We remember it like it was roughly five years ago. Our wave goodbye. Their shocked silence. Our shoulders gloomily slumped as we trudged out their door. Their faces pressed against the cold glass, rain-like water pouring dramatically, but mostly because the fire alarm was malfunctioning. It was the day we discovered Steam -- our final farewell to a helpful cadre of GameStop employees. And today, it looks like our departure -- along with that of most other PC gamers -- is finally hitting GameStop right in the pocketbook.
However, that doesn't mean GameStop plans to drop PC games without a fight.
"[GameStop's PC game sales] are down probably more than I had anticipated," GameStop SVP Bob McKenzie told Gamasutra. "...We had planned for it to be down. Again, the number of new titles we have on PC is down probably more than what I had anticipated it would be down -- but I don't see that as a threat or a signaling, we're not backing away from it at all."
"A year ago we had 350 stores that didn't carry PC merchandise and today, that number hasn't grown any... [bit] the PC market is definitely still very alive, and a portion of our business that we're hanging onto."
Speaking of the digitally distributed elephant in the room -- the straw currently slurping up his company's PC sales -- McKenzie noted:
"Our position with our publishers is that we're not afraid to compete with them -- against that digital distribution model. We can offer it. It's really another choice for the consumer, as long as they're not making that choice an unfair advantage for them, where they're able to sell it earlier or they add something into the game that we can't get our hands on for our consumer."
McKenzie, you so just lost your place on Dan DeMatteo's Facebook friends list.
That's the last time we press an ear up against this grapevine; sometimes, we'd rather a rumor soothe us with sweet, sweet lies than bludgeon us with a harsh truth -- that truth being, of course, a nebulous delay for the PC edition of Mirror's Edge.
Today, EA sent out a press release that trumpeted the hotly anticipated first-person free-runner's upcoming console release. For those fortunate fuc-- fellows, the game will be bouncing onto shelves November 11. And, as a spot of Mrs. Dash for you wounds, Xbox 360 and PS3 owners can also look forward to a demo of Mirror's Edge featuring "the prologue of the game including the tutorial and a segment of the single-player story mode."
We'd also parrot back the bit about how players who pre-order a console version of Mirror's Edge will break the chains off of exclusive demo content in the form of a ridiculously awesome time trial, but we don't want to upset you any further.
The PC version of Mirror's Edge, meanwhile, will launch "later this winter." Why? EA wouldn't say. However, we prefer to think it's because EA loves us, and people only hurt the ones they love.
Speaking of which, does anyone know where we could find a nice, sturdy tire iron, a plane ticket, and meticulously detailed directions to EA's offices? We want to tell EA how much we love them, and coincidentally, a tire iron is the perfect "thiiiis much" measuring tool.
As we've become painfully aware over the past couple of weeks, game publishers will do just about anything if it means pointing an over-sized foam middle-finger in piracy's direction. But, with EA's recent decision to plunge a grimy claw into an old wound that was finally beginning to scar over, another lesson has been hammered into our collective conscious: DRM doesn't work. It alienates legitimate customers and pushes budding pirates right over the edge.
However, there are other, much more viable methods of thwarting thieves, most of which are only now heaving themselves upward and making awkward, Bambi-esque strides into the limelight. Thus far, however, only one such anti-piracy tool has proven itself stupidly lucrative: the subscription fee.
During this week's Activision Analyst Day event, Activision Publishing CEO Mike Griffith mused about a possible Guitar Hero subscription service -- part of the publisher's plan to "monetize" the series. In addition, he noted that Call of Duty could fall under a similar, dollar-shaped banner.
Taken on its own, I see no problem with this pseudo-announcement. In both cases, a subscription service would have us lazing in a warm tub of new content with minimal hassle, and, as WoW has kindly pointed out, PC piracy of those games would slope off drastically.
But try ka-ching-ing a few more subscriptions onto your bank account's emaciated form and suddenly, this idea doesn't seem quite so dandy.
Continue reading to find out why subscription fees -- in their current form -- just can't muster the strength to heft the gaming industry above piracy's grasping mitts, as well as how they might be altered to succeed.
