PC Gaming Alliance: "We are the guardians of PC gaming"

Started by dhilipkumar, Nov 13, 2008, 05:21 AM

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At the 2008 Game Developers Conference, we attended a press conference where the PC Gaming Alliance made itself known to the world. Members include Intel, AMD, Epic, and Dell, among others, so power is not an issue--but there seemed to be no clear idea of what the PCGA would actually do. Recently, Ars spoke to PCGA President Randy Stude about some of these concerns, as well as the issues of piracy, DRM, and how to turn piracy into profits.

Stude is an outspoken man, with strong opinions about how to make PC gaming better, and one of the major goals of the PCGA will be to give PC gamers a voice. "PC gamers have known for a long time that there are lots of them out there, you get on a server for a brand new beta of Call of Duty World at War and you get on there at 6 o'clock at night and you see thousands and thousands of people playing on hundreds of servers," he told Ars. "The notion that PC game is dead immediately gets bumped if you're a player... What the PCGA is attempting to do with its research is to quantify the market, to say 'We know you're out there, and we're going to add you up and make certain that everyone recognizes that you count.'"

Stude also says the PCGA wants to help gamers choose the right hardware. "With the amount of money that people are spending on their new PC, the PC [they're buying] should have graphics capabilities, and CPU and memory capabilities, powerful enough to play the games they want to play." The PCGA wants to make the suggested gaming requirements clearer, and it wants to communicate "in harmony" what it thinks the best gaming experience is on the PC, and to show OEM how to make these things clear to consumers. Announcements about this goal are expected in the coming months.

Piracy is a hot-button issue right now, but is it really more prevalent than it has always been? Stude thinks that question misses the point. "I don't think it's getting worse, as much as it's getting easier." He points to Napster as making musical piracy ridiculously easy; now games are just as easy to pirate, as a few clicks and a fast connection gets you whatever game you want. "As broadband has gotten more prolific the issue has been exacerbated," Stude said. He also points out this isn't a unique problem: movies, music, and console games all are feeling the effects of piracy.

Where there's piracy, however, there is also potential for profit. "The largest market for PC gaming happens to be the emerging market places in the Far East. Over half a billion in software revenue was generated in China, Korea, and Taiwan. All the top markets for piracy are also the top markets for revenue," he told Ars. "Those who are going to invest in those markets will have to acknowledge that the traditional disc-based media might not be able to survive in those environments."

It's also a matter of education. "The PCGA will take up the challenge of piracy, not to assume the responsibility that the ESA has taken on... rather the PCGA would like to address the methodology that publishers might be able to take to solve, or to do a better job trying to solve, the piracy challenge for their substantial investments in content."

The PCGA won't give a standard approach to publishers, saying it is much more likely it will release a series of recommendations to publishers, and track piracy on an annual basis to see if the problem is growing or shrinking. The PCGA is also working on methods for members to track how effective their antipiracy measures are once a game has been released. While the ESA's job is enforcement, the PCGA seems more willing to adapt to the challenge of piracy and to create games that can't simply be copied. This would include things like MMO titles or free-to-play games with microtransactions, as are popular in many parts of the world. Stude also points to systems like Steam that reduce the effects of piracy on even AAA games such as Half-Life 2 and Left 4 Dead.

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