Hellgate: London Features for PC

On: PC
Spore screenshot
Spore screenshot

One of the hottest debates pulsing across the internet right now is the state of PC gaming. More and more publishers and developers are blaming piracy for the lack of support for the platform. More and more publishers are suffering criticism for the digital rights management they put in place on their new PC titles. One man standing up for the PC gaming hardcore is Randy Stude, president of the PC Gaming Alliance. Here, in an outspoken interview with VideoGamer.com, Stude tells us why publishers only have themselves to blame when their games are pirated, and why PC games are better than console games.

VideoGamer.com: Tell me a bit about yourself.

Randy Stude: My background, 14 years with Intel. I'm an avid gamer, father of four with four PC gamer kits in the house. I guess everyone in the house has an absolute passion for gaming. We've got every console there is. But for the most part they sit and gather dust while everyone plays World of Warcraft, Webkinz, Spore and all the other immersive PC gaming titles.

VideoGamer.com: How did the PC Gaming Alliance come to be?

RS: A few years ago several of the founding companies sat down and decided that the PC needed a voice when it came to gaming. The consoles have their voice, the PC was getting beat up a little bit in the press. We on the inside of PC gaming knew the story was much different than what was being represented by those who wanted to take shots at the PC gaming industry. So we decided to stand up and make a little noise. The rest is history.

VideoGamer.com: From your website's members area I can see some fairly high profile companies that are on board. How did you get them on board?

RS: A few of us sat down around the table and said, 'who would be critical to be a part of this organisation?'. We approached them and the rest is history. I don't want to get into a situation where I say, 'hey it was me and this guy', it isn't about that. It was everyone sitting down at a table with a clean sheet of paper, yeah there's a few issues that maybe the industry can deal with rather than anyone of us by ourselves and we all decided to do it.

VideoGamer.com: We ran an interview with Peter Molyneux recently, who said he thought the PC gaming industry was "in tatters", which prompted a statement from yourself in response to that. There seems to be a quite a few developers who say this kind of thing to the press when they're answering questions about why they're not doing PC versions of console games. They always cite a lack of sales or piracy. Do you simply think they're wrong? Are they misguided? Do they not understand the full picture? Why are they saying this if the reality is, as you say, quite different?

RS: There's a $10.7bn industry here and the easy answer I can give you is there are a lot of people making a lot of money on PC gaming and perhaps Peter, with his recent PC titles, The Movies and Black & White 2, is under the belief that the PC for him isn't the right place to invest his time. And when you look at Fable which has become a console title pretty much now, if you're releasing that product, or any product today, on multiple platforms, and there's no differentiated experience for the PC, and the game is technically designed really to be played on console, because there's a lot of business to be garnered by releasing your game on the consoles, especially if you're not focussed on a long term immersive revenue and ongoing affair with the gamers who would choose your title, then perhaps consoles are the right place for you. What I'm basically saying there is there are hundreds of millions of PC gamers out there in the world playing games, and if they're not playing Fable, or if they don't want to play Fable II then Peter shouldn't publish it.

Fable II screenshot

VideoGamer.com: Playing devils advocate, I think he's referring very much to the core PC gamer market rather than the PC gaming market overall, that the more high end titles struggle to sell on PC. But that's something you would reject?

RS: Is Fable II a high end game and Warhammer and Age of Conan aren't? Is Spore a high end game? Those titles are selling really well. I think he made a judgement call for his title, that he should probably focus on why he made that call, and if he didn't see an opportunity to differentiate on PC he should just leave it at that and not submit an opinion on the health of hundreds of millions of gamers who are generating almost $11bn in revenue.

VideoGamer.com: Is it more to do with piracy at the end of the day and that publishers don't want to release a game on the PC because they feel that it's just going to be pirated, especially if it's targeted at core gamers who, let's be honest, know about torrent sites and how they work?

