In December last year Tom wrote a comment piece with a clear message: PC gaming is dead. I quote: "Even traditionally PC-only genres such as the RTS have made it to consoles, albeit with reduced functionality. It's a worrying sign though, when developers are looking towards new platforms to sell PC games. If the hardcore PC gaming contingent want their beloved games to remain tailored exclusively for their platform they need to get their wallet out and buy some games. The adventure genre died, first-person shooters have upped and moved to consoles, RTS is migrating and the MMO is looking to experiment on consoles. How long before the PC becomes nothing more than a web-browsing word processor?"
Five months later and the "PC gaming is dead" shadow looms large overhead once again, this time sparked by Crytek president Cevat Yerli, who said that piracy of PC games is such a massive problem that it has forced the Crysis developer to move to multi-format releases.
"Similar games on consoles sell factors of 4-5 more," he said. "It was a big lesson for us and I believe we won't have PC exclusives as we did with Crysis in the future. We are going to support PC, but not exclusive anymore."
So, further confirmation, if it was needed, that PC gaming is indeed dead. Done deal. End of story. But I couldn't believe it. I refused to believe it. I needed further evidence before I smashed up my hard drive and put my head through my monitor.
So, with that in mind, in recent weeks I've been asking developers: "Do you think PC gaming is dead?" Not one of them agreed. And these guys are the experts.
Volker Wertich, creative director on the upcoming fantasy RTS Battleforge, and creator of The Settlers series, reckons that concerns over the future of PC gaming is nothing new, and is tied into the current console generation hitting its peak.
"We always have these kind of waves when new consoles come into the market and now we're obviously getting soon to the peak of the current console generation," he told me at EA Games' recent showcase in London. "At some point the PC will be ahead of those again. So no I don't think that the PC market is dead. Especially for the online games, the strongest market is PC. There is a shift in focus for online games towards the PC market. That's for sure. I believe in that."
Ben Cousins, executive producer at DICE, the studio responsible for the Battlefield games, was even more forthright in his belief that PC gaming is not dead. Rather, when I caught up with him to chat about upcoming EA-published free shooter Battlefield Heroes, he questioned whether PC gaming was in dire straights at all.
"Not only is there a completely new market who are playing the flash games, but then we're starting to have these games like Heroes which are slightly more like a real full game on the PC," he explained. "And also the high-end PC games market is doing well. If you look only at the American figures for only specific games maybe it looks disappointing, but if you look at the whole global market it's doing really well and EA are going to continue to make PC games, absolutely. Especially the EA Games label, we're really committed to PC."
While many developers dismiss outright the suggestion that the PC is a dead platform, I do, however, believe that PC gaming is changing. Evolving, perhaps, is the better word. Some game genres, the RTS for example, will always feel more comfortable on the PC. Some, like the first-person shooter, like Crysis, will no longer be able to survive the threat of piracy without going multiplatform.