Friday, January 2, 2009

The life support

Well, it's been a fact for some time that PC gaming is slowing getting the shaft. If you don't believe me, take a trip to your local electronics store and see how much shelf space there is for PC games compared to the vast areas assigned to console games and systems. Gamestop, the Mecca for PC games when I was growing up, now has maybe one display shelf set aside for computer games in a corner, under a flickering halogen bulb. It depresses me to be honest.

So, who will save computer gaming as an industry? As a gamer, I know it won't be me. I find myself spending more time playing console games, another thing that depresses me. I'm sure that over half of the gamers who started out playing on a PC, now have a console system of some sort that they spend hours playing.

I truly believe that I can put my finger on the solution. I have identified the team of doctors that, if all goes right, could possibly revive this semi terminal patient.

This healing team, has the world's number one MMO, boasting over 11 million subscribers, which currently is only available for the computer. They also announced last year, the revival of two of their top selling computer game franchises, Diablo and StarCraft. These titles alone should be enough to breath some much needed life back into an already suffering industry. They have already started with their latest expansion, which topped the sales charts back in November when it was released.

Yes, that's right, the company gamers love to hate, Blizzard, is going to be the computer gaming industries Savior, at least for the next 2 years. But Oakstout, what about Valve and their Steam service, won't that help? Not really, especially since they release just about all their computer games on to console systems as do many other computer software companies. They have no loyalty to the computer gamer. They want to make money, and right now, console gaming is a huge industry. Blizzard isn't porting any of their games to consoles, yet. To my knowledge they are dedicated to games for computers. They want to supply addictive software to the computer bound individual, their loyal consumer. lol

People want less hassle in their life, especially when it comes to their relaxation and entertainment vices. Why would people want to upgrade a computer, spending possibly a few thousand dollars, just to play a new game, when they can just as easily purchase a console system for a few hundred dollars and never need to upgrade.

Let's face facts, computer gaming is dying. It's been on life support for some time because people are moving away from computers as their main source of gaming. Consoles, with their intergrated hard drives, voice and text chat ability and graphical processing power, have become the new thing in video gaming. Before, a console couldn't touch what a computer could do with pixels, now, you can't even tell the difference. The whole family can now be involved in gaming, not just the teenage son or daughter sitting behind a keyboard. Consoles are bringing familes together, which isn't something you would see in an ad for a computer.

Computer games will be our decades 8 track tape or beta max, when it's all said and done. In the mean time, Blizzard might be able to keep computer gaming on life support the question is, for how long?


  1. A great post. Video game pirating has had a decent impact to the problem as well.

    also, i think i read somewhere blizzard is thinking of doing some console games. don't quote me though.

  2. I think there's no reason to worry. There will always be PC games. It's just becoming more of a niche. As long as there are computers around, there will be games on them, I'm certain of that!

    Well-written post, though :)

  3. I think the main reason people quote the "demise" of PC gaming is due to sales numbers dominated by box sales. Those sales numbers don't account for massive recurring subscription dollars that mmo's generate. I think most of the sales numbers that people quote should take that into account, and things would look much different.

    To agree with you though, PC games outside of Blizzard's don't do enough to get the casual consumer into gaming. When you do that, you have the mass appeal needed to grow the genre. As an example, look at how the Wii dominates console sales. Why? Because any grandmother can learn to use a Wiimote. Give them an Xbox controller and they'll go into seizures.

    When game developers and console makers stop designing things for the traditional demographic they'll see more success, its that simple.

    Sheesh...every time I reply to a good blog post I start to think I should have just posted my own article lol. Sorry for the long winded reply.

  4. Yea, they don't take into account the millions of people that stay subscribed to a given on line service when deciding the success of PC gaming vs Console gaming.

    Still, once console gaming moves into that genre with games such as DC online and the Agency, things might start taking a sharper downward turn for PC games. But as I stated, with Blizzard still on top with WoW and the relaunching of their more popular franchises with Diablo 3 and StarCraft 2, they might be able to keep PC gaming from tumbling down the drain.

    The sad thing is other companies, like Valve, EA and Westwood, who, back in the day,had blockbuster games on the PC, which they owe a lot of their success too,have chosen to spend more effort producing top games for consoles, and they only think about PC games secondary. In some cases, they just take the console game and make a bad replica for the PC players, and by the time it comes out, most people have already played it on the console and don't spend the time or money to get it on the PC.

    This is why I think PC gamers are going to be left out in the cold in the near future, sure MMO's can keep it alive for now, but once they release a successful console MMO, all bets will be off, I'm sure.