RS: Piracy is an issue for some publishers, but if you sat down and you talk to Blizzard or Funcom or the guys at EA about Warhammer, about all the noise that was made about Spore and the reaction to the DRM, but they're still selling games and they're selling them well. The guys at Valve have a framework in place, that a lot of PC gamers, they claim over 15 million of them, are quite pleased with, and they're selling games through Steam to people all over the world and would say that they've got a problem solved with their approach to how to deal with piracy.

VideoGamer.com: So where do we go from here regarding the piracy issue? The developer of EndWar said recently it was holding the PC version back until after the console version was out because they feared people would pirate the PC version rather than buy the console version. How is this attitude from the publishing and development community going to change?

RS: If you're taking a release date mentality, OK I'm putting anti-piracy protections that are pretty strong on console, pretty strong but not fool proof, and I'm waiting till the day I ship this thing off to the post-production house to put anti-piracy on say like a Fallout 3 or last year Hellgate London had an infamous piracy issue, if your product is not protected all of the way through production, you're going to be faced with the scenario where some guy sitting at the duplicator house, this is where all the piracy starts, the guy sitting at the duplicator house, back doors the code to a buddy or flat out sells it to make money off a torrent rip of the game, that's where the problem is.

It's not a unique situation to PC gaming. Movies are suffering the same thing right now. Until you spin anti-piracy all the way through your production, which can be challenging but can be done, then you've got a scenario where your game can be stolen from you. There will always be people who will pirate but there are great solutions out there that can be utilised. I think the PC Gaming Alliance believes it needs to jump in and submit some industry voice behind this and some opinion about what approaches should or shouldn't be taken, but I think for anyone waiting for an answer, the best answer I can give them is, be smart about the way you deal with your IP, don't leave anything to chance and keep it protected all the way through the production pipeline.

Fallout 3 screenshot

VideoGamer.com: Would you suggest that for some publishers piracy is their own fault?

RS: Yeah. Any publisher today who's making any game that's going out on any platform and isn't thinking about the potential of piracy with the widespread availability of broadband and the patience that people have to kick-off a download that may take a day or more, if they're not thinking that's a real problem for them or a potential problem for them, then they're going to have challenges and they're going to act like it's a big surprise. It's like anything else in business. If you're not aware of the guy who's trying to steal your product then it's going to get stolen. You don't see the guards of banks walk around with money sacks on the street without proper precaution right? Those days have been gone since the 1700s. If people are getting attacked in the streets and getting their money stolen from them you should probably not take your $20m-$50m investment in any game and leave it to chance.

VideoGamer.com: It doesn't sound like rocket science to me. I don't understand why publishers don't shore up the production line.

RS: Yeah. And that doesn't even mean that at the end of the day someone's not going to hack the game and put it up on a torrent network. There have to be better encryption technologies for the PC. We in the PCGA believe than an industry group such as ours and others out there should be the ones that tackle it from a standards perspective, provide guidance to say, 'probably the best way to do it is something like this...'. We don't have the answer yet today but we would invite anyone who believes piracy is a problem to join our organisation, step up and we'll help you solve the problem from the hardware side and the software side.

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User Comments

SteamWontSaveY's Avatar
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SteamWontSaveY

Steam does NOT take away the activation limits of EA games!! Steam will allow you to reinstall Valve games unlimited times, sure. If you buy Crysis on Steam you still get 5 activations. Some people seem to be confused about that.

I got rid of all my PC games, switched to Linux, and got a 360. I dont want to wonder whether the game I'm buying will let me play it in 5 years. Too much BS to worry about when I'm trying to have fun.
Posted 14:45 on 21 October 2008
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Adam

Comes across as something of a "PC apologist" to me. I work all day on a PC (software development) but it's days as my gaming platform of choice are long gone.

His statement about 100 million PC sold with better capabilities than an XBox360 is dubious. Better in what way? More memory? More HD space? Better graphics card? "Better than XBox360" is a very nebulous statement. If I defined better as "The ability to put in a game and play it without the need to arse about" then 0 PC solds meet that spec.

Thing is, PCs are designed as general purpose machines. Arsing about is a given. That's all well and good when I doing development work and arsing about IS work, but when it comes to gaming (Which I consider a form of relaxation) any amount of arsing about is detracting from my experience.

