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Thread: The death of PC gaming

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    Vive le pants! directhex's Avatar
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    The death of PC gaming

    I do a lot of discussing of gaming in my house. One of my housemates is really interested in the phsychology of games & the videogame industry. We end up doing a lot of chatting about where things are, market trends, and it has become more & more obvious that PC gaming is doomed.

    Before you jump to flame me (although that is the idea ), keep reading. The PC is a marginal platform. 80% of full-priced game sales are for Playstation 2, the remaining 20% are shared between PC, PS1, Gamecube, XBox, nGage, and Game Boy Advance. It's not 19% to the PC & 1% for the rest, it's about 5-6% for the PC.

    Now take that small market, and consider the effect of piracy. All platforms suffer from piracy, but only the PC can do it with no extra kit, mods, etc. any moron with a net connection can pirate games, and start churning out copies for all his mates.

    So we have a platform with hig piracy, and relatively low sales. If we take the full impact of competitive pricing and piracy into account, the per-unit sales of every PC title mean it has smaller share than any of the consoles.

    Yes, everyone & his dog has a PC, it can do pretty graphics, but the number of people buying the games is low.

    Time for some fuzzy maths. Take a dev team of 20 people, paid an average of £30k per annum, working on a 1-year project. Factor in development costs, equipment, research, productions etc, and you're looking at about £1.5m for a game. At a per-unit profit of £5 a game after retail, wholesaler & publisher costs, it takes 0.3 million copies sold to break even on a title, assuming there are 0 costs on tech support, no servers to run, and no patches are released. Don't get me wrong, EVERY platform has this. However, console gamers pay for their games - releasing a game on console rather than PC is a good way to make more money, which is all these companies care about in the end.

    The solution, as far as these companies are concerned, is to release a game for one platform, then release it on others afterwards to get a few more pennies. The more important platform comes first. Grand Theft Auto 3/Vice City came on PS2, then ported to PC & XBox. Deus Ex 2 done on XBox, then ported to PC. Halo done one XBox, then ported to PC. All ports, and not particularly good ones at that. As publishers realise people are more interested in half-arsed sequels and ports, the desire to create fresh new games on PC dwindles.

    It's not gone entirely, don't get me wrong. a few worthy PC titles a year are getting made and released, but against the tide of ports & rubbishrubbishrubbishrubbishe, they end up not actually selling as many copies as the companies' shareholders would like.

    PC gamers' strong belief in their god-given right to free content (e.g. a master server, for free, forever) doesn't help.

    What's the answer to all of this?

    I'm a firm believer that ever platform should explit its streangths. XBox should have XBox-specific games to take advantage of its raw power, great sound, hard disk & online play. Gamecube should explit its GBA connectivity and powerful pixel shaders, and the best controller of the lot - and the fact that it's dirt cheap. The PS2 should exploit its... erm... nice blue packaging.

    So what does the PC has as an advantage? It costs ten times more than a gamecube to get a PC which can do gamecube-grade graphics. it's harder to set up, it takes more room. What is great about the PC?

    It's uniquely positionned to allow for consumer-generated content. Mods, maps, extra levels, the community out there giving you more is what makes the PC special. The convergance in technologies allowing you to chat with friends online, then hop into a game with them, to pick from any choice of mods & maps, find a server to your tastes & join. There's the advantage of PC games. Is the current publishing model taking advantage of this? Not really.

    How can PC gaming be saved, have premium PC games in the hands of players & a meal on the tables on the developers? Imagine for a moment that instead of buying a box in the shops, you buy it online. You'll need a 150Mb patch by the time you get the game home anyway, so why not just download the thing? That would skip the retailers & wholesalers. The publishers could charge £10 a game & make a greater profit per sale. Now, consider for a moment - who needs publishers anymore? What if the developers had a mechanism where they could just publish online? Charge £7.50 a game, making 50% more than they used to? Makes you think

    Of course, if you're publishing online, you're not constrained by boxed-product thinking anymore. You could take a game like, for the sake of argument, Baldur's Gate 2, and make the first chapter of the game (i.e. the prologue) free. People download it, then go "Hey, I liked that, I want more!", and buy the full (moddable) client and the next chapter of the game for a couple of pounds. They keep playing, buying more chapters as they want them. With no boxes or release dates to work to, they can keep releasing the content as long as people want to keep playing. You could set a release every fortnight of a new chapter, allowing people to pre-order the chapter, pre-downloading it in advance, so that at "release date", the net explodes with activity as everyone jumps on their newest chapter. You could offer different payment models for an FPS - charge a tenner for the single player, a tenner for 3 months of access to the multiplayer, or thirty quid for lifetime access to the whole thing. You want less, you pay less. Overall, everybody wins.

