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John Romero: PC is Decimating Console in Price Alone

id Software co-founder and Doom creator John Romero recently talked to GamesIndustry about the parallels of developing for the PC back in the 80s and 90s, and the rise of the indie scene that has taken place over the last several years. He said that anyone can publish a game; just look at what Mojang did with Minecraft, or what Zynga did with the original Farmville.

"Nowadays, because there are so many SDKs to create with and people can put their apps out there on a store without any real publisher intervention, everybody can publish. There's no stopping anybody. Minecraft was put up on a webpage - you can publish on the web, you can publish through app stores, there's no one stopping you," Romero said.

What developers of the 2010s need is better marketing, he said. One way he hinted at was to use the free-to-play model. Take Doom for instance. The whole first episode was provided as free "shareware." If the player didn't like the game, then only time was lost. If the player wanted more, then they could purchase a key or a full copy of the game at retail stores. He believes that the recent surge of free-to-play games is shaking up the industry "for good," just as shareware did.

"That was a really fair way to market a game," Romero said. "When we put these games out on shareware, that changed the whole industry. Before shareware there were no CD-ROMs, there were no demos at all. If you wanted to buy Ultima, Secret of Monkey Island, any of those games, you had to look really hard at that box and decide to spend 50 bucks to get it."

Earlier in the interview, he said that thanks to free-to-play and $5 games on Steam, the PC platform is "decimating" consoles just in price alone. Even more, free-to-play has supposedly killed off a hundred AAA studios. The problem with consoles is that they're not only a closed platform, but they're getting hurt by the free-to-play trend on PC and mobile.

"The problem with console is that it takes a long time for a full cycle," he said. "With PCs, it's a continually evolving platform, and one that supports backward compatibility, and you can use a controller if you want; if I want to play a game that's [made] in DOS from the '80s I can, it's not a problem. You can't do that on a console."

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  • NeatOman
    Think its also why both Microsoft and Sony decided to use "normal" hardware this time around. The only difference is that Microsoft has eSRAM that gains large amounts of bandwidth for a small 32MB portion so that things that need it can take advantage.. like anything compute heavy.. rendering hair or physics come to mind, its like Super RAM if you will.
    Reply
  • dovah-chan
    As a PC enthusiast myself I don't like elitism. People have different reasons for their preferred platform. You could easily make the argument that '12 year olds' flood both the PC and consoles. (for instance gmod, tf2 and minecraft on the pc. and on consoles they usually hang out on generic fps games) I just wish that people could respect other people's purchases and decisions without putting their own feelings in the middle of it.
    Reply
  • back_by_demand
    One man's elitism is another man's truism. PCs are better, they do more, have more and do it better. The only issue for some is cost and perceived technical requirements but Steam has removed all that, with the UI it is as easy as a console and with sales the TCO is less than a console. Not elitist, simply true.
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  • Shayne ONeill
    I think its good for gamers in the short term, but there will be a price to pay as an industry for $5 steam games. I used to do iphone app development and when I started I could clear close to $5K a week. But the market got flooded with $1 shovelware that both drowned out the quality stuff but also caused consumers to expect quality apps to only be worth $1 or $2 , even high quality 3D games with hundreds of thousands of man hour labor behind it. In the end its driven a lot of content creators out of the platform (And Android is even worse I'm afraid) because its just not safe to invest a few hundred thousand dollars into it and have it drowned out of the market by 900 versions of "flappy bird" for $2 each and end up going bankerupt.

    I can see steam potentially having this danger where games, really frigging expensive things to make if you want AAA quality not being profitable anymore and causing people to leave the industry because people aren't game to gamble on investment.

    That means ultimately less quality choice for the consumer.

    Don't get me wrong steams great, and surprisingly there are still some really good games in there, but people should be wary of it and not let it monopolize game distribution or PC gaming could end up being about flappy bird clones and yet-another-fake-8-bit-shovelware apps and not about high quality compelling and deep games like PC games should
    Reply
  • airborne11b
    As a PC enthusiast myself I don't like elitism. People have different reasons for their preferred platform. You could easily make the argument that '12 year olds' flood both the PC and consoles. (for instance gmod, tf2 and minecraft on the pc. and on consoles they usually hang out on generic fps games) I just wish that people could respect other people's purchases and decisions without putting their own feelings in the middle of it.

