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March 31, 2005

Comments

Chris

I'm hoping they'll stop the online validation soon too. At the moment I'm living in a shared flat in Portugal, so not only is my laptop on demand as the internet gateway, but our broadband has a pretty tiny monthly international bandwidth allowance. So, for now at least, online validation means I can't play the sequel to one of my favourite games. Meh.

Rob Drimmie

I'm hoping that they drop prices from $50 to, say, $30. Still more then they get from the retail chain. Cut out the middle man and gamers can buy more titles and developers can make more money. Who cares if EB Games loses, me and Valve, we both win.

Brett Douville

I'm a big fan of Valve & Steam too, but I think that the point you make about the PC market getting weaker and weaker is directly tied to the description of your firewall problems.

I recently spent a couple of hours via phone over a few days with my brother-in-law helping him with his XP upgrade (and part of it at the end was using Spybot, iirc). All that was so he could use iTunes; I can't even imagine trying to get him up and running remotely with a game. I love PC gaming, but you can't ever just sit down and play -- you have to go through some rigmarole of downloading drivers or futzing with settings or disabling firewall stuff.

Less experienced users want simplicity -- they want complexity on the level of a DVD interface, not a PC interface. They want to put it in and play; if they have a bad experience, they'll blame it on the dev/publisher (perhaps the one time it's a good thing that devs get so little space on the box). They might blame it on their computer; the software industry has collectively let the complexity issue be the problem of the consumer. They won't realize that they should have turned the settings down a bit for their card, or that the latest drivers fix that annoying blinking texture bug when you're using shader model 2.0 and source alpha blends or some other esoteric stuff. (Yes, I have no idea if that last bit makes sense -- I'm not a graphics programmer, that stuff is all greek to me, as greek as it would be to most users.)

In short -- they want the ease of use of a console.

I absolutely believe that PC gaming is good for innovation and the overall growth of the industry. Personally, most of my history has been as a PC gamer. And I still have a lot of great experiences on the PC that are hard to find on the consoles.

But I worry that these interface issues work actively against our goals of growing the market. I think that devs need to sit down and ask themselves when they are looking at the product on the whiteboard if the game has a chance of reaching a larger market -- and if it does, taking the time and effort to smooth that as much as humanly possible. (To address the elephant in the PC room, I think the Sims did this pretty well, in that its requirements were low enough not to run into many of these issues.)

GBGames

PC game sales on the decline? That's news to me.

Patrick Sullivan

I disagree on several points here, personally.

1) Steam is NOT going to help software sales for them that much. Anyone who really wants to play HL2 will still find a way to crack HL2 and play it without validation, meanwhile those who DID pay for it are having to jump through hoops. Also a lot of people who aren't computer savy didn't know HL2 required an internet connection to play if you bought it in store, as it wasn't very blatantly marked on the box. A game such as WoW/EQ2 is one thing, but an FPS with a single player component this seems a valid argument. At the very least poor box layout.

2) As has been pointed out above, pc game sales are more hurt by technical issues, many of which are tied to the fact that all games are so bleeding edge they tend to be buggier. Throw on all the issues related to ports/etc in multiplayer games and your average computer user is potentially SoL. Take into account the cost of a good gaming pc compared to a console too, a lot of people aren't willing to fork over 1200-1500 bucks for a computer that'll play most of the games currently out and coming out for the next 2 or 3 years. While I will (and have) I can't exactly blame them. If game companies would stop targetint the bleeding edge so much they might have a better chance here.

3) While I highly dislike Vivendi, at the same time from everything out there it sorta looks like they actually gave Valve some rights in good faith based on claims about Steam's future, and then were double crossed as Steam was pushed farther then said claims. If this is true or rumor I doubt anyone who isn't high up in those two companies will ever know, but it doesn't exactly make Valve a shining paragon of what to do in the industry either. Throw in the fact that, while this is good for VALVE, it doesn't help the INDUSTRY much as most companies don't have the clout to get away with this sort of thing since they don't have the fanboy pull to get sales with the lesser marketing that comes from avoiding/lessening your presence on retail shelves.

Anne

I believe you are right -- online validation is going to be a strong feature in the future of gaming.

W4l-M4rt and $t4rbuck$ both offer in-store music downloads to cd now -- how long before they (particularly the Evil Empire) realize how viable selling games and movies would be in this format? Particularly when you realize how much software/cds/dvds are stolen just from retail outlets, without even adding in the copying and P2P piracy?

I hope Steam is able to prove this is a viable outlet. In addition to the piracy issue, it also creates a self-publishing model for original, independent games.

johnsto

I think the biggest achievement of Steam was prevention of piracy prior to the game actually becoming available... how many games these days are unobtainable anywhere before they're released? Most end up pirated at least a few days before the given release date, especially when you consider territories.

HL2 however was delivered worldwide at exactly the same time in a form in which proper paying customers could obtain. People who paid got what they paid for and beat the pirates.

What was the last (non-subscription) game that achieved that?

PaG

I think the best way to fight piracy is to lower game prices. At over 50$ it's really tempting to go pirate a game, especially if you don't have much money. If games were 20$ like DVDs then it would be much less tempting to download games in shady sites, finding cracks, etc. It wouldn't stop piracy (20$ would still be too much for some people), but it would sure reduce it.

MSN

> What was the last (non-subscription) game that achieved that?

Ignoring restrictions on the UK release date, Halo 2.

MSN

Jon

I have to agree with GBGames, I don't believe PC game sales are on the decline. Last I heard, and I read this quite recently, they had made a big step up toward the console game sales.

Mad Striker

Steam blows! Nice setup and all, I love the convience and everything, but tech support sucks. They disabled my account due to someone else hijacking it. I filed a complaint and have been waiting to play the games I paid for and are just sitting on my HD for 2 weeks now. No one has responed to my complaint either, The status has been new forever now. Valve, quit being cheap and get some phones. Small businesses have tech support by phone, why not this multi-million dollar corporation.

spazz

I totally agree, I had a bug so I reformatted my hard drive and now can't reinstall this program.
The game rocks, but steam got the extra 39 cents to super suck!

Liam Hislop

I agree that piracy is a big problem with PC games. Why pay $50 dollars for a game that is buggy and/or terrible and then I can't return it because I already opened the package.
This can be somewhat allieviated with easier to access demos of the games, but accessing the demos are more geared towards the hardcore players.
Steam is one solution to this problem. Is it the best solution, probably not, but it is a step in a direction (which is better than trying nothing at all).

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