    PC gamers are a clever sort, so you can imaginge how happy they'd be at any system designed to lower the price of gaming & keep PC gaming alive as a platform. Far Cry & Battlefield Vietnam aren't gonna sustain the entire PC gaming market forever.

    OK, I'm done. I expect some high-quality rebuttals by the time I'm done getting this BEERnix install working

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    Vive le pants! directhex's Avatar
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    MMORPGs are an interesting development. Another housemate is an especially interesting example of this, as he plays several mmorpgs, happily pays for multiple accounts. MMORPGs create their own stories, their own communities. People don't want to stop playing, because then they'd lose that community. It's a powerful commercial force, but it really only applies to something with a persistance to it - something where your playing or not playing makes a fixed permanent differenct to how your group does.

    The question is though, who would pay a subscription for counterstrike?

    And how many MMORPGs fail miserably?

    Actually, it's interesting to see how the smaller MMORPGs cope - Jumpgate has about 400 suscribers, but since the staff consists of 1 person per hemisphere, it actually makes a profit. The future for games? Maybe.

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    No reason why the pc games industry can't follow what many in the music industry are doing, both mean that the end user pays less for the products and the developer/artist makes a greater profit, big smiles all around (apart from the old publishers), job done.
    (\__/)
    (='.'=)
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    Battlefield Vietnam has surprisingly taken me despite peoples warnings its not bad!

    I think this year we will see a slight PC revival and from first hand experience i can tell you pc games do seem to be on the rise.

    This year we have Far Cry, HL-2, Doom 3, Stalker etc... so things are looking up, but yes i do agree on the whole.

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    don't i say that in paragraphs 14-15 ;P

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    not quite no hence i thought i'd comment

    biatch...

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    Quote Originally Posted by directhex
    don't i say that in paragraphs 14-15 ;P
    I was agreeing with your general point, there is little else that can be concluded. It either goes that way or dies, simple as that. *shrug*
    (\__/)
    (='.'=)
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    Really, hex, you have too much time on your hands.

    That post is war and peace!

    Anyway, PC gaming will never die out, bit it isn't the same as it used to be.
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    Quote Originally Posted by directhex
    MMORPGs are an interesting development. Another housemate is an especially interesting example of this, as he plays several mmorpgs, happily pays for multiple accounts. MMORPGs create their own stories, their own communities. People don't want to stop playing, because then they'd lose that community. It's a powerful commercial force, but it really only applies to something with a persistance to it - something where your playing or not playing makes a fixed permanent differenct to how your group does.

    The question is though, who would pay a subscription for counterstrike?

    And how many MMORPGs fail miserably?

    Actually, it's interesting to see how the smaller MMORPGs cope - Jumpgate has about 400 suscribers, but since the staff consists of 1 person per hemisphere, it actually makes a profit. The future for games? Maybe.
    BUT there are free mmorpg's and hundreds of thousands of people play them and .... gett addicted... and ... dont stop.... like me
    JOIN MY ARMY!

    but its verry sad that the PC is gonna die... i just spent a small fortune on mine

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    Just wonder where you get figures for game sales by platform, cant seem to find any worlwide ones, spent soddin ages on google. Best I came up with was PC having 31% of the games market in USA in 2003.
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    Last edited by Flibb; 23-03-2004 at 10:19 PM.

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    Vive le pants! directhex's Avatar
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    industry magazines MVC and (until they closed down) CTW

    and the Christmas 2003 sales figures, as provided by Charttrack.

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    Done a bir more googling and looks like there was a drop in market share (USA) away from the PC in 2003, but of only around 3%. Unfortunately I am not sure if the market grew overall in that time.
    Flibb

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    Senior Member RoGuE|SaBeR's Avatar
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    I'll tell you for a fact that playstations have such a large market share because I work in a GAME store. The Sony beast sells easily 6 - 10 times more than any other console / platform before the rest are even considered.
    People ask you "What is the difference between them all?" and I start into the sales pitch. Xbox having more processing power, mofo of a machine really... But then I have to say that everyone usually buys Playstations, they have oddles more games and that you can play DVDs outta the box. Sony has marketed the damned thing so well that it's a household name any EVERYONE knows what a playstation is.

