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Default The Sky is Falling -The Death of PC Gaming @ bit-tech.net

February 3rd, 2008, 19:14
We haven't had any articles lamenting the death of PC gaming for a few weeks, especially one playing devil's advocate to the usual facts and figures of doom as this one does. Bit-tech.net has posted an editorial called The Sky is Falling, and Brett Thomas, the author, takes a little different view of the phenomonon. His editorial piece is in response to this story at Shacknews: PC Games 14% of 2007 Retail Sales and he disputes both the methods and the conclusions of the whole 'PC gaming is dying' argument:
PC Games account for only 14 percent of total game sales."

There we go. That's some pretty heavy stuff. Only 14 percent - that means 86 percent of games sales are consoles! Clearly, we are going down, ladies and gentlemen. Like the Titanic…
Needless to say after looking at some of the responses in our own forum thread (amongst others who published this 'news'), you're still not buying it…There's one very obvious flaw, but before we get to that I'd like to touch on some of the less obvious implications.
…First of all: what are we counting as PC games? It's a pretty broad topic, don't you think? What about Internet-based Flash games? Things like Bejeweled, Sudoku and countless other little brain-teasing, time-wasting gifts of productivity loss courtesy of Popcap, Pogo, et al. What, you don't think they're paid for? Advertisers salivate over those things like a Pavlovian dog!
…Many people will argue that these don't constitute "video games" proper - but I strongly disagree. After all, one of the top sales for the Nintendo DS is the Brain Age series. And another great release, Puzzle Quest, is Bejeweled on steroids with a plot. So why are these things ignored when they're on PC, but counted on consoles?…
…And while we're on the "console" point, isn't it about time we separate handheld from home-based? After all, I can't exactly tote either my PS3 or my PC around. Therefore, buying decisions for my handy DS aren't really going to be influenced by what I have on the shelf for the big systems. Adding these in doesn't even make sense - they're not direct competition at all.

So, that drops our list of consoles down by two, one of which just happening to be the biggest seller in games and units - the Nintendo DS. Suddenly, PC sales may look a little rosier…Suffice it to say, there are a lot of missed factors in this "study" (we'll continue calling it that for lack of a better name that isn't insulting)..
The author maintains the main flaw in this and other studies is the fact that digital distribution sales is ignored::
…How relevant is digital distribution to PCs? Well, let's think about this. When was the last time that you brought home a disc of updates for your operating system? Maybe browsed the Internet via CD copies of the sites? Perhaps you've recently sent email by copying the text to a floppy and mailing it?

No? Why is that? Oh, it's probably because the Internet has been so thoroughly integrated into the PC that it is impossible to ignore its impact any further..
Granted, you can't blame the study providers alone. I've attempted to get some figures for just what constitutes the digital sales perspective..[but]..Valve doesn't discuss Steam sales. Direct2Drive, part of IGN, doesn't really respond to phone calls - nor does anyone specifically answer questions regarding this topic when you can corner them….
And here, we reach a conundrum - how do you account for sales figures that aren't released, even when you know they're substantial enough to impact the equation? The answer, it seems, is that we don't … What bugs me, though, is the industry's pretence like it doesn't matter.
And what bugs me even further is that they do have volumes of information on one form of digital distribution: piracy. That figure will be subtracted from brick-and-mortar retail market sales to come up with the 'net sales' of the PC industry.
The whole subject isn't complete without a little doom and gloom, however, and it comes in the conclusion:
…It's almost as if the industry secretly wants the PC to fall - and it's not that hard to understand why. The beat of ever-marching technology improvements means PC games require more work and go obsolete faster, meaning more money on engine development and less on sheer production. Nobody really buys a year-old PC game; whereas, since consoles don't change technologically, an older game can look as new and crisp as a fresh release - but with the added benefit of an established gamer base.
Look, the truth is, PC gaming does have its share of problems…But none of these things have been a death knell. They've always existed - and for nearly as long as there have been PCs, there have been consoles. None of this has really changed anything. The continual evolution and multipurpose nature of the PC makes it always at the forefront, even if it's never at the top of the sales charts.

In fact, only one thing has changed - the industry itself. What used to be a myriad of independent developers, each working to create the next best mousetrap for mere survival and to eke out a decent living, has turned into a wasteland made up of a few giant conglomerates stomping on the users below in a struggle for who will dominate the whole market…
More information.

Where there's smoke, there's mirrors.
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February 3rd, 2008, 19:14
Here's a thought. Has anyone examined sales figures and popularity of Word Processors, Spreadsheets, Web Browsers and Media Tools on consoles? Or how about instant messaging? It must be a blast using a controller to say: hey gf <3 u

We need a headline:

Applications for consoles growing at snails pace. Future of consoles in doubt!

