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Valve Questions Microsoft's PC Gaming Commitment 79

Posted by Zonk
from the are-you-in-or-are-you-out dept.
GamesIndustry.biz is reporting on comments from an interview they conducted with Doug Lombardi, marketing manager at Valve Studios. Lombardi criticized Microsoft's recent commitment to PC gaming in the form of the 'Games for Windows' initiative, which we've previously discussed here on the site. In Lombardi's view, this new push for games on the PC platform is nothing more than an extended advertising scheme to sell the Vista OS. "'Sony and Microsoft both have armies of PR people whose job it is to cram that information down the throats of press and analysts every day ... All those people do is say the PC's dying, the console's winning, and nobody on the PC side is championing that platform. And sales data tracks retail, and there's no doubt about it, PC sales at retail are declining ... World of Warcraft is making a whole lot of money outside of the retail channel, we're making a decent bit of cash off Steam, all the casual guys are not tracked - the PopCap games, Bejewelled, all that stuff doesn't show up.'"
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Valve Questions Microsoft's PC Gaming Commitment

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  • by Sensae (961755) on Monday March 12, 2007 @04:28PM (#18321971)
    It happens every couple years. The new consoles come out, everyone's hooked onto them and the PC games die down. A year or two down the road PCs come out ahead, or at least on par again. As for the whole "Gaming for Windows" that's obviously just a marketing scheme Microsoft is using in prediction for when PC gaming catches on again.
    • by Xest (935314) *
      I think you're probably right, and PC game prices seem to reflect this somewhat, the cost of PC games seems to drop when sales figures drop, around 5 years or so ago when the Xbox, PS2, Gamecube etc. came about PC games went back down to around £29.99 after a breif period of being up at £34.99, around 3 years ago they went back up to £34.99 and dropped around a year ago to £29.99 (around the time of the 360 launch), now a lot of PC games are selling for £24.99, since the releas
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Honestly, I don't think PC gaming has been on the same level as consoles (in terms of sales) for a very long time ...

      The big problem PC gaming has is that its two biggest strenghts work against eachother; everyone has a PC and the hard-core group of PC gamers have amazingly powerful hardware. This ends up meaning you either target the Hard-Core and have limited sales, or you target the mainstream and upset the hardcore gamers (thus limiting sales) ...

      That's just how I see it though
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by cgenman (325138)
        PC games != retail sales.

        PC games = retail sales + download sales + recurring subscriptions [mmogchart.com] + ad-based revenue + Korean microtransactions. Heck, World of Warcraft's recurring subscriptions alone count for an estimated 100 million dollars Per Month. Again, WoW is making a bit over A BILLION DOLLARS A YEAR, not including box sales, and it only accounts for an estimated 50% of paid MMPORPG subscriptions out there.

        If US videogame sales are estimated at 10 billion dollars [about.com] per year, it's not unreasonable to ima
        • by honkycat (249849)

          and (yes) computer upgrades to facilitate gaming (are there really any other kinds?)
          Yeah, upgrades to do home video editing. That takes a butt load of disk space. That's going to be my next upgrade. Yes, I just answered your rhetorical question. Sorry... no offense intended.. :-)
        • by Andy Dodd (701)
          "Again, WoW is making a bit over A BILLION DOLLARS A YEAR, not including box sales, and it only accounts for an estimated 50% of paid MMPORPG subscriptions out there."
          I'm betting someone will comment that this isn't pure profit (even remotely), and they would be right.

          But in the context of this article, it's about competition for what is in gamers' wallets. In that regard, the biggest threat to retail PC games are not consoles, but subscription-based PC games.

          There are a lot of people (including myself) wh
          • Back in the day I played Diablo 2. I played it a lot, pretty much to the exclusion of any other PC game. I didn't buy other PC games, I didn't care about other PC games. Having Diablo 2 severely reduced my investment into the PC games market.

            The same can be said of WoW now. I don't buy other PC games, I don't play other PC games, I don't particularly care about other PC games (Supreme Commander was a big letdown for me) although Hellgate: London may be the next game to eat my time.

            However, what WoW does do
    • by DrSkwid (118965)
      Yeah, I remember when the MegaDrive came out, we all stopped playing 16colour CGA games for a while until we could have 640x480x256.
      I got RAC Rally with my first 386, that's Colin McRea's Rally Version 0.

      And Sentinel, anyone know where I can find the abandonware of that.

