How you can "save" PC gaming

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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  • jonfitt - September 8, 2008 8:07 p.m.

    "Two, PC gaming may be declining but there isn't anything that'll stop it. Ever. It's called a trend." Laughed so hard I threw up a little. Remember kids: trends are unstoppable, invest in Naruto stocks now.
  • weirdy - September 4, 2008 9:32 p.m.

    Okay, let me add my two "cents". I'm 18, i guess i'm somewhat of a hardcore gamer and yes, i know whats IN my pc. One, i don't think piracy is theft. Theft is when you actually take something such that the victim no longer has it. Piracy is piracy. Copying with out permission. Two, PC gaming may be declining but there isn't anything that'll stop it. Ever. It's called a trend. In two, three years something might come along and revive gaming. For now we just have to sit tight with Intel and Microshaft. (For the record i'm and Avid AMD/ATI supporter and would love to see something to properly replace Windows...) Now, i feel the real problem is that people don't care anymore. There used to be a time when computers were cool, to anyone. Now, no one cares. More over no one cares enough to really learn about computers/computing. I know that my £200/£300 won't play many, if any, new games, that's why i'm planning an upgrade that will allow me to play games that work ok atm, well. And it'll allow me to play games that i can't play. How much? £300, maybe £400. Thats what, $600/$800... To me, that's quite reasonable. and i'm a STUDENT. That's gotta be saying something...
  • DirkBelig - September 4, 2008 6:38 p.m.

    @kornedbeefy - "Ummm, I install my games and they work. So whats your issue? DONT blame the platform because something is wrong with your rig/s not the software." I'm talking about REAL games, not the Peggle or Barbie Adventure Playhouse type games you play, Bub. Try going to the tech support forums for Epic Games and see the problems people have with UT3 and Gears of War. I guess you've never had to download beta drivers to work with your newly-patched version of Diner Dash. In your perfect Bejeweled world, if your dog doesn't bite you, it means that no dogs anywhere bite anyone. If you ever advance your gaming horizons past Minesweeper, you'll learn. Your "anyone who plays console games is a traitor" attitude is juvenile and stupid as well. Someone going around bleating, "Anyone who likes the Beatles has no business listening to the Rolling Stones! If you eat Pizza Hut pizza, you're killing off Dominos!", would be institutionalized. REAL MEN play what they want. Little children whine about the men not sticking to their clique. Boo-hoo.
  • DirkBelig - September 2, 2008 2:48 p.m.

    How are we supposed to be "platform champions" when we know damn well that PC gaming is a shambles of buggy software, spotty drivers and endless nights of trouble-shooting and forum-scouring just trying to get the damn games to run at all, much less well? I can't get UT3 to run at all anymore on my PC and it was a crashfest before it totally died. My friend had to buy a new DVD drive to get Gears of War PC to install and he was rewarded for his trouble by having the widespread save game loss glitch wipe out his progress, driving him to uninstall and give away the game. How can PC gamers in good conscience recommend forgoing the certainty of the console experience - put in disc and play - to those who probably aren't tech savvy enough to run down the various fixes? This doesn't mean they're stupid at all, but they just don't want to have to spend their play time being unpaid computer repairmen. It's sheer arrogance to think you're superior because you're able to spend as much time trying to get your PC game to run as a console gamer takes to beat the game. Imagine the PC gamer who has spent 10 hours trying to get CoD4 to run on their rig having to beg a console CoD4 player not to spoil the game for him because he hasn't gotten to play it yet. Tyler_Lowe's comments about Crysis merit amplification because PC Gamer's unabashed shilling for this game has been a credibility destroyer on par of naming Stevie Case a "New Gaming God". PCG is so willing to hand an extra 5-10 review points over to any game dev which provides them the exclusive first review access, they've put their credibility down with Gamespot's. (Explain their Hellgate London review, which was 15 pts. higher than the Metacritic average when it shipped broken and failed within a year.) Crysis is the highest rated game ever when it's little more than a prettied up Far Cry? It was amusing (and by that I mean disgsuting) to hear the PCG podcast as Gary Whitta and Jeremy Williams were howled down for daring to call out the game for what it was and to hear Dan Stapleton and Chuck Osborn bashing any complaints about the system requirements. "You should be thankful for such a future-proof game," sneered Dan, "You'll want to come back and play it again in the future when your rig catches up." BOVINE MANURE!!! It's nearly a year later and you still need to throw thousands of dollars at the game to get a marginal experience. Quad-core CPUs and video cards with 1GB RAM can eke 30 fps out of this game and we're supposed to be thankful? We should buy a game that exists as pure eye candy coating over a tired shooter mechanic with sketchy AI and then turn the detail levels down to Low and consider ourselves well-served? Double bovine excrement! As a decade-long PC gamer who has easily dropped thousands in video card upgrades alone on top of custom-built rigs, that I've been driven to the point of preferring the gaming experience on my Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 because I know my time will be spent playing, not praying the game will work, shows just how in denial PC gaming cheerleaders are. Who would deliberately inflict the miseries of PC gaming upon people they consider friends?!? Unless they're already sharp technical people, I tell people to get an X360 and be done with it. It's cheaper, looks fine, and most importantly IT WORKS!!! (Leave the RRoD cracks out of it.) PC gaming will grow when games aren't shipped broken, stop treating paying customers like thieves and inflicting a diminished play experience compared to what pirates enjoy, and just freaking WORK when installed on a PC that meets the min. specs.
  • Tyler_Lowe - September 2, 2008 4:12 a.m.

