Twenty years ago, if you wanted to make a real game you made it for the PC. The toughest choice was to support either an Adlib card or a Sound Blaster card.
Now, game developers have to decide between PC, High End Consoles (Xbox/Playstation), Family consoles Wii), Handhelds, iOS, Android, or Web.
My answer remains the same: It depends on the type of game you want to make. And the type of game you want to make should also consider how much money you have available to you.
The answer, however, is not good news for PC gamers.
If you’re a lone developer or maybe are a developer with an artist friend, the iOS devices look promising. Big studios will continue to target the big consoles while up and coming studios are increasingly targeting Xbox Live Arcade. Where does that leave the PC? I don’t have an answer for that.
I’ve read so many “The PC is d0med” articles that no one really knows what it means. The PC isn’t doomed. But its piece of the growing slice will continue to decrease and fragment on genre and business model.
Piracy, or more accurately, the perception that piracy is a massive sales killer, continues to be a driving force in the PC development community. While piracy exists on all platforms, there is no doubt that the PC remains the platform with the highest % of people playing games who haven’t actually paid for them. Whether this really tangibly affects profits will be a subject for debate forever. The argument, however, is irrelevant because the people who make the budget decisions are convinced that piracy is a major revenue killer on the PC. This is giving rise to new revenue models (Free to Play, subscriptions, always online, etc.) that are much more difficult to pirate than the traditional models.
The biggest loss to traditional PC gamers is going to be felt from the games that just won’t be made anymore for the PC. Those games made by indies who migrate to greener pastures. This is largely a distribution issue more than anything. There is no PC equivalent to Xbox Live or the iPhone App Store (and no, Steam and Impulse don’t even remotely come close right now, though hopefully that will change in time as these services become more widely spread and provide much MUCH better streamlining for indies).
Another tough area for 2011 for PC gamers is going to be the loss of retail shelf space. Expect to see the major retailers chop their PC game sections even further. This will make it even tougher for the bigger studios to justify PC versions because, despite what some may lead you to believe, major titles still mostly sell at retail and not digitally.
On the other hand, the free to play model works best on the PC right now and that is an area that I think may become very exciting in the next couple of years. As a big believer of making games and supporting them long-term, I like this idea if you can actually make a sustainable living supporting these games long-term. It requires a significant logistical investment to do free to play.
All in all, 2011 is likely to be a pretty decent year for PC games. Better than 2010 I believe.