Unsurprisingly enough, my platforms of choice for relaxtion at the moment conist of books, a few watchable TV series and, most important of all, a Nintendo DS (Amazingly useful for relaxing where you want, when you want)

Anyway, that's my opinion.
Posted 14:45 on 21 October 2008
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zehaeva

@matt I think the DRM he was speaking of in production was more like actual physical barriers to keep the actual physical copies together and no leaked like say the 360 version of Fallout 3 that's been available for a while now. Lock down the production center, hire only people with clean backgrounds, get rid of any internet you have there and post guards at every exit. make sure that you can trust UPS or FedEX or whom ever. Make sure it doesn't get to stores until the night before release. Catch the leaks before they get out.

It's not DRM persay, its smart business practices imo.
Posted 13:01 on 21 October 2008
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matt

umm, yes the person who pays 50$ does own it. It is not proportionate to your $5million dollars. It's a law called "right of first sale" and means many things such as: you own what you buy and can sell it to other people if you choose.

Your $5mil enabled you to choose distribution methods at the beginning only. It doesn't mean you have control over the distribution later or that you have some magic "IP". the IP is a lie gonath. There is no IP. People need to remember that the term is a complete fallacy brought around in the last 8 years. The minute an idea leaves your brain, it is no longer your own in any form. Thus if you say it, speak it, anything, people can find ways to copy your idea or sell it off, or make new things from it. Patents don't help this; they just encumber legal threats. Especially if you give things out in the form of software, it can easily be deciphered to find the actual source whether or not you want to disclose it. In fact, if it wasnt' for the DCMA, you'd see every program in the world shared openly in the US, and things would get far more creative.

Executables are a windows thing. They don't actually prevent you from finding the source if you know how, even an excessively rudimentary amount of programming knowledge can get the source of any program within minutes tops. outfiles? Thanks for the game source.

As far as do I support sea piracy, like Somalia? No. I support having the rights of the products being put back where they should be: in the consumer's hands, not the publishers. That is not piracy, it's called freedom. Try not to mix the terms up.

Just like sharing mixtaps and software via burning CDs can't be stopped. Same thing. Even steam games are hideously easy to copy.


Basically: there are 2 words you all need to get out of your head. 1: Piracy. 2: IP. Go look up the real explanations for what those are, and then maybe you'll start seeing where things went wrong.
Posted 13:01 on 21 October 2008
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Gronath

@ the DRM discussion: I wonder what sort of relationship some companies are trying to establish with their costumers and potential costumers. Reasoning some points raised by gamers in the revision of his Gamers Bill of Rights, Brad Wardell he argued that, "...the person who makes the thing has the right to distribute it how they want. If I spend $5 million making a game, someone paying $50 doesn't "own" it." in response to, "DRM is just wrong in principle, you buy something, you own it and should be able to do whatever you want."
While the latter claim was poorly phrased IMO, there's something there. As Randy Stude said, PC gamers stablish a long term relationship with titles, that means they may want to revisit their old games ten years from the time they originally bought it and if the publisher limits their relationship (through limited installs or the necessity for a certifying system that may not be up anymore after those ten years, it's a big deal. Also, whenever I pay for something, I want full control over that one thing. If I'm buying a copy of a game, it would be ridiculous for me to consider I own the IP for it, but I'd like to be able to do with that copy pretty much the same things I'd be able to with a physical property: use it whenever I feel like it, store it, lend it, sell it, give it away. Right now, companies are taking that relationship away from gamers. They should use the correct terminology then when they're "selling" their games. Instead of "Buy it!", they should phrase it "Lease it!"
Posted 12:33 on 21 October 2008
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PSmith

Finally, someone who actually knows what he's talking about, talking about the 'death of PC gaming'. What a refreshing change from all the rubbish you see written about this everywhere else. Good on you Randy, and I'm glad you're head of the PCGA!
Posted 11:42 on 21 October 2008
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Matt

This DRM stance is just silly. He thinks "Spore DRM was a bit much .. should have given you more activations". That line of thinking is just going from stupid to slightly-less-stupid. Eventually you will run out. Or it just won't work at all. But it'll be cracked anyway.

