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Default Future Belongs to PC Gaming @ Extreme Tech

March 22nd, 2008, 13:52
In the never-ending controversy surrounding piracy, revenue and console vs pc gaming, Extreme Tech has an article up entitled 'Consoles as We Know Them are Gone' interviewing Alex St. John, CEO of Wild Tangent on the eventual triumph of the PC as a gaming platform and some of the reasons why this is likely:
ExtremeTech:…Epic Games' Tim Sweeney, I'm sure you heard, put forth a very widely posted quote, "PCs are good for anything, just not games." That was taken out of context; he'd been asked about mainstream computers that lack graphics and audio power. How do you react to that quote?
Alex St. John: I've known Tim Sweeney a long time, and he makes a very important point. To be clear, PCs are fantastic gaming platforms, in spite of Intel and Microsoft. And they should absolutely be pinioned for the stupid stuff they've done to make the PC not as good a gaming platform as it would inherently be without their help screwing it up.
And so the shame of it is, the PC's a fantastic gaming platform, superior to anything anybody's every imagined, superior to every console, and Microsoft and Intel put crap in the PC that make it not so good. And so if you see a PC that is not denuded by things interfering with it by Microsoft and Intel, in many cases like an Intel crappy graphics chip, or a bloated Vista operating system, it's a fantastic gaming platform. And the shame is, if the low end of the PC market, the mass market PCs that everybody buys did not come with these crappy graphics chips on them and was not burdened with a fat OS, that the PC would be a larger contiguous gaming platform than all the next-generation consoles combined, probably would be clearly superior; the PC is the home of the most profitable game in history generating more revenue than the top 10 console games combined—that's World of Warcraft generating a 1.2 billion dollars a year in revenue, that's a pure PC game.
So it is clear that PC gaming absolutely killed [the market] in terms of revenue, killed it in terms of consumer usage—the average console gamer, according to Powers Associates, spends more time playing PC games than console games.
This is a long and interesting article, so I'll limit myself to one more quote about piracy. St John asks and answers this question:

ASJ:..Why is World of Warcraft the most profitable game on the PC?…
ET: Community
ASJ: Yeah, but what makes it so profitable?…There's one very important feature: DRM. You can't…steal the thing…
You can't pirate a community. So an MMO has two properties that make it hugely valuable. One is community; frankly, that's almost secondary. The truth is, you can't steal a community-based game. And because you can't steal it, you get all the revenue from it. All a console is is a giant DRM device. A console's job is not to enable you to play games, but to stop you from playing games you didn't pay for. If a console goes online, and plays community based games, its primary value, the reason Microsoft and Sony make the console and get a third of all the revenue, because they control the DRM and security…[becomes]… irrelevant if the games are community based games. The developers don't need their DRM and community; therefore, what idiot would share revenue with them?
[IF]You just make PC community games you're gonna reach everybody, because the average console gamer plays more PC games than console games—they have a PC—so again, you're out of business.
A real migration from CD games to online games would break the console business model, so you either have to make up an entirely new one, or believe that consoles as we know them are gone.
More information.

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March 22nd, 2008, 13:52
He has a point about the PC being technically superior. My old roomate had an X-box with a couple of the same games as I had on PC, and the PC graphics totally rocked compared to the X-box.

It's a shame that PCs require so much TLC compared to a console, but as it's been stated before, consoles are turning into dedicated gaming PCs these days, so it's not such a big deal. I much prefer PC-type games, and I love the ultra crisp graphics that a PC provides, and I'll probably never buy a console because of the difference.

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March 22nd, 2008, 19:20
I will never buy a console. PC forevah !!!

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March 22nd, 2008, 20:53
I loved this interview! Every point of St. John's was spot on, especially the one about piracy and community. It reminded me of our own discussion of piracy and the suggestion to develop single-player RPGs that require occassional on-line collaboration as a means for averting it.

His point about Microsoft and Intel being "enterprise-centric" may be lost on some readers. Very simply put, "enterprise" refers to big customers with big computer networks, customers so significant that the average Joe almost becomes a secondary concern. In Las Vegas, for instance, they call those kinds of customers "whales."

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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March 22nd, 2008, 23:24
No way, man! There are no whales in Las Vegas, its in a desert.

Ya I agree with the article for the most part, too.

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March 23rd, 2008, 17:15
I'm currently reading it.

Very, very interesting thoughts.

Just one snippet:

All a console is is a giant DRM device.

A console's job is not to enable you to play games, but to stop you from playing games you didn't pay for.
That would mean that Freeware games would have no chance there.

