[The PC Gaming Alliance was established as an organization that would advocate PC gaming and dispel misconceptions about the platform. The new president of the consortium speaks to Gamasutra about its plans and positions.]
Two years ago, the non-profit PC Gaming Alliance was established as an organization that would advocate PC gaming and dispel misconceptions about the platform.
The consortium, which has member companies that create games, software and hardware for both consoles and PC, was meant to act as a unified voice that would address issues like standardization, accessibility, and data collection and analysis related to PC gaming.
But the group has kept a low profile -- outside of the group's annual Horizons report and the occasional announcement of changes to the members lineup, the PCGA has not had much of an outward-facing presence. For PC gamers, it's been difficult to tell what the PCGA has been doing to improve their favorite gaming platform.
Matt Ployhar intends to change that. He's the new president of the PCGA, replacing fellow Intel employee and founding PCGA president Randy Stude. Here, Ployhar, an avid PC gamer, offers the PCGA's stances on piracy and DRM and he also challenges the modern definition of a "PC game."
Ployhar also explains how he and the PCGA plan on combating "industry propaganda" that has tried to "Chicken Little" the PC gaming industry.
Can you start with a little bit of your background? Where does your interest in PC gaming come from?
Matt Ployhar: So I'm currently at Intel, and have been for almost three years. I'm kind of a hybrid strategic graphics planner, if you will. One of the main reasons I came over was to kind of get exposure to hardware, and at that point in time we were actually working on the Larabee project.
And so we obviously sunsetted about this time last year, roughly. While that was going on in parallel, I was also the chairman of the research committee for the PC Gaming dAlliance.
I guess [PCGA] liked what I did, and they said, "Hey, that would be great to take the rein and chair, and to go through an election process, in October." They then nominated me and put me in as the next president to take over for Randy Stude. It could have gone any way, it could have been any board member who would become the president. So I'm flattered, and I'm honored, to take the reins.
Prior to Intel, I was at Microsoft for 12-and-a-half years. When I first started there, I cut my teeth back in the late '90s when I was in the Sidewinder Gaming Devices Group. I did that for about four years, then I was poached and brought over into Microsoft Game Studios when Ed Fries was still at the helm.
Then I was the lead program manager with one of the Test and Tools Team. My direct report [Matt Alderman] actually ran the Microsoft Game Studios Beta Program. And then I also had another test guy that was reporting to me at the time.
I just felt like I'm much more aligned with Windows gaming than I am console gaming, at any level. And the Windows guys for years were trying to get me to move over into the DirectX group. So then I moved over, out of Microsoft Games, to get into Windows Div/DX. And then halfway through the [Microsoft Game Studios] re-org, I went on to my last Microsoft stint, which was a couple years on the Windows 7 planning team.
Intel approached me and said, "Would you be interested in coming over?" and I said, "I'm not looking." If I had stayed, I would have been working on Windows 8. Basically, the rest is history. I just felt like I've got the software thing down, I've been doing it for a long time, now I need to go out and get an idea of what hardware can teach me.
Intel's a fantastic corporation to work for, it's got a lot of similarities and dissimilarities to a company like Microsoft. The size is roughly the same, but they operate very differently.
So the PCGA is -- how to describe it -- low-visibility. I hear from you guys maybe once or twice a year. So, do you think that part of your job is to bring up exposure of PC Gaming Alliance and what it does?
MP: Yeah, so once to twice a year -- that exact sentiment is something, I'm thinking, is one of the immediate aspects to fix. What's interesting here is when the PCGA was founded, almost three years ago, it was sort of when ... there was a lot of companies that just didn't feel like there was still really a champion for PC gaming, there wasn't really a voice or a place to air out things, if you will.
And, so, there was no sanity, etc. And there was also kind of a big, large sentiment to address with what I would call industry propaganda or FUD, right? There are a lot of people running around, Chicken Little-ing it, saying "Oh yeah, the sky is falling, PC gaming is dying, blah, blah, blah."
And I won't say who the source is, but I know who a lot of the research was based off of, and that's just a very narrow point of the whole picture. Holistically, if you step back, there's a bigger picture thing going on.
The PCGA was founded for two reasons. What they did, is they went into the mode, if you will, where they felt like instead of, "OK, it's better going loud and proud and being really vocal and visible," it was kind of like "OK, let's build out a body of research so we've got kind of a belated backup to what we're saying here."
And you can't really do that overnight. People know that you're a real entity, and you're data-driven, and it's not opinions and emotions-based. So really, the biggest thing that they've done, once or twice a year, comes back to that Horizons Report that they've published.
When I came on board, I'm looking at this going "OK, well you guys did really well on the second thing, which was turning around the messaging about the sky is falling." Nothing could be further from the truth. And you've got all these other things that you publish internally for members, like the anti-piracy doc, white paper and guidelines.
There's also additional research that we've got that we don't really talk out. And then, that was one of the things I'm looking at and going, "You guys got all these software best practices, all this stuff, but you don't talk about it." And what happens is a lot of people in the industry kind of have spooled off and they started speculating, and a lot of people started getting these expectations that the PCGA would instantly be able to snap a finger or wave a wand and instantaneously, everything about PC gaming was going to be better. [laughs] You know?
I've really only been at the helm of [the PCGA] technically for three months, and one of those months was obviously over the holidays. So what I did was I started going one on one with all the members, and white boarding it out and saying, "OK, here's what we've done well, here's what we haven't done so well. Let's address people's concerns here. Let's level some expectations. Let's talk about this more. Instead of holding back 90 percent of our cards, and only talking once or twice a year, let's just release something every month."
We've got a ton of things to talk about, and a ton of things that we are already working on. So, better communication, level-setting expectations, outlining what we're going to be doing for 2011. We've got a pretty big announcement coming up for GDC.
The way I look at it or articulate internally, is taking this organization from crawl to walk. This is a marathon, not a sprint. That's where we are today. It's helping and gathering, building things out, so that we can be a lot more public and vocal, and vociferous.