Many of us, including myself, are still hanging to the almost non-existent chance that we may be treated to a PC version of Grand Theft Auto V this year.
Rockstar has always treated the PC gaming community like some dirty hobo that keeps hanging about looking for table leavings. Eventually they start to feel bad and throw us a half-hearted scrap or two, but it’s nothing like the feast that console gamers get. When PC gamers are eventually invited to the table, it’s usually 6 months to a year down the road, and even then Rockstar throws the equivalent of a half cooked T.V. dinner in front of us. By that time, the majority of us have moved on leaving Rockstar to wonder…”Why don’t are shoddy PC ports perform better on PC?”
What is so great about the consoles? Why are they the favored sons?
Limited resources to call on, framerate and performance issues, and a paywall in front of multiplayer access are just a few disadvantages that a Rockstar game faces on the consoles. Even a lower end mid-range gaming PC can offer more power for developers to make use of than the current generation of consoles.
The PC gaming market has also been making a big comeback in these last few years. Many former console players are running back to PC gaming after jumping through one to many hoops on their former platforms of choice thanks to the constant wallet raping, sequel-itis, and lesser quality of console games. The abundance of terrible console games in the later years of this generation, have left the salacious taste of publisher/developer balls in many a gamer’s mouth.
The ability to include mod-support is another advantage of developing for PC, and can lead to some pretty amazing things. Just ask Valve how much money they have made from games like Counter Strike, or Left 4 Dead. Two games that originally started off as mods.
One would think that Grand Theft Auto Online (GTA V’s multiplayer component) would be an obvious fit for the PC realm. It would also give Rockstar the ability to monetize the game further through micro-transaction, subscription models, online stores, and other such things that make my butthole pucker up…
So why not embrace the PC gaming market like the un-tapped source of wealth and power that we are?
I have a couple of theories true believers…
While the first third of this little rant sang the praises of the PC as a gaming platform, it’s not all flowers and sugar-tits. The consoles provide a single and unchanging set of hardware to develop for, lowering the cost and time of development dramatically. In PC development the need to test across a multitude of different hardware configurations is a must. Something which lengthens development cycles, increases cost of development, and over all sends Publishers screaming from the room with their hair on fire. This is why we’ve seen so may developers tailoring their development cycle around a particular console, and then porting to the PC later on. These PC ports are often just lazy attempts to squeeze every last dime out of a game.
Many times the PC port of a game will be handed off to some second rate developer you have never heard of. The end result usually being a broken mess of a PC game. This accomplishes little but to alienate the audience, and cast the developer/publisher in a bad light. There have been more than a few PC ports this generation where the developers didn’t even bother to switch the UI from an Xbox 360 controller to a keyboard and mouse configuration. I can’t tell you the amazing feeling I get when in the middle of a quick time event and I’m being prompted to hit the left bumper, while using a keyboard……chuckle heads.
Let us not forget to address the rather large pink elephant in the room.
That’s right kids, it’s piracy!
Piracy is a persistent problem which publishers and developers still haven’t managed to get a handle on…and they never will.
There are always going to be those shitty little bastards out there who prefer to pirate a game for free. Some might say (given the current plethora of absolutely terrible games, and piss poor ports littering the market place these days) that this philosophy is actually justified. There are even those pirates out there who use the argument that they pirate games in order to “try them before they buy them,” treating the pirated games much like a demo. Arguing the detriment of piracy on the video game industry can be saved for another article though.
Besides the obvious financial hit that publishers/developers take due to piracy, they are also burdened with the hardship of developing DRM.
Did everyone else’s blood pressure just shoot up a couple of points as well? Yeah, I thought so.
DRM is widely considered to be the plague of PC gaming in this generation. Often times it causes more problems than it solves through game breaking performance issues, and the need to constantly be ‘calling home’ in order to verify that the game you are playing is legit. DRM is costly, inept, and greeted with disdain by the audience as a whole. That’s not to say that all DRM is just god awful. Steam’s DRM, while not perfect, seems to be the most non-obtrusive and end-user friendly DRM we have seen to date. The same can’t be said for others (yes we are looking at you Ubisoft…we hate you ) who choose to treat all their PC customers like common criminals, but usually only succeed in breaking their game.
So what’s the point, why would any developer in their right mind want to develop for the PC as their lead platform.
It’s simple really. You get better games!
Developing for a console as your lead platform establishes limits to what you can accomplish with your creative vision. To be fair, there will always be limits. But developing with the PC as your lead platform means you have much more wiggle room to play with before you hit that ceiling. Scaling down for consoles is much easier than scaling up to PC.
With many PC gamers fully embracing digital distribution, the need to press discs, print manuals, and other such outdated concepts goes out the window. That’s a big chunk of change which can be rolled back into the development of your game, or into the marketing, or (perish the thought) even given to the developers as a bonus for neglecting their lives through ‘crunch time’.
Somewhere in the world a video game publisher just raised his head, as if he just smelled some bad ass, and thought to himself “Something truly terrible was just said on the internet!”
So in the end, is it worth it for Rockstar to bring Grand Theft Auto V to PC?
You bet your ass it it! Let’s just hope that it’s an idea which Rockstar embraces sometime before ‘unspecified date’ in 2014.