Everything turned into a business.

Even Freeware.

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March 24th, 2008, 00:56
Loads of good points, and as you say there is plenty of stuff we have talked about to various degrees here. Nice to see.

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March 24th, 2008, 01:50
He's saying PC gaming as we know it is dead and the future is all in online games like WoW. Not sure I'm ready to rejoice just yet.
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March 24th, 2008, 03:29
Originally Posted by V7 View Post
He's saying PC gaming as we know it is dead and the future is all in online games like WoW. Not sure I'm ready to rejoice just yet.
True—and I don't blame him so much as I blame the future.

Still, his company
concentrates on online and downloadable gaming for Internet-connected PCs.
so his viewpoint is understandable. With his ORB thingy, I'm sure he plans to cash in on every latest trend, and the guys not being entirely an altruist in backing the PC.

But if the big companies see a tangible profit and begin to promote the platform, develop some sort of functioning anti-piracy measures, maybe initiate some of the improvements he talks about in pc 'architechture' etc, it all adds up to people keeping the platform alive and active in gaming, which means pc games can continue to be made for a variety of markets as well as just the big $$$ ones.

At least, that's what I'm hoping. I know the demographics and the tools are changing, but as long as I have a keyboard and a cpu I plan to be gaming on it. Hopefully I won't just be replaying The Witcher in the old folks home.

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March 24th, 2008, 09:33
I think it is time that online gaming extends a little bit beyond MMORPG, deathmatch and poker. I see many ways single player games, including single player RPG's could profit from online components. Just imagine e.g. a SP sandbox game in which the world dynamically updates with server side events and content. If that works as an anti piracy measure, much the better!
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March 24th, 2008, 10:43
I agree. I have had the general opinion for over 7 years now: that online sandbox is the future. Everybody wants a sandbox, single-player or multiplayer. Even now, developers are FINALLY started to realize it, too, simply because players are clamoring for it. Even though EVE Online only has 200k subscribers, it is known by everyone a sandbox that works. EVE proved that sandbox works. Sandbox allows players to create the content. Thats user-generated content, folks. Its the future, IMHO.

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March 24th, 2008, 14:32
Maybe someday there will be single-player games where players create the content, but right now I can't even imagine how that would work. And there's no need for it, anyway. A better example of dynamic RPG worlds are ones that have been extensively modded.

RPG developers need to figure out how to get out of the business of making individual games and get into the business of building and updating fantastic game worlds. If content were designed and built with modularity, then it could be shaped to match the choices made by individual players.

Whenever I think of it, I imagine Lego and Legoland.

The real problem is the $60 price point and the obvious need to develop new games. But the majority of gamers are paying a whole lot more than $60 to play WoW. There's obvious potential for single-player games to do a better job of competing with that market.

There's no need for client-server architecture in order to have community. Single-player RPGs could have community between the player and the game world if the game world were "living."

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]
Last edited by Squeek; March 24th, 2008 at 14:40.
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March 24th, 2008, 17:01
I for one disagree with the sandbox approach. The bottom line is I simply do not have time to do a sandbox game justice, or enjoy it. I will always prefer story driven single player games like The Witcher because I have an ultimate goal, and it keeps me on track enough to finish it. — Believe it or not, I still haven't finished chap. 2 of that game, and I've had it since November!! — But that's my usual speed, I just don't have time for more. So the idea of sandbox games and/or mmo's scare the mess outta me, as there's no way I could keep up with them.

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March 24th, 2008, 18:59
Where did this blame for Intel integrated graphics suddenly come from? Do these people realize that people who buy PC's for business want barebones components without fancy gaming parts? If you want to play 3D games on your PC, you need to upgrade your hardware. This is how it has been since the beginning of the 3D era, and it is absolutely positively never going to change. Their criticism of Microsoft, though, is appropriate. Ultimately, as the custodian of the platform, they are the #1 reason for the shitty state of PC gaming.
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March 24th, 2008, 20:27
I think one thing that could REALLY save PC gaming long term is the migration we are currently seeing (in it's infancy IMO) from a solo desktop to a connected terminal. Granted, google docs are a long way away from replacing MS Office, but in time, most, if not all apps could be delivered in such a way. Obviously, to do that we'd need better wireless coverage so that you could ALWAYS get online.

But think about it, if you could deliver a game (I think gamespy does this with older games, IIRC) where all the graphics and other computational work was done in a centralized environment, and essentially what you are seeing on your screen is basically streaming video of the game, you eliminate so many problems with the PC gaming industry.