Developer of The Wizard's Grave Android game. Discussion Thread:
http://www.rpgwatch.com/forums/showthread.php?t=22520
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February 3rd, 2008, 19:21
LOL if you put it like that Lucky Day… the end of consoles is nigh!
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February 3rd, 2008, 19:41
A business associate and friend once told a simple starting point to determine the health of an economy is to simply assess the number of private investors investing in municiple bonds. Take for example California. We're currently in debt by about 14 billion, yes B as in Billion, despite the fact that 2007 tax revenues set record amounts topping 29% over 2005 and 2006… both years considered to be record-topping given the housing boom in those years. But oops, here in California we spent 39% more than 2005 and 2006… oopsy.

How does any of this have to do with the article? Over the years, dating back to the first big videogame crash that occured in the early 80s I've been reading 'PC Gaming is Dying' articles ever since. There are the typical statistics cited pointing this out and pointing that out.

Back in the 80s, when the Nintendo NES was unleashed upon the U.S., it was that gaming system alone that would see the death of prominent development houses of the time such as Origin (Ultima Series), Sir Tech (Wizardry Series), and a host of dozens upon dozens of PC game developers for the Commodore C64.

Fast-foward 20 years and strangely, despite all these 'PC Gaming Is Dying' articles with their 'facts' and 'figures', the PC gaming market is still here when it should have been dead no later than 1988.

So my simple way of gaging things is pretty simple, I walk into one of several big computer chains here in California and I take a look at the shelf space allocated to PC gaming and in over a 10 year period I haven't seen any change. None. Zippo.

I walk into Fry's Electronics - same looooooooong shelf full of PC games. I go to Best Buy, same series of 3 shelves all full of PC games. I go to COMP USA, same back row shelf stocked with PC games. EB did fluctate for about a year and a half where PC games were moved off the main wall and put on a small island shelf. But as of the first quarter of 2007, the PC games were back on the primary shelves with the videogames.

What I have also seen happen is that it does appear to be true, looking at how retailers allocate shelf space that videogame allocations have grown over the years as the number of games have grown. But you also have to take into consideration that dating back to the N64, there have been 3 prominant videogaming systems in place at any given time, Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft. So it makes a bit of sense that as the popularity of videogaming grows and that there are 3 dominant systems out there that shelf space would grow.

But somehow the growth of videogaming always seems to translate into the shrinking of the PC Gaming market, which as far as I can tell, at the very VERY least, has remained constant for the last 10 years.

If I'm right but there is no wife around to acknowledge it, am I still right?
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February 3rd, 2008, 19:53
The article - to be exact: the quotes presented here - do imho have some very interesting points.

I'm both a) impressed and b) glad that someone actually tried to take a closer look at it - questioning what's BEHIND these sales figures.

And yes, I agree … It almost sounds as if someone WANTS the PC market to fail - by releasing statistics that can be doubted, but no-one does, and which ALL point harmonically into ONE direction …

Eradicating the PC market as a whole would have two effects, as far as I can see :

- It would reduce the overall developing costs - no more necessary to develop for "the PC" at all
- It would increase income from sold game units for consoles at the same time
- It would rather open up the PC market for independents.

I'm sure that then a vacuum would appear on the (nonexistent) PC market - and that indies would fill it in quickly, probably leading into more & more diversity of games in this market.

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction. (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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February 3rd, 2008, 19:59
Originally Posted by magerette View Post
The author maintains the main flaw in this and other studies is the fact that digital distribution sales is ignored::
I'd say the fact that we use NA as a base and completely ignore Europe is at least as much a flaw.
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February 3rd, 2008, 20:34
Not a bad read at all. While its "fun" to argue if the pc death is now or near or not. I find it less and less important ! To me all this is like the old debate about how newpapers will die or how books will become less and less important.

The Thing that remains is that there is a huge audience that will take anything easy, be it politics or a big letter newspaper, there will allways be a big mass with easy money. What remains is the poetry for the niche that likes things different. Just look at music, you have the big names that is easy to go by, radios like them, people like them and… i dont… so i listen to small indie music and buy my cds off indie labels and my local record store (one of the few that remains). Some of the things arent even at store, so i buy them direct on the web, same with games. Everything from games to mmorpgs. Only things i bought last year in a box was witcher and Motb. Rest was online so not recorded anywhere and i bought over 30 games last year.

20 years ago if i wanted to make techno music and it was a huge investment. I remember using some major cash on something as simple a 4 track mixer. Today its an easy 10$ download that can do 32 tracks atleast.

