May 17th, 2010
With upwards of 300 million players -- the most popular platform by far -- PC gaming is bigger than ever. But the system has its share of challenges, something Games Radar recently described as "powerful but flawed" in an editorial examining How to fix what's wrong with PC gaming.
While I don't agree with all 12 recommendations, some of which aren't really recommendations or aren't all that constructive, I wholeheartedly agree with the following:
- Standardize system requirements. For anyone who knows the difference between RAM and a processor, knowing what games your computer is capable of playing isn't that big of a deal. But for everyone else (read: the majority of users), the process of selecting a compatible game can be daunting, which in turn discourages sales. Which is why the platform should move to some kind of standardized playability rating. Non of this "required" and "recommended" crap. Force developers to make their games perform at an accessible and easy-to-read level, then let those games expand both visually and audibly for power users with face-melting rigs.
- Adopt a universal friend system. I can't think of an instant messaging program that doesn't let you import friends from various chat clients. In the same vein, PC gaming could greatly benefit from an open "gamer client," that lets you import and manage Steam, Battle.net, XFire, WoW, Gamertag, and any other connected friends. Obviously you wouldn't be able to pair up with all these people in game, but you should at least be able to chat and text with them at all times during gameplay. Anyone out there want to crack this nut?
- Expand digital storefronts (like Steam) to include more games. Obviously, Valve and others are working towards increasing the number of games available on their respective platforms, but Games Radar notes that it's still harder than it should be to get listed on these services. With lower approval requirements, innovation would increase further still, and give players even more game play options. The sooner that happens, the sooner prospective gamers will start using their PCs as gaming devices.
- Centralize the sale of retro game downloads. One of Wii's best kept secrets is its Virtual Console service, which lets players download their favorite Nintendo games from years past. Similarly, no other system has a back catalog of games as diverse as the PC, which is why said legacy games should be resold under a single store front. Not only would this be a great way for publishers to boost profits to reinvest in new games, but it would give atrophied PC gamers an opportunity to return to the active gaming fold. The more that do that, the more games will be made.
- Embrace alternative controls. PCs have always been at the forefront of graphics in video games, from 16-bit to HD, and everything in between. But when it comes to controllers, "we continue to languish," writes Games Radar. To be sure, nothing beats the precision of a mouse and keyboard when it comes to shooters and strategy games. And there are already a variety of gamepads and wheel controllers for PC. But pioneering and then standardizing new ways to control can only be a good thing for future growth.
Games Radar also admonishes to "bring the PC back to E3... to be front and center of the gaming world's biggest circus." But the only way I truly see that happening is if PC giants like Microsoft, Dell, Valve, and others host a combined "PC press conference" under the banner of the PC Gaming Alliance. Otherwise, fragmented press conferences by individual vendors will have a harder time standing out when compared to coordinated consoles press conferences.
On that note, what would you do to improve PC gaming?
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