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The State of PC Gaming
By: Staff, GameSpot - Posted on Sep 9, 2011
PC publishing and development luminaries share their thoughts on the current state of the PC gaming platform and where it's heading.
Whether it's the rise of indie games, the growing popularity of digital downloads, or the sheer horsepower or creativeness of its community, it's undoubtedly a good time to be a PC gamer. We spoke with several prominent members of the PC development world while at Gamescom to get their thoughts on the current state of gaming on the PC platform, the biggest hurdles it faces, and where it's going.
Karl-Magnus Troedsson, general manager, DICE
How does the European PC gaming market compare with the Asian and North American markets?
First and foremost, and this is based more on feeling than actual numbers, but I would say it's bigger. PC gaming is really big in Europe compared especially to North America. I'm unsure of Asia, but I can guess that PC gaming is quite big in South Korea, for example. Our general feeling is that our Battlefield community on PC is definitely the largest in Europe, which is something we're very proud of.
How would you say the taste in genres compares in Europe and North America?
It's pretty similar. PC players around the world probably play very similar games. There are a lot of massively multiplayer online games and shooters; those are probably the two biggest genres, except for the whole free-to-play and Facebook spectrum of games.
What would you say is the biggest threat to PC gaming?
In light of recent events, not just gaming but everything, hacking is one of our biggest problems. I think every company out there is arming themselves to the teeth when it comes to security. It's natural for a company to gain its credibility and take care of a person's credit card. The problem is that if [hacking] keeps increasing, then this will perhaps take focus away from making the best games and services possible. That's definitely a threat, one way or another.
I understand where people come from with this whole anarchy; everything should be free kind of situation. I think a lot of us who work in the game industry were hackers from the beginning. Some people hacked code and they managed to get into the games industry. There's definitely some kind of connectivity between the subcultures or whatever you want to call it, but the problem here is that we want to focus on making the best games we can. Let me give you an example. We're working on Battlefield. We're spending a lot of our time just fixing problems that have to do with hacking our game, people creating cheats, or people ruining the game for others because they have aim bots…all the kind of crazy stuff people can come up with when they reverse engineer a game.
"In light of recent events, not just gaming but everything, hacking is one of our biggest problems."
I can see the pride people take in this because they will learn a lot from it, but they're ruining the experience for a lot of people. That makes me a bit sad. We want to create entertainment that people enjoy, but instead, we have to spend time focusing on the bad parts of it, which we will do, of course. It's part of our responsibility, but if that would magically go away, it'd be a good thing for the whole industry.
The second thing: I still believe piracy is a big problem for us even though the public discussion has disappeared a bit. So far, Battlefield has been unaffected by it because we have a multiplayer online game where you need to be logged in, so we haven't had any huge problems with it. We've had other titles that have been hit hard by it, so piracy is still a problem. I'm not advocating draconian DRM solutions. I don't believe that's the best way to do it. I'd rather have people buy our games, direct to consumer through different e-tailer solutions. And then by doing that, they should get something more in the game. I don't know…it could be early access or a boost pack for free or something like that. But piracy is definitely still a problem.
Where do you see the PC gaming industry in five years?
I think PC gaming is going to explode. Battlefield was founded on PC, so we feel very close to the PC community. With Battlefield 3, we've chosen to make our main SKU the PC version. Not that we're giving any less love to the console version, but the PC version needs to be true to its PC roots, and that's why we have PC-specific features, like 64 players. That in combination with the rise of e-sport community is something that we strongly believe in as well. This is the future. We have e-sports on consoles as well. I'm not dissing that in any way, but PC is probably the major platform for the e-sports community. And this is just starting to grow from being a subculture to becoming something much, much bigger. That's definitely going to be a kick-starter for PC gaming.
There's also the fact that the PC gaming platform itself is getting so powerful that you can do a lot more on it than the consoles. I'm not saying the console cycle is ending in any way, but it's getting toward the end. We're getting close to the limit of what we can do. We know that there's more power to find when we do more optimizations and when we have smarter solutions. We know by the end of console cycles that the games that were shipped at that time looked a lot better than games that were launched at the beginning of the cycle, and we're going to see that here as well. The closer we get to the end of the cycle, the games are going to run smoother, look prettier, and sound better. The fact that the PC platform can do so much more now…in five to 10 years, it's hard to imagine what you can do on the PC.
I would also argue that Apple is a force to be reckoned with because of their platforms. We don't have such a big core following there because they sell a lot of machines, but not all of them are powerful iMacs or the higher-grade machines. But I definitely think they are really catching up here, and I think we're going to see increased sales of their powerful machines. And when they get into a state where people want to play not ported games but ones that are native to their platform, I think that's going to help diversify this kind of gaming. For us, as developers [working on] the PC and Apple platforms, the Apple platform is actually easier because you have the same input device. Naturally, it's going to be a big challenge for us to get it running on a different operating system, but that aside, it's the same input devices.
There's one other thing I will point out as well, and it's a reason why I believe in the PC's future, and it's what I like to call the rise of the indie developer. I work for DICE, and we're a part of EA, but I'm really happy to see that there are so many indie developers that grow from being in a garage with one to two guys into a proper developer. The power that they now have to self-publish and do all of these kinds of things means the diversity of games on the PC is going to grow exponentially. It's going to explode. You might even argue it already has exploded. And this goes for the PC and Apple's platform too. This will probably happen more on the console as well, but it's a bit harder for a new developer to get in there and start doing things. The rise of the indie developer on the PC is definitely going to lead the way for this as well…to gain more people and accumulate more players on the PC platform.
It's already apparent that pc gaming has been getting bigger. What with Valve making billions through steam and every publisher out there wanting a piece of the pie.
So many games are just popping up on steam, on the net, that it's hard to keep up. I'm spoilt for choice when it comes to new games.
Games like Project Zomboid, Space Pirates and Zombies, so many small indie games that are not on other platforms. It's strange that you'll hear gamers claiming that they want games from every other platform except the PC platform on their console. So many people missing out.
Don't buy a console next gen, buy a PC, hook it up to your TV and use a control pad.