More Feces Flung at PC Gamers

UPDATE 8.20.2011

Since originally writing this post, significant more information has come out about Origin and other EA games, namely the highly anticipated Battlefield 3.

Origin is not only a DD storefront, but it is also apparently a DRM system for EA games.  Great, just what PC gamers need, another DRM system.  We already have Steam, Ubisoft's UPlay, and GFWL, the latter two of which frequently cause endless problems (and sometimes the inability to play the game they paid for) for a whole lot of users.

Oh, and as many had predicted, BF3 will not be sold on Steam.  It is increasingly looking like no major EA titles will be sold on Steam any longer, unless they resolve a dispute they are having over the distribution of DLC.

But that's not the worst of it.  The diarrhea icing on this shit cake is that no matter where you buy BF3, even if you get a brick & mortar boxed retail copy, you will be required to install and use Origin.  Hooray!  I'm all but done with this game now.

You know what?  For all the shit Activision and Modern Warfare take for being terrible, greedy, evil, diabolical bastards, they haven't pulled anything this retarded.  I'm not going to support them because I don't like their other practices, but at the very least, they are not shoving additional DRM and storefronts down PC gamers throats.  Maybe because... I don't know... they want to increase the level of user accessibility, not make it more restrictive?  Since something like low-barrier entry to playing the game is better for sales?

Original Post:

In the past day or so, two news stories have come out that, as a PC gamer1, really irk me.

The first is from id Software about their upcoming shooter Rage.  The gist of it is that because the console market makes up 2/3 of their projected sales, id are designing the game specifically for consoles, and the PC version will be more of an afterthought.

Ok, so by now, pretty much everyone knows that, yes, console game sales generally more than eclipse PC sales.  That's fine.  Devs and publishers are businesses, they need to make money, etc etc, it's been said.  We get it.

What bothers me is the dismissive and callous nature with which this treats the PC market.  In the first quote, CEO Todd Hollenshead seems to sarcastically imply that the PC market will be a third if they are lucky.  Well, Holesinhead, how do you think pompous statements about console priority will reflect on your PC sales?  Positively?  No, I don't think so.  By the very act of making such statements, you are only compounding the low-pc-sales problem. 

It galls me that developers and publishers are constantly making such obviously insulting press statements, and constantly neglecting their PC user base, and yet still sit there going "Hmm, I wonder why our PC sales are so low?" Oblivious much?

Do you think that a PC gamer who is on the fence about buying this game is going to be convinced to buy it after hearing how their platform of choice is the redheadded stepchild in the eyes of the game's developer?  Piracy is a problem, to be sure, but it becomes an even larger problem when game makers do things of this nature, because it gives people the excuse they are looking for to "justify" their illegal download.

This particular case makes even less sense to me, as it states that PC is roughly 1/3 of the sales.  The other 2/3 are split by PS3 and Xbox.  For the sake of argument, let's say that PS3 and Xbox are also each an even third.  One third of your entire sales market is nothing to sneeze at.  Why is it okay to treat that third unequally to the other two thirds?  To me, this is the same thing as them saying "Well, PS3 only makes up 1/3 of our projected sales, so we are developing priority for Xbox and PC, and then porting to PS3 from there."  It's not as if the PS3 and Xbox share the same development environment.  They are completely different systems.  If anything, developing for PC and Xbox are a more similar process.  This almost feels like an arbitrary "screw you" to the PC crowd.  This is also especially upsetting coming from id, who were once a bastion of PC gaming.

Add to this facts like Rage being sold for $60 on PC, despite there being no $12 Xbox/PS3 per-disc fee associated with it.  Is it really any wonder that PC sales are low?  This type of treatment will only cause them to plummet further.

Well, thank god all developers do not share this mentality (although it is becoming increasingly more prevalent).  Earlier this year, I was extremely happy to hear that EA/DICE were developing Battlefield 3 with the PC as platform of priority.  They essentially said that developing for the lowest common denominator for a high-quality game is an absurd premise, and that they want to develop the best quality possible, then scale back where necessary for consoles.  Not only did this give me joy as a PC gamer, but it filled me with some pride for the video game industry as a whole to see that a high-profile developer was pushing things to the limit and taking the high road.  I was feeling all set to support EA/DICE with my hard-earned money this fall.

Oh, but then this happened...

Yes, that's right, EA is setting up their own digital distribution service and possibly making it the only place to buy EA games digitally.  Now, so far it's only with Crysis 2 (perhaps to test the waters), but as the article mentioned, they might be doing the same for BF3 and other future releases.

Just when I thought it was safe to go back in the water, and that EA actually understood what PC gamers want, they make this stupid blunder.  Pulling games from Steam?  Really?

