With the year coming to a close, I wanted to reflect on what transpired throughout the year and put it into words. There’s no doubt that the PC gaming scene in 2018 had its fair share of ups and downs. Yet in the end, I feel that it’s still doing incredibly well and has shown to be a viable gaming platform. More so now than ever with more eyes looking toward the platform, I figured it was time to my feelings into words and talk about my favorite gaming platform.
The PC is dead, long live the PC
Ah, yes. The age-old proclamation that PC gaming is dead. Yet, here we are in 2018 and the PC has seen perhaps one its biggest boosts in years. We’ve seen more people attempting to build their own PCs to start getting into gaming. Multiple commercials showing off PC gaming (did you catch the one from Dell with Dauntless?), and several stores including Walmart that are now selling their own brand of PCs (though I really wouldn’t buy those). Living rooms are suddenly finding more and more gaming PCs in them or a device/application that lets you stream from your PC to your TV. Compound that with more AAA titles making their way over to the platform, it goes to tell that story that PC gaming is far from dead.
Let’s also drop that “You can only play a computer game with a keyboard” nonsense because that’s beyond tired. In fact, the PC can use just about every controller out there. It’s easy for anyone to use their favorite controller on the PC and sure it might take some time to get it working, but it will work.
The Rise of the Digital Storefronts
What started off as a pretty typical year for PC gaming in terms of where we get our games. It was pretty boring. We either turned to Steam, GOG, Origin, uPlay or any number of storefronts. However, two major interruptions occurred as Summer 2018 approached. The first being Discord announcing that they were going to set up their own storefront and offer a curated number of games to appeal to not only users of Discord, but also gamers in general. It was an announcement that really didn’t go over to well and I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t on board with the idea either. Things took a turn for the worse when the store eventually launched and it was noticed that Discord ended up poaching games that were slated to be released on Steam, with their “First on Discord” initiative. Grabbing several titles from Steam, which still don’t have a release date on Steam as of yet. The gaming community didn’t exactly like what Discord was doing and was very vocal about it all.
More recently, Discord also announced they were also going to help publishers self-publish their titles. Not only will they provide the tools to do this, but they’re also providing a very nice 90/10 revenue split, which will put more money back into the pockets of the developers. This is all still new, so we don’t know the specifics of it all. But Discord assures us we’ll find out more about this come 2019.
More recently was the announcement that Epic Games wanted to get in on the action and also launched their own storefront. While they already had their own launcher where you could play several games, including Fortnite. They wanted to help publisher and developers not only get their games to market, but they also wanted to provide them with more cash in their pockets. To do this, Epic offered an 88/12 revenue split, which would entice developers to publish with them. Games published on Epic’s store would be exclusive for some time and several titles that were planned for Steam ended up on the store and either got delayed or removed from Steam completely. I especially didn’t like that tactic, neither did countless others.
However, it was more than enough to get several developers to move their once Steam planned releases over to Epic’s storefront. We’ve seen Ashen, Hades and even Super Meat Boy Forever make the jump over to the platform. While we’ve yet to see when those titles will make it over to Steam – if they even do. I’m sure these won’t be the last set of titles that end up being pulled from Steam.
Still, I applaud Epic for trying to give back more money to developers. Especially since Steam demanded their 30% from all sales, it really made you wonder if they really needed that. The rise of this store is the first of many that have come to challenge Steam and could possibly get them to lower their revenue requirements. It’s either that or we’ll see more developers choosing to go with other storefronts in the upcoming months.
Outside of those two big developments, not much has changed. Steam is still steam, although they did announce an 80/20 revenue split if you pull in more than $50 million in sales. Something that not a lot of smaller devs do.
EA’s Origin Access is slowly becoming more accepted. More so since this is the only place to get EA’s games and the arrival of Madden 19 back to the PC, along with Battlefield V really helped cement its position. A big win for EA was the launch of their Origin Access Premier. A new subscription-based service that’s very similar to Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass. For $14.99 monthly, gamers get access to the entire Origin vault, plus early access to new games – full access with no time restrictions. So far EA has stated how the service is working out for them, though I expect that to change once Anthem gets released.
uPlay is in a weird position as they still sell their games on Steam, while only requiring you to use the launcher to play them. Though I have a suspicion that this won’t stay that way for long. Look for things to get shaken up a bit when The Division 2 launches.
Battle.net also saw a couple of big wins with the release of not only Destiny 2 but also Call of Duty: Black Ops 4. Both AAA titles are using Battle.net, instead of Steam and suddenly PC gamers had a need to install Battle.net, that is if they weren’t already playing World of Warcraft, Hearthstone, Overwatch or any of Blizzard’s titles. However, towards the end of 2018, things look to be somewhat bleak. With Activision in the picture, many wonder if Blizzard can continue to be their own entity, without bending to the influence of Activision. Making things worse is that Mike Morhaime retired this year and now the company is without his steadfast leadership.
