform going from strength to strength. I look at it this way: how much does it cost Valve to host a small indie game on Steam? Not very much, I bet, and probably easily made up for by the cut that they get from sales. Add Steamworks to that and it makes an even more attractive platform for indie developers to try to get onto.

    I have an Xbox 360. Our family recently switched to having an HDTV, and it’s fun. I wouldn’t say it’s necessary though. Besides, the UK will be switching to digital-only HD at some point won’t it?

    My final point is that some games I can only conceive of playing on a console (specifics would include Burnout, or any racer, Guitar Hero and Halo- tried it on a PC; I got confused :D) so I’d say that there is a place for them. There’s no better example than the Wii for gaming with friends in a group than sitting at a PC alone (don’t worry; I do do a fair amount of that too :D).

    Edit- you can’t have two “final points” :D

  10. roger3 says:

    there’s a reason multiplayer fps games rarely are published for both console and pc. Not because its hard to do, but pc users have such an advantage that console users would cry foul. Keyboard and mouse allows for such a greater degree of control that console game sales would suffer.

  11. Ging says:

    Down Rodeo: There’s a difference between digital tv and an hd signal. Odds are high that with the digital switchover, we won’t see many (if any) freeview HD channels appearing.

  12. Down Rodeo says:

    This is the sort of thing I was talking about – more of a long-term view. I remembered seeing something about HD by 2012, but I had misinterpreted it somewhat.

  13. Cruz says:

    Them boys at Valve sure do talk good.
    Keep those PC optimistic quotes comin. They make me feel good about staunch PC gameing-ness.

  14. Jonathan says:

    Turns out you now have to buy hard drive add-ons for the consoles and it’s sounds like you’ll be able to buy a blu-ray upgrade for the X-box 360. The format war will eat itself?

    Consoles will eliminate the pc as a gaming platform the same way radio completely ended live music, the same way vhs destroyed televison, the same way the synthesiser obliterated the piano i.e it won’t. Seriously, weren’t people saying the same thing when the SNES came out?

  15. Bidermaier says:

    What i really like of pc gaming is the idea of a ever lasting platform with near perfect backward compability.

    Now with steam it gets even better.
    The first time i tried to play games on a PC was a huge disappointment, the PC was not beefy enough to play HL2 and many other games i wanted to play.

    A few months ago i decided to install windows on my mac, then i remembered i had a steam account, there it was, HL2, waiting for me. It was then when i decided to give the PC another go. And here I am.

  16. Optimaximal says:

    Besides, the UK will be switching to digital-only HD at some point won’t it?

    You want the TV network to be in the same state as the ADSL-bodged phone network – using compression/filtering technology to try and make the system do something it just wasn’t designed for is hardly the way to go now, is it?

    A standard UHF system in place at the moment couldn’t cope with the bandwidth required for HD without dropping the available channels back down to ~10, which would mean less money and the removal of the word ‘free’ from Freeview…
    Unfortunately, if you want HD, you need Sky HD (pfft) or Fibre, which is barely used at the moment.

  17. Aimless says:

    Lombardi’s comments read a bit overly defensive of PC gaming to me. As far as I’m aware consoles are cheaper and selling more units than ever, and it’s far too early to discount at least the Wii from reaching 100 million sales.

    To be honest, all the doomsaying — whether it be aimed at consoles or PCs — seems both short sighted and strangely familiar. In fact it’s almost like we go through this every 5 years or so, as if there were some kind of generational cycle in place. Odd, eh?

    PCs and consoles will continue to have their respective places, even if their positions have shifted slightly — i.e. the casual PC game market booming and the consoles ostensibly becoming the new home of first-person shooters. And no doubt both camps will continue to claim the other is ‘doomed’ or ‘dying’. Just like always.

  18. Radiant says:

    “Unfortunately, if you want HD, you need Sky HD (pfft)”

    What’s wrong with sky hd?

  19. heartless_ says:

    With decent games taking 3 years or more to develop now a days, you are lucky to get one decent game for yourself per cycle. That is why I love the PC, as I can try so many more games at my leisure (legally btw). And if all the current games suck, I don’t feel so bad going back to yesterdays best. I can’t seem to ever find a console gamer that enjoys going backwards (aside from those retro gamers among us).

  20. Robin says:

    It’s probably better for the console market that that 100m audience is split across multiple platforms this time around. A home console that can sell 100m+ units is almost by definition going to be competent but unexceptional in many technical respects. Having the Wii, 360 and PS3 gives lots of different types of games a viable audience without having to compromise their design.

  21. Myros says:

    As another postee said on another thread … ‘why dont they just add a mouse and keyboard to the consoles and be done with it’.

    Really, why dont they? I could care less what the name of the hardware Im using is, I just hate console control/input devices (and the horrible game interface mechanics it leads to.)

    I mean give people the choice of the style of input they prefer and they are all just CPUs GPUs and sound hardware. The resolutions limitations of early consoles vs PC monitors was an issue sure, but with HD even that’s a blurred issue now right?

