- Kelly's World- A View into the mind of Uber Geek, Kelly Adams - http://www.kgadams.net -

The failure of the PC Game industry…

Game developers for the personal computer are becoming scarce. More and more developers are changing their focus to develop console games- games for the XBox 360, PS3, Wii, and so on. Many of the games that make it to the PC are low-quality “ports” of games that were first release months or years earlier on the console.

Why is this happening? There are a lot of reasons, and I imagine each developer would have a slightly different explanation of their particular defection. Here are the main reasons that I hear quoted and which sort of make sense to me:

There is truth in each of the above points. It is almost impossible to argue with the first point: the strength of the PC is its customizability, but that strength makes it very difficult to develop a game that provides a consistent experience and stretches the boundaries of the hardware. The choice developers face is to either develop software for the “lowest common denominator” so it will work on hardware built several years ago, or to build for the cutting edge hardware and intentionally exclude a significant majority of their potential buyers. Even then, they still have to invest in massive and expensive testing platforms, then later in support and patches to correct the compatibility issues that will invariably arise.

The piracy issue is also real. Exactly how big the impact is can be debated, but no one can argue that a lot of gamers illegally copy their games rather than buying them. The most successful PC games are the ones where copying the software is pointless: online / massively multiplayer games. But not every game is “online”, so developers spend millions creating, testing, and supporting various anti-piracy methods that they add to their games. Various limitations are built into the software: you have to insert the original install disk, you must be online, you can only install the game three times, if your PC isn’t compatible with the copy protection the game may not work at all… this aggravates the users. The really foolish part of this is the fact that the only people who suffer from these anti-piracy limitations are the legitimate, paying customers. The people who illegally copy the software end up with a program that has all of these copy protection limitations removed. Think about it: you can pay and end up with a constrained, limited, irritating version of the software; or you can steal it, not paying a cent, and end up with an easy to install program without any limitations. Something is backwards here. Some companies are beginning to realize that the impact of copy protection and digital rights management are out of whack, so much so that they have proposed a gamer’s bill of rights [1]. Not many developers have adopted it yet, though…

The above issues will continue to encourage developers to move away from the personal computer platform. Solutions will have to be found if we want to continue playing games without buying a little dedicated box for the purpose. As gamers, we probably have to accept some changes, possibly changes we won’t entirely like. The two things that I think need to change in order to keep at least some game development happening on the PC:

Part of this is that gamers will have to become more tolerant of being online to play “single player” games. But if I don’t have to worry about future re-installs being blocked, and if I get some sort of benefit from being online, I think I can sign up for that. Particularly if it means that at least some kind of healthy PC game industry persists into the future.