Is it Thanksgiving or Groundhog day? I could have sworn it was yesterday that news emerged of a Ubisoft title not being released on PC, with anguished claims about rampant piracy being blamed. Now it's the turn of Ghost Recon: Future Soldier and although the quotes given to PC Gamer don't actually accuse us all of 'bitching', they do paint an unpleasant view of the PC gaming landscape. We're told that Ghost Recon Online is the PC's alternative to Ghost Recon: Future Soldier.
'Why', you ask? Senior producer Sebastien Arnoult has the answers. Or at least, some answers. "When we started Ghost Recon Online we were thinking about Ghost Recon: Future Solider; having something ported in the classical way without any deep development, because we know that 95 per cent of our consumers will pirate the game." Sigh.
There it is. A frank admission that 'classical' PC ports don't have 'any deep development' because PC consumers are mostly pirates. Thanks for that. Arnoult claims that Future Soldier was never intended to come out on PC, although the existence of PC-specific forums at the official website suggests there may well have been plans at some point. It's the reasoning given for not releasing the game that are so bothersome though.
What's particularly irksome is the seeming faith in the assumption that the vast majority of people who play games on a PC would rather pirate them than pay for them. That must be why Skyrim is selling so badly and why Steam has collapsed under the pressure of operating in an environment where nobody spends any money, ever, for any reason. It's a horrible place, the world he describes, so I'm glad that reality doesn't appear to contain it.
But in case you're thinking that you actually would like to pay for Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, don't worry. You're wrong, you don't want that at all. This decision was made because they've listened to us! Mr Arnoult tells us how he's reacted to our demands, while also telling us what we said in the first place.
"We are giving away most of the content for free because there's no barrier to entry. To the users that are traditionally playing the game by getting it through Pirate Bay, we said, 'Okay, go ahead guys. This is what you're asking for. We've listened to you - we're giving you this experience. It's easy to download, there's no DRM that will pollute your experience.'"
The framing of that statement, arriving with the announcement that the game won't be on PC at all, does make it sound like all PC gamers traditionally acquire games through Pirate Bay. Is it a stretch to suggest that there's an admission that Ubisoft's DRM has polluted experiences in the past? If so, it seems an odd solution to remove the thing that was polluted rather than trying to clean it up. Perhaps we should drain the oceans.
"We have to adapt, we have to embrace this instead of pushing it away. That's the main reflection behind Ghost Recon Online and the choice we've made to go in this direction."
So they are embracing the pirate-ridden wasteland by only releasing free games into it? I'm not entirely sure I understand. Who wins in that situation? Not legitimate customers, that's for sure, who it seems will miss out on the entire single player campaign of Future Soldier, with only Ghost Recon: Online to play. That's not to say Ghost Recon: Online won't be a good game - we'll be writing about it very soon, having seen it and come away impressed. But the attitude as to why only a free game is possible on PC does rankle. It doesn't help that we've had comments like this two days in a row, of course.
There's a little more.
"I don't like to compare PC and Xbox boxed products because they have a model on that platform [Xbox] that is clearly meant to be €60's worth of super-Hollywood content. On PC, we're adapting our model to the demand."
You see, we don't want super-Hollywood content on the PC, or sixty Euro's worth of game. We just want the scraps. Except we also want the super-Hollywood content so much that we will steal it at the first possible opportunity.
I think I'll play Serious Sam 3 for a while, obviously spending the whole time wishing that it was more Hollywood.