      I got a Sim City 5 1/4 inch floppy round here somewhere too
    • by AbRASiON (589899) *
      Informative?

      PC gaming has been easing off for ages, the PS3 only just came out, the X360 has only been out a bit over a year, yet in the past 2 / 3 years PC gaming has been declining, despite the fact we had 'only the old gen' from Xb1, PS2 and GC around.

      It's not just about the graphics, it's about the simplicity and ease of use of a console - plus the graphics on them now is really more than acceptable overall (XB1, PS2 and GC that is)

      • It's not just about the graphics, it's about the simplicity and ease of use...

        Interesting. While I accept that consoles are somewhat easier to use in a "shove the disk in and play" sense, I have to say that I really hate console controls. Having played on a 360 and a Wii (I own the latter) it really irritates me how imprecise the controls are. Playing CoD on the 360 felt like one of those weird dreams where you can't move freely because the air is too thick or something. I used to mock auto-aiming and/or target-locking I saw in console games, but I now understand it's the only d

    • "The new consoles come out, everyone's hooked onto them and the PC games die down. A year or two down the road PCs come out ahead, or at least on par again." This gen, it took PCs just six months to reestablish technological dominance. And that amount of time goes down with every new generation. All this leads me to believe that this time around, the next generation of consoles(XBox 720/whatever, PS4) will be technically obsolete right at release and they'll just be proprietary mid-end PCs, and nothing else
  • by GregPK (991973) on Monday March 12, 2007 @04:30PM (#18321995)
    On one hand they have the PC gaming market they need to support; On the other hand the more they move to console the more they make money and Vice Versa. Though with Vista's new Xbox live connection feature allowing Xbox 360 owners and PC owners to play each other. It sort of bridges the gap. But they did it to themselves.
    • by 26199 (577806) *

      I find it hard to be too sympathetic :)

      They're making money on PC games and they're making money on console games. This is not a bad position to be in...

      • by rtb61 (674572)
        M$ are not generating a licence fee on PC games. Their aim is to do nothing and charge for it. Vista's (FU)DRM is the first look at an M$ licensing scheme for PC games, don't pay the DRM licence fee and watch the windows PC downgrade the quality of the picture and sound of the game, with even the future possibility of not playing the game at all.

        A possible alternative direction upon the failure of the xbox gaming division or to be used in conjunction with Xbox licensing fees. Sony also generates income of

        • by Macthorpe (960048)
          The scenario you describe is entirely fictional and more than a little doolally.

          If developers and gamers alike started having to pay a license fee to develop for the Windows platform, game development would shift to free alternatives like Linux quicker than you could say 'antidisestablishmentarianism'. Microsoft make enough money off OS sales at the moment as it is: charging a license fee would more than likely lose them money rather than gain it.

          I also question how buying a Dell computer and installing Lin
  • really? (Score:2, Interesting)

    and nobody on the PC side is championing that platform

    People are buying and playing the games, thats good enough.
  • metrics (Score:4, Insightful)

    by RichMan (8097) on Monday March 12, 2007 @04:50PM (#18322273)
    It is all about the metrics:

    PC gameing is not dead. Probably more people playing longer and more often than ever before (Warcraft).
    Retail Box store sales of PC games is low compared to console sales.

    Hours played of PC games: missing is Warcraft, web games, ....
    Sales: missing is Warcraft, online sales ...

    Blizzard gave the box stores a thank you for the Burning Crusade release. It could have totally be done with a download and all those stores would have had nothing (currently you can do a direct online, avoid the store upgrade).

    Because PC's can download, even burn DVD's. New PC games can totally avoid the box stores in the future.
    If the box stores want to live they must champion the console games.

    Valve could make extra cash by championing a download system, if they make it work out for more cash for a game maker than a box store. It could be the end of box stores.
    • Steam? (Score:3, Informative)

      by phorm (591458)
      Valve could make extra cash by championing a download system, if they make it work out for more cash for a game maker than a box store. It could be the end of box stores.

      Hmmm, that might just be an idea. Once they come up with such a thing, maybe they can choose a cool name for it, like "steam"

      (granted steam is more than just a download system, it also handles their rather annoying copy-protection, advertisements, etc, but it's been around for awhile, and hasn't killed box stores yet).
      • by daeg (828071)
        I think the GP was implying a generic downloading system that companies could license like they do graphics engines. Imagine something like the World of Warcraft delivery system that companies could license and pay per-download. Valve (or whatever company) would manage the entire operation and just get a cut of the profit from each copy sold.