    There are lots of things that contribute to the decline of PC gaming IMO. Microsoft did a number on us when they forced Vista as a condition of DX-10.. BIG mistake. I also believe that the inflated prices manufacturuers of GPU's have inflicted on us at any opportunity have taken their toll. I'm sure everyone remembers the 2007 as the year without a mid grade card from Nvidia (the 8800GTS 320MB at $300 doesn't count). Another item on my list, believe it or not, is Crysis. While I respect what K. Salvatore was to say on this subject, I just do not share the author's high opinion of this game. To my way of thinking, this game did more to hurt PC gaming than it ever did to help by pushing "state of the art". Crytek broke a sort of unwritten rule. People that drop $5000 on a PC expect to be able to push those little settings sliders all the way to the right for at least a year without a second thought. When Crysis was released, you could have dropped $20,000 on a system and it would not have helped. A year later and you can get close if you care to drop $1200 on GPU's alone, nevermind the beast of a CPU you'll need to keep those graphics cards fed with frames to render. I didn't care for the gameplay in the demo enough to complete it myself (let alone plunk down $50 for the full game)- alot of people didn't, but these same people forever ask "will this system play Crysis" when considering a new purchase, and when they recieve the answer "yes, but not at even close to max settings". It doesn't matter at that point how nice "high" settings in the right places can make the game look. It's disheartening. I believe the fact that a game could be released that no system could play at even close to "maxed out" brought the basic problem with buying a gaming PC into focus for alot of people. "No matter how much I spend, it will never be enough" was a sentiment I saw expressed by more than one online post. Now to an extent, this is always true, but the perception of value was hurt in a way I don't recall seeing before now. Finally, piracy. It's been around for a long time, and some people still don't get it. It's stealing. Let's say you like the look of a car, only the dealership doesn't allow test drives. You refuse to buy with testing, so you wait until it's dark, break into a car, and "test it". You will get tossed into the nearest jail if you're caught- true story. Stealing, whether physical or intellectual property is wrong. If you think it's a victimless crime, think again. We're the victims. Those of us that pay for games end up with a smaller availabilty of new releases, or releases ported from consoles rather than developed for our platform of choice, because game producers want to maximize their profits and see those margins being sliced thin by piracy on the PC platform. I do agree with the main points in the article, and think we all need to get behind the well polished games that are released with our wallets. I also believe we owe it to ourselves to support original titles that show some creativity rather than rehashing the same tired themes with graphic updates. Thanks to a review on another site, I picked up a copy of a game called Crazy Machines II. I freely admit I would not have gven this game a second look before reading the review, but this is exactly the sort of thing we can get behind and support with our dollars: reasonably priced ($20 or less), original games that will work well on a wide range of system hardware. There are others out there, waiting for people to take a chance on them. As much as we need to support PC game developers, we could use a hand. 1.Give us games that don't break the wallet. No one had to eat any hardware expense to get the platform into our homes other than us. We should not pay console game prices. 2.Enough with the DRM and SecuROM B$ already. It does nothing to deter pirates, and pisses off your paying customers. 3.Please stop milking franchises into the ground with uninspired remakes and sequels. If you want to make more money on minor changes to what amounts to the same content, offer up $5 or $10 expansion packs. Please don't give us $5 worth of new content and ask $30 or $40 for it. It turns off new gamers- you know, "customers". Maybe this is too much to ask, but I hope not. I would hate to see this platform continue on the decline it's been on. It may be far from dead, but it isn't as healthy as it has been either. I've been gaming on PC's now since the Vic 20 and Commodore 64. I really enjoy the complexity in game play the PC allows over what is possible on a console. It would truly be a shame if that experience were lost to new generations of gamers. While I don't see a day where games are not offered on the PC, I can easily see a point in time where all we have to look forward to is the next console port, and at that point, the platform might as well be dead. Just my opinion.
  • zeldafanjohn - September 1, 2008 2:06 p.m.

