Gamasutra - The New Old Wave of PC Games
Gamasutra posts an op ed from Chris Remo that takes a look at some of the overlooked strengths of the PC gaming platform, using Valve and Stardock as examples of successful business models:
Amidst the neverending talk about how the PC is changing or declining as a market for hardcore games, outside of perennial chart-crusher World of Warcraft, commentators seem to lose sight of the historic strengths of the platform and its place in the gaming world.
Meanwhile, studios like Valve and Stardock -- successful, independent companies comprised of staffers whose memories seem to go back a little further -- understand some key principles that have always defined the PC platform in a positive way.
These include ongoing, direct contact with their audience; agility and responsiveness in development and support; and smaller teams that can afford to take interesting design risks and thus foster a loyal niche (not to mention thrive on sales that are less than astronomical).
On the consoles v. PC comparison:
...PC games have traditionally not had the per-title sales numbers that the most successful console games muster.
This is only a shock if you try to treat the PC as just another console, like so many modern-day publishers do -- loading it up with ports of multiplatform games whose franchises (and sometimes entire genres) have never had a strong base on the PC to begin with, then expressing disappointment when they underperform...
As an open platform in contrast to the manufacturer-controlled consoles, the PC is a place where developers and publishers can be the ultimate gatekeepers of their own games....
On the future:
The lesson seems simple, but it's often overlooked in our NPD-obsessed industry: return on investment is a lot more important than units sold, especially as budgets continue to balloon dangerously.
And making games that can afford to succeed with a smaller audience often means the developers have more creative freedom -- which, in an ostensibly creative industry, means a lot.
It is worth noting that both Valve and Stardock, as entire companies, are smaller than some of the individual teams making competing triple-A games.
These companies show that it is a fallacy that successful modern game development must be bloated and unwieldy, and they know that the PC platform and its audience do not reward offerings that treat the system like an afterthought or a multiplatform port repository.