Over the past year or earlier, what would you say that the PCGA has been able to accomplish or change? Or has it been more of an evaluation, a rather lengthy evaluation period, of PC gaming?
MP: I would say the most visible thing is seeing how analyst firms are talking more openly about digital distribution numbers, and talking about how that's replacing retail to a large degree, and acknowledging, "Oh, look. There's an extra couple to three billion dollars that we didn't account for."
Now granted, some of that may have happened automatically. But at the same time, the PCGA probably made it happen sooner. PC gaming is such an extremely dynamic ecosystem.
Externally, you'll notice that people aren't bashing PC gaming nearly at all anymore. And then internally [among PC game companies], I would say we are taking better stock of where we are, and having that self critical, constructive criticism thing going on.
In the coming year and beyond, what are the biggest issues for PC gaming that the PCGA needs to address?
MP: If I have to narrow that down, I think it depends on what discipline you're looking at. From a marketing research angle, I would say the big thing that we need to address is really redefining what the definition of a PC is, and what constitutes a PC game.
I wanted to ask you, too, actually, if you would elaborate on what PC gaming is, because it's becoming vaguer.
MP: Exactly. One of my cohorts up here in the office, I don't know if you know Mike Burrows or not. But he and I had this big whiteboard discussion about this. He said, "It's a shame that they didn't call us the "Gaming Alliance instead of the "PC Gaming Alliance." I said, "Well, look. I inherited this." [laughs] I only had been at this office for about two months. This is what I get to work with.
And I said, "I don't want to get hung up on the semantics, the nomenclature here." When I look at it, the iPhone I'm talking to you on right now is technically a PC. It's got roughly a gigahertz processor. It's got a 32GB-sized hard drive on it. It's got the graphics capability of the PC that I bought roughly about 14 years ago for $2,200, my Micron P/266.
And I'm looking at that and I'm going, "Wow. There are games that I would play on that that I can actually play and look as good on my iPhone. Or an iPad looks better." And this is with an ARM processor and with whatever graphics station they're using in my iPhone. So to change that definition... The way Mike said it is, "Let's emphasize the "P" [in 'PC'] here."
You've got PCs that technically are personal. They fit in your hand. Then you've got PCs that are your notebooks your laptops your iPads, your slates. As you move up the stack then you start getting into your desktops. You also end up with consoles, which I would also call a proprietary PC. People may not like that, but that's technically what they really are.
You crack the console box, there's hard drive, there's a processor, there's a mother board. On and on it goes. So you've got that. Then you've got, even moving further down the stack... You end up with smart TVs. They're coming down the pipe and they are integrating PC guts into them. In a sense, to me, these are all PCs.
You've got all these gray areas. To me, in a sense, a PC game fits all of those categories. Another way of looking at it, another angle, is you've got a screen, a display. Does it matter if it's in a three-inch display, all the way to the 30-foot IMAX screen or whatever it's going to be?
That would be the research angle -- redefining what a PC is, expanding the definition. At the end of the day it's a digital bit. You've got music, you've got movies and you've got games. They can be delivered in different formats and fashions and all that stuff. That's the research angle. In terms of what another issue is that really warrants attention, if you will, is that PC gaming has come leaps and bounds from where it was 15 years ago. But it still has lots of room to grow, in terms of doing a better job, in terms of ease of use.
And in a weird sort of way, some of these things are being fixed with or without anybody's attention. It's just they're getting better. Games are becoming easier to port back and forth across different platforms. Certain controller standards are emerging. But it's one of those things where it's still very nebulous. I would say ease of use is a big challenge.
And [another challenge is] there's also limited access to PC gaming content. You walk into EB Games or GameStop and it's hard to find a PC game, typically. They're really trying to sell where they make their biggest margins -- typically on the console pre-owned game. Access to PC games and awareness is another big issue. Just making PC gaming more profitable to the game developers and publishers is a challenge.
One thing when I spoke with Randy [Stude] a while ago was piracy. You're talking about publishers needing to be able to make a profit on PC. And you see some publishers commenting about how their PC games just get pirated before they're even released a lot of times. What stance does the PCGA have on piracy?
MP: I would love to talk about that. [laughs] There's a lot to say. I don't exactly remember what Randy's quote was. But there is a really good article. I don't know if you can find it off of Google right now. It's on a blog. The guy's name is David Rosen. And the name of the article is Another View of Game Piracy.
But let me expand on that. What's really interesting [according to PCGA research,] is piracy was largely, historically rampant when you had an optical drive or a piece of physical media. And people would go and download the crack for it.
In some cases the crack was done days before the game ever even hit retail shelves. Now what's happening is piracy was so bad in other geographies -- it's kind of bad everywhere but there are certain places where it spikes -- that it was an equation of survival of the fittest. The only PC gaming business models that existed and continued to thrive and that could continue to live were MMOs. They do really well. You can still pirate them but they're an order of magnitude harder to pirate.
And then there are free to play games. You can't really pirate free to play. You can but it doesn't make a lot of sense. So what's happening is game design is shifting and as a result of shifting game design, piracy, at least on the PC side, is actually declining as a result.
There are stats that do corroborate that. ... I'm not saying that piracy is going to go away. It's fascinating to watch. For example, you get a game like Crysis that got hit hard by piracy. Now what you're seeing to combat that or reduce the chances of piracy are developers implementing achievements, in-game pets, all of these things that are tracked and stored in the cloud.
So even if you pirate the game you're still not getting the bragging rights. You've got all these additional mechanisms where the value proposition of the game, where if you pirate it, it's just not going to be as fun.