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Let's Talk Platforms

by Lena LeRay on 09/02/16 10:14:00 am

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


Members of the press are humans. We have good days and bad days. We get zillions of emails with marketing pitches for your games. We can't possibly cover everything. It is therefore a good idea to grease the wheels, so to speak. Make it as easy as possible for the writer to cover your game without having to talk to you.

I know a personal connection is better, but you can't count on members of the press being in the mood to want to send you an email asking questions. There is always another game that looks as interesting as yours in their inbox; if that one has everything they need to write an article without emailing the developer, you may have lost your chance to get covered. It's not fair, and I feel bad every time I do it, but I still do it.

I think all of that is pretty well known, though, so I'll move on to my main point here. Today, I want to talk about one specific piece of information that gets screwed up often, even on otherwise well-done press releases and press kits: release platforms.

There's a problem with how everyone talks about platforms, which is that the term is ambiguous. That didn't used to be true. The people making computing platforms all used proprietary hardware, so something worked on this computer or that one or the other one. Game consoles came out and they followed that pattern and everything still worked out.

As computers evolved, however, and assembly stopped being the only way to program things and hardware came to be mostly standardized, that changed. Personal computers got to be basically the same things, and what software could run on them was mostly dependent on the operating system the computer was running. Operating systems are neat things; they act as a buffer between hardware and software, filling in the gaps so that anything that works with the operating system will work with any computer the operating systeam can go on. In essence, the operating system software is now the platform.

Except wait... each console is still its own platform. So we have a mix of hardware platforms and software platforms. That doesn't seem to bad, though, right?

However, services like Steam and Humble Store and GOG are all called platforms now, too, at least by some. So now, the store where you can buy the software that goes on your platform of choice is also a platform.

All of this confusion is compounded by the fact that Windows as a platform has been the dominant personal computer (PC) gaming platform for so long that some people -- not all -- equate PC with Windows. Steam encourages this by listing Windows games as PC games, even though not everyone uses PC that way. To some of us, PC still means personal computer and applies regardless of operating system.

Sending out a marketing email that lists "PC" or "Steam" as a release platform is just as useless as not including any platform information at all. Steam tells someone where to find it, but not whether or not their computer can play it. PC could mean Windows only or Windows, Mac, and Linux. Or just Windows and Mac. Or just Windows and Linux. Or just Linux.

Members of the press can't read your mind, and if you aren't specific about both where/how a game can be purchased and what systems the game will be playable on, you risk your email getting tossed in the "I don't feel like dealing with this," bin.

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