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Interview: PCGA Restructures Memberships, Seeks Developer Input

The PC Gaming Alliance says it's restructuring its membership and cost plan to lower the barrier to entry for developers, hoping new voices will help its initiatives -- and Gamasutra gets an update on the PCGA's efforts to determine minimum system require
Aiming to allow more developers to participate in its subcommittees and benefit from its research, the PC Gaming Alliance is lowering the barrier to membership with a new cost structure. The PCGA is headed up by Intel director of gaming strategy Randy Stude, who says that the group needs more participation from developers -- many of whom haven't nearly the same kind of budget as a company like Intel. In addition to convening a subcommittee that will begin to address the impact of piracy and the viability of the PC gaming platform, the PCGA is also working collaboratively on research and standards for minimum system requirements that are designed to allow developers to better understand the tech demographics of their userbase and more effectively reach them. Helping Developers Gain A Voice "We needed more of the developers in particular to participate in our endeavors so we could make sure we were serving their needs," Stude tells Gamasutra. "At the same time, we found that membership tiers were out of the reach of most developers' budgets." Developers can now get "Contributor" status, earning them an advisory seat on the PCGA's subcommittee for $5,000 in annual dues, a tier aimed at providing a lower-cost alternative to the more wide-ranging "Promoter" category where fees are $30,000 a year. In addition to the ability to gain a voice in the subcommittees and an advisory role among the tech companies, Contributors also share the PCGA's market research, technology sharing programs and various promotional, sales and marketing-related endeavors. "We wanted to create a tier that would give [developers] the opportunity to work more closely with the Intels and the Nvidias, the Microsofts, and collaborate in marketing programs, even," Stude explains. "The PCGA is going to sponsor activities that will be open to various members that jump in and participate... we'll make that collaboration environment available to members of all tiers." "The point of the exercise is to get their voice and make certain that we're not this group of companies who just the think they have all the answers, that don't represent the developer community as effectively as we believe we should," Stude adds. He says a lot of developers and publishers are already members, but more voices are needed in the forum. The collaborative marketing initiative idea, at least, seems to share commonalities with Microsoft's Games For Windows initiatives, which, like the PCGA, aim to gather developers under a single banner to promote the health of the PC platform. But Stude says there's no discussion or relationship with Games For Windows, although Microsoft is a Promoter-class PCGA member. Progress Report: Current Initiatives Gamasutra caught up with Stude on the status of the PCGA's current initiatives on which it hopes to gain more developer participation. "We are still hammering away at the minimum system requirements committee," he says. That particular committee is working on establishing "consistent guidelines" on appropriate performance criteria for PC gaming. The PCGA's anti-piracy subcommittee only recently kicked off, and while Stude's not ready to announce its charter, "We made it clear that the first agenda is really to get a firm grasp on the size and scope and potential financial impact piracy's having on PC gaming," he explained. "We're not really concerned about comparing to consoles. We're an entity looking out for PC -- how many people are pirating, to a certain extent why they're pirating, and what can be done from a rights management perspective consistently to make the PC Gaming experience better for legitimate consumers." 'We Won't Pick Winners' When the PCGA began to start publicizing those initiatives, says Stude, that's part of what sparked a new wave of interest in participation from developers. "When we talk to developers, what we overwhelmingly heard was, 'we'd love to be participants, but we don't even approach your revenue spectrum -- how can we get in there equitably and still have our voice heard?'" "The security companies that specialize in anti-piracy solutions have started approaching us and wanted to be part of the equation," he adds. But might it create a conflict of interest for an individual rights management solutions company to pay for a voice in a committee devoted to evaluating possible anti-piracy measures? Stude disagrees. "We like the fact that the anti-piracy and DRM companies participate," he says. "That way, there is more consistency... so that gamers don't reject the platform because of DRM." Stude stresses that the subcommittee's role is not to decide on some kind of industry-standard approach to copy protection. "We'll focus on having the right balance, so that consumers can approach PC gaming and not have a fear, based on a $50 investment, on what that might do to their PC, or that they somehow have rights limited," he says. "I believe all the publishers want a consistent approach so that they're not viewed as an outlier in terms of the way they've decided to implement," he adds -- but nonetheless, "we won't pick winners." "There are a lot of different ways to go about it, and the organization is all about free trade and open competition, so that consumers, publishers and developers all get choices for the products they'd like to buy."

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