Dealing With Change: PC Gaming’s "Demise"

Recently, I noticed that the PC Demo quantity had been drastically cut and thought that it was finally the PC gaming end times. After all, I had noticed earlier that there’s few-to-no PC games in many games stores, much like how it was before my Amiga went south. However, these are largely subjective observations, and I only decided to blog about after seeing a Tom’s Games dialogue on the matter.

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The 2007 PC gaming sales were actually very poor. For example, Call of Duty 4 sold millions of XBox 360 titles in the first week while the PC version of the same game sold a few hundred thousand total. The developers attribute this gap to piracy.

The PC hardware differs from consoles in that they have the means to replicate software included. Software crackers are very good at what they do and there’s insufficient enforcement measures to stop them. The path of least resistance dictates that most people would rather get something for free than pay for it. Certainly, piracy is a contributing factor to the gap between PC and console sales.

However, I’m not so sure piracy alone is responsible for the PC gaming slump. I think PC gamers are bored of all the clones. Not too many big-name PC games have unique and interesting concepts. It’s reached the point where a game like Portal causes us to ooh and aah in amazement and it’s actually a very simple concept. Under such conditions, it’s not unreasonable to believe that the user base has been so bored that many have moved on to the more interesting waters of consoles. This failure on an artistic level likely had far more of an impact than piracy.

There’s not much the big-name PC gaming industry can do but hope that their investors will suddenly start risking money on more innovative projects. Sure, you might not make as much money, but at least your user base doesn’t abandon your platform entirely. There’s not much chance of that happening, however, as the corporate suits have likely invested enough in consoles as to not see it worrisome if PC gaming dies.

Optimistically, I’m thinking that maybe PC gaming isn’t dying, but rather the existing corporate footprint is moving out and the indy game developers have a chance to move in. Swapping the likes of Electronic Arts for Spiderweb Software or Moonpod is a pretty good trade in terms of thought-provoking game quality. You can open up that Independant Gaming Blog link on the left and find lots of links to games that give you hope as a PC gamer again, not the least being this list of 50 really good indy games.

9 Responses

  1. When you say “PC gaming” do you mean “keyboard and mouse gaming”? That seems to be the biggest gap these days between PC’s and consoles — the interface.

    I’ve always expected PC games and consoles to “merge”, in a sense, and the same goes with television, phones and the internet. Cable companies offering VOIP (voice over IP), Xbox and Playstations already have the same components as our desktops, the list can go on and on. Technology is slowly becoming universally… uh I forgot the word… universally connected to one another, or whatever. I dunno.

    I could see the term “PC gaming” simply referring to the time before everything merged into the whatever the fuck we are going to have in the future that does it all.

    Fuck it I dont think I made any point here at all.

  2. Another thing to consider… many people get their online games direct on the web. Who needs a box from the store when you can just download it?

    Even if it’s not a MMO, steam sales… did they have an impact?

    Unlike consoles, PC gaming does not need the physical medium, and as more and more people join the online generation, less and less pc games will sell in the stores.

  3. Thanks for the comments.

    mw —

    It’s a good point that the main difference between the PC and consoles can be looked at as a difference in interface.

    When I refer to “PC Gaming,” in this article, I’m referring to games specifically packaged as being sold on PC systems, whether they be ports or developed specifically for that system.

    grimwell —

    That’s a good point about online sales through Steam and also services like GameTap. I think that the Tom’s Games video touches on that briefly as well.

    I can see that a lot of sales are going to move online just beacause it’s a lot more convenient than running down to the store. I admit it, I’ve bought access to Direct2Drive, Steam, and GameTap games.

    In this article, I’m more concerned about PC games regardless of how they’re being distributed. If a lot of big-name developer talent moves out because the PC gaming platform is considered downright unprofitable that means we’re going to suffer a bit of a technological rollback for the games developed on this platform. However, considering Indy gamers seem to be make generally more original concepts, perhaps that would be for the best.

  4. I don’t understand your worries. You create these doomsday predictions seemingly for the sake of attempting to accurately portray your love towards PC games. Yes, yes, we read your blog and know that you love gaming more than anything else. Don’t worry so much.

  5. mw —
    So, what do I have to do in this country to point out a change that interests me without being psychoanalyzed in an attempt to wrap a comfortable label around me?

    I’m not trying to be insulting, I’m just really tired of being personally put under a magnifying glass when I’d rather examine a subject.

    Grimwell —
    That’s an interesting article” you sent.

    NYTimes is surprisingly tech-savvy for a non-tech publication at times, and this article is no exception. The bases are pulled together a little strange though – how critics don’t influence game purchases as much as other mediums and this somehow bridges into hardcore gamers needing to get out more.

    I had to choose my audience, and given the choice between the average newbie gamer and the hardcore, I have to admit that I resemble/sympathize more with the hardcore. When I talk about PC gaming suffers very much from originality I’m definitely referring to the distinguished player because newbies can’t tell the difference.

    However, are not the hardcore gamers an audience too? Are they to languish in obscurity and boredom because they’re not as profitable as any schmuck with a wallet? Is it unfair to demand the state of gaming art be advanced for reasons other than personal profit?

    I guess I’m just crazy that way. However, perhaps there’s some practical purpose to my madness, as I suspect that even a newbie can tell the difference between mediocrity and genius when they’ve played them both. Artistic talent is a valuable skill in any entertainment medium, and video games should be no different.

  6. It will be interesting to see the effect of trends like XNA Studio, which allow developers to use the same code base on Xbox, Windows PC and (forthcoming) Zune. If the cost of the PC version is a small increment only, perhaps the arithmetic will support PC versions even with lower sales.

  7. I think it’s best asked: PC gaming is dying. So?

  8. Check this out it provides some clear evidence based on your point.

    Take special notice of the ending, where the writer points to online games and the lack of multiplayer in traditional PC games as an issue.

    I think that’s very valid, being together, even when playing solo, is a big lift.

  9. So? PC gaming is the only truly open medium, which coincidentally is why I think it’s doing fine. Developers can rarely please the hardcore, that’s true of more than just the PC scene.

    From my reading it seems like everyone glazes over the obvious answer, the answer that’s actually starting to be put in effect. Everyone seems to say, “Well gee, AAA games are getting more and more expensive to make, and market X isn’t delivering to support it! We’re doomed!”

    That answer is that too much money is being wasted on graphics, forgetting the fact that games are something people PLAY. A game only needs to be not hideous for people to give it a shot, past that they either stay or go because it’s fun to play.

    There is a very very small market when it comes to AAA graphics, the market where people just plunked down a huge chunk of money on a hot PC and want to put it through its paces. If they had a good reason to buy 10 copies of every game they buy they might just have the funds to do so and it’d be a viable market, but they don’t and it isn’t.

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