Just like music and just like books, things will mature. Easier dev tools and cheaper engines is becomming a norm. So sure…. if you want to sell your soul and whore yourself out, go for it. Im just pretty sure there is still a good and solid audience that require more and want more.

What angers me and what trouble me is how everyone is buying the bribed off media whoring… yeah getting pissing now its nuts though aint it, is people really this shit brained ? Uhh well, im off buying more indie music and looking forward to more indie games.
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February 3rd, 2008, 22:51
All this talk about digital distribution being discounted, without raw numbers I can't help but think they are a fraction of retail sales. Maybe that number would go up to 15 or 16% but I don't see it going higher.

The cycle is just being extended because the mfr's didn't make the classic mistake in console marketing. They didn't sit on their rear ends during peak profit sales not realizing the end user was already bad mouthing the out of date technology. OTOH the most out of date product (Wii) in this phase is the one the actually selling.

I recognize and somewhat agree that handheld games shouldn't be counted in the mix. However, the games are sold the same way and take up the shelves and advertising that PC games could occupy.

Madgamer, I have to disagree strongly that shelf space hasn't disappeared in the game stores. As I mentioned in the Pricewatch thread Gamestop has just cleared half their PC shelves and put them in the discount bin.

Developer of The Wizard's Grave Android game. Discussion Thread:
http://www.rpgwatch.com/forums/showthread.php?t=22520
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Default PC Gaming is Dead! Pc Gaming is De… Oh, wait a minute…

February 4th, 2008, 00:09
Oh, look. Another "PC Gaming is Dead" article has been written. I'll put this with the "No one makes horror movies anymore," "We're heading into another Great Depression," "The end of physical media is finally here," "The age of the paperless society has finally arrived" & "Flying cars will be a reality in 10 years" articles that have accumulated over the past 25 years…

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February 4th, 2008, 00:43
Originally Posted by Brother None View Post
I'd say the fact that we use NA as a base and completely ignore Europe is at least as much a flaw.
I have just found an imho important quote again of which I believed it was gone.
I present it here:

Production seemed to be going well, but in March 2004, Freelance Police was unexpectedly cancelled. "I can still remember the chill that went down my spine when our marketing department informed me that the entire population of European adventure game players had, over the course of less than three months, died," says Stemmle. "You'd think a massacre of such proportions would've been reported more widely." LucasArts officially attributed the decision to "current marketplace realities" and "underlying economic conditions" and, in one fell swoop, caused Sam & Max fans around the world to weep. Openly.
Source : http://www.telltalegames.com/summero…tory/history4b

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction. (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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February 4th, 2008, 00:45
yeah, Non', that's what the article is saying. I'll forward your post to Brett Thomas to let him know you agree with him.

In the Star Wars Unleased thread by that dog its also pointed out that subscription sales aren't posted either.

I recall stats comparing sales figures of subscription games like EQ and online games like Half-Life and Diablo 2 the revenue was nearly identical.

Of course, with the Live options we're seeing more subscriptions on consoles as well and from what I've seen (from commercials) interactions is largely over headsets as they have no keyboards to type with.

Developer of The Wizard's Grave Android game. Discussion Thread:
http://www.rpgwatch.com/forums/showthread.php?t=22520
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February 4th, 2008, 04:00
Originally Posted by Brother None View Post
I'd say the fact that we use NA as a base and completely ignore Europe is at least as much a flaw.
Definitely. Europe seems to be a fertile market both for development and sales of PC games. Plus Asia also always seems to get blown off….I think they buy the occasional PC game over there as well.

Where there's smoke, there's mirrors.
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February 4th, 2008, 14:30
Originally Posted by Alrik Fassbauer View Post
I'm both a) impressed and b) glad that someone actually tried to take a closer look at it - questioning what's BEHIND these sales figures.
Actually there is generally a series of articles with the annual flurry of 'PC gaming r teh d0med' articles …. some echo the 'sky is falling' sentiment, others simply scream 'remain calm … all is well', while precious few look at what is actually happening.

Originally Posted by Brother None View Post
I'd say the fact that we use NA as a base and completely ignore Europe is at least as much a flaw.
Absolutely agree - anyone who watches general hardware and software sales on a global basis even casually knows that all markets are not created equal …

— Mike
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February 4th, 2008, 15:02
PC Gaming isn't dead so much as it is like a sick cancer patient clinging to life but not totally checking out. It will probably be like this permanently. I can't see publishers abandoning the platform completely. They will probably just continue to develop games more and more for consoles and port them. The problem isn't a lack of titles. Just a lack of titles that are specially designed for the PC and that are extraordinary, like The Witcher and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. As far as I can tell, half of the revenue (at least) is tied up in just two franchises. WoW and The Sims. The number of quality games showing up on the platform has decreased dramatically in the last few years. 2007 was a good year but 2005 and 2006 were the worst years for PC gaming that I have ever seen. Sales-wise it's still doing well in Europe though and that's a bigger factor than most people give credit to. At its release, Crysis was the top selling game in Germany across all platforms, and that paints a totally different picture than the "86,000 sales NPD" number does. I think that the most neglected fact of this debate is the fact that Microsoft is losing huge amounts of money on the XBox. Basically their subsidizing of the console markets with huge losses is probably the biggest factor in the recent decline of PC gaming.

