If the press is to be believed, we’re a dying breed, friends: the PC gamer is slowly slipping loose the surly bonds of expensive upgrades and Byzantine hardware requirements, and gently rising to grab onto the tray-and-play hem of console gaming. If the press is to be believed, we are an inscrutable genus of fickle software pirates killing ourselves from the inside as we steal the labors of developers, rendering inoperable the very business that feeds our hobby. And as a result, instead of playing Call of Duty 4 on the PC, everyone is playing it on their consoles. Instead of buying Crysis, they’re playing online Scrabble.
Of course, most of the “proof” of this is the result of sales numbers from the research group NPD—numbers that don’t measure any non-retail sales of PC games. That means they ignore digital transactions, online purchases, and MMO subscription fees—only the boxes people pick up at Wal-Mart, Best Buy, or another brick-and-mortar store are counted.
Let’s take a moment to collectively roll our eyes at the sheer WTF of all this - especially given the notion that NPD itself recognizes the absurdity of it. From an MSNBC article dated March 26, 2008: “‘While we haven’t yet publicly released our first quarterly data, I can tell you that non-retail sales related to PC games is bigger than what occurs at retail, so the PC games market is clearly still thriving,’ NPD analyst Anita Frazier wrote in an e-mail." All set? Good, let’s move on.
The thing is, there’s a kernel of truth in some of these arguments...and even if you don’t agree with that, I hope you can agree that bringing more people into the PC fold is only a good thing. So here’s a handy cheat sheet for how you can “save” PC gaming:
1. Be a platform champion. Microsoft obviously isn’t doing it, so it’s up to us. Get educated about how your PC works, at least insomuch as it affects your upgrading schemes. As Dan Stapleton said recently, “If PC gaming is costing you ‘thousands’ per year, you’re doing it wrong.” Today, $700 will get you a new PC that’ll handle just about anything for the next two to three years, with maybe $500 a year spent on upgrades—but not everyone needs to drop that kind of money, which is why you should also…
2. Be a goodwill ambassador, especially to “casual” gamers. After all, they’re just hardcore PC gamers who don’t know it yet. If we want to grow our ranks, we need to make it easier for people to join them. Help new and casual players out when it comes to hardware questions—they can make the PC barrier to entry seem very high. Make people feel OK about learning to game on “easy.” Don’t grief away our future community—we want to bring people into the fold, not run them off.
3. Be honest—don’t contribute to the piracy problem. If you’re stealing games, then you cannot complain, ever, about the demise of PC gaming, because you are directly causing it. Besides, stealing is bad karma, and I don’t want to see you come back as a cockroach or a politician or a reality television contestant.
August 27, 2008
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