    RAAAAAAAAAAAAWWWWWWWWWWWWWWR. All of you better shut up. PC gaming is not dying. In fact I think that Console gaming is the genre that's dying. @Brock: Well, that's just bad luck. PCI-e has been out for almost 9 years now and no videocard has exceeded it yet. So with new PC's you can just upgrade whenever you need to change your performance needs.
  • Spybreak8 - September 1, 2008 3:46 a.m.

    Well I might be a minority but living out in the country I get a lot of my stuff online. So if they don't even look at online sales, let alone digital distribution, cough Steam, like wtf. That's like saying, Nobody drives to work anymore since we don't look at highways. lol Just got a new laptop mainly for schoolwork but hey I can play my pc games on high settings and finally, with the core duo, get a smooth gameplay out of it. Its also a bluray player, add a hdmi cable and my HD tv plays bluray movies now.^^
  • Razputin - August 29, 2008 11:02 a.m.

    Any effort honest, concerned gamers make at this point will be only a drop in the bucket; most people will continue to download copies of games (and movies and programs) and developers will continue to proclaim that "every theft is a lost sale" (which it isn't). Until the developers realize that this is not why they are losing money, and that switching to console-only games (which are being pirated just as much as PC games) is not the solution, we are going to lose regardless of what we do.
  • Nitemarish - August 28, 2008 10:43 p.m.

    Do retro console emulators count as piracy? If so, I'm a pirate. Arr.
  • Avsareone - August 28, 2008 10 p.m.

    George Bush all the way. He isn't bald.
  • GamesRadarTylerWilde - August 28, 2008 9:49 p.m.

    Arguing Shadowrun vs Runescape is like arguing George W. vs John McCain.
  • Avsareone - August 28, 2008 9:21 p.m.

    You Cyn, are a Failure. Meanwhile, Runescape is the worst game ever. Go play a real MMO like WoW, or Guild Wars, or even City of Heroes/Vilains. Or go pick up yourself a FPS or TPS. I play Shadowrun on Vista, so I can kick my brother's ass, while he is upstairs on his 360, so I'm a PC person.
  • GamesRadarCharlieBarratt - August 28, 2008 5:57 p.m.

    Interesting read, especially for a former diehard PC gamer like myself.
  • KingHippp0 - September 8, 2008 11:55 p.m.

    My girlfriend loves the Xbox, especially Live Arcade. I'll let her know she's not hardcore enough for you guys.
  • jonfitt - September 8, 2008 8:30 p.m.

    I'm not personally worried. Currently we're just shedding off the low-brow gamers that were gained post '98 in the dot-com PC buying frenzy. They're people who have defined gaming "hard-core" as being able to 5-star GuitarHero on expert or get the most Halo headshots. They're fickle consumers of the latest thing, and interested in personal achievement over creating communities. That's not what makes a PC enthusiast. The real PC enthusiasts are the people meeting online to fly realistically modelled WW2 planes in military order. They're still competing in Quake3 tournaments and refining unnatural accuracy and speed. They're creating mods for Total War to add in Hittite spearmen. They're people playing Popcap games, while IM'ing their friends and posting on Facebook. Or they're playing organised 32-person clan tournaments of Battlefield having practised plays for hours on their private server. It's all stuff that is only possible on the PC, and they're not going anywhere. PS I now have to type "Rodman opened" to post this... .
  • Tyler_Lowe - September 5, 2008 6:39 a.m.