    Incase anyone doesn't know (just making sure) you can play DVDs straight outta the box with a Playstation 2 but you have to buy a memory card - inversely with the Xbox you can save to the hard disk but you have to buy a DVD remote to enable DVD play back. People seem to think that the DVD playback at first is the better option....

    MUPPETS! YOU CAN DO BOTH WITH A PC

    Going to create a stereotype here but the majority of console gamers are dumb. They ask you for Vice City as it's the only decent game they know of and it annoys me that so many of the RUBBISH and complete CRAP games sell like "Generic Racing Game A" and "Inset Cheap License Here" 2006. Granted there are a few who know their stuff and you can banter with but PC Gamers are on the whole a different kettle of fish.

    WE KNOW OUR STUFF

    They know what games are good, which ones to laugh at (Removal man and Bin Man anyone?), can hold a conversation about games which lasts longer than "uh yea the graphics are pretty cool, I LOVE GTA!" and seem to buy GOOD games. Rarely do I sell shaft PC games except to the relatives of the budding PC genius at home as a birthday present. Little do they know that little Johnny will open "Family Card Games" and install it as a token gesture before relegating it to the dustheap and returning to the copy of UT2004 he has had on pre order via the internet for weeks.

    The eruption of Sony has been a disaster for PC Gamers. I also blame Sony for the Mirco$haft invasion of the console market - Sony were too damn successful in a technological market involving computers and Micro$haft weren't getting a slice so they jumped in with their OVERFLOWING coffers to create another PC slayer with added vampire qualities (ie stealing Halo and sucking quality releases away from the PC) Sadly I have to agree that the PC as a games platform (in its current state) is dying a death.

    Some excellent suggestions about game distribution there hex, its quite shocking how the RRP (£39.99) of say a Playstation 2 or Xbox game is divided out to the parties involved. Now considering PC games are sold cheaper and factor in a MUCH smaller market share on the same oercentage distribution of the RRP and you can see how little developers of PC games are getting. Without a shadow of a doubt the PC is the single most cutting edge gaming platform PC - gaming has probably driven the IT industry in the field of realtime graphics faster than any other medium.

    Changes need to be made to ensure DOOM 4 and Half Life 3 make the shelves or the "virtual" shelves. (No release date jokes )

    End Rant.

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    Vive le pants! directhex's Avatar
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    the biggest selling PC games of last year were The Sims franchise, Championship Manager, and Vice City.

    PC gamers know their stuff? ;P

    Actually, suprised nobody's jumped on one of the main focal points of the rant. I'll leave it a while & see. The winner has to send me a spare UDMA cable!

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    Fair point about the sales but...

    The Sims - Its a fairly friendly program in as far as minimum specs go and it really cracked the female divide. Its pretty much the only game which little girls will buy or even teenage girls. Its sales are derived from the merciless production of cheap and arguabley "lame" expansion packs which this impressionable target audience buys into. I first thought it would be a break through product that would lead none gamers and even very casual gamers into the more advanced titles. In short -

    • It sold because it runs on almost any PC, especially branded ones. (Tiny, Compaq, Dell)
    • It has a different market than the other PC games.
    • It can be damn attictive for a while


    Championship Manager - A know of several people who have PCs in their home for "work" such as homework, household items etc. and this is the only piece of entertainment software save minesweeper and solitare on their computers. Once again it doesnt require the latest Radeon to run and it has an audience different to traditional PC games - football fans. Once again I'm going to have to stereotype but footy fans arent exactly the most tech savvy people in general and FIFA or Pro Evo is usually the height of their gaming fill. Championship Manager is pretty good I'll admit and I enjoy it but it doesn't really fit into the PC game description very well as its essentially spreadsheets about football management.

    Vice City - Exception as it's actually an extremely good game!

    What I'm trying to say is that in general people who play A LOT of pc games (ie. not just say The Sims or Champ manager solely) know what they are on about. Those titles are marketed to ensure there is almost zero competition that can better them.

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