The head of Electronic Arts John Riccitiello believes that the future of gaming is in the PC. In an interview with CNBC, he addresses “a perception among investors that the game industry is tough to invest in right now” by questioning the validity of NPD reports that only count boxed retail sales in the US.
Riccitiello used PC gaming as the biggest example of how the gaming industry is changing. “Just five years ago people said that the PC game business was in a radical state of decline because NPD said it was down 10 percent, 20 percent, 30 percent, year-in year-out,” he said. He further added, “The fastest growing platform for video games today is the PC, but it’s going through subscriptions, through micro transactions and through downloads.”
PC gaming has the advantage of convenience over other gaming platforms. You can buy and download a PC game, start playing an MMO, buy DLC and expansion packs, all without ever leaving your computer. More and more players who don’t usually buy or play games are using the PC to do things that are also possible on the PlayStation3 or the Xbox360. Premium DLC and subscription fees are making PC games profitable, though this business model remains unproven for the consoles yet. This was described by Riccitiello as, “the culture of building something like a Broadway play where you go on every night instead of a canned television performance that’s done once and it’s done.”
EA are shifting from a packaged goods company to a “service business”, according to Riccitiello, and he uses the FIFA games as an example. The previous titles in the series gained large audiences that dropped off after a month or so. With FIFA 12, supported regularly with new updates, “we had five million players that first week and now it’s July, and we’ve had no fewer than four and a half million players since then.”
Riccitiello also suggests that the free-to-play offerings by EA are on the grow, and hints that The Old Republic’s move to make the first 15 levels of the game free has proved successful.
The PC gaming platform was said to be on the decline during the heyday of the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3. Many publishers and developers blamed the platform for low sales due to piracy. The truth was that these developers and publishers would rush out a straight and horrible port to the PC. Mostly, these ports were poorly optimized and locked at a framerate of 30 frames per second, whereas most computers would be capable of running at 60 frames per second and make the animations smoother.
Recently though, companies such as Valve, Blizzard and RIOT Games have proven that the PC is a very strong platform.