    "One, i don't think piracy is theft. Theft is when you actually take something such that the victim no longer has it. Piracy is piracy. Copying with out permission." I'll give you a hypothetical, and then follow up with a question. Suppose you write a book. Let's suppose for a moment, that this book is reasonably entertaining. Entertaining enough to sell to a publisher for a modest sum- let's say $5,000 with a bonus of $1 per copy over 50,000 copies sold. You've been an attendant at a public laundrymat, cashiered at a retail store, and done some odd jobs while writing this book over the course of a year. You've lived a pretty modest life, sometimes having trouble making the rent on time, maybe skipping a meal here or there to make ends meet at the end of the month. You could have gone after a better job as someone with a 4 year degree (even if it was in Liberal Arts), but you needed something that would leave you with the time to write, and these jobs allowed you that. The book gets published, and sells 45,000 copies- a marginal success, and so you are paid $5,000. It's not everything you'd hoped, but it's enough that you can afford to stock your refrigerator without having to send in the electric bill a week late. You are browsing reviews of your book online, and stumble onto a link to a site where someone has a downloadable text file of YOUR BOOK. You contact the publisher and let them know about it. After some investigation, it is discovered that while 45,000 people bought your book, 300,000 people downloaded that book illegally, they "pirated it". Had even half these people been honest, your book would have made the best seller list, potentially catapulting your career to a new level. Certainly, that $150,000 bonus for writing a best seller would not have hurt. Maybe you could give up those other jobs and really take the time to develop your craft. Maybe you would have given the world it's next great work of literature, something that would resonate with audiences for the next four hundred years. Maybe, maybe not, but the experience is enough for you to stop writing, and go after that slightly better paying office job so at least you can afford to eat. I promised a question. I have two. 1. Did the people that downloaded your book without paying for it steal from you? and part 2. 2. Did they only steal from you or from everyone that enjoys literature? I don't expect to change your mind, only hope that you at least think about it from a different angle.
  • kornedbeefy - September 4, 2008 2:38 p.m.

    Microsoft shat on pc gamers when they pushed their console initiative while at the same time stealing its franchises and hardware features. Anyone who was a pc gamer and games on a 360 should be ashamed of themselves for supporting them. Now Microsoft pushes for charging for downloads and paying for online service. Microsoft is not the friend of any gamer. Also I don't believe pirates and hardware price (since they are cheaper than ever)are the issue. There are two huge ones IMO, Gamestop becoming greedy and realized they could buy used console games for practically nothing and resell them for almost full price. They needed the shelf space so PC games became the victim. Now people go into gamestop/eb and see buttloads of console games and a fraction if any PC games and don't realize the better gaming experience they will receive from PC gaming so like sheep go for consoles games. I know this for a fact because the kids at our LAN parties prefer PC gaming over consoles since they had the chance to experience it. This come to number two and I believe it was mentioned in the article. No one to champion pc gaming. How often do you see pc game advertisements compared to consoles? Practically never. The fact that pc gaming continues to thrive tells us nothing less than what a great gaming platform it is. It survives from word of mouth. So people buy your games and get people into pc gaming. I've been saying this in forums for the past two to three years fighting the exclusive ex PC gamers who are now exclusive 360 weasels. These people are most vocal in stating PC gaming is dying. I believe it is because they don't want the PC to succeed since they decided to abandon it. Well I say "F" them. They want the rest of us to come to their side, to nothing but neutered pcs wannabees. I'm not gimping my game play and game options thank you.
  • kornedbeefy - September 4, 2008 2:14 p.m.

