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In The Service Of The Game

An observation of the trend towards exclusive gaming services and the effect on the PC gamer.

Sam Reese, Blogger

July 13, 2011

5 Min Read

In the beginning a game was developed . The game was good and fun and the game was played.

Mistakes were made and players applied their own patches.

The players smiled and the developers profited.

Thus the Universe looked down upon it's sybiotic creation and said "This is good""


Fast forward to today and see what the ManDev has wrought.

In case you were not paying close attention the past few months you might find yourself looking at a new and evolving gaming landscape.

That landscape is the land of gaming as a service.

While gaming services are not new they are now taking control of gaming and promise to take even more control in the near future.

In console gaming the service was born and is in a mature business model phase with XboxLive and The Playstation Network.

Somewhat boxed in (pun intended) those services are limited by dated technology and the growth potential is hamstrung for the near future and thus relies more on distributed services that move the focus off of gaming.

Distributed services such as movies and microtransactions that have less to do with the actual gaming and more to do with multimedia delivery and pubescent status.

So where are more profits to be found?

In the under reported numbers of PC Gamers.

The last bastion of the pure state of gaming, PC Gaming , is sounding it's death knell but you can't hear it.

You can't hear it because it's pitch is lower than the screech of those game developers who are in combat.

Activision from it's perch and EA vying for part of those billions of COD dollars.

With the announcement of COD Elite , the new service promised by Activision which will cover the COD series, are the chess pieces  being rearranged to take the PC gamer into the solitary confines of a Service .

In response and or in lockstep with the trend EA has announced it's Origin Gaming Service.

Origin appears to be revealing itself as an EA exclusive service.

In fact it is unknown at this time whether BF3 will be avilable to play anywhere but on the Origin service.

Recent comments made by David DeMartini, who now heads EA's Origin platform suggest the strain between Steam and EA.

The developers see opportunities for growth and are mimicking the Steam service that PC gamers have , arguably, just come to accept en masse.

Change is good sometimes.

Yet change in and of itself is neither good nor bad.

What will determine whether the disappearance of the classic model of PC gaming will be missed is whether these services will deliver what the gamer wants as opposed to what the publisher wants them to think they want.

Social networking is nice yet services such as Facebook and Twitter are not integral to playing video games.

In game Voip is integral for many players yet the separation of the gamers between services will mean that a third party app like Skype,Teamspeak , Ventrillo or messaging will have to be used to knit the communities back together during gameplay.

I wonder if we are seeing the last of the hardcore, clan centric players being driven to indie games that are less exclusive and more eager to please the old school communities.

Communities from another era that great franchises like Call of Duty were built from.

Statistics and much more is on the docket because whoever can deliver the most will believe they are offering the most value.

When I look at the potential of using multiple services for many different games the risk of isolating gamers from each other and creating a gaming Tower Of Babel where social communication becomes a burden rather than a united tool seems like a real possibility.

The question of who I talk to, on what service, for what game and who is on at any give time is a disturbing one.

Of course in Computer Science there is the Divide and Conquer Algorithm described this way:

In computer science, divide and conquer (D&C) is an important algorithm design paradigm based on multi-branched recursion. A divide and conquer algorithm works by recursively breaking down a problem into two or more sub-problems of the same (or related) type, until these become simple enough to be solved directly. The solutions to the sub-problems are then combined to give a solution to the original problem.

Remember that the original problem here is domination of the gaming landscape and we the gamers are the pawns in the equation.

With current dev-pop language including such terms a value added, exclusivity, packaged goods and the like we are being reduced to an algorithm that is not user friendly by definition.

One close look at the steam platform shows that the weakest link in it is the anonymity between gamers.

One has to be able to use the service without the feeling of being used by it.

Obtrusive popups and intrusions into the gaming experience are the norm for Steam and barely outweigh the positives of automatic updates for this gamer.

Add in the use of third party applications to unite players across services and one has to ask the question.

Will the publisher not be boxed in as much or maybe more than the gamers themselves.

The old ways are gone.

Of course hardcore gamers even in their shrinking numbers are still savvy enough to form clans and use applications such as Xfire, TS, and Vent.

These things have worked well  and that is why educated PC gamers use them.

But who asked us anyways?

See you.... In The Services

About the author

Sam Reese aka ibleedv20 is a lifelong gamer of over 40 years and is the host of the CROSSHAIRS webcast where unadulterated and intelligent gamer opinion is aggregated.

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