PC gamers have to fight for PC gaming, and Metal Gear Solid V is a big win
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is releasing on PC, and that’s great news. Rise of the Tomb Raider isn’t releasing on PC, not right away, at least, and that’s not so great. But what it does mean is that console manufacturers see us as competition, and we’re doing pretty well. We attracted a massive game with MGSV, and we’re scary enough that Microsoft has gobbled up Tomb Raider for the Xbox.
A big market for PC games means publishers like Konami have a really good reason to get their games on PC, but comes at the cost of being a threat to console sales. It’s a double-edged sword, and one that PC gamers have to wield themselves: we don’t have a Microsoft or a Sony lobbying for our interests, making deals with Square Enix. We have to do that job ourselves in petitions and on Kickstarter, because even though Microsoft owns the OS most of us play PC games on, it’s doing nothing to help the platform.
Granted, the more power Microsoft exerts on PC gaming, the less Windows feels like a free platform. We’ll take the hands-off approach in favor of more Windows 8 exclusivity deals (ugh), but Microsoft’s willingness to brush us off in favor of selling Xboxes is something we’re left to combat on our own. We have a tough case to make, because publishers like exclusivity deals.
As Ben Kuchera wrote in an editorial about Rise of the Tomb Raider on Polygon, it makes sense that Square Enix would want to reduce risk by taking development and marketing support from Microsoft in return for Xbox exclusivity. That’s fair, and I still wish them success. I don't agree with Kuchera, however, when he writes that "we need to stop looking at these deals purely through the lens of someone who wants to play the game." He's saying we should stop reacting like gamers who want to play Tomb Raider. That's what we are, and we have a right to feel alienated.
Alienating fans is the long term cost of exclusivity. It’s hard to quantify, and we can be won back: we’re already excited about MGSV even though the series snubbed the PC for ages. I’d love for MGS to find a good home here and build a new fanbase, and as Andy wrote last month, it’s a great fit for the PC: a systems-based game that encourages creativity and runs on an engine we’re dying to push to its limit.
But that’s been a long time coming, and something we’ve lobbied for, whereas Tomb Raider was just on PC last year. We didn’t think we had to ask, so when Rise of the Tomb Raider eventually does come to PC, I wonder if it’ll find open arms. Maybe it will—we’ve waited this long for GTA V, so clearly we can be patient—but we certainly don’t depend on any single game to keep us entertained. We might also move on. There’s a power shift happening, and it’s shifting in our direction.
I agree with Kuchera that exclusivity deals can be pragmatic for publishers, but as Microsoft has made clear, we are console competitors. That means we don’t pat them on the back for pragmatic decisions that exclude us—we lobby for our platform. That’s how we get games like Metal Gear Solid V, and it’s why I expect fewer exclusives will leave out the PC in the future. Microsoft and Sony want to include us in their console war, and I think that'll become a losing attitude. We have a lot of money to spend—or not spend—and we’re only getting bigger and louder.
Today’s MGSV announcement is a sign that we’re getting our message across. It’s a great step, at least, when one of gaming’s most important creative people stands in front of a Steam logo and says “yes.” It makes those saying “no” look a bit silly, really.
So, welcome to the party, Snake. Lara and Master Chief couldn’t be here, but I’m sure they send their regards. More chips for us!