The past several years have seen a steady drumbeat of negative prognostications for PC gaming, both as a creative medium and as a viable business. High-profile releases were steered to living room consoles, with perfunctory PC ports at best, and messy DRM and hardware incompatibility made many of the remaining PC games more trouble than they were worth.
Magazines such as Computer Gaming World shut down (after an embarrassing sponsored name change to Games for Windows Magazine) and the only bright spot seemed to be the online multiplayer game World of Warcraft--even if other MMO entries found it hard to bottle that lightning twice.
No one was more at the forefront playing Taps for PC gaming than myself, having gone from a cheerleading booster to sober realist in the space of a few short years.
Yet, for the first time in a long time, I find myself much more interested in what's going on the PC side of the video game industry than the console side. My office and home laptops are suddenly buzzing with new and upcoming games, including StarCraft II, Civilization V, and OnLive's various streaming-game offerings--whereas this year's big list of holiday season console releases elicits a shrug at best, filled by the annual installments of mass-market cash cows. How did this potential reversal of fortune take place?
First, the companies that make PC games and the consumers who play them all seemingly decided it was OK to stretch the boundaries and leave their respective comfort zones. The seeds were planted over the past few years as game publishers opened the door to new ways to distribute their wares, losing the most frustrating parts of the DRM equation with services such as Steam and Battle.net (say what you will about online authentication, it works a lot better than discs, especially for those of us who like to install games on multiple PCs).
The next step was online stores like Good Old Games that offer classic games for less than $10, completely DRM-free. It's amazing how much goodwill one can build up by not treating customers like criminals.… Read more