Thursday, 17 January 2008
Posted by Dave
Couple of days ago a developer from Infinity Ward, the dudes who make CoD4, posted a blog about an old subject. PC games piracy. This being the same week that Slim noticed that in the UK sales charts, only had two PC game SKUs in the top 40. Bottom line is PC gaming is going belly up and largely it's our fault. Blog snip here:
"They Wonder Why People Don't Make PC Games Any More On another PC related note, we pulled some disturbing numbers this past week about the amount of PC players currently playing Multiplayer (which was fantastic). What wasn't fantastic was the percentage of those numbers who were playing on stolen copies of the game on stolen / cracked CD keys of pirated copies (and that was only people playing online). Not sure if I can share the exact numbers or percentage of PC players with you, but I'll check and see; if I can I'll update with them. As the amount of people who pirate PC games is astounding. It blows me away at the amount of people willing to steal games (or anything) simply because it's not physical or it's on the safety of the internet to do."
Piracy has always been a serious issue on the PC. Earlier in a platform's lifecycle it's almost helpful as ends up being a reason why people adopt a platform and as the platform becomes more mainstream the actual lost revenue tends is drowned out by the potential of a popular platform. However the PC in the modern age; broadband Internet, torrents etc and publisher's clumsy and pointless attempts to secure software have lead us to the point where pirate games are easy to source, easy to download, easy to install and end up giving you less hassle than an original copy.
I've felt strongly about this for awhile now so I've actually gone and bought most big/good PC games whether or not I thought I'd play them that much. Because it isn't a lot of money for a game and because this particular bit of nasty graffity has been on the wall for some time now. However I'm clearly in a vanishing minority. Even in the clan when we have a LAN party I say "Hey chaps, let's buy this game" and there's people who wont, people who pirate or just the idea of forking out any money at all for software (not just games) is an absolute measure of last resort after you've exhausted all other possibilities.
Course what it means is the game devs have fucked off to consoles and we're basically getting game ports as a parasitic relationship off the Xbox 360 since those platforms tend to be developed in tandem. Naturally enough it means that PC-only related concerns just don't factor. We've seen UT3 actually dump the well executed PC-focused in-game interface/configuration and bring in some console menu-centric monstrosity.
It's doubly frustrating for me because, ironically, one of the best PC games around has been released in a favorite genre of mine - Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance. However being a participant of the forums and the modding community, such as it is (not very much), paints a different picture. You've got a developer which very quickly yanked community support people and anyone that was working on significant patches/updates and most importantly, mod issues/tools, off the project right away. They shipped the game with pretty much a broken AI and have no desire to fix it. Instead they'll bash out another mission pack later on, if we're lucky.
Great as FA is. As completely PC-centric as it is. As completely impossibly to do on a console as it is... it sold fuck all. And that's despite a patch after a couple of days of US release dumping requirement for CD. So you can't hold that sort of thing up as a solitary explanation. There's a reason consoles rapidly became the staple diet of the industry.
What does it all mean though? Already more of the clan than ever before have games consoles. Are we packing in PC gaming? Some of us clearly have been already, since they've been attempting to get by with crap laptops rather than customary high-end gaming rigs of old. Taking a look at 2007, much of the very very good PC games were also out on 360. TF2/Portal, Bioshock etc. Only Crysis was PC only and, heh, that was your typical high-end PC game wank fest that runs shit on any hardware anyone actually owns. Even Bioshock I had to install Vista since it outright refused to work on my well worn XP install.
You think, after all these years and all that talk from Microsoft and Nvidia etc, that PC gaming would finally become more plug and play, more reliable out of the box. Well, it's better but it's still a complete pig's ear. Crysis was nothing short of a farce.
It's not all that bad. After all we had a good run playing TF2, even if it wasn't that long lasting. And that's clearly better on PC than on a console but I wonder if that'll be the case next time around? And of course the next generation of consoles beyond the Xbox 360 and PS3 will almost certainly be devoid of the last few remaining hurdles that stop them from being premium online platforms capable of hosting things like MMO games. Big hard drives, that sort of thing.
I think it's a shame. There's a lot of stuff around PC gaming that I like. Proper high-def gaming. Games which don't try to conform to a lowest common denomonator and a gimped controlller. Integration between the computer you're using to do everything outside of the game and playing the game. Hard to think how I'd chat on IRC to me chums on an xbox. The community aspect, forums, mods and all of that great stuff.
Ultimately human nature has reared it's ugly head. It strikes me that as a group we now appear fast ready to ditch the platform that we fucked over and take off to the inferior console platform for no other reason than there's games on the console. Because there we can't avoid paying game developers for their hard work so it's they are still commercial viable.
That's a pretty sorry state of affairs don't you think?