    dirkbelig, Ummm, I install my games and they work. So whats your issue? DONT blame the platform because something is wrong with your rig/s not the software. By the way these days games are also being released buggy for consoles so that "fact" that console games work isn't true anymore. I had a skater drop through the work in one of my PS3 games with no hope of the developer fixing it unlike pc devs. and to answer this comment "How can PC gamers in good conscience recommend forgoing the certainty of the console experience" I can easily forgo it. I get a much more engrossing entertaining experience on my pc than on my consoles. My consoles honestly bore the tears out of me. I can't stand playing fps/rts games with a game pad. I've tried many times and come to the conclusion why try to do what is unnatural and handicap teh game play experience. As Wil Wright says, playing on a pc vs console are two different experiences and he has hit the nail on the head.
  • JonR - September 3, 2008 4:44 p.m.

    It's always nice to have a reminder just how utterly dense you have to be to end up as EiC of anything involved with gaming. Apparently even when making enumerated points you don't have to be concise and clear! Whod've thunk. So, let me get this straight. For #1, it's somehow our responsibility to make sense of the needlessly convoluted naming conventions and the often dense product comparisons. Have multi-million dollar hardware companies made it difficult to tell? Well, it's just the consumer's duty to make sense of it anyway! Why? So they can keep doing it, of course! Because on top of paying ridiculous hardware and software prices, we're also obligated to make things easier for THEM. Since if we don't, they might go away or actually learn from their retarded mistakes, and we just can't have that in an industry this non-progressive. Oh, but your experience in writing has allowed you to masterfully conflate two things to make up for the complete lack of an actual point. It's not expensive if you take the time to learn about hardware differences that the industry has done its best to make as confusing as possible? Well, gee, with that sort of sharp reasoning, it's no wonder you've lasted so long as a writer. For #2, we get to prove that #1 is more or less you talking out of your ass. Good move, Ms. EiC. And #3 is the real gem, showing that your position as a videogame writer is wholly proportional to your ignorance and laziness. Why bother to attempt an honest look at the intricacies behind piracy ( when you can just wag your finger with some bullshit chide? If you had the slightest fucking clue, then maybe you'd revise that to say "If you charge the equivalent of US$80 for a game in a country where people make an average of $30,000, then you don't get to complain about piracy, ever". But that would be too much to ask, since it might do something as dreadful as inspire you to do some actual fucking work. Instead, warn us that "stealing" from a recession-proof industry who seems to take the RIAA's suicidal tactics as a standard to live up to is "bad karma". OOOOOOOOH. Immortal sin of forcing publishers to come up with a sane business model! Nauuuuuughty! You're useless.
  • Ledd_Bate - September 2, 2008 4:38 a.m.

    Wow, Tyler, long speech there buddy! Not that I disagree with anything you said. In fact, the only thing I would add to your list is "Don't be a jerk by tying a game to an OS in a lame (and insulting) attempt to push sales." Yeah, we're all staring at YOU Microsoft. That was one of the most foolish things you could've done. No matter what some lackeys trying to cover their collective butts are telling you, you've shot your highly toted "Games for Windows" initiative in the leg with that bit of stupidity. You've alienated thousands (probably tens of thousands) with that stunt alone. Foisting off a 2+ year old console port on us and forcing us to use a (at the time) buggy OS that performed approximately 20% slower with games than XP?!? What were you smoking? Have you learned your lesson? I hope so, but I feel the loss of faith in "Games for Windows" may be irrecoverable. To GrievousAngel: While I respect your opinion (especially the part about playing from your recliner. Hard to argue with that.) I DO take exception to your assertation that console gaming is "cheaper". Oh, sure, the CONSOLES are cheap (well, about 40% cheaper than a well-built budget rig that can deliver equivalent graphics) but you pay the price when you buy the games. Go to any big store that carries games. Notice that on the average the same game for a console runs approximately 15 to 20% more than its PC counterpart? This is how console makers can afford to sell their consoles so low. They make the money back on the games themselves. If you only buy a handful of titles a year, then console gaming is indeed "cheaper". But if you buy more than a dozen titles a year (and most gamers do) then you end up paying far more in the long run. Other than that, you are certainly correct that keeping up with all the latest PC technology is a pain-in-the-butt. But it's not necessarily more expensive.