Piracy killed the PC gaming Star

So a while ago SI – Sports Interactive – killed their East Side Hockey game due to rampant piracy.

Today I hear that the PSP scene is a hot bed of rampant piracy, and that most people who game on it just pirate their games and then use it as a media player.

Is all that true? I mean it makes a great anecdotal headline, but is any of it actually true.

In the PC’s case, I think it’s pretty much happening. Looking at the abysmal sales figures of Crysis (although there is some argument for it’s system specs being so high as to a possible reason for this) and Unreal Tournament 2007, which was especially disappointing given the reception in the past for this title, plus the fact that it runs well on moderately specced PC’s.

The PC charts are completely dominated with WOW and The Sims, and not a lot of hard core gaming. Mind you, besides Super Commander there haven’t been a lot of big RTS launches recently, a PC bastion.

So whats going on?

I don’t think there’s one thing that’s to blame, but several things

Well, Piracy is one aspect of it – most games show up with a couple of days on the torrent channels and we have a whole generation of gamers who are brought up on the Music Is Free idea, plus the penetration of high bandwidth home internet pipes makes grabbing this stuff an hours wait, instead of the Day to download a CD it used to be. It’s just too easy, and there’s an entire generation who have been conditioned to feel that Free = Right.

I think the feature set ability of the current crop of consoles is another – the Xbox 360 and PS3 are capable of visuals that beat moderately equipped PC’s these days, hands down. A whole new generation of gamers have been brought up on FPS games using a controller instead of keyboard / mouse and are quiet comfortable with that approach.
The fact is that most people haven’t been upgrading their PC’s due to desire of the new experience in the past couple of years. Vista is a bust in terms of wanting to upgrade for that, so what is there that is a PC exclusive to drive upgrading? Crysis?
Plus the fact that upgrading to the top notch kit is also much more expensive than it used to be – $400 for a top level graphics card? Please. Thats the cost of an entire XBox 360.

Add to that the HD capabilities of these next generation machines, the media capabilities of both the 360 and the PS3 and you’ve gotten exactly where Sony and Microsoft want you to be – the set top box that starts to supplant the PC as the gaming device of choice. Owned exclusively by them.

There are some games that still aren’t console friendly though – you can’t Build in the console versions of The Sims (all have been a cut down version of The Sims and thats ok), plus there is no compelling MMO for a console. Yet. Which is why the numbers for those products are still sky high on the PC. But as a central gaming platform the PC is most definitely in decline. It’s not dead by any means, but it is in decline.

I think the most growth we’ll see in PC gaming will come from Casual games, but that’s another post.

We’ll talk about Steamworks in another post too.

Then there’s the PSP. I don’t know as much about that area as I do the PC market, but it’s always seemed to me to be the hobbyists machine. From moment one people where trying to hack it and get other stuff on it, and since it now has a purely downloadable path for apps and content, it seems like it’s purpose built for that. Once you have a purely software path for piracy (unlike say modding a PS1 or PS2 or Xbox) then yeah, I can see how the flood gates open.

Shame though, it’s a lovely little machine. I do love my launch day one, even if it won’t run Skype (Honestly though, who wants to??? The GPS thing I can see – Skype though??).

Anyway, just some thoughts on the PC gaming landscape right now.

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