Allow us to paint you a picture: It's non-denominational politically correct holiday morning. You burst free from beneath your covers, quivering from a mix of the wintery chill meandering through your room and sheer, unbridled excitement. With each successive footfall, your speed builds; the world around you is a blur. Chairs, tables, and boxes impede your path, but it's no matter -- you've been practicing. Bathed in the glow of your fireplace, you shatter the brightly colored paper that encases your gift.
However, within the box's ruins, you find only a small scrap of paper. Obviously composed by your parents, it tells you to check Maximum PC for the sad truth that sullied what should've been your finest day. According to your parents' note, the MPC post is dated 9/16/08.
After hurriedly booting up your PC and searching the article, your eyes shift immediately to a bolded bit of text near the middle of the page. "GameStop's website now lists Mirror's Edge PC's release date as January 6, 2009," it reads. "Additionally, Amazon users who preordered the title have also been notified that the game will be launching on that day."
Disheartened, but willing to wait, you decide to read the rest of the article to pass the time. But the article -- its contents -- seem a little too accurate, you soon realize as your eyes grow wide.
We know everything about you, unsuspecting reader from Applewood, Colorado. Your past, future, and present are an open book -- a brittle-paged tome for our amusement. You can't escape; we will always know where you are.
Update: Looks like this one got blown out of proportion. Willits, after a glance at his inbox, released the following statement: "During my talk at Austin GDC I mentioned that we originally wanted to have around five or six smaller wasteland environments but later decided instead to have two larger wastelands - mostly because we were going to be shipping on two DVDs for the 360 and felt that it would play better with one large wasteland on each disc so there would be no loading between wastelands. Not loading levels while you drive around is a much better decision regardless of platform. There was NO CONTENT removed from RAGE because of the 360--NONE AT ALL. Moving from multiple wastelands into fewer but larger wastelands was a far better decision and is actually giving us more gameplay in the game. We feel the 360 is a great platform and will provide a fantastic Rage experience."
"The PC is limitless in the amount of data you can put on it.The PS3 has about 25GB. But the Xbox 360 roughly has 6 to 8 GB of data. We're hoping we can squeeze the game down to two discs for the 360 version."
"I wouldn't say the overall story was changed in any way in order to fit on the Xbox 360 version," Willits explained, "but how the player experiences Rage's story has been altered."
Foremost, he said, the game's overall structure has changed significantly. Whereas before, Rage featured "several" wastelands in which players could run race and gun, now only two remain. Don't worry, though; the two wastelands have been split into multiple, hardware-friendly instances, so it'll be just like traveling through multiple areas!
Somewhat perplexingly -- though probably in order to wave the game out the door by "When it's done" instead of "When your great grandchild begins balding" -- id elected to take the razor to all three versions of the game, as opposed to merely the Xbox edition.
This, it would seem, is only the beginning of a very slippery slope.
There are more Call of Duty: Modern Warfare players than there are readers for most major websites, so obviously -- through use of top-level mathematics -- this announcement has 23 out of every 11 of you in a glee-induced coma. No, wait.
Anyway, at today's Activision Blizzard Analyst Day event, Activision Publishing CEO Mike Griffith officially handed off the COD baton to its original owner. The move is in line with Activision's "leapfrog" strategy for the franchise, which sees Treyarch and Infinity Ward alternate COD releases each year.
Beyond that, however, few details were announced. In all likelihood, the game will probably hurdle itself forward in time from COD: World at War's WWII setting, back to the present, but that's merely speculation.
But what do you want out of COD 6? Another trip into modern-day Unspecifiedistan? An MMO? Something entirely new?
World of Warcraft is pretty popular. So much so, in fact, that Blizzard could probably slap its painfully recognizable logo on an empty box and still have The Sims spewing furious, unintelligible curses over their relinquished seat at the top of the sales charts. But Blizzard would never do that to you. Instead, the mighty blue giant is cramming Warcraft-branded boxes with Wrath -- an ethereal substance that, admittedly, is still a fairly hard sell.
Don't worry, though; for those of you who feel deserving of an actual reward for you unbridled -- and somewhat perplexing -- devotion, Blizzard is also releasing a Wrath of the Lich King Collector's Edition. Within its confines, you'll find the following:
The Art of World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King, a 208-page book featuring never-before-seen images from the game.
An exclusive in-game pet: Frosty, the baby frost wyrm.