I find the argument about internet flash-based games to be silly though. OK, yeah, technically, these are PC games. But I don't think that most of the people who pay attention to this issue are the types that get excited about remakes of 80's-era arcade games and Tetris. The types of games that we identify with PC Gaming's glory days — Quake, Starcraft, Baldurs Gate — are the types of games that are in serious decline.
Last edited by doctor_kaz; February 4th, 2008 at 15:13.
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February 4th, 2008, 16:33
doctor_kaz,

I too thought the comment about flash games was a bit silly at first, but consider this: If advertisers are indeed lining up to publish ads on sites hosting these games, consider what they might pay to have a banner ad running across the top of a site hosting a game like Baldur's Gate? Obviously this is not reality right now, but as more functions of PC's shift to remote based servers, it's entirely possible that we could eventually have current production quality games being played via some type of remote interface, at no cost other than internet connection to the end-user, with ads on top. Sure, nobody LIKES ads, but if it's free, you might be willing to put up with it.
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February 4th, 2008, 16:46
But then think about GameTap - I love that service, and I get plenty of new games there as well as playing cool old stuff from arcades, consoles and PC 'days of yore'. Including PS:T, BG 1&2, and so on.

GameTap has loads of free-play games on a regular basis as well as a very cheap full-use subscription price. There are limits - you can't apply mods or tweaks to the BG games, for example - but do you think that most people care?

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February 4th, 2008, 17:59
Minor note, and this does not use much inside knowledge: cutting the PC from the list of SKUs to develop a product for doesn't actually save an enormous amount of resources. The PC is like Spanish to the 360's Italian — yes, not the same language, and you can't understand everything, but there's a lot of overlap that makes the port easier.

Cutting the PS3 (which is like, I believe, ancient Sumerian) or the Wii (which is, I don't know, like sign language?) is more likely to save development resources.

The article also skipped through a really interesting point, which is that if you divide up gamers into three categories (which is, I know, always useful), you can say that there are Casual gamers (play games at parties, when riding the train, or when bored at work, don't really budget time for it), Serious gamers (play the big releases), and Hardcore gamers (play a ton of games, including just about everything in their preferred genre, even the obscure stuff nobody else has heard of). The 360 (and to an increasing extent, the PS3) is the king of the Serious set, and has a large share of the Hardcore set, but if you want to get the casual gamer, you need to be releasing titles on the PC and the handhelds.

My mom is really proud of me for getting a credit on Mass Effect, but she'd never have seen the game if she hadn't come up to Canada to visit us, because she neither owns a 360 nor knows any close friends who do. On the other hand, she's played through Bookworm Adventures 5 or 6 times and has an absurd record on Bejeweled.

So companies must keep making games for the PC — both casual games, and serious games that catch the casual gamer's attention and turn that casual gamer into a serious (or even hardcore) gamer. If you make starter games for the 360, you're preaching to the choir.
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February 4th, 2008, 19:55
I'd call that a good argument for the sky falling, so to speak. So we're not serious gamers — console players are serious gamers. That's the view of the folks making these games?

Myself, I'm ready to concede that consoles are cutting edge. But I would ask which edge. There must be another edge around here somewhere. Because some of the folks here and at other places like this are pretty serious gamers.

Let's hope the market for PC games is viewed differently in the near future.

Oh, I wish I had a river I could skate away on. But it don't snow here. It stays pretty green. I'm going to make a lot of money, then I'm going to quit this crazy scene. — [Joni Mitchell]
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February 4th, 2008, 20:09
Originally Posted by Squeek View Post
Myself, I'm ready to concede that consoles are cutting edge.
But as you say, what edge? It is one thing to have a game that brings technology and story-telling together ala Mass Effect, but look at all of the press over Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. It centers on a few things:
- The gorgeous graphics
- The amazing physics engines
- The *hugeness* of the Force Powers wreaking massive destruction. Mind Trick is for wimps - now we get 'Force Blow Up Star Destroyer'.
- … um … that is about it.

Our 'cutting edge' is about quick and mindless games that look pretty and make things go BOOM real good!

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February 4th, 2008, 20:18
People will get bored of that. Eventually.
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