    Back by demand is absolutely right. Nothing said here is "elitism", it's just a fact of life. Consoles save money because their hardware costs are subsidized by game licencing fees. The company can eat $100 or $200 and sell the console at a reduce price compared to a comparable PC of similar specs. But they do this because they make $10 or so on every game they sell. The first few games in the life cycle recoup the cost of the hardware, and every game after that is just money in their pocket. Over a 6, 7, 8 year life cycle of a game, people buy dozens, if not hundreds of games.

    PC you have to invest slightly more in hardware, but facts are facts. Free 2 Play, steam sales, indie games, backwards compatibility. The end result is that console initial purchases may be slightly cheaper, but over the long run PC is drastically cheaper than consoles. Even if you buy upgraded hardware every year or 2. The cost of PC games after F2P and Steam sales covers those costs many times over.

    Do not mistake plain fact for "elitism" please.
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  • ddpruitt
    Each system has it's strengths and weaknesses. And contrary to Romero's comment consoles aren't being decimated by free to play and $5 games, all 3 console makers have them. The problem is distribution and marketing. If one of the console makers got smart and went with Steam for there digital distribution then they would absolutely kill IMO. Speaking as someone who owns both there is a place for console gaming (Mario Kart for example) and there is a place for PC gaming (seriously who can you play FPS any other way?). It also looks as though consoles are moving towards digital so the backwards compatible argument may change over the next few years. Oh and playing a DOS game from the 80s or an Win95 game from the 90s can be a PITA.
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  • godfather666
    I think its good for gamers in the short term, but there will be a price to pay as an industry for $5 steam games. I used to do iphone app development and when I started I could clear close to $5K a week. But the market got flooded with $1 shovelware that both drowned out the quality stuff but also caused consumers to expect quality apps to only be worth $1 or $2 , even high quality 3D games with hundreds of thousands of man hour labor behind it. In the end its driven a lot of content creators out of the platform (And Android is even worse I'm afraid) because its just not safe to invest a few hundred thousand dollars into it and have it drowned out of the market by 900 versions of "flappy bird" for $2 each and end up going bankerupt.

    I can see steam potentially having this danger where games, really frigging expensive things to make if you want AAA quality not being profitable anymore and causing people to leave the industry because people aren't game to gamble on investment.

    That means ultimately less quality choice for the consumer.

    Don't get me wrong steams great, and surprisingly there are still some really good games in there, but people should be wary of it and not let it monopolize game distribution or PC gaming could end up being about flappy bird clones and yet-another-fake-8-bit-shovelware apps and not about high quality compelling and deep games like PC games should
    I fully agree. I mean, just read carefully what this guy in the article is saying. He's outright declaring that AAA studios are shutting down, so it's no secret this is trend of F2P and hugely discounted games is negatively affecting high-budget games. I know high budget doesn't always mean good, but I think I will miss having more AAA games.
    Reply
  • airborne11b
    Each system has it's strengths and weaknesses. And contrary to Romero's comment consoles aren't being decimated by free to play and $5 games, all 3 console makers have them. The problem is distribution and marketing. If one of the console makers got smart and went with Steam for there digital distribution then they would absolutely kill IMO. Speaking as someone who owns both there is a place for console gaming (Mario Kart for example) and there is a place for PC gaming (seriously who can you play FPS any other way?). It also looks as though consoles are moving towards digital so the backwards compatible argument may change over the next few years. Oh and playing a DOS game from the 80s or an Win95 game from the 90s can be a PITA.

    PITA, but doable none the less and in the case of most games released in the past 15 - 20 years is completely doable with little to no effort.

    Also, the Mario Kart argument isn't very valid. I love Mario Kart 8, and I own a lot of toys, to include SHIELD, tablets, Wii U, PCs, a HTPC, 3DS, etc etc. But there is nothing functionality wise that a PC can't do that the Wii U does.

    I can play 2 - 4 player racing games using Xbox 360 controllers on my HTPC.

    The comment by Romero is mostly pointing out that PC has all the strengths, without any of the console weaknesses, at a fraction of the cost. These are just facts. It's not saying "PCz rule don't buy consoles u noob". He was just kindly explaining the current state of affairs and nothing he said was even remotely debatable.
    Reply
  • TheMentalist
    PC will never die, it just get better.
    Reply
  • bemused_fred
    "id Software co-founder and Doom creator John Romero"

    Note how the word "Daikatana" is missing here.... :p
    Reply