And he wants to add MORE DRM? Throughout the entire production now? Surely that will cripple the DEVELOPERS too and add to the production costs, then consumers will have to wait longer and pay more, all because of supposed piracy prevention. Then they will blame the pirates when PC gaming dies.

Enough! Cut your losses and stop wasting your time and money, and mine* with this ridiculous DRM.

*Okay, it's actually saving me time and money because I didn't buy Spore due to DRM and won't be buying similarly-crippled titles in future.
Posted 11:32 on 21 October 2008
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ThorAxe

With PC games worldwide dominance in the market there is no longer a need for PC gamers to worry.

For example Microsoft made $7.1 Billion from their gaming division in 2007. This looks impressive until you realise that it includes hardware sales. If you just focus on software then that number is down to about $3.95 Billion and that is being generous.

Compare that with PC game sales revenue of $11.3 Billion (according to dfcint.com) and you see that the PC has nearly 3x the revenue.

Admittedly Microsoft had only sold about 16 million 360s to the end of 2007 so the software sales revenue will be much greater this year and the 360 enjoys a much better attach rate than the PC (about 7 times better).

However, taking a very, very rough estimate, the 360 needs to reach sales of 45 million units before it is any threat to the PC’s dominance in revenue and that is assuming PC sales do not grow, which it will do given the most recent forecasts.
Posted 08:24 on 21 October 2008
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DrSpock

I don't understand the interviewee's response to what Peter Molyneux said. He did not say there wouldn't be a PC version of Fable 2. In fact, it seems from the way he phrased it he probably wants to do a PC version but isn't 100% sure about it yet.

I think the interviewee claiming that the PC is probably not the right fit for Fable II is really stupid, both for the fact that he is supposed to be an industry advocate and for the fact that many PC gamers want to see Fable II on the PC (including myself).
Posted 07:54 on 21 October 2008
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HHH

@matt

I'm insulted by your stupid response. If games are free, why would you need to add DRM to it? Then, what's the point in pirating it when it's free and has no DRM? What are you high on?

Are you protesting DRM or are you promoting piracy? Big difference on the two.

I do believe that developers have the right to protect their income, but Spore DRM is over the top and just plain wrong.
Posted 06:37 on 21 October 2008
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matt

This guy does not represent pc gamers, and I am insulted to hear him claim he does.

DRM must be gone in all forms before consumers will be okay with it. Why? Because there is no way to prevent piracy, piracy will occur no matter what for one specific reason: We want to own what we purchase.

Therefore, the people who buy games exclusively on steam are out of luck when steam is down or their internet dies, or when steam is gone. Some day, you lose what you thought you owned. Whoops!

CDs, on the other hand, you still own. CD key be damned (and proof of a stupid feature in and of itself), the main issue is all the same:

publishers don't like giving people control over what they pay for. Plenty of people have shown that when a game is free, there is no piracy. Why is this hard to understand for publishers? The answer is simple: we have ignorant organizations like PCGA claiming they represent pc gamers, and they don't.
Posted 05:35 on 21 October 2008
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StormHammer

I see that Randy mentions the issue around SecuROM, and I'm glad to see someone within the PCGA taking notice. I've fallen foul of SecuROM 7.xx myself - I blame it for killing a DVD drive, and it was very difficult to remove because there was no uninstaller for it with the game. This kind of activity on the part of the publishers hardly builds trust with their potential audience, and personally I have stopped buying most of the PC releases until I can discover if they use SecuROM or not. StarForce also gave me problems.

I'm not fond of activation limits either, and prefer the old CD check with CD key personally. Publishers just have not fully thought it through concerning hardware failures, overclocking, reformats and OS reinstalls, and simple upgrades that means many PC gamers will reach the activation limits in a very short time and be left hanging on a tech support line to get another activation while being charged for the privilege. That doesn't build good customer relations, and just gives the impression they're trying to squeeze you for every cent possible for no good reason.

