PC Games Need Investment to Succeed, Says RTS Legend

PC Games Need Investment to Succeed, Says RTS Legend

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Total Annihilation creator Chris Taylor says that StarCraft 2 shows how successful PC games can be when there's some monetary muscle behind them.

There's an old saying that you have to spend money to make money, and Taylor thinks that that is especially true when it comes to core PC games. He believes that if developers and publishers were willing to invest big money into PC titles, then sales will inevitably follow.

He held up StarCraft 2 as an example of a game that proves his point, and said that the RTS genre was considered to be on its last legs until Blizzard brought it back in a massive way by spending a ton of money of making and publicizing the game. "[T]here's a kind of chicken and egg thing here," he said. "Blizzard spends around $100 million-plus, so of course they're going to do $300 million in sales."

It wasn't just Blizzard who enjoyed the success either. Taylor said that months before StarCraft 2 launched he saw a surge in the level of interest in RTS games. "It's like a dividend," he said. "Same idea; our phone was ringing off the hook on the ramp up [to StarCraft 2's release]."

StarCraft 2 is certainly an example of how well PC only games can sell, although to suggest that success is directly proportional to the amount of investment is perhaps a little simplistic. APB also reportedly had $100 million spent on it, and it crashed and burned just a few months after release, showing that what you spend the money on is just as important as how much you have. But Taylor's core point - that if developers and publishers supported PC games better, sales would go up - has a lot of truth to it.

Source: CVG

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Starcraft 2 is also the sequel to one of the most popular and critically acclaimed games of all time so it is safe to say there is a margin of error when using it as an example.

This just in people buying more games = better sales figures!

One factor in a good PC game another is a a less restrictive DRM, ability for players to mod the hell out of it and easy to host servers.

He forgets that Starcraft 2 was also...well, Starcraft 2. The highly anticipated sequel to one of the most critically acclaimed and commercially successful games not just on the PC but of all time. Not to mention it took 10 years to make.

But I do see his point...

Slaanax:
This just in people buying more games = better sales figures!

That wasn't the point of the article. He's basically saying that publishers/developers need to support PC games more if they want higher sales figures. Part of that support is the willingness to invest more money into the production.

roekenny:
One factor in a good PC game another is a a less restrictive DRM, ability for players to mod the hell out of it and easy to host servers.

StarCraft 2 has fairly restrictive DRM as games go, your Battle.net account means everything to that game and it won't work properly without logging in (the offline option doesn't work well at present, it forgets the authentication each time you turn off the PC).
But unlike most large publishers, people are probably more willing to trust Blizzard than most other publishers in existence, they generally won't screw you over. I know that Blizzard is technically part of Activision, but they are almost entirely independent within that organisation.

JeanLuc761:

Slaanax:
This just in people buying more games = better sales figures!

That wasn't the point of the article. He's basically saying that publishers/developers need to support PC games more if they want higher sales figures. Part of that support is the willingness to invest more money into the production.

To that, I say, "See Minecraft."

It seems to me that lots of independent developers with zero backing have been making popular games on the PC the past several years. Could they all do better with the same financial investment as SC2? Possibly. But the general idea behind this seems to be that a game must have a big budget if it wants to succeed right now, and that just is not the case.

The pedigree of Blizzard helps me think. And also a massive existing fan base.

Analogfantasies:

To that, I say, "See Minecraft."

It seems to me that lots of independent developers with zero backing have been making popular games on the PC the past several years. Could they all do better with the same financial investment as SC2? Possibly. But the general idea behind this seems to be that a game must have a big budget if it wants to succeed right now, and that just is not the case.

How often does a game like minecraft comes along? The industry can't rely on something so unpredictable.

I think what mostly goes into it is genuine talent. I've seen many, MANY big budget titles flop. And I've seen far less games that have genuine talent flop.

Analogfantasies:

To that, I say, "See Minecraft."

It seems to me that lots of independent developers with zero backing have been making popular games on the PC the past several years. Could they all do better with the same financial investment as SC2? Possibly. But the general idea behind this seems to be that a game must have a big budget if it wants to succeed right now, and that just is not the case.

Agreed - One of my fave games is Mount and Blade (and it's sequel/expansion Warband) - Might have cost more than Minecraft but it still didn't have the stellar budget of SC2 and yet it's still an awesome game with a considerable and loyal fanbase.

Supporting PC games goes far beyond the finances of it (as the aforemention APB shows) - supporting the PC platform means making quality games of depth and gameplay. Then comes getting people to know about it, not necessarily by huge marketing campaigns but some times as simple as taking advantage of Steam for example.

That Starcraft 2 would sell tons on initially is a given, but continued sales can probably be attributed to how they've crafted the single player experience. It takes points from RPGs, having a lot of characters and dialog in and outside of missions. It's pretty terrible dialog, but that sort of campaign structure is very unusual for a strategy game.

SF4 pretty much single-handedly revived the fighting game genre, and if given careful consideration to what blizzard did right with sc2 I think quite a few developers will be able to ride the wave. RTS players generally stick to one game since there's so many more things you need to be aware of to be even reasonably competitive. Trying to pull players from one game to another will usually fail, so I think the makers of new RTS' need to make sure their game has a rock solid single player experience so that anyone can pick it up and enjoy it.

I think Chris Taylor is just bitter because GPG's last few games had the budget shot out from under them. (Hence the execrable Space Siege and the unpolished Supreme Commander 2.) Meanwhile, anyone who can pitch a "WOW killer" gets $100 million and they still can't make a good game.