There’s just so much going on in this space that 2019 is going to be really interesting for the digital storefront wars. Discord and Epic firing the first shots are just a taste of what’s to come.
Still, if I had to sum up this scenario in one word, it would be fragmentation.
2018 was a great year for anyone looking to upgrade their gaming PC. Thanks to AMD, we’ve had several low-priced CPU opinions to choose from. All of which were good for gaming and productivity. Then Intel came along with their latest processors in an attempt to put AMD on notice. While this really didn’t phase AMD, it was nice to see some competition in the CPU scene starting to heat up. A battle which will be kicked into overdrive when the upcoming Ryzen 2 CPU’s are released in 2019.
As for GPU’s, well, that was a different story. Both Nvidia and AMD managed to sell a boatload of GPU’s, however, AMD’s offering which was supposed to provide a viable solution to Nvidia’s dominant line of video cards was more of a fizzle than anything else. This only compounded PC gamer’s frustration when the top of the line Nvidia cards; namely the GTX 1080 Ti, GTX 1080 and even the GTX 1070’s were being purchased by crypto miners. A frustration that lasted for several months with AMD failing to capitalize on. Suddenly cards that were $500-$600, were being sold for twice their original asking price – that really was a terrible time. Thankfully that has only really recently settled down, with a Nvidia grabbing a firm hold of the GPU shortage and gamers finally were able to get the cards they sorely wanted. All was good, for a time. Until Nvidia attempted to turn the GPU market on its head with the arrival of the RTX line-up.
The RTX video cards are Nvidia’s latest GPU that intro Raytracing into PC gaming and even now, it’s still unproven. Not to mention that the cards are super expensive, depending on where you jump in. Sure, video cards are expensive, they always have. But $1200 USD or more for a single card is a bit of stretch for many gamers. If you aren’t an influencer, blessed with cash or had a blending wallet/purse, an RTX card was simply out of your reach. It still remains to be seen if the cards are worth the cash. Still, with Nvidia killing off the GTX 1080 TI, which is still an amazing card that can be had for less than half of what it costs for an RTX 2080 Ti and still puts out a great deal of performance.
Speaking of Raytracing, I really don’t expect it to gain a lot of traction. It’s expensive on both your money and resources. Not to mention games need to support it and there’s not a lot of push in the PC sector for this. Don’t expect to this being pushed until gaming consoles, very the majority of gaming development is, support this. And I don’t we’ll see this in the next generation of consoles. Perhaps the ones after that.
For streamers, 2018 was also a good year. Sure, we got nice CPU’s and GPU’s, but we also saw the rise of 4K capture cards. While Elgato arrived on the scene in 2017 with their 4K 60 Pro capture card, AverMedia fired back with not one but two different 4K capture devices. Both of which seem to received well by a multitude of console streamers.
All in all, it’s been a great year with a few dips here and there. But seriously Nvidia, $1200 and up for a consumer-grade video card? What the hell are you thinking?
What about Linux
Another big strive in 2018 was Linux gaming. While Valve’s Steam OS initiative didn’t pan out as planned, there has been some rather interesting developments this year. While GOG and Steam have been available for some time, the number of titles that are available for the platform was always the issue. However, Valve made a rather interesting announcement with the launch of Proton Steam Play. Utilizing Wine and the VULKAN API, this new fork is capable of games that were once only available on Windows. I gave it a spin earlier this year and while it was a bit rough then, it definitely showed promise. Fast-forward to today and I’ve heard all sorts of good stuff about the offering. Adding to that are existing services such as PlayOnLinux and Lutris, there’s definitely a lot going on for Linux gaming in 2018 and I expect to see that carry over into 2019. This goes double for developers offering native Linux support in their titles. PC gaming isn’t just for Windows anymore, that’s for sure.
As for keeping tabs on which games are available via Steam Play and Proton, be sure to check out ProtonDB. It is a website that tracks compatibility of games that work with Proton and Steam Play.
It’s all about those games
Another big reason to cheer for PC gaming in 2018 was the sheer amount of titles that arrived on the platform. Titles such as Monster Hunter: World, Dragon Ball FighterZ, Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom, just to a name a few. But what’s interesting about that list is that these are all games that may have only been released onto consoles, years prior. We even saw EA’s Madden NFL series long-awaited return to the platform, after being absent for the past decade. Unlike before, the PC is now on the minds of developers and publishers, more so than ever before. Which means the platform will see the very same games that would only arrive on the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One. Which is great for those who want to play those sort of games, but with higher resolutions, more detailed and even mod support.