        Selling via box stores is expensive. You have a lot of overhead: printed materials, boxes, inserts, discs, cases. Then you have the shipment costs from production cente
        • Basically this could be something like a "package management" system like many linux distros use. Steam doesn't quite do this, but I think it's actually due to lack of adoption (I believe they did offer some non-value products or products of affiliated companies at one point, I could be wrong).

          It sounds like a great idea, but it would have to involve a very trustworthy middleman.
          • by PingSpike (947548)
            Steam does do this...pretty much. Like the other guy said, there are tons of non-valve games on the service. They also push out some older games from publishers like activision I believe. Additionally, there are some steam only games, many of which are quite good.
          • You clearly have not been on Steam in a long time.

            Current library includes:
            Call of Duty 1 & 2
            Civilization III & IV
            Flatout 1 & 2
            Psychonauts
            Prey
            Dark Messiah of Might & Magic
            Midevil II: Total War
            Dreamfall: The Longest Journey
            *And* PopCap games like Bejeweled.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by zootm (850416)

          I think the GP was implying a generic downloading system that companies could license like they do graphics engines. Imagine something like the World of Warcraft delivery system that companies could license and pay per-download. Valve (or whatever company) would manage the entire operation and just get a cut of the profit from each copy sold.

          Steam does this right now, so far as I can tell. There's loads of non-Valve games available through Steam these days.

    • by b1scuit (795301)
      Blizzard didn't give any stores a thank you, but they should. Blizzard's download service is godawful... it's nothing more than a crappy bittorrent service, plagued with problems. It's always been FAR easier to download patches from services like filefront or if you're lucky, your guild website, and buying TBC in the stores was a no-brainer... I had a friend who paid for his BC upgrade online and then had to wait for something like 30 hours for the installer image to download. I walked down to Best Buy
      • by Kiffer (206134)
        You see what you should have done was... buy one copy of the upgrade in the shop. install it on all our friends machines and then they could have bought the account upgrade online and avoided the whole multi-gig download.
      • by Dutch Gun (899105)

        Blizzard's download service is godawful... it's nothing more than a crappy bittorrent service, plagued with problems.
        On the other hand, you can download the GuildWars client (a few hundred KB) and the entire game will stream to your HD as required on a per-mission basis. If anyone should be licensing their streaming system, it's ArenaNet. I have to wonder about Blizzard's cheap-o approach to conserving bandwidth when a monthly-fee-free game can one-up them...
        • When you own one restaurant, It doesn't make sense to scrimp on the napkins to save $5/year. When you own a twenty thousand restaurant chain, that's an entire person's salary. And maybe you could use slightly lesser quality ingredients too..
  • ...this new push for games on the PC platform is nothing more than an extended advertising scheme to sell the Vista OS...

    What's the news? That Microsoft is encouraging people to develop/port games for/to Vista so that its latest OS continues to be the one most often used with games? Even if this is news to most people, why would this be surprising to guy with a marketing job? (He either saw this coming or is probably not qualified for his job.)

    I can remember similar whining around the time Windows 95 cam

    • 32-bit DOS is great and everyone knows the command-line: why should we launch from Windows 95

      And you know what, for the first while, probably several years at least. DOS was the best way. It allowed much more of the PC to be dedicated to *gasp* the game.

      Hardware was a bit behind too, so when you ran your game you tended to end up a little short (or just enough), when running
      DOS->Win9x->Game

      Not to mention all the funny issues with resources (soundcard) etc being tied up be the OS, needing to re
    • by PingSpike (947548)
      I think he's just pointing out that Microsoft supposed new "commitment" to PC gaming is anything but that. He has a vested interest here, because as a guy that works at a PC game company he has to deal with all the bullshit that ensues.

      The "Games for Windows" initiative, if you really look at its goals, will do nothing but turn the PC into a clunky and more expensive xbox 360. In short, it'll strip the PC of its advantages in order to make it similar to console gaming. The trouble with this is, of course, t
  • The guidelines (Score:5, Informative)

    by ebingo (533762) on Monday March 12, 2007 @05:09PM (#18322543)

    I'm far from loving Microsoft but I don't understand why people see a marketing ploy in the Games for Windows thing. As I see it, it's a guideline for developers so that the customer knows that the games he/she's buying will work in a certain specific way, and from what I read, it's not bad at all.

