PC Game Industry Killing Itself, But Hope Remains

Remember the ’90s? Remember when PC gaming was all the rage? All night Warcraft and Starcraft sessions until the sun came up. Computer hardware was improving at a blistering rate while games were constantly pushing the boundaries of modern computing power.

Those days were amazing, and those days are long gone.

The sad part is that much of this could have been prevented, but it is seemingly impossible to salvage the glory days of PC gaming. However, hope remains.

There are numerous problems that plague the PC gaming, and this industry is dying at an ever-increasing pace.

The first major issue is incompatibility. When gamers see that dazzling new PC game they always dreamed about, gamers become excited. Yet those moments of euphoria can come crashing down in a heartbeat once someone reads the minimum requirements required to play those games. Yours truly has experienced this numerous times, and it is extremely frustrating.

Little things like this disrupt the experience of PC gaming entirely. For this reason alone, it was shocker when gaming consoles overtook PCs.

The next issue is has to do primarily with game publishers. You see, the publishers of these games want the developers to work hour upon hour to create these amazing works of art and technology, but eventually they want the project finished.

Thus, the deadline.

Sure, deadlines are crucial for project management, but sometimes publishers don’t understand that things are not always ready just quite yet — there are sometimes serious issues that need to be ironed out before the product is ready to ship. Unfortunately, these publishers don’t care: they want the product shipped yesterday. And when it comes down to it, many of the games that ship today are rarely considered “complete” among the gamers.

And who could blame them? PC games these days are riddled with bugs, some of which completely ruin the gaming experience. And then there are issues that prevent the game from even being played at all.

The publishers have degraded the consumer’s experience from that of a completed product to a beta product, with the consumers being the actual beta testers. Expectedly, they ship it out to the world where many of these games are met with backlash and bad press, thus severely tarnishing the reputation and eroding potential game sales.

The final issue major issue — and one that has stirred up the PC gaming community more than anything — is digital rights management (DRM). Games are shipping with invasive copy protection schemes that do absolutely nothing to dissuade nor prevent pirates from having access to their software but severely degrade the experience for the paying customer.

Just recently the DRM issue hit an all new low when Ubisoft started requiring users to be connected to the Internet at all times in order to play two of their titles: Assassin’s Creed 2 and Silent Hunter 5.

You could check out these game’s community forums, Amazon reviews, or press coverage, but the conclusion will always be that these games were failures — not because of piracy, bugs, or incompatibilities, but because of this flawed thinking with regards to DRM.

To put the icing on the cake, a few weeks ago the servers that maintained this DRM information for the two aforementioned games went down. As a result, many users who had legitimate copies of these two games were unable to play them. Unbelievable.

It’s a huge mess, and it is another symbol to represent the failures within the PC gaming industry.

Yet with all this doom and gloom surrounding the industry — miraculously — there is still hope for PC gaming.

A popular breed of massively multiplayer online games (MMOs) have emerged. These MMOs charge monthly fees for users to take part in games that are constantly changing and evolving. Their main appeal is that it connects gamers to hundreds to several thousands of other gamers like themselves, and they can all interact with each other. This business model will likely be a big part of the future for PC gaming, if executed correctly.

But there is also another lifeline in the PC gaming industry, and, interestingly enough, it comes by the work of one single company: Facebook.

Social media sites — like Facebook — are becoming an increasingly important part of millions of people’s lives, and the gaming industry is taking notice. Already there are small-time developers making big-time revenues through socialized games developed on Facebook’s development platform, but now the large publishers and development studios are taking notice as well.

Civilization, a strategy game by Fraxis Games (and a personal favorite), is making a huge debut on Facebook in the near future, and it is surely going analyzed by every single participant within the PC gaming industry. If this project proves to be a huge success, you can bet the house on other major publishers throwing big bucks at similar projects as well.

While the bleeding continues, one can’t help but think that there is still an opportunity here for PC game developers to adapt and make a living doing what they love. Sure, the platform, the API, the programming language, and the capabilities change, but the end goal is still the same: get people to play the games.

It is crucial that these publishers and developers continue to break out of the box — to experiment and innovate as much as possible. Otherwise: game over.

Written by James Mowery

James Mowery is a passionate technology journalist and entrepreneur who has written for various top-tier publications like Mashable and CMSWire. Follow him on Twitter: @JMowery.
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