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What can we do to save PC gaming?


LewieP
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3 years ago I was arguing that PC gaming was dying a slow death. I've reversed my position now.

Digital distribution saved PC gaming. Advertising to millions of potential customers has become essentially free, reawakening the small and indie developers that populised the platform in the first place. The user experience has greatly improved, and the tedious process of purchasing, playing and patching has become largely frictionless. The much-vaunted long-tail increasingly has begun to appear in PC gaming too, allowing games from 5-10 years ago to still remain on the marketplace.

High-budget PC-exclusives are disappearing, but high-budget exclusives have been dying for a while full stop. PC gaming is going to be secondary to console gaming sales-wise for the forseeable future, but that doesn't mean PC gaming is dying or going away.

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3 years ago I was arguing that PC gaming was dying a slow death. I've reversed my position now.

Totally agree. I was of the same opinion a few years ago, but am now spending more time on my PC than on consoles.

When 360 and PS3 came along I just canned my PC gaming due to frustration with driver problems, Windows stability, and the fact that games on consoles just looked so much better. In the previous generation, I'd juggled PS2, XBox, Gamecube and PC, but had really moved over to consoles as the new generation arrived.

However, as we've discussed in this thread, I don't think the current generation of consoles is delivering the innovation that was promised, while PC services and games have started to edge ahead. Part of this is pricing, part of it is (as others mentioned) the innovation in their online services and digital distribution systems.

To be honest, if Valve made a small form-factor PC which came with a bluetooth keyboard and mouse, and all it ran was Steam and Steam software, I'd be in there day-1.

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To be honest, if Valve made a small form-factor PC which came with a bluetooth keyboard and mouse, and all it ran was Steam and Steam software, I'd be in there day-1.

I hear what you're saying, but wouldn't that just be a Valve console?

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There could be different levels of "Valve Console." The entry level could allow you to play the simple casual games and the odd 3D game, but it would be the cheapest. The mid level console would let you play most 3D games and the top dog would be super powerful, let you play anything and be expensive.

It will never happen though.

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I'm not saying PC gaming is all roses, but we're firstly arriving at the stage where the consoles have been out for a few years and PC hardware has moved on. With a desk, a nice LCD, and a half-decent PC, we are now getting versions of multiplatform games where the PC version is quite superior to the console releases -- e.g. Dragon Age.

And yet still what is there that can match Uncharted 2? Not just from a visual standpoint, obviously Crysis raises it's head there, but the way it seamlessly flows from one scene to another without loads just like a movie does. Not only that but combined with stunning voice work you've got one of the most technically accomplished titles being a console exclusive.

Which is the other thing, console exclusives aren't dying. It's the third party exclusive that's dying but when you consider what Sony put out this year or the massive franchises that Nintendo has up it's sleeve, I mean 18 million copies of Mario Kart Wii sold says to me that exclusives are alive and well thank you very much.

As for Dragon Age, well that was never going to work on console. It's just another game that proves each platform has there strengths and weaknesses.

You might also want to show some respect for the platform which not only invented and set the rules for online gaming but which continues to innovate and control online gaming whilst consoles imitate and copy it to varying degrees of success.

Let's assume for the moment that Modern Warfare 2 was the biggest game of the year. Let's also assume it sold the most on a console. Now let's go and assume that the online play in the PC version emulated the modern console online experience. I mean if that were to happen it'd mean that consoles had some sort of influence right. But that's all hogwash, I mean it's not like you've got someone respected like John Carmack coming out and supporting that methodology...

Also I think you missed the prior sarcasm. Unless yours was a more subtle mock post, in which case my apologies.

The amazing thing is that Nintendo (for example) dedicate their entire resources into making innovative devices into order to penetrate the massmarket - and they make some great games apparently - a NOBODY then along comes some internet app that allows virtual social interactivity - they add a game or two and suddenly the massmarket have stopped playing the Wii so much. Its that easy.

I mean okay, Farmville hasn't taken over the world i grant you - but fuck me its only a 2D isometric flash game that cost very little compared to the constant input Nintendo have had to make.

Prehaps Ninty should turn to facebook (you know - that app on the PC) but they'd probably charge something to play their game and no one would bother.

Changing the subject to one of cost, yet again, despite owning the console, and i said about 2 months ago - MS's pricing is for XBLA is dire. For simple puzzle games - as a gamer - i turn to Steam which shares many XBLA concept puzzle games whilst the massmarket just play them for nothing.

First of all I love it when people think they know how to make money better than Nintendo. I mean, really? Unless you're Bill Gates, and let's face it they haven't done too well at it, then I really think you need to keep stum. Sure we can criticise their output in terms of quality or frequency but to lol at them because of some free to play* fadbook app while they're creating money houses is absurd.

On the subject of price, yes the PC is cheaper, although sometimes barely if you're going through official channels. Borderlands for example is currently available cheaper on console than it is on PC. It's all swings and roundabouts. Steam have those awesome sales, PSN and XBLA have followed suit. It's good for every gamer in the long run.

