Friday, June 20, 2008


PC Gaming is dying.


The latest NPD data according to Tom’s Games is saying otherwise because NPD has updated their results with the MMO sector’s monthly subscription sales.  I believe that there are absolutely still games that are meant to be played on a PC.  Shooters, and RTSes are some of them.  Then there’s the elephant in the room, MMO gaming.


When you hear about MMO, and if you know what that stands for, you immediately think World of Warcraft.  I remember in University X years ago, my group and I did a presentation on Information Technology and used Everquest 1 as an example of what social interactions were becoming.  Who would have thought that there could ever be a network of over 10 million subscribers worldwide in a game! 


Then if you read any of the interviews with the big wigs of publishers and developers of PC games, piracy is the reason you will get for declining sales.  While this is true to some extent and I believe that the majority of PC Gamers are quite capable these days of using BT and cracks.  But what if we took the model of a MMO and combined that with regular games?  Sure there are MMO “private” servers but if you ask WoW players, there aren’t many that would like to play with people that can use hacks and dupes in a game like WoW, which is what private servers are like.  Alternatively, look at the model that Microsoft has followed with their XBL service, and as I have previously touched on, their Gamerscore/tag system.  In general, this is really just an e-penis enlarger for the masses of gamers that care about bragging rights (me temporarily included!)  So here’s the bright idea, create a gaming model where you are required to stay connected to the publishers servers (and this isn’t like the dialling home crap that was tried in Mass Effect) just like an MMO would and you are then able to run assets off of the developer’s servers. 


If this were to be implemented in a game like Starcraft 2 for example, you would install the client on your PC, log into every time you start the game.  While you are still playing in single player mode (much like Age of Conan’s first 20 levels), you are given the options of seeing a world map that shows rankings, hot spots, progress, achievements, and perhaps even an online store front that could facilitate in downloads of upgrades and other micro-transactional items. 


And here’s how to make it successful, it’s all in the marketing.


If you bill this as a security feature, such as what happened with Mass Effect, it will fail and cause huge rebellion and public outcry.  While if you spin this as an added bonus, free of charge (hint Microsoft!), that enhances the player’s enjoyment of the game, then it will be hailed as ground breaking and revolutionary.  While all of this is great and good, and there will still be those that create private servers and hacks, but if the service you provide on the front end is indeed value added, then I believe consumers will choose to actually use that service instead of circumventing it. 


This is all in my head of course, but I think there’s some merit to this idea. is used as a match making service, but what if Blizzard expands that to something like what Steam has.  Costs of maintaining the servers and bandwidth shouldn’t be any more than the license for Securom or other “innovative” security services.  Maybe the PC Gaming Alliance could even come together to form a standard platform where you can see a PC Gamer Score similar to what XBL has but spans across developers and publishers.  Sure the PC is not a standardized platform, but it’s still a common platform, it’s just open source.  I honestly believe that with some thought and analysis, this could work.


I for one will support it.  Even though I am familiar with piracy, I still pay monthly for my WoW subscription when I can play for free on a private server, but I choose not to as the value of being connected to Blizzard’s servers is just that much better than playing for free.  You are going to get the poor/young students/kids still trying to pirate your games, but they wouldn’t have bought your game to begin with anyway.  It’s the people that CAN buy your games who you want the money from.  That’s where the real purchasing power is at folks.

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