Don't misunderstand me — I'm all for a competitive marketplace.  The more places there are to buy something, the better for the consumer.  However, project Origin (coincidentally the name of an evil science experiment in a popular FPS franchise...lol) appears to be going the exact opposite route.  Thus far, it is apparently only pulling a game from Steam, and not other digital distributors such as Impulse, but it seems reasonable to assume that they will extend this exclusionary practice to cover all venues in the future.

Why this bothers me so much:

PC gamers have enough crap to deal with these days.  They already have to overcome the obnoxious hurdles of multifaceted DRM, multiple "community" log ins, and some people already use several DD stores.  Adding another to the pile isn't helping the situation.  Steam managed to somewhat ameliorate many of these issues, while simultaneously providing a pleasurable user experience.  But many publishers don't seem to give a crap about user experience these days.  They focus increasingly on maximizing profit and nothing else — taking the "we don't care if we annoy or offend people, as long as it manages to net us an extra half-cent per sale" approach.  So, when EA sees Valve becoming wildly successful off of Steam, they think "why not me?"

Well, perhaps because Steam has been built up slowly over the better part of a decade, and was not just some overnight get-rich-quick scheme.  At its inception, Steam was merely a tool for Valve to uniformly distribute patches and prevent cheating on its own games, such as Counter-Strike.  Over its eight years of operation, Steam has evolved in to much more than that.  It now hosts robust user community features, unprecedented inter-connectivity between online players on games using Steam servers, and one of the most streamlined and user-friendly DD stores I've encountered (not to mention $ALES $ALES $ALES!).

All this is to say, no EA, you cannot be Steam.  Your prior EA online store was pathetic and terribly unintuitive to use, so if you are using that as a basis for Origin, it just makes the possibilities even worse.    Steam is already well-established, has a massive user base, and a very loyal following.  As stated above, they also offer a lot more than just a storefront.  People generally do not want to have to sign in to multiple things, download multiple things, manage multiple accounts, when they can do most of it in one place.  Even without all the vitriol now directed towards you as as result of this, your exposure on your own proprietary EA-only storefront is going to be far smaller than with Steam, so I can't imagine it boosting profits, even if you no longer have to sell through a middleman.

Another thing EA doesn't seem to understand is that Steam is run by Valve, and unlike EA, PC gamers like and, more importantly, trust Valve.  Valve has built up a plethora of goodwill from PC gamers over the years by treating them right, and this carries over to Steam.  Up until the evil grinning face of Bobby Kotick2 replaced it, EA sat prominently on the throne of publishers that people really hated.  They were only just recently beginning to recoup people's trust.

The idea of Origin further annoys me because publishers are constantly trying out their new half-baked schemes almost exclusively on PC users.  Why are we the lab rats?  Why is it okay to screw with our gaming experience, but not with console users?  Would EA ever pull games from PSN or XBLA and start their own service directly against them?  Probably not.  Of course there are multiple reasons for this, but the feeling of constantly experimented on is very strong as a PC user.

On the flipside, my predictions could be completely wrong, and there is always the chance that project Origin will be a huge windfall for EA, and manages to beat Steam at its own game. I see this as the worst possible outcome.  Why?  Because of the monkey-see monkey-do approach of game publishers that I previously alluded to.  If Origin is a big success for EA, then the next thing you know Activision, Ubisoft, and every other major publisher is going to think that starting up their own exclusive DD stores is a brilliant idea.  Call me insane, but the thought of having to contend with multiple storefront accounts, multiple types of proprietary DRM, multiple software installations, etc — just to play different games on the same platform — makes me want to projectile vomit.  Sometimes I feel like there is a conspiracy by publishers to make PC gaming such a miserable experience that everyone begrudgingly switches to consoles.

One final bit, which I find kind of perplexing.  As you may or may not know, EA is the distributor for Valve's releases on consoles (ironic, right?).  Valve is (was?) one of several digital distributors for EA on PC.  This seems like it would be some kind of mutually beneficial arrangement.  I of course don't know the details behind it, but I almost have the feeling that this announcement of Origin could just be the knee-jerk result of some petty contract disagreement between the two companies.  Hell, it's not like there's been another recent example of EA completely missing the point due to misguided competitiveness.  I mean, aside from almost their entire Battlefield 3 marketing campaign, that is.

1. I play the vast majority of my games on PC, but I also own a PS3 on which I play games. (I also also own an SNES, Dreamcast, DS, and co-own NES, Gamecube, Wii with my girlfriend).

ps: I fucking hate the terminology "PC."  What, a Mac isn't a personal computer?

2. Bobby Kotick is the CEO of Activision, EA's biggest competitor.  He is infamous for his greed and making ridiculous statements that offend gamers across the board.

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