    For example, the game must be executable from a normal user account (finaly!) and the savegames must be placed in the users' home directory (My Documents). It's a huge step for Windows - especially for games - where lots of programs can't be run under a normal user environment (this was becoming less and less true recently but there where still many games unplayable without admin rights). Then, it forces the game to support widescreen displays, task switching (alt-tab), have a shortcut in the Games Browser, etc.

    Nowhere does it say that is has to be installed on Vista. Granted, it was announced a only a few months before Vista came out, but I think it's normal that they try to start fresh with a new OS with guidelines for programs that will be coming out from now on. Still, none of the requirements state that it needs Vista. Company of Heroes is a Game for Windows and does everything right on Windows XP.

    I havent read it all, but I doubt it would prevent developing games for other platforms (Mac, Linux). It only makes it so that IF the game is to be installed on Windows, it should follow the guidelines. And some of them are a given for MacOS and Linux (user account, savegames)

    • by fotbr (855184)
      Minor nitpick: Games have to follow those rules if they want the "Games for Windows" tag/emblem/seal/logo/whatever. There's NOTHING that says you can't make a game, for windows, that doesn't follow those rules. It just won't have the Microsoft awarded logo "Games for Windows".
    • by tcc3 (958644)
      You know after years of buying brokne, barely compatible games I heartily agree with you. If MS announced tomorrow they could cure cancer, people would lambaste them for contributing to wreckless population growth.
  • If Microsoft were committed to PC gaming in the sense Valve is using the term ("to promote PCs as a gaming platform" as opposed to "using PC gaming as a tool to promote Vista") Gears of War would already be available for PCs. So I'm with Valve on this one. "DirectX 10 - Vista only" Need I say more?
    • by Mia'cova (691309)
      They should probably give the new games away for free too. Just to really show they're commited, you know? I'm so sick and tired of them claiming there's some kind of value in this directx stuff.

      Now, had you used OpenGL on vista as your example I may have agreed with you...
  • For GDC, Xfire released a snapshot of stats from their gaming client from December 2006. Gaming on Windows PCs is on the upswing for the amount of time spent playing the games, even if retail sales seem to be in a slump.

    Xfire Stats December 2006 [xfire.com]

    One game, World of Warcraft, just counting Xfire users, accounts for 15,000 *days* of play time every day.

    In unrelated news, there is still no cure for cancer.
    • by jfodale (1032534)
      Could that upswing also be attributed to a rise in the use of XFire though?
      • by Artaxs (1002024)
        Well, yes, but since the main reason people use Xfire is to find their friends gaming on PCs and the overall hours per user per game is also on the rise, I would infer that PC gaming's popularity cannot be solely judged by retail sales.

        A big factor is the rise of Free-To-Play Korean MMOs in the Western World. On the top 10 MMOs, you don't see very many of SOE's games (only SWG; no EQ's) -- the kids who can't afford the $15 a month for WoW are playing the free games. Such games support themselves throug
  • Now why doesn't it surprise me to see, out of all the people in the industry, Valve's PR guy is making the most noise? Okay, maybe not quite true. What should be noted here that there is HUGE value in the platform. Valve makes a cut when other developers release through Steam. They've invested heavily to become that platform. I'm not sure what all they offer but I assume it extends to distribution, copy protection, matchmaking, buddy lists, etc. Now, with G4W stepping in with the Live platform, they have a
    • Seems like it might be a good time for Valve to stop ignoring Mac and Linux, then, if Microsoft is beginning to compete with it...

  • Valve is a staunch defender of the PC, and points to the success of alternative revenue streams as evidence that the death of PC gaming is a myth.

    Valve is a staunch defender of the PC? Aren't they porting the whole Half-Life 2 package to the Xbox 360 and the PS3? Valve probably just feels that Steam would be overtaken by Games for Windows.

  • I've always assumed that "Games For Windows" was a lock-in strategy to prevent people from jumping ship to Linux or OS X. How many people do you know would like to switch over to Linux but don't because they then couldn't easily play their games? What if nobody played "serious" games on PCs anymore? Microsoft would lose one of their last remaining roadblocks.
    • Games 4 Windows has nothing to do with whether a game is ported to another platform or not.
      Where are you getting this crap from?
  • by MaWeiTao (908546) on Monday March 12, 2007 @10:42PM (#18326769)
    I have noticed for quite a few years now the PC gaming section shrinking. Honestly, I think the biggest fault for the decline of PC games rests with the developers. The first problem is the complete lack of variety among most PC games. There are three basic genres, FPS's, RTS's and RPG's. And with each of these genres there's even less variety.

