Rock, Paper, Shotgun - Valve's Newell on The Future of PC Gaming

magerette

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The folks at Rock,Paper, Shotgun give us a look at some comments on PC gaming made by Valve's Gabe Newell in the course of an extensive Eurogamer interview:

He [Dennis Dyack]also actually said that he thought the PC was the ultimate example of a 'no standard’ system and that it was “going nowhere”.

Newell: [Laughs] There were 140 million PCs sold in the last year. In a single year they’re going to sell more PCs than the best-selling consoles of all time, so when people make statements like that I really have no idea what they’re talking about. The volumes of scales of PC CPUs, in and of itself, is sufficient to keep the PC incredibly competitive against anything. Intel’s volumes are so huge in comparison to Sony’s volumes on the Cell that the Cell could never be anything other than a second or third tier competitor in the CPU market, because it’s all about how many you make, and if you’re only making millions and your competitor is making hundreds of millions, you can’t compete - it has nothing to do with architecture, it’s just what happens when you make little pieces of silicon; it’s whoever makes the most of them wins. Even an order of magnitude difference is pretty insurmountable, much less two orders of magnitude, so I’m not sure I understand his argument, but I haven’t read his papers or seen his presentation.
More information.
 
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Ok, so Gabe is a smart guy.

It is refreshing to see some informed ruminations on the PC vs. Consoles war front. All that talk of CPUs produced made sense in a real way, not just hyperbole.
 
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It's just not enough to merely compare a lot of sales figures. Every console sold is for gaming but not every PC sold is for gaming. Far from it in fact. Most PCs are first and foremost for office use, be it the office office or the home office.
 
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True, but then it becomes a different question - the DS and Wii have put games and game systems into the hands of people who have never played or barely played before but were certainly old enough to have done so.

How do you do that with the PC, where everyone has one?
 
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Valve's main market has been the PC for years so I doubt they are going to be quick to dis the PC.

As for the term casual gamers; or new gamers, or people that were never really interested in games but are now jumping on the bandwagon - who knows where that is going to lead. Whatever there is a market for it'll be made by somebody you can almost guarantee it.
 
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True, but then it becomes a different question - the DS and Wii have put games and game systems into the hands of people who have never played or barely played before but were certainly old enough to have done so.

How do you do that with the PC, where everyone has one?

I think the same way.

People who never or barely played games before that bought a Wii did so because of marketing, word of mouth, seeing a Wii in action at a friends house and so on. I mean, why did non-gamers buy a Wii? How can we get non-gamers to buy a Wii? Are these not the same questions for PC games?
 
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I don't think so. There are millions of people who play casual games through MSN, Popcap or wherever after starting with Minesweeper...I'd be completely stunned if the number of new Wii owners is even a fraction of this number...but so what?

The Wii has been evangelised by jaded hardcore gamers - let's see if they hold their interest and if new Wii owners move on to become permanent gamers, or move on to something else once they have become bored with their new party tool.

But even more important: why should I care? The games they want to play are almost certainly not the games I want to play. Don't get me wrong - I'm not an anti-casual fool trying to keep the mainstream out but their orbits and mine aren't related.
 
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So are you saying that figuring out what drives people to buy magazines at supermarket check-outs isn't going to help put James Joyce in more hands? ;)
 
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The WoW point is also good; WoW is making far more money than any console title ever: 15$ * 9.000.000 * 12 months = 1.620.000.000$ per year, and that's just in monthly fees (add 9 million sold copies of both WoW and Burning Crusade and you get even bigger numbers).

Of course, not all 9 million actually pay 15$ per month, I suspect the price is a bit lower in various parts of Asia, and I'm not sure how they count the player base - it might just be number of accounts, and not number of active, paying accounts.

Anyhow, if you round the whole thing down to 10$/month * 5.000.000 paying players * 12 months = 600.000.000$ per year. Still a sum that makes any other title look rather tiny.

And keep in mind that's just per year. They've had it going for 2,5 years now, so there is no real doubt about who's the king of money making in the world of gaming - consoles are nowhere near these numbers.
 
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And keep in mind there are expenses too. ;)

(Not saying that Blizzard isn't making a godlike amount of money on it, but hey)
 
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That is true, having full support teams worldwide is certainly not cheap. As far as I know, Blizzard has about 1500-2000 employees, which is about 1500 more than most developmers, hehe.
 
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It's so hard to predict the timing and direction of high-technology markets. Experts all agreed that the home-PC was supposed to have replaced the television and the telephone years ago. Nope, not yet.

If I had to predict the future of the PC as a tool for gaming, I'd say it will eventually replace game consoles completely, except for toys for little kids.
 
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I personally expect consoles to go in the direction of PCs, eventually becoming small, simplified computers instead of consoles. Basically, it will end up as a new Commodore, that you plug into your TV and can do almost anything you can do on a computer. Plug-in-computers.

They already have internet and various online possibilities.
 
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Well, that achieves a lot of the same thing, doesn't it? The way I see it, technology is driving this in one direction, but markets are driving it in another -- at least for now. Honestly, that's oversimplified and leaves out a lot, but it's the basic idea, IMO.

The sole advantage of a console over a PC is its exclusivity, its committment to performing a single task well. More importantly than the actual technical advantage is the attractiveness of that perceived edge in today's markets.

The PC's strong suit is its flexibility and availability to perform a wide variety of tasks. That's clearly a greater advantage, so if technology were the only consideration, today's PCs would capture nearly all of the gaming market.

But before that can happen, PCs will have to have their hands on a lot more. New homes and appliances will need to be designed to accomodate them. Consoles aside, some of that's actually already happening, but at a much slower pace than we all thought.

Simply put, the PC needs to become more significant. Until it does, there's a fantastic market out there for consoles.
 
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Exactly. I'll be first in line for the PC-only wave of the future, once PCs are standardized enough that I can get the latest game without worrying about whether it will run on my machine for some reason or another. Until then, everything I've gotten for the 360 has worked on the 360, and the same cannot be said for my PC purchases of late.
 
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He makes the argument that convergence has happened on the PC using the assimalation of typewriters.

For this reason and the mass volume of PC chip sales over money losing console sales he's saying further home convergence won't happen there but the PC.

As has been said talk of convergence has been going on for years without much result.

What many people forget is that the first big run of consoles in the early '80's fell as home PC's converged the home console market into these TV Typewriter machines.

The flexibility of the PC (not necessarily the IBM or its clones) sold it to home market as this commercial shows:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pKcmBmZbbno

Once this happened no one thought we'd ever see a return to consoles again. No one told Japan this however, which always had a strong video game market and never experienced the crash.
 
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