What kind of nonsensical segment would this be without the address of its own maiden-name issue: ports? Probably not so different from how it currently is.
Not so long ago, video games were exclusively for personal computer, believe it or not. Once the first consoles rolled around in the 80′s, the once-monopolized marked became divided. At the time, this was great for the market; video gaming became a more household phenomenon, and more accepted as a result.
Few would have guessed that this mutually-beneficial development would instead translate into complications in the future. Granted, it’s not pressing or even audible for most involved in the video game industry, because it only affects those not on the receiving end of the first-hand product—the minority. The most prominent platform for selling a game, therefore, is catered to foremost. When at one time, PC games were the only way to play, they have since taken a back seat to the more popular, more user-friendly console games.
There is no reason that this would be a problem for any other service. TV is individualized for the capacity of the television and receiver on each end. Music fidelity is dictated by the file type, and speakers render this original sound to the best of their ability. Yet it is the very platform by which video games are distributed which separates it from the ease of personalization possessed by other media. Namely, you purchase the method to play games, and then purchase the games themselves. Each one, by itself. The service is not subscription-based, and as such, there are no options for quality or delivery, or even timing.
So there are favorites. And it makes sense as to why. After all, there are plenty more people who own personal computers than any console, but much fewer who dedicate it heavily towards video gaming. Consoles, on the other hand, are exclusively for entertainment and gaming purposes. Out of millions of PC users, one can only guarantee that a limited percentage is even within the demographic to want a game. Consoles and all who possess them are fair game for a potential buyer, save for age restrictions. From a risk/reward stand-point, the most rational position for a developer to take is to make their game so that it reaches the most people for the least amount of money. It is a money game, by the way. There is no reason to be exclusive to just console(s) save someone lining someone else’s pocket, or the latter pocket being close-to-empty to begin with. Few other pertinent reasons come to mind when posing the question: “Why would we deny certain people the ability to play this game?”
Coupled with the favoritism comes ports. That is, the taking of a game that proves successful in one demographic and giving (see: porting) it to another. This word is often given a negative connotation, because it is associated with bugs (many of which were present in the original), locks, limited features, and all-around half-assery. It wasn’t always like this. Take Doom, for example. The game is so well optimized that it can run on a calculator, and just about every console made. The exception, in this case, is that the game was ported from PC rather than to. That’s no excuse either, though. Rayman 2, a game that was ported to every console around in its time, had several improvements from each iterating, ranging from new mini-games to entire new levels, as well as bug fixes and tweaks to help the game run smoothly.
If given a time-line, it would be difficult to pick out the exact time consoles started taking priority over PCs, and even harder to find the point at which making and releasing a game (d)evolved into a political favoritism game for monetary gain. Don’t get me wrong, making money is important and a significant part of making a video game. But it should be a goal pursued by appropriate means—making a game people want to buy—rather than parent company obligation or bribes to stay exclusive.
If you’re going to bother porting a game, make it decent enough to be playable *ahem* Grand Theft Auto 4, Dead Space, Oddworld: Stranger’s wrath, etc. *ahem*. On that note, it’s a race to the bottom when a company experiments with porting (poorly) and uses the consumer reaction to gauge whether or not they should port other games. If you port a game and it’s a mess, people will avoid buying it. Those who do buy it play a hand in poor sales, because if they are dissatisfied, they will let other people know to avoid it. Red Dead Redemption would sell like hotcakes on PC if it was up to snuff with the original, especially with the large-scale multiplayer; it’s unwise to blame poor performance on the consumer, especially when it’s not their fault (and even if it is).
Moreover, if you’re going to invest the effort to convert a game to be playable by a new subsection, fix it! Knowing of bugs, glitches, and exploits and not fixing them is just lazy. Choosing not to do so is tantamount to telling the soon-to-be players that you think they aren’t worth it.
I chose to bring this topic up now due to the impending release of Dark Souls for PC. From all information made available so far, the game is locked at 30 frames per second and upscaled from 720p. Granted, they are making entirely new content available for the purchase price, but at what cost? Games For Windows Live has a notorious reputation among PC gamers due to corrupted saves, a constant nagging to sign in, and difficulty playing the actual game. Given the nature of Dark Souls, as well as the constant saving involved, even the possibility of corrupted saves is a huge concern. Furthermore, placing caps on things like framerate and resolution is rather inexcusable. Or rather, the only excuses exist within the realm of “it’s more work” or “would require additional resources.”
No official statement or judgment can be made, but given all current knowledge, the situation may prove unfortunate should these allegations come true, or are even worse than currently perceived. Unless things turn out fine—and I really hope they do, Dark Souls is a great game—both consumers and the developers may lose. That is, one of the reasons for the PC port is an online petition that gathered a substantial number of signatures saying they would buy the game. GFWL is a deal-breaker for many, however, and the recent surfacing of forced limitations likely put off many others.
If people still buy the game, it tells the industry that they can get away with intrusive always-on DRM and forced limitation of features that should be client-side options to begin with, as long as the game itself is still okay and largely the same. If the game sells poorly, however, it sends a message that listening to customers who band together with a common goal in mind aught not be paid attention to, which is a blow to the ability of people to vote with their wallet. A game of numbers becomes a lesson in futility when only very basic messages can be conveyed, like “we want this game on PC.” Appropriately enough, shortly after the announcement that Dark Souls would be run alongside GFWL, another less-publicized petition began circulating saying that people would NOT purchase the game unless it was removed. But again, it wasn’t popular enough to actually do anything, much less get the attention of whom it concerned.
Ports should be a good thing in theory, as it’s giving more people the opportunity to play games who might otherwise be unable. If a game is good, I can think of no reason why people shouldn’t be able to play it. Execution is where things fall short. Ports, especially recently, have become a cash grab; if the game wasn’t on console X during launch, the only reason to put game Y on it would be the opportunity for more sales. In the process, the quality of the game suffers where it should instead be improving, sacrificing the game itself for a quick turn-around and the promise of the most money for the least investment. Developers should not cut corners when developing a game for the first time or for the hundredth, as it shows a dedication, not to the customer or the production of a game one can be proud of, but instead to the almighty dollar.