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Why do publishers remain so coy about PC versions of their games?

18 Jun 2013  by   Peter Parrish
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The Division, Destiny, Metal Gear Solid V, Grand Theft Auto V. Four titles, each with something in common. They’re all likely to get a PC version release at some point in the future, but right now the people behind every single of one of them is being demure about that possibility. Why?

On Monday, a petition to bring The Division to PC has approached (and, by the time this piece is up, has probably reached) 60,000 signatures. This has echoes of the Dark Souls petition from 2012, which reached something like 80,000 declarations of interest before Namco raised a quizzical eyebrow and said “well, ok then, have a port.”

The Division

Turn left up ahead to FIND THE BLOODY PC PORT.

Massive Entertainment, the developers behind The Division, have already fluttered their manly eyebrows in our direction. When asked on Twitter about the chances of a PC version, a spectacular non-answer of “we are not ruling out any platforms for the future” was given.

As a game, it would appear to be a perfect fit for the platform. An MMO-like, persistent, open world set against a backdrop of social breakdown. Based on what was shown at E3 2013, there’s more than a touch of DayZ about it. Survivors, optionally working together, scavenging for supplies and fending off rival groups.

But the idea that it would seem to ‘fit’ the PC isn’t even the main point. We already know that at least some of the Xbox One E3 demos (most likely all of them) were running off PCs. Amusingly, they were PCs with Windows 7 (not 8) as an operating system and an Nvidia (rather than AMD, the Xbox One GPU brand) graphics card.

pc-cupboard

Oh, the BLOODY PC PORT was in that cupboard all along!

As well as being an entertaining sign that Microsoft appears to trust neither Windows 8 nor AMD graphics to maintain a stable demo build, it confirms what most should already know – that the majority of these games are developed on PCs.

That’s certainly the case for Metal Gear Solid V, confirmed by Hideo Kojima himself to be using PC as its development platform. Even this doesn’t guarantee anything. During E3, Kojima gave a very puzzling answer to the question of whether MGS V would appear on our platform (which, admittedly, may in part be down to its translation.)

Here’s what he said:

Of course, we are developing on a PC, so we look forward to releasing something on the PC sometime, but right now we don’t have a release date. We aren’t really looking to do that right now; that’s not our priority. So we are making it, and we hope to put it out as well.

Metal Gear Solid V

If you look closely, you can see something on the horizon. IT’S THE BLOODY PC PORT.

So, the game is being developed on PC. A PC version is, effectively, being made. But right now he can only say that the team “hope” to actually release it. What exactly is the alternative to that? The finished code gets put in a box and locked in Konami’s secret vault for some mysterious future purpose?

You’re already making a PC version. Does it really cost that much to hire one more guy to add a Field of View slider, half-decent mouse controls and negotiate for a digital release? That doesn’t seem like too much of a financial risk.

Let’s recall a couple of recent ports that we actually have some kind of data for, to demonstrate the worth of transferring these games over.

Alan Wake took almost two years to show up on the PC, and risked user scorn for its Judas-esque 2010 decision to suddenly become an Xbox 360 exclusive. Despite that, the port did extremely well. According to developers Remedy it had paid for itself within 48 hours of being released on Steam.

Alan Wake

Now that’s a BLOODY PC PORT menu to be somewhat proud of.

Even terrible ports can do well, with the right context.

Dark Souls was a 720p/30fps nightmare with awful mouse support, saved only by diligent PC modding and the small fact that it’s one of the greatest games of the last decade. Namco has since stated that the PC version sold “more than 300,000 copies,” which is not too shabby for a release that came well after the console ones and coded by someone who was shown a chart of everything beneficial about PCs then told to ignore all of it.

It was popular (and profitable) enough that Dark Souls II is now said to have the PC as its lead development platform, and the new game director is promising a port that will make us forget all about the mistakes of the original. Hurrah.

Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition (4)

This BLOODY PC PORT is forgiven on the grounds that it is Dark Souls.

The frustrating thing is, publishers are no doubt aware of all this. Unless they’re blithering imbeciles (not necessarily something we can rule out,) all of this sales data will be known to them. Ultimately, it’s highly likely that all four of the games mentioned at the state of this article will show up on PC.

All of Rockstar’s games save for the sad exception of Red Dead Redemption (reportedly due to its final code being in an unworkable jumble) have come to the PC. For Grand Theft Auto V not to would be a huge surprise. Dan Houser has already said a PC release is “up for consideration,” and signs of such a thing have been spotted from LinkedIn profiles to in-store advertising.

Meanwhile, over at Bungie, Pete Parsons is on record as saying “We would absolutely love [Destiny]to be on the PC. If you talk to the people upstairs, we play it on all platforms. So, stay tuned.” Like The Division, Bungie’s sci-fi romp looks ideally suited for the PC. So why not make it official?

Destiny

It is your destiny to be a BLOODY PC PORT sooner or later.

Perhaps it’s to maintain the illusion of console exclusivity that those asked are being so coy and reserved about a PC release of their game. Post-E3, once the lustre and bluster of a new pair of console launches has died down, maybe we’ll get some straight talking. Let’s hope so, because this nonsense has already gone on long enough.

To put it in terms the business community might understand, the PC is a sizeable market with demonstrable examples of previous, low-risk success. Development and digital distribution costs should be minimal. In the case of the four particular games we’re talking about, that’s about as close to a sure return on investment as you’re ever likely to see.

