GTA IV: The Current State of PC Gaming

12 12 2008


GTA IV has been released for the PC, and compared to the April console releases it’s bedlam.

This blog post has a melodramatised summary of the installation procedure, but that’s still a lot of hoops to jump through: Install Rockstar Social Club, sign up for Windows Live, sign up for Rockstar Social Club, accept that it comes with SecuROM, update the various bits of software you’ve just installed, then contend with various potentially game breaking bugs.

Amazon user reviews have already plummeted to 1.5 stars out of five, and the tags are mostly “defective by design”, securom infected”, “malware”, etc.

For this to happen to one of the standout games of the year in making a transition from console to PC is phenomenal, both in terms of the developer/publisher not seeing this coming and as a look at the current state of PC gaming.

I played through GTA IV on the 360, and play it with friends online every week, and have never suffered half the aggravation PC users are having to go through with it. I was a died in the wool PC gamer for about 5 years, and because of this kind of thing generally don’t go back to it except through Steam.

The whole installation procedure, as described in the blog post above, is an astoundingly poor piece of UX design. Good software does it’s thing in the background rather than talking to you; it has a low cognitive load by not pestering the user.

Steam is a form of DRM; consoles are, in the words of Bruce Everiss, giant anti-piracy dongles. I accept this on both of these platforms, not because I’m apathetic about DRM, but because it’s an explicit condition of the platform and doesn’t shove itself down my throat.

I suspect things like Steam might be the only viable platform for PC gaming. It’s not that it prevents piracy, it doesn’t, Valve’s titles are widely pirated. However, it’s a convenient way to buy, install and play games. That’s what people are looking for, and a lot of PC developers/publishers are completely failing at it right now.



2 responses

12 12 2008
12 12 2008

Sure, I understand that no platform is immune to piracy.

However, consoles provide a much higher barriers to any would be pirates than PC. It’s fairly easy to chip a console, and new chips come out fast, but in some countries it’s getting harder to get hold of them, and I know *far* more people whose devices are unchipped rather than chipped. Online services offer a further incentive to keep a console squeaky clean (Much like VAC bans on Steam, though Valve are incredibly harsh with enforcement of these, i.e. there’s no recourse whatsoever if someone hacks your account open and merrily cheats away for a while).

As for the loss estimates in terms of $, they’re laughably exaggerated. I’m not saying piracy isn’t a problem for the industry, or that it should be ignored, but demand is elastic according to price variations. Once something is launched at one price it’s impossible to know how it would have fared at another. All the people who pirated Spore weren’t willing to pay full price for it, but might have paid 1/2 or 1/3 if they’d had the opportunity. There’s no way for EA to tell which price point would have led to the most revenue and least piracy, but you can bet any publisher will make piracy sound as bad as possible (and then some) when talking about it.

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