Ah PC gaming. It's often touted by elitist jerks as being the “master race,” of gaming but that's not how most developers seem to see it. In-fact even with companies like Rockstar which made all of its early money through sales of PC games, a lot of them really don't show much love for the humble PC any more.
While they might all tout piracy as a big concern, they are essentially suggesting that they make more money developing for consoles and can then make a bit of pocket money by slinging us a half-assed port a few weeks, or perhaps even months later. Much like a lot of developers are treating the Wii U at the moment, despite the PC's far superior pedigree.
Though that won't stop me buying a Wii U soon enough.
But maybe they're right? If you're a big corporate developer, making a game specifically designed for the PC means you have to cater to a wide variety of hardware types and worry about modding and DRM and then there's the fact that if you make it too pretty, consoles just won't be able to handle it, or if they can, they'll look so much worse. At that point, buying it for your Xbox would make you feel like an idiot.
So of course it makes sense to cater to the lowest common denominator. You build something that looks amazing on the new consoles, make a crappy port with 30 FPS (locked in some games. We're looking at you Need for Speed Rivals), and you'll sell a few more copies to pay for a publishing CEO's bonus.
Or, you could go down the route Robert's Space Industries has taken with its crowd funded Star Citizen and go PC all the way. In the words of Chris Roberts himself:
“Star Citizen IS a PC game. It will NEVER be dumbed down for a lesser platform.”
He then went on to explain that he'd recently upgraded his work-gaming PC, to trial Star Citizen on, putting twin Nvidia Titans, outputting on a 4K monitor. This would sit next to his AMD test rig, with four R9 290Xs and an eight core CPU, to see if they can do triple 4K monitors in Eyefinity.
Clearly, PC and perhaps more importantly, bleeding edge PC, is important to Roberts and his team.
So, while a version might (very heavy maybe on this one) one day hit Xbox One or PS4 consoles, it'll only do so in its main iteration. PC first, everything else second. This is a literal 180 on the policies of every other game maker out there today. So surely it's really struggling right? Surely without all those guaranteed console sales, RSI is in financial muck?
Not at all. Star Citizen is the most funded game ever and it still continues to rake in millions every couple of months. That's not much by the standards of say a franchise like GTA which just pulled in over a billion in a couple of days, but for a little crowd funded game this is enormous. It suggests that not only are there PC fans out there, but that they're really willing to pay for a game that's designed with them in mind.
PC players have been languishing in console ports for years, playing second fiddle to their console cousins. When they're given the chance to put their money where their mouth is, they do it. Forget the piracy angle, PC gamers are worth a lot of money and will part with it for the right game.
On top of that though, supporting PCs pushes the envelope. The Xbox One and PS4 are already outdated and struggling with current-gen games, even though they will of course improve over time.
The PC on the other hand, is hitting its stride. It's hit that perfect price/performance bracket which means even spending a few hundred dollars on a gaming PC will get you something pretty powerful and at the top end, there be monsters – as there always has been.
With the introduction of AMD's Mantle, we could see new generational leaps in detail too, as well as improved efficiency in games and Star Citizen can help push that. Developers were shackled by the last gen's hardware – 512MB of RAM on the 360 – and their ailing GPUs, but with PCs you can develop and update for hardware that is improving year on year. Sure you have to make concessions for those with weaker PCs, but when the GPU inside both new-gen consoles are available to buy as full cards for under $100, you know most PC gamers are working with more.
Which means you can push the envelope. When games on sub $40,000,000 budgets look as good as Star Citizen does already, with over a year left on its development, there should be no excuse this gen to produce anything that's less impressive, but it'll happen for sure – the batch of launch games has shown us that, with their horrific performance.
Come to the PC guys. Come develop for the platform that is really at the bleeding edge of game development. It has the best fostered indie community, the best digital distribution platforms and the best hardware to back it all up with.
And what's your reward? A massive following. I've said it earlier on this piece, but it bares remembering, Star Citizen is the most crowd funded game ever, by miles. The second biggest was Double Fine's Broken age and it didn't even make half of what Star Citizen has, a game that's still drawing in sometimes as much as a million dollars a day in pledges. That's from over 312,000 gamers and the game isn't even close to completion yet. These people are paying on average $110 each for a game they won't get in its entirety for another year. Think about that.
Sure $33 million won't cover all the bills for a major studio, but think of the cost savings you'd make when not producing different versions for all the different consoles out there. Chances are you could get in bed with Valve or Microsoft too and get something together for a PC exclusive – even if it was just some marketing.
The best part about the whole thing though, is that Chris Roberts acknowledges that they'd love to be on consoles too. It would give them a bigger audience, but it would require openness and cash.
“If the platform holders (Sony & Microsoft) allow us to update the code and data without restrictions and odious time consuming QC procedures, IF they allow our community to openly interact with each other across platforms then I would consider supporting them.”
He later added as a caveat, “And even then it would only be contemplated as a port from the PC, not the other way around plus we would require a financial commitment by Sony to make it happen.”
So the PC gamers get a game designed just for them and respond with their wallets flying open. Why haven't more developers cashed in on this? We're clearly waiting for you to show us pretty things and we'll throw money at you.
Seriously, come on. Show us.