  5. So long as the best "cursor control" we have on a console is the Wiimote or derivative tech, computers will always have an edge in games that require the precision of a mouse. The DS or iPhone are the closest to mouse control in the "console" world, and it's just not the same.

    Short story long, I think that there will always be game designs that just work better on the PC or on the console. I think that there is sufficient differentiation that both will remain healthy.

    Since we're talking about subs, I tend to think that they are part of the problem for PC gaming. I can buy console games and pay for content, but paying for access on the PC (or any sub model, really) rubs me the wrong way.

  6. If only FFXII didn't take 2 years to level up in PS2 ...

    A successful console MMO would be welcomed! Be it PS3 or 360. Comn Blizz you know you want to.

    You can easily attach a keyboard to a console anyway if control issues arise.

    I got into PC gaming thru FPS playing Counter Strike. I stil play some on PC but the xbox360 controller feels really perfect for shooters, way superior than then lol shoulder buttons for ps3(I have both)

  7. People are finding that playing most games, with the exception of MMO's is much easier on a console than on a computer...which is why computer games are the lowest common denominator when it comes to gaming these days.

    Every time I head to the store to find a PC game, all I see is shelves and shelves full of console games, which is all there is these days. All the local Gamestop's have just one section for PC games now, and mostly they end up in the bargin bins because they know people come in their store now just for the console games.

    Sad but true.

  8. @Tesh, I don't think cursor control will be an issue with console games...look at Fable 2 as an example. You can assess spells, items, moods etc with all the buttons on a gaming controller.

    But, the PS3 is mouse and keyboard compatible, and I've not heard about the xbox 360, but I assume that too has the ability to hook up a keyboard and mouse if necessary. So, consoles are the future. Which would be more fun, playing WAR in front of a 22" lcd or a 42" HD Monitor?

    I'm sure in the near future, with people wanting to be hassle free, consoles will be the wave of the future in gaming.

  9. I'd be all over a console MMOG, personally. I love my PC but goddamn I get tired of being *required* to sit at the desk, having to sit in a certain position, having to have my arms in a certain position, the monitor is right in front of my face, etc. With the console, I can recline on the couch, sit on the ottoman, on the floor, whatever I want and in any position I want (I never fully outgrew that teen tendency to sit upside down or sideways in chairs).

    Then you have the variances in the performance of your PC versus that of anyone you're playing with (or against). With a console, everyone is on an even playing field, technology-wise.

    But console MMOGs *cannot* use the PC-only UI and inventory systems of having hotbars all over the screen or tiny item icons spread out over several bags. That is mouse-specific and moving a controller-cursor around to hotbars simply won't do. The entire system of managing abilities and inventory needs to be re-thought, re-designed and streamlined for consoles. And frankly, I'd like to see it on PCs as well -- cluttering up my screen with umpteen bazillion hotbars and other UI frames is clunky and primitive at this point. *ALLOW* me to play the game instead of *FORCING* me to play the UI.

    A *huge* hurdle of putting a MMOG on a console will be communication. (For this point, I am going on the notion that the MMOG will be playable by console and PC players on the same servers.) Console players are accustomed to VOIP. For that matter, so are many PC-FPS players (the Battlefields, CoD's and anything Source Engine have built-in VOIP) but look how many PC-MMOG players shun the very idea of VOIP. PCs have keyboards. Consoles don't. Both 360 and PS3 will accept any USB keyboard and each offers a mini-keyboard "chat pad" that snaps directly into the controllers but do we have to force the players to buy an accessory to play now?

  10. Well it's been over a year... do you think Steam i changing things at all now?

    Blizzard will continue to be a force for sure, but i think it's a little myopic now to think they alone (and not Steam? the place i bought my last 50 PC titles and has put Gamestop out of the running for selling PC software?) will have something to do with keeping the platform alive.

    Seriously you got quoted in a kotaku article and i'm curious as to what you think currently.

    here's the article -

  11. You are aware, aren't you, that you can download PC games directly to your drive. You've been able to do this since as long as I've known. First it was mostly pirate and demo, but quickly the industry figured it out.

    Valve made a little product known as "Steam." Maybe you've heard of this? Steam will let you buy and download virtually any game made.

    If you can't buy the game online (downloaded directly to your hard drive) there, then you likely can buy it from the producer's website. You are aware, even Blizzard games don't need a box on a shelf at your game shop.

