I think Double Fine’s games have to be on PC. Read on for my justification, and why it’s probably not going to happen just yet.
I am not just whining about not getting these games on my favourite platform (honest). However, I cannot deny I just simply prefer playing games wherever possible on PC. I own Psychonauts on Xbox and I’ve barely touched it, but I own three copies of the PC version (CD original, European DVD, and finally Steam version) which I’ve replayed several times to completion. If a game comes out on consoles and PC, I’ll always pick the PC version. Every. Single. Time. I just feel more immersed in that environment, it’s just me and it. With consoles there is always a slight disconnect, a distance.
Nevertheless, that’s the least important reason for my ranting. Nor is it the fact that since my consoles are in the UK and I’m here in China, the only way I’ll be able to play Double Fine’s games is via PC for now. No PC version, no play for me. I can’t even replay Brutal Legend, something I really want to do. If Telltale release a game on their site the entire world can play it, because everyone’s got a computer that can run them. Not everyone has a 360/PS3 and an HDTV with them at all times.
So my most important reasons then? There are two.
Number One: Sales
A rather surprising one perhaps, considering how narrow-minded publishers like to characterize the PC as a tiny market full of pirates.
This of course is complete tosh, particularly when it comes to digital distribution. Steam alone has more than 30 million users now, and indie developers are becoming real successes by using it. Introversion for example, makers of Uplink and Darwinia, only survive because of Steam after the Xbox Live version of Darwinia+ tanked. PC gamers have embraced digital distribution, and the success of Telltale (combined with their virtual abandonment of Xbox Live) should illustrate this quite clearly.
The sales are there, and it’s quite astonishing that companies like EA (DeathSpank, now out on PC) and THQ (who release basically everything on PC) wouldn’t want a PC version of Double Fine’s games or see the benefits for sales. EA I can sort of forgive since Brutal Legend was heavily advertised as a very consoley game (hack-n-slash with crazy driving), but THQ?
I actually think there’s not so much a lack of confidence in the platform as there is a lack of confidence in Double Fine themselves. Brutal Legend was, sadly speaking, a disaster for EA after the heavy marketing they put behind it, and the word-of-mouth was (for the first time in Tim’s history) actually negative. The game was heavily hyped and failed to advertise exactly what type of game it was, and the internet didn’t like that.
We love Double Fine, but publishers must be looking at them warily by now. They don’t want any risk or extra costs with them at all, so that means console-only – and not even all consoles. The trouble is that strategy won’t work. As a great man once said, “risk is part of the game if you want to sit in that chair”. He may have been talking about captaining a starship, but I think it applies to all walks of life. Low risk reaps minimal rewards.
And what the heck am I on about, there’s no f***ing risk in the first place! Quirky indie games are the PC’s forté!
Number Two: Lifeline
Sales are debatable. This is not. If you release a game on PC, it’ll live forever. Despite being surrounded in rights issues preventing a re-release, I can still play 1996’s System Shock on my modern PC. I cannot play 1997’s GoldenEye on my Wii.
Some games are lucky - Psychonauts was a cult hit despite not selling well, so it got an Xbox Live re-release and can be played using the system’s backwards compatibility. However, the same did not happen with Deus Ex: Invisible War, 007: From Russia With Love or Destroy All Humans 2. All major games that will never be played on current consoles. I’m still playing my copy of Day of the Tentacle from thirteen years ago (would have got it earlier, but that was the year we bought our first PC).
Think Brutal Legend will still be playable in 2023? Hell, it’ll probably be dead by this time next year. EA have a habit of shutting down multiplayer servers as they showed earlier this year, so I don’t expect it to survive much longer. Furthermore, backwards compatibility and re-releases on future consoles are by no means certain.
Still, at least you can definitely keep your PS3/360 and Brutal Legend disc and play it that way, right? Well, that doesn’t apply to Xbox Live/PSN games. Unless you permanently keep Costume Quest on your hard drive forever, as soon as the system goes offline there’ll be no way to get those games again. Unless they’re downloadable for the next system too of course… but then the console would have to be fully backwards compatible.
Steam, I do believe, will be around forever. The PC certainly will be anyway. If I buy a digital game from a secure, established website (say, this one) I think I’ll have the ability to double-click, download and play it any time on any of my next three computers.
Certain? Is anything certain other than death, taxes and LucasArts using the hiring of a new president to fire almost all their employees? Nevertheless I think it’s a safe bet that this generation’s Xbox Live will be dead before Steam.
This is why I want Double Fine to come back to PC. I don’t just want to play their games, I want to play them a decade from now. If I think in November 2020 “hmm, I feel like playing Costume Quest again, that was a great little game” I want to be able to do it.
Do you want that too Double Fine? Do you want your games to be available like classic books or films, so future fans of yours can easily go back and play your early games the way I did with Zak McKracken and Loom with LucasArts? Or do you want your games to be put on YouTube and never to be loved again? Some life.
Okay, it may not be your choice, but I want to play Costume Quest dammit! You just show that you can make successful games and the publishers will give you permission to make it for (in their view) “slightly riskier” platforms.
Wait, what’s that? Stacking isn’t going to be on PC either?
Chris ‘The Tingler’ Capel