A behind-the-scenes DVD containing over an hour of developer interviews, the Wrath of the Lich King intro cinematic with director’s commentary, and more.
The official soundtrack CD, containing 21 epic tracks from the game, along with exclusive bonus tracks.
A mouse pad featuring a map of the newly opened continent of Northrend.
Two World of Warcraft Trading Card Game March of the Legion™ starter decks, along with two exclusive cards available only in the Collector’s Edition.
This "expansion," as Blizzard is calling it, hits shelves on November 13. Frankly, though, we just can't understand the appeal. Oh well.
A few days ago, we reported a novel attack on Will Wright's critically acclaimed title, Spore. The game, which comes inextricably chained to a monolithic slab of DRM, provoked a sea of gamers to crash headfirst into Amazon.com's user review section. Soon, the tides receded, taking with them all but a single star from Spore's user rating. Certainly, this demonstration of gamerly ire was more meaningful than a simple Internet petition, but those brave souls have yet to receive custom apology letters from EA with realistic-looking, printed-on signatures and tear blats, so a rousing success their movement was not.
Now, Forbes sends word that indignant gamers have peeled back their kid gloves to reveal cruel hooks. Where protest failed, they hope that theft will succeed.
"By downloading this torrent, you are doing the right thing," wrote one user going by the name of "deathkitten" on the popular file-sharing site The Pirate Bay. "You are letting [Electronic Arts] know that people won't stand for their ridiculously draconian 'DRM' viruses."
"You have the power to make this the most pirated game ever, to give corporate bastards a virtual punch in the face," deathkitten added.
In addition, the most-downloaded Spore tracker brings with it "step-by-step instructions for how to disassemble the copy protections, along with a set of numerical keys for breaking the software's encryption."
And it's not just embittered hyperbole. Chief Executive Eric Garland of Big Champagne, a peer-to-peer research firm, notes that deathkitten's tactics may very well be working. "The numbers are extraordinary," Garland said. "This is a very high level of torrent activity even for an immensely popular game title."
But the question remains: Is this the right course of action?
SOE does what Blizzardon't. The online-focused branch of Sony's empire is trying its darndest to wed console and PC MMOs with its upcoming title, The Agency. However, the bride and groom to be aren't exactly hitting it off.
First up, PC games are much more susceptible to hacks and 'sploits than their console brethren, and "Being able to manage that is no simple task," said Executive Producer Matt Wilson.
Second, the mouse-keyboard vs. controller feud continues to rage, and neither side seems interested in saluting the ol' white flag.
"We can do things to equalize them, whether that's aim assist on the console or other things on the PC, but when we've actually done focus group testing and so forth, you're always going to have the console players versus the PC players," Wilson noted.
However, the final hurdle is definitely the tallest. Wilson explained:
"MMOs live and die by their updates, and we need to be able to update our product frequently," says Wilson. "The console requires a certification process, while the PC does not. And so it's going to be really difficult for us to maintain that synchronization across both platforms, and make that work really easily with the value of the MMO."
Assuming that SOE satisfactorily solves all of these issues, would you even want to play a PC-PS3 MMO?
GameStop CEO Dan DeMatteo recently voiced his thoughts on digital game distribution's far-flung, jumpsuit-clad future -- even in the face of screaming success stories like Steam. Fortunately, David Perry, Shiny Entertainment founder and current CCO at Acclaim Games, speaking for everyone else currently residing in, on, or around earth, decided to cram some food for thought down DeMatteo's throat.
"I hate to think someone this powerful can put out this kind of nonsense in an interview, and confuse professional investors, that might have been interested in the digitally distributed future of the games business," he wrote. "Some developer (or publisher) pitching a digitally distributed strategy might have just been 'thrown under the bus' today by Mr. DeMatteo."
"This wave will be just like the disruption the camera industry experienced – you can hope 'digital' won't show up and keep selling film cameras, or you can embrace the future. Every major camera company alive today embraced the digital future. It's not like he or GameStop has any part in deciding where or when; the consumers will decide. Let's face it, he's running the shop that sells the film."
"If they want their company to still exist in 12-17 years, I'd go and buy STEAM from Gabe Newell, which technically can't exist yet as Gabe is clearly 12-17 years ahead of the curve," Perry concluded, also noting that 100% of Acclaim's digitally distributed games are profitable.