The state of PC gaming

“PC gaming is dead” has been the mantra of hundreds of developers for the last 3 years now, and as more and more titles move on to consoles it seems like open platforms have been abandoned due to rampant piracy and non-existing demand…
Wait! What am I saying? Rampant piracy AND non existing demand? Impossible. Rampant piracy can only exist with rampant demand, why else would anyone do it?

This week a couple of publishers/developers have gone on the record to say that, in fact, PC gaming isn’t dead… It’s actually at an all time high. With more then 20 million westerners playing MMO’s each week and a hell of a lot more then that playing online games in general PC gaming still far outnumbers all console platforms excepting the PS2.

So what the hell are developers whining about? The answer: non existent sales. Believed by many to be due to rampant piracy. But this is about as intelligent as a doctor that your hair falling out is due to lack of calcium (or whatever) while he’s blasting you with radiation.

Let’s analyse what the hell is happening with piracy and see if we can find any advantages that may sway the public away from buying games:

Non pirate game:

  • It will cost you $50.
  • it will (with a massive margin compared to DLs) cost you a trip to a store or a few days while you wait for the game to arrive.
  • It will take time and irritation to install (install, serial, download patches)
  • You’ll need the damn CD/DVD to play it (does everyone even have an optical drive nowadays?)

Pirated game:

  • It will cost you very little (Internet bandwidth mostly)
  • It will take less time then a trip to the store
  • It will install easily
  • You’ll never wait in line or be left without it on launch day
  • It’ll be easy to install
  • Once installed you can play it whenever you feel like it by just clicking the icon.

I don’t even know what to say to this. This is the dumbest way to market something, ever. It’s like selling coke is 1CC bottles that require tools to open them. And what do publishers do to stop piracy? They either hunt down the END USERS of the products and slap them with subpoenas or they install ever worse DRM software making games even harder to use.

Now, I’m not a genius in any way. But anyone can see where this is heading. Piracy will never end while publishers continue this crazy blitzkrieg against their customers.

Hey publishers, need ideas about how to make money from games again? These are just some short idea, I bet a lot of smart people can think of even more ways:

Tips for publishers:

  • Only sell high value content in stores (boxed content with extras, more content or just a really nice box)
  • Sell ALL games online. There are already services for this, all you need to do is give them a master copy of the game.
  • Let gamers register their games for something worthwhile (all multiplayer require an account, don’t be asses though, let customers be able to use their google accounts, open ID accounts and so on. Oh, and make games available for re-download to those accounts)
  • Don’t go after end user pirates, that just sows seeds of distrust. When a pirated version of a game is logged online, email the customer informing them that their issue is illegal and give them a credible reason, and easy way, for buying the real thing. How about they cash in but don’t need anything else, they’ll just get an automatically updated serial and the optional box in the mail.
  • Learn from other entertainment industries. There are hundreds of possible tie-in products available from toy makers, novelists, children book writers, painters, t-shirt producers and so on. Sign on with a few, it doesn’t matter if you don’t make enormous amounts on the first deal, get the ball rolling and the cash will start flowing.
  • Open API for your games information. Most of the successful web apps available today use open API’s so that other services can exchange information with them. Why not in games? Should I, as a player, really need to find my online friends AGAIN for every single online game I play? They all use the same mail addresses anyway. And I can’t even search through my Gmail contacts damn it.

These are just a few suggestions, feel free to pitch in with even more and send this to a publisher near you. Maybe someone will have an epiphany and realise “ooh, keeping customers happy is a good thing!”.

4 thoughts on “The state of PC gaming

  1. Good stuff, I hope some big shot will listen. But they got sticks so far up their rear end they’ll likely fall like the dinosaurs before they change.
    They say you can’t compete with free, so they must fight piracy. Well, we live in a scientific world where experimenting is essential to find out the truth. Has any big publisher even considered TRYING?
    How can you say it’s impossible to compete with free when you never even gave it a shot. You’re still sitting in a pretty good position to provide better and faster services than the pirates and crackers who are just doing this in their spare time.

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  2. I mostly agree with you, except that I don’t think it’s fair to say that it’s easier to install a pirated game than a retail. Applying the crack isn’t hard if you a) read the instructions included in the scene-release, b)already know how to do it
    But even if you’re familiar with this, I’d say installning a retail-game is easier and much more comfortable (except for entering a stupid serial key) since you only follow the on-screen information (read: press next, next, next, install).
    Other than that; good read.

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  3. @ArcadeMy point with saying the install is easier is that it takes shorter time and even less knowledge then the legitimate install.
    Pirate install usually consists of installing the game, copying a serial from a document or crack program and then copying over a file.
    Legitimate install normally consists of installing the game, manually copying a serial (which by todays standards is just insane) and more and more frequently registering online or similar. Worst of are the hundreds of titles that install secondary products such as anti-cheating software or game portal software.
    Oh, and the information necessary to perform the install is just as simple for both these methods, for the pirate it’s in a text file, for the legitimate it’s in the manual. So the difference more comes down to taste for older titles and pure time-efficiency for modern ultra-DRM titles.
    Thanks for the comments! Keep ’em coming!

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  4. Forgot this video of a guy ranting on copy protection, he’s real angry.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j-uulRB1OmY
    Well, my opinion is that you should make sure a game doesn’t have shitty copy protection _before_ bying it. That guy should never have bought those games at all, by paying for these games he’s supporting the copy protection crap. Of course he should not pirate the games either.
    What he should do, is write a mail to the publisher and clearly state that he won’t buy the game until they sell it without copy protection.

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