Dectilon:
That Starcraft 2 would sell tons on initially is a given, but continued sales can probably be attributed to how they've crafted the single player experience.

I'm betting on the absolutely huge multiplayer to be blunt.

who the hell thought that rts games were dead? Relic has been making them for years and all of their games have been fucken awesome

Exort:
How often does a game like minecraft comes along? The industry can't rely on something so unpredictable.

World of Goo came close, and I'm predicting Super Meat Boy to be very popular. Although it's very much a case that unless you have got a cast-iron brand (i.e. Call of Duty) you can't just shovel out more of the same.

RTS games hopefully never die man, it's actually the reason I keep a decent system available for Turn-based/Real Time strategy games which you cannot find properly implented in a console.

Haha. As I opened this link I made a bet with myself that it would be Chris Taylor. Supreme Commander Forged Alliance is one of my favourite games of all time. (however, SupCom 2 can go to hell).

This is so true, publishers ignore PC then point out that PC is doing badly so why should they invest?

Also, minecraft is a success because the community saw it's potential. That game now has around 4 million in 'investment' money.

In it's current state, it is fun, but I would not have paid 10 dollars for it with no free updates and expansions.

cobrausn:
Also, minecraft is a success because the community saw it's potential. That game now has around 4 million in 'investment' money.

In it's current state, it is fun, but I would not have paid 10 dollars for it with no free updates and expansions.

The community saw it's potential because notch actively interacted with /v/, Somethingaweful and facepunch. People like it when devs do that.

Then we can use minecraft as an example of how actually making something fun and original created by just one guy can make a shit load of money.

So making a good game had nothing to do with it. I don't know why Starcraft 2 was used as an example, when most of the money was blown on the CG cinematics and ridiculous ad campaign (SC2 ads on 2 Boeing 747s). If you just get rid of those 2 aspects then I wouldn't be surprised if Starcraft 2 had cost around the same as Supreme Commander 2. The main difference is that Blizzard made a game the fans wanted, with even an open beta used not as a marketing tool but to actually polish the finer points of the popular multiplayer aspect.

That's the lesson that Chris Taylor has to learn. To make a game that people, especially its fans, can enjoy. Heck, I own both Supreme Commander 2 and Starcraft 2. Guess which one I've been playing?

I suppose all the guy's really trying to say is that there's room in the market for AAA PC titles, although Starcraft 2 does handle a lot of things uniquely (like its approach to DRM), so it's hardly a shining example.

Personally, I see PC games moving away from the AAA model to more low-end OS- and hardware-portable solutions. I feel that this is a good thing because the blockbuster nature of the AAA model makes development a very risky endeavor, among other things. PC gaming, due to its open nature, is also an exceedingly good platform for independent developers and experimental games - a lot (if not nearly all) innovation we've been seeing can be traced back to PC gaming.

Humble Indie Bundle?

Money does not = good game.

The reasons SC2 was such a hit, IMO, are as follows:

1. SC1 was 12 years ago
2. SC1 has quite the fanatical community
3. It has a competitive multiplayer aspect
4. Blizz is charging full price for a third of a game

Now I do agree somewhat. PC games do need an investment to succeed. But that investment isn't necessarily one of money, but one of passion, of good writing, of good programming, of care about the customers. PC games are a bit like supercars in this regard. That Audi R8 V10 may be fast as hell, but I'd rather have the Lamborghini Murcialago LP 670-4 SuperVeloce.

He would have made a much better point if he had used a better example. Plus, you can always counter with APB and Minecraft.

And I find it funny I've never heard of this guy. (Prepares flame shield) Guess it's just because I'm really new to RTSs.

Logan Westbrook:
"Same idea; our phone was ringing off the hook on the ramp up [to StarCraft 2's release]."

I suspect this has more to do with people demanding their money back from GPG because supcom 2 was a dumbed down console port.

Which makes this a textbook case of "do as I say, not as I do". Or somebody who wants everybody else to spend cash so he can sell his garbage on people's goodwill. I'm leaning to the latter.

Analogfantasies:

JeanLuc761:

Slaanax:
This just in people buying more games = better sales figures!

That wasn't the point of the article. He's basically saying that publishers/developers need to support PC games more if they want higher sales figures. Part of that support is the willingness to invest more money into the production.

To that, I say, "See Minecraft."

It seems to me that lots of independent developers with zero backing have been making popular games on the PC the past several years. Could they all do better with the same financial investment as SC2? Possibly. But the general idea behind this seems to be that a game must have a big budget if it wants to succeed right now, and that just is not the case.

Minecraft is a rare exception, not to mention a completely different market. We aren't talking cheapo indie titles with this article, we're talking about the Triple-A games. The big boys. We're talking about paying a full team of developers to make a game, not some random kid sitting in his basement crafting the once-in-a-blue-moon gem. More than that, we're talking about cutting features from the PC versions of a game because it'll be cheaper to develop them that way; sometimes even not even making a PC version, but just lazily porting-over the console version of the game.

I mean, honestly now, how can publishers expect to push PC copies of a game when they lack any form of PC support? We are NOT the same customers as the console crowd. Not to say that there's anything bad about console gamers, I'm just saying that simply because we're both gamers and both buying the same game (potentially) does NOT mean that we are interested in the same things. So when you gut every feature from the PC version of the game that PC gamers are interested in buying, do you really think that PC gamers are going to flock to the stores on release day? Publishers are basically setting themselves up to fail in the PC market, then they cry at US when we don't want to buy their crappy half-assed title.

Seriously, take that money you spent licensing that worthless DRM and put it towards catering just a little towards PC-specific features. I can guarantee that sales will increase.

 

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