    This does a lot of great things; it saves shipping fees, it reduces production of drives and boxes (that will likely get turned into trash), these games auto update, we really could go on.
    Your console is slowly learning. Pretty soon your game wall at the shop will be nothing. Look at Blockbuster, who buys a DVD anymore? Who buys a Blueray? You can download these movies to your drive anymore, heck, you can watch them streaming.
    How much music is sold via the 'net, and how many record shops do you see in business?

    Data is date. No longer will you need to produce a box, booklet, and disk to sell at a shop. That's gone and done. Anyone still doing it has been left behind.
    Watch as the next gen systems don't have an optical drive at all. Instead you will buy liscenses/subscriptions for the games you want to play and they will be accessed from a client you've downloaded into your console.

    Maybe this has to do with the savvyness of PC gamers, they typically know how to use the machine they are on, possibly even assemble it (I know even I can do that), and configure it how they want it to work. Consoles are a single machine, they update by releasing a new console. That's a lot of money on advertising the the PC doesn't spend AT ALL.

    Have you noticed that? There is no spokesperson for the PC. It is, it exsists, it's there. Everyone knows what one is, and buys one as the see fit. It's like a bicycle, or a car, or bread. These are items that we KNOW are out there. The type we buy might be debated and advertised, but the entity itself is part of our cultural understanding.
    You need to sell a Wii, an Xbox, a PS3. Each time you rebrand, you need to sell it again.
    But a PC. That's timeless. You know you need to buy a new update here or there. In time you might buy a new one altogether. And when you do, you'll compare specs, see what you want vs. what you can afford.
    That's not how the console work. They are a product. They are advertised. They see PC gaming as a threat, so they will call it dead. No one stands up for it, because there is no one.

    And Scott is wrong; Most MMO players prefer the headset. It's nicer to communicate through words over typing while taking down a boss or fighting in PvP.

  12. I am aware of Steam and Direct2Drive. But what if you don't have a credit card? How do you purchase your game? What if your drive gets corrupted? How easy will it be to reinstall the game you downloaded if you didn't keep a printed paper trail of your purchase and game code?

    My take is that I can't walk into a store and buy a computer game and I miss that. I miss being able to pick up a box, look at the info on the back, see game pictures and decide if I want to buy it. And who do I take the game back too if it won't work on my machine? I've heard of several people, Brent from Virgin Worlds for one, who had an issue with a game being unable to play on his machine and it took a while to get it resolved with Steam, through e-mails and phone conversations, which is a waste of a persons valuable time. Before, if it was a problem, you could take it back to the store and either get a refund or replacement.

    The world is becoming so sterile. There is no physical interaction between buyer and seller anymore. And with all this digital download, why aren't the first run games cheaper? I see Civ 5 was the same in the store as it was to download. So, where is the savings? You don't have to print manuals, boxes, or push out discs. No cost for shipping or special handling. So why isn't it cheaper? If anything Bandwidth is tons cheaper than the fuel it costs to ship the box around the country to my house. So, why can't I get the game cheaper if I download it? Where is the pay off for that?

    Not to mention the crazy cost of PC games that I won't even get into.

    Before a game was crafted for PC, then ported to a console, now its the other way around and if that is the case, why even purchase it on a PC, when it was originally designed to be played on a console with a game pad instead of a mouse and keyboard.

    Sure, you bought a lot of games on Steam, and why not. Steam is the only game distributor out there really. Sure, the scraps you get in the store and those that use Direct2Drive. If its the only water for miles and miles, you'll be happy to drink at it. Again, the PC store is dead, and I think PC gaming will die soon as well. Steam will keep it on life support for a while, but in the end, people will have to chose between console gaming or PC gaming and my opinion is Consoles will win.

  13. I'm with @Tesh

    I myself own all videogames (Wii, PS3, 360, PSP and DS) and I can only find RTS, FPS and MMORPGs to be much better played on the PC. The keyboard offers more possibilities for hotkeys and the mouse is an unmatched option for precision and agility for these genres.

    Also, you can't even try to compate Valve's console games to the PC versions. Team Fortress 2 for the consoles are horrible, the controls are worse than the PC version and the company doesn't support the game as it does for the PC. It simply works better with a keyboard and a mouse, as any FPS.

    Also, you can't expect to play a game like WoW, Lineage, Warhammer etc on a console, with controllers with no more than 10 button and so limited in movement compared to the much more precise keyboard and mouse.

    RTS on consoles? Lol, try playing "Halo Wars" and see how much it sux compared to RTS games for the PC. Selecting multiple units and macro and micromanagement during combats is nearly impossible with a controller. You can only send your units to attack and pray to win, lol.