What PC gamers always fail to realise is that using a PC for gaming isn't as easy as they like to think. I mean my mother has a Steam account, but to play the games someone has to set up shortcuts on the desktop for her. If anything goes wrong then she's screwed as the PC will no doubt throw an error code at her. To play a Wii she turns it on. Plus she uses a PC all day at work and the last thing she wants to do is stare at a laptop screen all day.

*assuming here, I've never even heard of the thing

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She can't open steam and double-click a game in the list? :huh:

Either your mother has a better grasp of technology than others or you don't have one, in which case you have my condolences.

Precisely, PC gamers assume everyone can use a PC like they do and it's the bestest and easiest platform ever because. That post kind of proved my point. My mother is pretty good when it comes to using apps she knows for work. Get her to learn something new and she falls apart. I don't think she even got as far as loading Steam, all she knew was that her games were missing because the shortcuts had gone.

Sorry. I was assuming someone with a Steam account would actually know how to use the application.

Ahhh I see your point. No my brother set her up an account so she could play things like peggle while she watched soaps.

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As for Dragon Age, well that was never going to work on console. It's just another game that proves each platform has there strengths and weaknesses.

Except that it does work and sold quite well.

Christ everyone seems to think that Edge 5 was for the console version alone rather than being a piece of wrongheadedness aimed at the script.

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I fixed some ones sound problems once. They were a male of 25 and a pretty hardcore RTS player but all of a sudden they were getting no sound. He had pushed mute on the keyboard. Just goes to show, even if they're playing games they don't know jack.

Also I'm an idiot for assuming he wasn't that stupid. I didn't even thing to check that before I'd dismantled the thing and put it back together.

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And yet still what is there that can match Uncharted 2? Not just from a visual standpoint, obviously Crysis raises it's head there, but the way it seamlessly flows from one scene to another without loads just like a movie does. Not only that but combined with stunning voice work you've got one of the most technically accomplished titles being a console exclusive.

Not sure what you're on to here. Uncharted 2 will remain a PS3 exclusive, that's pretty certain, but that's not to say it wouldn't work on PC. Near-seamless loading and high-quality voice acting aren't weirdly exclusive to any platform, as numerous recent multiformat titles show (Batman: Arkham Asylum for one). PC exclusives don't tend to focus on this, instead playing directly to the platform's unique strengths most of the time, but plenty of multiformat titles which have PC versions do.

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Not sure what you're on to here. Uncharted 2 will remain a PS3 exclusive, that's pretty certain, but that's not to say it wouldn't work on PC. Near-seamless loading and high-quality voice acting aren't weirdly exclusive to any platform, as numerous recent multiformat titles show (Batman: Arkham Asylum for one). PC exclusives don't tend to focus on this, instead playing directly to the platform's unique strengths most of the time, but plenty of multiformat titles which have PC versions do.

I'm no doubt it could be done on PC. All I'm saying is that it isn't as PC games aren't really about pushing it any more. Also I love Batman but it comes nowhere close to the presentation of Uncharted 2. The voice work is good yes but the graphics, framing of scenes, transitions from cutscenes to game by using movie techniques are all lacking in comparison. It's the most cinematic game out there, one of the prettiest next to Crysis. It was more in response to the comment that consoles were getting on and PC tech has moved on, when it hasn't really. I mean the most graphically impressive game this year was a PS3 exclusive.

I also said that each platform plays to it's own strengths and that was a good thing too. I mean I wouldn't want to play an RTS on console ever but even Halo Wars managed to make it playable by actually tailoring the game design to the limited control method.

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I hear what you're saying, but wouldn't that just be a Valve console?

Yes, it is.

If one company with a rich and expanding software library were to "shrink wrap" PC hardware to match the requirements of their games, put it in a console-like box, and market it, I think it would do really well. As someone else mentioned, there could be different "levels" of Valve PC/Console. One for casual gamers, which is essentially a netbook (it could even be a netbook form factor with a built in screen), one for more demanding gamers which would plug in to an LCD monitor or HDTV using HDMI. Nothing to stop it being played from the sofa with the bundled keyboard/mouse, or on a desk as you would any other PC. Heck, if Valve sold this type of hardware, I'd bin my home-built PC right now and just go for the Valve model which is guaranteed to play their games and which they'd provide hardware support for. I have absolutely no desire to own and manage a custom PC, all I want to do is play the latest PC games and I'd happily do this on a "PC console" plugged in to my desktop LCD, played at my desk the same way I play on my PC today.

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Never, ever, ever underestimate the ability for people to be utterly moronic when it comes to using a PC.

When it comes to fixing PC gaming, it's a tricky question. Even if you massively improve the OS (Windows 7) and make it exceptionally easy for people to obtain PC games, communicate with other players and keep their games up to date (Steam), you still have the three big problems - price as a barrier to entry, piracy as a deterrent to developers and the misconception that PC gaming is ultra-difficult to manage and that you have to upgrade your system constantly.

A large problem is that people don't have the buying knowledge when it comes to choosing their PC, and they either buy something from PC World which is woefully inequipped for the task (at an inflated price) or buy a netbook and then try and play Crysis on it. This is understandable, and I don't have any real suggestions as to how it could be fixed.