So enough with this pathetic dance. It’s time for publishers to shit or get off the port.

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  1. DavidTheSlayer
    +6

    huzzah, finally an article to show that PC gamers shouldn’t be ignored. I think that crowd funding types of platforms can also help lower the risk with ports by acting a proof of demand, more so than a petition and even allows companies to give discounted prices to those who fund their port or even pay full price for it through Kickstarter. The money rasied being used for the port. Companies like XSEED, Capcom and Temco for DOA etc could greatly benefit from this.

    PS: whats the name of the game in the 3rd image, the one western looking one with the rider? It looks awesome.

    June 18, 2013 at 2:05 pm
    1. Avatar of
      Razorchain
      -5

      ^Red Dead Redemption

      June 18, 2013 at 4:20 pm

      1. DavidTheSlayer
        +1

        Thanks. Played it on X360 no wonder I couldn’t regonise it, shame they didn’t port it to PC.

        June 18, 2013 at 4:37 pm
        1. Avatar of
          Peter Parrish
          +7

          It’s Metal Gear Solid V, but looking EXACTLY like Red Dead Redemption in that scene/shot.

          June 18, 2013 at 5:20 pm

    2. oh god

      It’s Metal Gear Solid V from the E3 demo. The comparisons to RedDeadRedemption were widespread throughout the show.

      June 19, 2013 at 3:43 am

  2. sorudo
    +7

    i don’t really get why they want to pay more to release their game on overly expensive boxes while the PC is the cheapest to release on, most indie games are made on the PC and their profit outweights all the consome crap.
    and they should stop making ports to begin with, first make it for the PC and change it to fit the controls on a console.
    that’s how games are made awesome, it saticfies the console fanboys and keeps the PC comunity to the proper level.

    June 18, 2013 at 4:35 pm

  3. Bobo
    +3

    I would think the main factor that scares away devs from committing to releasing a PC version is the fact that they need to test so many different hardware and software configurations. This is potentially a huge and money sink if it’s going to be done right, but it’s always worth it in the end.

    June 18, 2013 at 5:37 pm

    1. oh god
      -3

      Actually I think it’s the fact that piracy is so prevalent on PC over consoles. It’s just way too easy to download pirated games for PC.

      June 19, 2013 at 3:40 am

      1. maokei
        +8

        Piracy isnt the problem on the PC, the good games do great on the pc. Piracy is the boggie man devs/publishers blame when their crappy games dont do well.

        June 20, 2013 at 2:50 am
        1. Avatar of
          Tim McDonald
          +2

          This is possibly true, but the general perception is that it’s much worse on PC. And, honestly, it probably is. You basically just need an internet connection and the ability to follow some simple instructions.

          That said, it’s still a huge fallacy to assume that consoles don’t suffer from piracy. PS3 aside, all of Sony’s systems have had *massive* issues with piracy – PS1, PS2, and PSP, at least. The DS and Wii aren’t exactly locked down. The 360 isn’t particularly tricky either, if you’ve got at least a little determination. Hell, I can remember a few occasions in which the 360 version of a game got leaked and pirated *weeks* before launch, which was particularly ironic in light of PC versions being delayed out of what was probably concern over piracy.

          And yet most of those systems – and their games – did astonishingly well at retail. Funny, that.

          June 20, 2013 at 6:51 am

      2. derpmonster
        +1

        Is that why GTAV was on torrent sites (pirated) before it was even officially released?

        October 21, 2013 at 7:12 pm

  4. Jhanalore
    +5

    It’s their fault. They made downloading pc games far more attractive than buying them!

    June 19, 2013 at 9:48 am

    1. Jhanalore
      +1

      1.)Require people to have internet connections.

      So I guess the days of buying retail games is ending. Which means fewer people will be buying games than before. Also poor people can’t play games even if they ration their money to buy them because they don’t all have internet Also some people live in the sticks and can’t get internet. That’s lost sales. Also note that for a lot of consumers going to the store to buy a game was considered interesting for a lot of people. That’s over now.

      2.)Stuff even more crazy drm into the game.

      At some point buying a game is more trouble than it’s worth. If every time you want to buy a game it’s a negative exp of installing more Drm software onto your 1600.00 pc. Cd keys were bad enough we didn’t want it to get anymore restrictive than that.

      Steam is great unless you’re a power user and get that one steam error where you have to back up all your games through steam due to a steam error that can’t be fixed any other way than reinstalling steam. Do you realize if you have 800gigs of games to back up how long that would take through steams backup feature?

      3.)They failed us. We didn’t fail them. Seems to me greedy people designed it to be this way, for more profits. What they didn’t see happening was a lot of the power users jumping ship. People who spent more than half of their annual income on gaming.

      June 19, 2013 at 10:16 am

  5. NeoMorph
    -1

    So console games are developed on PC’s… Yup they are.

    BUT!… (and it’s a big but) the games are developed in a console emulator if I remember correctly. To release on PC they would have to redo the code so that it could run without the emulator and they sure as hell aren’t going to sell a version with the emulator as well.

    Actually the emulator is the game engine development kit that you see the icons of at the start of every game you play on console. As Metal Gear Solid V is going to be using the new FOX Engine they could run it on PC but as it is new they would probably have to do more work.

    So yeah, it’s developed on PC INSIDE a development environment and the final code is output for the console in question. Remember, when you buy any software you get the final code, not the compiler.

    October 28, 2013 at 3:38 am

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