    What do we get for FPS's? We get gritty, monochromatic future worlds infested by demon aliens. Either that or it's a war game, either based in WW2, modern times and most recently the near future. How about RTS's? It's predominantly some Age of Empires/Civilization, Warcraft or Starcraft clone. The PC RPG genre is probably even worse. Virtually all PC RPGs are based in Tolkien, D&D type worlds. With the recent RPGs developers have gotten obsessed with trying to depict realistic-looking worlds so they've sucked all personality out of these games. They all end up looking identical with player characters all looking like actors in some third-rate fantasy movie.

    There's a lack of variety in the console market, but nothing like PCs suffer from. Cross-platform games hurt the PC market further. Developers inevitable build a game around the lowest common denominator. This means PC versions of console games are usually subpar. PC gamers are stuck dealing with poorly designed, awkward interfaces and graphics that are inferior to those of most PC-only games. A PC essentially reveals the short-comings of a console, so why even play the game on a PC?

    There is one problem unique to PCs. During the lifespan of a console a gamer never has to worry about compatibility. They don't have think about whether or not that console will be able to run a game developed five years down the road. In fact, that game will likely be far more impressive than anything released years earlier. Not so with PCs. New, mainstream PC games are constantly making a gamer feel inadequate. Especially with games nowadays. Buy a new PC today which will run anything at high detail and don't be surprised if even a year from now if you don't get acceptable frame rates at medium detail.

    This is a problem I think is worsening with each passing year. Developers are building games to push the limits of the latest hardware available at the game's release. Sure, the game looks impressive but only for maybe 5%, at best 10% of the market. It creates a gaming environment that tends to alienate more casual gamers.

    I recently bought Supreme Commander. It's a good game, but its performance demands are ridiculous. My PC more or less meets the "recommended" requirements but once my army has reached a significant size I start experiencing poor framerates. I find it very hard to believe they couldn't have coded the game more efficiently. So I end up not bothering. Why am I going to buy a recent game when it's unlikely to run well? I'll just wait to upgrade. And that in and of itself is another mess, trying to balance cost and performance, trying to ensure the longevity of new hardware. I'm sure this is a problem many PC gamers are constantly contending with. I have friends who've by and large given up on PC gaming for this reason.

    What I don't understand is why PC game developers aren't pushing casual gaming more aggressively. In fact, there's virtually no marketing whatsoever for PC games. People promote the Wii as the ideal casual gaming platform. But they fail to realize that there's a $250 initial investment. That's a lot of money for a non-gamer to put down just because they thought Wii Sports was entertaining. PCs, however, are close to being truly ubiquitous. Who isn't familiar with a PC? It's far more approachable than any game console. And that same non-gamer is far more likely to spend $20 to $40 on a game that catches his or her eye.

    The problem here is that the most prominent games in the PC market don't appeal to these people at all. There are plenty of great casual games out there but nobody knows they exist if they aren't specifically looking for them. It's a big opportunity that's being wasted.
  • then why is Halo 2 still for xbox only as far as i know?
  • HL2 blows compared to the first game; graphics alone don't cut it...you need to put some effort into a few other aspects of game design as well. Before you sold your souls, you apparently understood that. Then you did the usual thing these days and allowed yourselves to be assimilated by corporate middlemen in the form of Vivendi.

    I therefore am not interested in hearing your opinions about much of anything...and I consider it hypocrisy that you criticise Microsoft. You've done well enough on the corporat
  • by anduz (1027854)
    I don't know if this is geniue but things sure have changed in my dorm doing the past few years. Two things have happened, people have gotten laptops, and given up their computer tables when they started using their flatscreen television as monitors. The laptops flying around a student community, at least here in tax heavy daneland, aren't really capable of any sort of top end gaming, and sitting in your bed/sofa while playing games isn't really optimal for keyboard/mouse either. So quite naturally most of
  • I personally think the whole "Games for Windows" thing is terrible. For one thing it get's the uninitiated user thinking that any other game might not work for there machine. Second, it is a totally shameless f**king M$ plug, which is total b.s. And third, for any independent developers out there, it is stupid to have to fit some dumb ass constraints just to get a stupid little certification. It is like Microsoft is trying to slowly brainwash PC users, starting with Vista and "Games for Windows". That i

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