After all, if it is not clear by now that DRM does nothing to prevent piracy, then people in the industry need a short, sharp shock to jolt them out of the perception that DRM is doing any good. Games like Spore, which have some of the most draconian DRM, have been pirated, so the DRM has categorically failed in that task. Which seems to indicate that DRM is only being used to try and control the activity of gamers who make legitimate game purchases, and restrict what they can do with a game. In my view, that is just wrong - and places unnecessary barriers between PC gamers and the games they want to buy and play. Barriers that console gamers never see, because they are free to play a game on consoles belonging to their friends, to rent the game and play it in it's entirety without buying it, and to sell it on without issue. Why are PC gamers being treated so differently? There is a disparity in the games market already, and DRM is just making things even worse.

I've been gaming on PC for over 25 years (I'm 40+ now), and it is my platform of choice - but at this point I have simply stopped buying the majority of PC games coming to market. I've gone from buying a couple of games a month, to now looking at my second purchase for this entire year in Fallout 3 (the other one was Witcher: Enhanced). I'm sure there are many other gamers taking the same stance (from the many internet forums I've read), which means the PC game industry is losing sales - lots of sales. And that doesn't make good business sense, in my view.

So I hope the PCGA will be taking some serious steps to redress the balance, and make PC gaming enjoyable once more.
Posted 22:57 on 20 October 2008
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CannibalBob

Hey I notice Randy mentions Steam quite a bit but doesn't really expand. One great thing steam does is it simplifies playing games. You don't have to install games anymore, steam does that all for you. It could use more work (in terms of finding/installing new drivers) but regardless it's a helluva lot easier than putting in a CD and installing on your own.

I also want to add that I notice he mentions a lot of stats. I'm sure those stats rely heavily on Blizzard's performance. IMO that's a problem with PC gaming, which is Blizzard's monopoly. If people are already enjoying and playing a game for long periods of time (aka Warcraft 3, and WoW), what makes you think they'll readily buy a new non-Blizzard game and play that for long periods of time, instead?
Posted 22:13 on 20 October 2008
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RecoN

Just to prove that consoles are not always the best option!
I played Pure demo on ps3 which kicks out at 720p, i have the full game on 360 which kicks out at 1080p. I bought the pc version real cheap of my mate who prefers his console format.

PS3 version is sharper and not as many jaggered edges imo compared tot he 360 version. Now the 360 has a higher resolution, but fails on sharpness and quality a little....BUT!!!!!

The pc version on max settings on my 40" 1080p lcd tv is far more superior to the console versions. I mean it literally knocks the crap out of them! Im shocked to be honest. No word of a lie my gf came in from work and said "I didnt notice the hdr lighting and shadows before, did you turn them off before or something?" I just smiled and shown her the pc case and she was like i thought it looked better than usual.

Before any fanboys start, no im not knocking consoles, im just stating that games should be considered for all formatts. Disney got the idea and got it to work. Quality in all 3 arent that much difference. But ive been playing the console version for a few days and i really can notice the difference straight after.

Ive pre ordered dead space and farcry 2 on pc. Along with SE of Fallout 3. Just to prove to other game publishers that if they put there heart and soul into it and trust gamers, they will get rewarded for the efforts.

Long live PC!
Posted 19:06 on 20 October 2008
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RecoN

Yes this guy is very interesting. <-- I guessed we gathered that :lol: But he doesn't say PC is the best, hes basically saying if consoles can do it, theres no doubt a PC is capable. And its nice to here it in a polite way rather than him stating for example "PC's are what made gaming today"
Hes not even being biased. He's always talking about reading gamers opinions and views, which i think is great because hes listening to the audience.

I really like this guy :)
Posted 15:09 on 20 October 2008

Game Stats

Release Date: 02/11/2007
Developer: Flagship Studios
Publisher: Namco
Genre: Fantasy RPG
Rating: BBFC 15
Site Rank: 376
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