Here’s What PC Needs to Do to Beat Playstation 4
Perhaps the most disruptive bit of technology popping up in the Playstation 4 is the ability to share video directly from the console to platforms such as YouTube. While not a new technology by any stretch — players have found ways to capture and share videos for years, building whole cottage industries on YouTube’s accessibility — the PS4 is adding a huge convenience factor to the process. Forget buying capture cards and special software; the PS4 tech might not be as robust and useful as what YouTube users have available now, but it’ll democratize the process significantly by making it very easy.
But making the capturing and uploading process easier isn’t necessarily difficult for PC game platforms, either. Again, we can look to Valve and Steam, which could make the process simple and easy for players by adding features. Even existing software platforms, such as Fraps, can and should work to make simpler, cheaper versions of their software available, and to help new users to access it. Probably the single biggest barriers to more people using capture software are they 1. don’t know about it, and 2. worry they don’t have the tech savvy to mess around with it. So help lower those barriers through partnerships, pushing tutorials, and democratizing things as much as possible. Sony might have an easier means of capturing video, but PC offers greater control and other advantages. Let’s capitalize.
All About Indies
If you ask me, the next console generation will not live or die on its triple-A titles, but on a smaller flood of awesome content: indie games.
Sony has already started tapping this potential market, but in a decidedly triple-A fashion. The publisher has gathered up and subsidized a few big indie titles, including Unfinished Swan and Journey, and those games have paid off well for it. Sony is cultivating something of an art house image in its Playstation Network Store, and it’s working for the console — a lot more than it probably is for Xbox 360, whose own Xbox Live Indie Games market is kind of a mess and lacks discoverability or marketing punch.
But the explosion of the PC platform in the last few years has been largely carried on the back of incredible indie titles. Devs seem to have found that trying to bust through the walls of the Playstation Network and Xbox Live is a losing battle, when they can make much more money on Steam; many other games are released on sites such as ModDB and IndieDB and don’t require the act of dancing to Valve’s beat, either. And with Steam Greenlight, even more games are finding their way to the platform and to wide-reaching exposure. PC is truly alight with low-cost, interesting indie games that are widely available to players and which are getting some serious exposure.
The consoles are lagging behind this trend, but Sony has been catching on (and to a lesser extent, so has Microsoft). Much more than any of the cool tech stuff Sony rolled out to show off the Playstation 4, the huge amount of low-cost content that indie games represent are what could potentially fuel the console market in the next generation. The same model has proven incredibly effective for Apple and even Google in the mobile sphere. I expect Sony to capitalize.
But PC is the home of indies, and Valve has already shown a commitment to getting more indie titles on Steam through the Greenlight program. Valve could step up those efforts; so could publishers pushing their own platforms, such as Ubisoft with uPlay and Electronic Arts with Origin. We also have Desura, Good Old Games, and more — all places where PC players can get access to great games that are under the radar for most players.
The trick is to get them on the radar. Valve, Ubisoft, EA, Desura, GoG, all of them need to seek out these great games and make them available. They need to push them loudly and to a lot of players. It’s a lot of what we’ve already seen from the PC platform, but it’ll help a lot if gamers who traditionally pay attention to the console side start to notice what the scope of the PC indie scene truly is. That might take some advertising, but it’s not an impossible group to reach, especially given the expansion of social networks and other Internet- and computer-centric activities.
The Playstation 4 presentation last week might have sounded exciting, but a lot of the key features Sony was pushing are either old hat for the PC platform or sounded dubious at best in terms of their application to the console. While PC has seen a resurgence in recent years a platform, the hard reality is that game developers see opportunities to make more money with consoles than PC — and that means weaker support for the platform. But the next generation, as any generation, will live and die by its games — and what are often the best, most exciting, most different titles on the market exist in the indie market, and that means they exist first and foremost on PC. If it’s all about great content, things are already looking up.
That doesn’t mean complacency is okay, though. The people working on the PC platform, be they developers, publishers, and even modders and indies, can work to increase the proliferation of games and other software and services on the platform — and that will mean more players, more money, and better games.