    I think that these genres, and other are SUFFICIENT to guarantee that PC game will survive, unless videogames start giving support to Keyboard and Mouse.

    Still, we shouldn't expect videogame consoles to do EVEYTHING else the computer does (related to work, entertainment, communication etc) with the same quality and, as long computers stay in our lives, they are going to have, at least, their non-exclusive game adaptations. But with the increasingly number of computer users worldwide I can only expect more exclusive computer games to appear, also because there are the lots of people that own computers and don't own videogames and represent a very different "target" for companies.

  14. I guess you really don't know Steam. Don't have credit card? You can use paypal to buy games on Steam. Your drive got corrupted? You just get a new drive then download Steam client, you log in to your account and all your games are there waiting for you to redownload. You don't need to keep paper trail on your purchase or game code, all you need is your steam account name and password.

    You underestimated Steam contribution to PC gaming. Valve alone did more for PC gaming than Blizzard and all other game publishers combined. Sure they made games for console in addition to their PC games, but Steam is enough to promote PC gaming. Oh btw, PC gaming is not dead or dying. PC brick and mortar retail store is dying but the downloadable online stores are growing. Publishers are competing with each other trying to get into the business. Microsoft now start to sell PC games on their faulty Games for Windows Live, Ubisoft now sell game online directly to customers who are stupid enough to buy from them and get infected with their stupid DRM, Stardock with Impulse, Gog sell old games, etc.

  15. As for why Direct Download is not cheaper, that is because the brick and mortar retail stores are not totally dead. Hopefully soon they'll all gone and then we'll be able to buy games online cheaper. PC gaming can't die. As long as people are using PC then there is this big potential market and someone is going to make games for it. You think PC gaming is going to die soon? LOL. Let's wait 10 years and you'll see that you're totally wrong.

  16. It's sort of sad how Oakstout went from confidently and objectively predicting the death of PC gaming to whinging about how everything's so "sterile" with digital download.

    Oakstout, store or no, it's pretty clear now that Steam (and Steam-alikes) are the future of PC gaming. And it's also clear that since Steam has the sales, promotions, bundles and long tails that have always been missing from retail, that at this point it's probably a BETTER choice.

    Is there anything like the Steam Summer Sales at retail? Can you find older games like Psychonauts at retail? Heck, can you find anything older than a few weeks at retail? Do you have companies like GoG taking old classics and making them anew at retail? And do you have the sort of thriving mod scene that made Just Cause 2's PC version INFINITELY superior to the other ones on console?

    Heck no.

    The PC Store isn't dead. You're just hilariously behind the times.

  17. Really? You think the experience at Gamestop is positive? Every time I go they breath down my neck, as if my not purchasing something would imperil the universe. Then, if I do buy something, they peddle a bunch of useless crap, giving me a long speil before even running up the thing I actually want to buy. It's thoroughly unpleasant.

    Add to that the fact that I have no way of easily checking reviews or message boards of the title I'm browsing, basically forcing me to decide what I want before I go in. With Steam I can browse their library with no pressure, and read reviews and other people's experience as I do so.

    I think your nostalgia is either horribly misplaced, or simply an attempt to justify your obviously inaccurate original post. I understand that, and it certainly could appear accurate from the perspective of a Steam-less PC gamer from 2009. Still, Gamestop as some sort of PC gaming utopia? Please.

  18. Hey, how about we do talk about the price of gaming? Unless you are the kinda' guy who just plays one game (MW2) all day long, PC is way, way cheaper.

    Thanks to the consoles, gaming graphics have been on pause for years now. Consoles can't do anything like Crysis and that game is ... hold on ... 2007! So you can easily get many years out of $600 computer. Throw in an older graphics card every few years for $100 and your set.

    Now, I understand that the consoles are winning at this point. But now the games! The average cost for a PC game, if you don't mind waiting a couple months, is getting to be $20 or less. The back catalogue for PC blows the consoles out of the water. With little cost, I have a plenty of PC games lined up. My PS3? Sometimes I bite the bullet and plop $40+ down for an old game. But mostly it is a blu-ray/Netflix player.

    All the other stuff is nonsense to. Want to play on an LCD in your living room? Not really a problem.

    The "Oh noes, what happens with a corrupted hard drive" really made me lol. Someone already mentioned, you just re-download it. It's pretty simple on every download site.

    I have a question for console owner. What do you do when you step on your game disc? Or your 360 cuts a groove in it? Get a free replacement? No? What? Oh, you give Gamestop another $60. Awesome.