  22. Alex says:

    As another postee said on another thread … ‘why dont they just add a mouse and keyboard to the consoles and be done with it’.

    Really, why dont they?

    It might be that the major console corporations are actually playing to the “PC is bad” meme that people have glibly accepted the last five or so years – although they’ve never really mentioned it directly it must play into their sales. Hence they don’t want to be associated with PC gaming.

  23. RichPowers says:

    Four player console gaming with keyboards and mice would be a bit difficult. You’d need 8 USB slots or USB splitters…

    That excluded, the Kb/M setup does lend itself to single-player and multiplayer (Live). But I think that image is almost too “PC game-like” for the consoles…some lonely computer geek playing by himself.

  24. etho says:

    @heartless_:

    “I can’t seem to ever find a console gamer that enjoys going backwards (aside from those retro gamers among us).”

    So, aside from the ones that like to play old games, you can’t find console gamers that like to play old games? Right-o.

    I think you’re dead wrong about that. That’s why backwards compatibility is a big issue in the console field, and why people like the Wii’s Virtual Console. And besides, sure maybe you’ll only get 1 or 2 games out of any single dev team in a given console cycle, but there are lots of dev teams making lots of games, and lots of them are good. So if you only get one good game in a given hardware cycle, you are doing something wrong.

    Actually, I just don’t really understand your comment at all.

    Anyway, I still feel like PCs and consoles both have good and bad points. Consoles are easier and cheaper at the cost of user control, PCs allow for more customization at the cost of, er, cost and ease-of-use. Consoles will have more broad appeal and PC’s will have a more devoted user base. And that’s fine. I’m just sick of people pretending that one platform is somehow better than the other.

    Also, I don’t mind if consoles are made more M&K friendly, just as long as I can still use my gamepad. M&K just feels wrong to me, despite growing up on Doom and Marathon.

  25. Joe says:

    I think that UT3 on the ps3 allows you to plug a Keboard and mouse into it to play. I’m not sure about other games but it’s possible. The 360 also understands keyboard input as one of my friends uses a USB keyboard to talk on messenger. SO it sounds like if the game supports it, you can use it. If anyone has these consoles, could you try it, I’d like to know.

    Joe

  26. Anthony Damiani says:

    Honestly, with the retail sales of PC games being what they are relative to console equivalents (see: Bioshock), I think the thing we need to be thinking about now is convergence– some sort of a console product with M+K input, high def, easy free multiplayer and convenient user mods, a HD. I don’t really CARE about whether I call my gaming rig a “PC” or a “Console,” I care about these elements of the user experience. FPS is bad enough– but RTS, or TBS, or anything with a lot of complexity? F’geddaboutit.

    There are some fun things about the consoles and console interfaces that I’d love to be able to access and play with. Obviously, it’s the better approach for when you’ve got a bunch of buddies over, and the Wii offers some really innovative gameplay possibilities. If someone wants to sell me a console, make one that doesn’t demand I sacrifice things I like in games.

    It shouldn’t be that hard.

  27. Catch.153 says:

    To be off topic, I would like to pound the floor and whine, “Where’s the next TF2 ‘Meet the Whomever’ short!”

  28. Butler` says:

    Buy a 360 to go along side your PC = win.

  29. Andrew Farrell says:

    A home console that can sell 100m+ units is almost by definition going to be competent but unexceptional in many technical respects.

    Yes. Fortunately, you can buy games for it.

  30. Andrew Farrell says:

    Buy a 360 to go along side your PC = win

    See, this is what I don’t understand. If you’re going to buy a console, why buy one that’s as close as possible, and has so many games in common, to a PC? Why not buy an actual console?

  31. R. says:

    Because there are still a fair number of games that aren’t common to PC? Hell, a 360 is worth it just to play Virtua Fighter 5 online, nevermind the rest of it.

  32. Chaz says:

    Will Tomas where the hell are you buying your games from? £50 for a 360 game, £60 for a PS3 game! You’re being ripped badly off if thats what you’re paying. The majority of my 360 games have come in at under £35. I preordered R6 Vegas 2 for my 360 a few weeks back and that was for less than £30.

    As for the old survival of the platforms thing, I think that as long as people are still making huge sums of money out of them, then they’re not going to disappear or die off.

  33. RotBot says:

    See, this is what I don’t understand. If you’re going to buy a console, why buy one that’s as close as possible, and has so many games in common, to a PC? Why not buy an actual console?

    I was thinking of buying an Xbox 360 last year, so I went on Metacritic to see if there were enough good titles to make it worthwhile. I think I came up with a list of 9 games, of which all but 3 were already available on PC or scheduled for PC. And I’m going to have to disagree with R. on the worthiness of $340 + $50/year to play a single game (or 3). In the end, I bought a Wii, because the number of decent games was similar but zero of them were ever going to have a PC release.