Moreso, the PC is in decline for another interesting reason - the leading consoles have emulated many of the PCs greatest strengths in this generation, and as such made the idea of an always-online, interconnected gaming network a reality without the need for a PC at all. With a lesser chance of piracy, greater profit margins and all the other benefits of working with a closed system, not to mention the might of a single monolithic corporation providing advertising and research for the console platforms, it's really easy to see why the PC has taken an absolute kicking this generation.

And yet, every few years we hear the same old story - PC gaming is dead, consoles are the way forward, etc etc. I don't foresee the death of the PC as a gaming platform anytime soon (not before some mass-assimilation of devices leading to the PC as we know it ceasing to exist!) but the age of the big budget PC exclusive is over. Likewise, multiformat releases will normally see a quick and dirty port these days, such is the case of Modern Warfare 2. Don't be fooled, there was no rationale for the 'removal' of dedicated servers in MW2, they simply clicked 'save as' and changed the dropdown from 'Xbox 360 game' to 'PC port'. This of course allows them to flog map packs and the like, and save some money on the port too by not adding features that do nothing but lose them money in the long run. So far MW2 has been ok online for me, I'd probably be willing to lose dedicated server support if it meant we got day one releases of decent quality. I don't mind paying for DLC on the PC.

mw2-boycott-fail.jpg

Perhaps most significantly, we have a whole generation of gamers and budding designers who simply don't play PC games. Ten years ago this would have been fairly unheard of, but now it's common to come across a hardcore online FPS player who has never used a keyboard and mouse. The concept of gaming on a PC is alien to them, rather than a choice they've made, and this is only set to multiply exponentially in the coming years.

As a PC enthusiast the whole situation is pretty depressing, but I take solace in the great success that Steam has found. Besides providing the blueprint for the next generation of console, it also brings together PC gamers (sometimes in outrage!) and provides some measure of standardisation and a community hub for the platform.

I suspect that the PC will find its feet again, and I suspect we'll have this whole conversation again when the next round of exclusively digital Steamalike consoles hit in 2-3 years. I also suspect that the PC is not doing nearly as badly as people think, and that PC releases are finding their audience and making a tidy profit via digital distribution, the sales figures for which are not often reported (never, in the case of Steam which has the lions share of the market). Also, the next big thing will never surface on the console through a closed system. It will be born out in the wilds, to some tinkering coder in his bedroom or some startup company who get lucky.

:) Maybe, but a fool is a fool...

Calling Rudi a fool is a bit like calling SeanR a lurker. He's one of the most helpful, concise, polite and well-meaning posters we have, full stop. I like your enthusiasm for PC gaming though, even if your conduct and reasoning are perplexing.

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No, and before shortcuts are set up they need to run boot disks and edit config files just so the computer will even turn on.

Also therealjohnpeat, I was definitely being serious.

You've not used a PC in about 5+ years then...

A decent machine to play games runs about £600 - it's possible to do it for about £450 at a push - £2000 was a ridiculous figure (even for a gaming laptop!!)

The days of needing to hack and edit are long-gone too - the last 10 games I've bought (outside Steam) all installed and worked from 1 DVD and Steam makes that even easier (with automatic patching etc. etc.)

Sure, there's a more technical side to it - but that's all part and parcel of the wide variety of hardware out there and it's part of the PC 'thing'. They aren't meant to be as simple as consoles and the games are aimed at people who appreciate that aspect as much as those who despise it.

PC gaming is doing real well IMO - between a healthy indie scene, a wealth of free stuff and a range of games which make use of the the fact you have a whole keyboard and a mouse - things are dandy IMO

p.s. there's 1 thing which would change PC gaming for the better tho - and that's making a laptop which can play most games and doesn't cost £800+ We keep edging closer to it and I hoped the surge of Netbooks would push laptops just a bit more upmarket and get there but the recession has cut everything back to the bone - sadly...

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I will admit I used to be consoles only. PC gaming had no real interest for me. But at the time my PC was a pile of shit, old barely enough memory to run half-life 2 and a terrible graphics card. It would have been OK about 5 years before I bought it. But I never had any real reason to buy another one as it did the other stuff I needed it to do (net, word etc) fine. However, it then completely gave up the ghost started rebooting by itself when I was in the middle of skype convos, or doing something else. So I decided to drop £600 on a brand spanking new one, with decent monitor, graphics card, HD, the lot. Now alongside my Xbox 360, DS and Wii games (PS3 coming soon) I have a collection of disc based games, and a few digital downloads. It just expanded my gaming horizons as such. I mean I just bought World of Goo from Steam for a fiver, an excellent game I would never had looked at before.

PC gaming isn't dying, it's just got a smaller slice of the pie, but the size of the pie has increased.

(Ten points to anyone who knows which Discworld novel that's paraphrased from.)

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Fantastic post Morrius, couldn't agree more. Once digital distribution figures are added to the UK chart we're going to see a lot more PC titles in the top 20. Which, hopefully, will end some of the doom and gloom talk when it comes to PC gaming.

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