October 11th, 2010
Follow video game news long enough, and you’ll undoubtedly stumble on a quote, prediction, or reaction from outspoken analyst Michael Pachter. According to one fact checker, he’s right 60% of the time; wrong the other 40%. But he’s always got something to say.
The below question and answer on the state of PC gaming is no different, and equally charged with both optimism and pessimism:
When pundits say PC games are dying, what do they really mean?
I think the “pundits” (myself included) saw little growth in PC when compared to the massive growth in console and handheld gaming that occurred from 2000 to 2008. Over the last couple of years, however, there has been a rebirth of PC gaming, with the same solid hardcore sales and a whole new breed of social gamers.
In term's of gaming, what's the most exciting thing happening on PC right now?
Social and casual games are the real growth driver so far, but other things like Gaikai and OnLive are essentially moving console games back to the PC. I think we will see social and casual games like Plants vs. Zombies with high production values, and think that will bring a lot of social/casual gamers into the fold of true gamers.
Steam has more registered users than Xbox Live. How significant is that in terms of PC as a more appealing gaming platform for developers?
Steam is free and has an unlimited addressable market. Xbox Live is really just for subscribers (the “free” service is not worth much), and limited by the installed base of 40 million Xbox 360s. The PC is the most widely owned “console”, so it will always have appeal. I think one of the reasons publishers abandoned the PC was piracy, and until they are comfortable dealing with that issue (Steam is one such solution), they will make only a few AAA games for the PC.
Where do you see PC games in 10 years?
I think PC gaming will continue to grow modestly, until we no longer need PCs and see gaming move to the cloud. That could happen in ten years. (Sorry, Alienware, but please rest assured that I currently own three of your PCs).
This summer, both Activision and Alienware acknowledged an interest in "TV friendly PC game consoles" that would sit under a TV. Would such a device increase the interest in PC as a gaming platform?
If the monitor for the PC was the TV, it would increase interest for a huge portion of the market. The PC could be used for gaming and for IPTV, so it would have a ton of incremental value.
On several occasions this summer, Microsoft has gone on record about increasing their support for traditional PC game experiences. Why is that? Can PC gamers interpret that as legitimate renewed interested in the platform?
Yes, I think Microsoft has legitimate renewed interest in the PC as a platform. Cheap netbooks and the coming slate computer revolution have apparently encouraged Microsoft to focus on the potential of this market.
Let's talk piracy. Movie makers and software makers aren't reducing the number of releases due to PC piracy. Should the gaming industry?
The numbers I’ve heard are that piracy is capturing 80% share of the PC market (four out of five users don’t pay for the game). That’s not true of film, as most people pay to see the movie in the theater or buy/rent the DVD. I am sure movie piracy is rampant in some places (like China), but it’s nowhere near 80% in the West, so the movie companies deal with it. Because all PC game sales are either disc or download (there is no analogy to viewing a game in a theater), the first sale is the only chance to make money, and if 80% of these are stolen, the publishers avoid the experience.
What's the biggest challenge facing PC games today and how can it be overcome?
The biggest challenge for PC games is the monitor. Most individual PCs are laptops, and people sacrifice monitor size for weight, so the typical monitor is 15”. If the PC could easily be connected to a 46” 1080p TV, I think we’d see some faster growth of PC gaming. I know that it only takes a cable, but by “easily”, I mean that the Internet connection and power supply would always be in place, and the PC would serve as a permanent media center. We’re just not there yet in very many households.
Think Pachter is still crazy? Like what he has to say? Sound off in the comments.
See also: What makes PC gamers tick?