Limitless customization makes the PC highly versatile for users. It also makes creating stable software very difficult for developers. Why do they bother?
When it comes to PC gaming, developers often have a harder time developing games than they do for consoles: a sentiment Bethesda vice-president of marketing Pete Hines confirmed in a recent interview, saying that “developing for the PC is a headache” because there are “a million different possibilities of hardware, drivers, etc.”
I’ll be the first to admit that one of PC gaming’s strengths is also one of its greatest weaknesses: customization. As a PC gamer, I have the option to build my own PC with whatever specs I desire with whatever budget I decide on. From choosing the case to deciding how fast a processor you want, the PC gamer is limited only by their imagination, skills, and funds.
However, it’s the inner parts of the PC that have developers pulling their hair out at night. With so many different models of motherboards, processors, and graphics cards, it is a wonder that anyone would bother developing for the PC because customization makes things extremely difficult for creating games. Unlike consoles, there is no set standard for PCs and, therefore, developers have to create a game that operates on a broad spectrum of PCs specs.
Hines is right when he says developing for the PC is difficult. But, if it is done well, it can be extremely rewarding. After all, PCs are everywhere. According to a 2008 Gartner report, there are 1bn PC owners worldwide, with that number set to rise to 2bn by 2014, which is comfortably more than their are console owners. The question is, how can one tap into that large consumer market and turn those PC owners into PC gamers?
A good example of that model would be Blizzard’s World of Warcraft, which was able to tap into the market on a scale that no other MMO game has been able to reach, so far, with 12m subscribers. Granted, the MMO’s numbers have started to decline but it is still way beyond any of its competitors. This is attributable to the great gameplay and the fact that WoW can be played on a broad range of PCs.
Minecraft is another game that is able to reach a broad consumer base due to its low PC requirements. While its graphics are on par with a game from the 1990s, the gameplay is what sells it. In fact, Minecraft has sold 4m copies and is still climbing because of gameplay and accessibility.
Then, whether or not we want to accept it, Facebook games have put up insane numbers. Farmville alone had around 80m players at one point. And that is just one Facebook game. Social games, more than any other kind at this point, are able to reach PC owners on a scale that both PC gaming and console gaming cannot come close to.
Yes, developing a game for the PC is a headache. But the rewards are worth the odd migraine.