You build a game to fit a specific system, then deliver it via some universal interface. No worrying about conflicting drivers or spyware impacting performance, etc. And no real worries about piracy. You don't even need the community side of it like WoW.

The most obvious downside is not being able to play with hacks, though it's certainly possible for a centralized environment to allow a certain level of user-modification.

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March 24th, 2008, 20:33
Originally Posted by doctor_kaz View Post
Where did this blame for Intel integrated graphics suddenly come from? Do these people realize that people who buy PC's for business want barebones components without fancy gaming parts? If you want to play 3D games on your PC, you need to upgrade your hardware. This is how it has been since the beginning of the 3D era, and it is absolutely positively never going to change. Their criticism of Microsoft, though, is appropriate. Ultimately, as the custodian of the platform, they are the #1 reason for the shitty state of PC gaming.
I think the issue is that there has been a detachment from the 'family' PC. For instance, when I was a kid in the 80's and early 90's, my Dad always had a PC for doing work at home. Sure there was some level of customization available, but in general, a stock machine could play any title released within a year, maybe two, of the machines introduction to the market.

In the past, you could play the most sophisticated games released with just a reasonably recent machine. Today, you can't play anything but the most basic games on the average PC put on the market.

I just upgraded my machine, and spent at least $350 that I would not have spent if I didn't want to play higher end games. Granted, the price of PC's has come down by magnitudes, but a parent is still going to have a hard time justifying spending several hundred (or in the case of Crysis, a few thousand) extra on a PC, just so there kid can play today's latest game. Especially when in 18 months (if that), it will no longer be able to play anything recent at a reasonable level.

There's simply a disconnect that didn't exist in the past.

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March 24th, 2008, 20:47
Originally Posted by doctor_kaz View Post
Where did this blame for Intel integrated graphics suddenly come from? Do these people realize that people who buy PC's for business want barebones components without fancy gaming parts? If you want to play 3D games on your PC, you need to upgrade your hardware. This is how it has been since the beginning of the 3D era, and it is absolutely positively never going to change. Their criticism of Microsoft, though, is appropriate. Ultimately, as the custodian of the platform, they are the #1 reason for the shitty state of PC gaming.
Alex St. John seems to be one of those guys who considers hardware and the accompanying operating software together as "the platform." That's how I've always seen it (with computers, anyway).

As you already know, Intel's R&D isn't funded by the government or anything like that, doctor_kaz. So technology isn't the only thing driving it. Like Microsoft's, it's influenced by its management's view of its markets.

St. John doesn't seem to be challenging that view as much as he's suggesting that there were better alternatives that could have shaped the PC into something more advantageous for individuals but that were ignored as both companies emphasized bigger customers.

Do you really know how difficult or easy it would have been for Intel to have delivered better integrated graphics? What the costs would have been and their real impact?

I certainly don't. St. John obviously thinks he does. He is credited with having developed Microsoft's multimedia strategy, after all.

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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March 24th, 2008, 20:51
Originally Posted by doctor_kaz View Post
Where did this blame for Intel integrated graphics suddenly come from?
There is a *major* push at retail on this stuff, and the barest-bones discrete graphics system is pushed as '3D gaming capable'. We got one for my wife a couple of years ago that can barely manage Knights of the Old Republic, while a 7 year old laptop I have cuts through it like butter … as witnessed by my older son this weekend. Mwuahaha … I have the makings of a RPG fan … first Fate, now KotOR …

— Mike
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March 24th, 2008, 20:55
One thing I've recently wondered about. Why not a return to the days when games included the OS in them? Virtually ever machine can be set to boot off the CD/DVD drive. I've used the LiveCD of a couple Linux distributions and on many it was like it was fully installed.

Seems that would eliminate a lot of the issues with OS bloat, etc. from the software side. The only downside I could see would be that either you'd have to include every conceivable driver (although you'd really only need to chip drivers for the video cards, not all the junk added in by the people that actually make the cards) or have some way to deposit it on the harddrive and grab it when the LiveCD runs. Plus it could be made to run on any machine that is capable of running Linux.

I'm no Linux fanboy, but it seems like a solution like that could by pass at least the software issues. And if you free up the CPU from a lot of the bloat from OS's like Vista, you could probably offload some of the graphics work to it, thus requiring a lower graphics chip.

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March 24th, 2008, 21:18
Forget the true business market. Having spent many, many years selling computer gear, Intel goes out of their way to promote their blazingly fast, incredibly fantastically awesome integrated 945 video to home buyers. Exaggeration is something that always happens in marketing but absolutely Intel deserves blame for conning home buyers into thinking that was all they would need.

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