There’s more to come as well. The 2019 line-up already shows great promise with Resident Evil 2 Remake, Devil May Cry 5, Anthem, Metro Exodus, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, Crackdown 3, Gear of War 5, Shenmue 5, The Outer Worlds, Ace Combat 7, just to name a few. Those are some heavy hitting titles that will grace your PC in 2019.
That’s not to discount the already existing games on the PC, as Fortnite, PUBG, DOTA, Overwatch and several others saw a nice increase of participants in the year. Bungie managed to pull Destiny 2 out of the dumpster fire with the release of Forsaken. While Warframe showed that it still commands a huge online presence and even dropped a new expansion (check it out if you haven’t). We also saw the rise of more Battle Royale games, some of which aren’t with us anymore, others are in rebuild mode. While even popular entries such as Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 have embraced the BR mod and introduced Blackout mode. Not only does it show that tossing in Battle Royale isn’t a bad move if done properly but I feel that it even managed to outclass another popular BR title while doing so.
Indie games also saw a lot of attention this year, despite suffering due to the huge amount of competition from other indie games on a crowded platform. Still, Dead Cells finally managed to hit retail and turns the heads of those who never heard of the game. So that’s good, while other indies such as The Messenger conjured the magic of games from old. Here’s looking forward to more indie titles in 2019. Don’t forget about Supergiant Game’s release of Hades. Good god is that game a blast to play.
However, and you know I had to go there, there was one particular stain thanks to Blizzard. Yes, I’m referring to the Diablo Immortal announcement and all the chaos that was caused thanks to Blizzard making its jump into mobile gaming. Now, I don’t fault the company for doing this. They’re a company and they are looking to make money, it’s only natural. It’s the way they did it. Not only had they been hinting at Diablo 4 for a while now, but the slap in the face with no announcement at Blizzcon 2018 sent shocks throughout the PC gaming community. We’re still seeing people talk about this. Whatever Blizzard has planned, they need to at least try and save face over all this. Should they not want to, I could see people possibly not caring as there are a number of ARPGs being released this and next year. All with the same purpose – take the audience that is frustrated over the state of Diablo.
No more microtransactions
If there was anything that caused a gamer’s mouth to foam up more than anything else, it would be microtransactions. When Star Wars Battlefront II (2017) was released, it was full of microtransactions, many of which altered how the game was played. In implementing this, the game caused quite a bit of frustration and even kicked off multiple conversations on if microtransactions should even be included in games. Fast-forward to 2018 and we’ve several promising AAA games with promises of them to not including microtransactions or limiting them to customization options. Basically no more pay to win and that’s a solid win for all of us. And so I’m perfectly clear, EA wasn’t the only company to litter its games with microtransactions.
Still, I’m not sure we’ve seen the end of microtransactions and I’m willing to bet money we’ll see them causing more trouble in 2019. I think, for now, companies will just wait and see if it’s viable to add them for other than customization and I won’t be surprised if pay to win finds its way back into several games in the coming year.
As for the government getting involved in all this since they deem microtransactions as gambling, I’m not 100% sure with this. On one hand, I’m glad to see that the law is seeing this as an issue. Yet the law has yet to show me that they even have an understanding of how impactful this all is. Because not all microtransactions are bad, only they don’t get that. They’re holding on to this as an older form of gambling and not fully getting the concept of the subject. I definitely think that it’s the gaming industry that should be regulating this all – with the government only stepping in when this doesn’t happy. Perhaps we need a governing body in the gaming industry that does nothing but handling thiSimilarlar to what the ESRB does for ratings.
What to look forward to
With 2019 right around the corner, the future for the PC platform has never been brighter. However, the biggest thing to look forward to is the rise of the new digital storefronts. While it’s too early to tell, I can see both Discord and Epic’s storefronts to put some much-needed pressure on Valve. Which will hopefully lead to them providing a better revenue split and even re-ignite the passion that gave us Steam in the first place. Of course, be sure to be on the look at for those AAA titles I mentioned previously.
Expect higher framerates to be a big deal going forward. We’ve seen multiple console ports provide higher framerates for their PC counterparts in various resolutions. This is going to be even more commonplace, which will help drive more gamers toward the PC as the place to be for the best gaming experience – if you have the money.
This year was a great year for PC gaming. It’s ending on a strong note, and 2019 will be an even better year. We’ve seen a lot of good stuff happening, we’ve seen the platform thriving and there are no signs of that stopping.