Computers are a strange beast. Versatile, yet crippling.
It’s time I got to the final part (before the conclusions, that is) of this long, multi-part rant about game development targets.
So, computers. You’re probably reading this blog on one. Most people with disposable income should probably have one in this day and age. Furthermore, there’s absolutely no additional costs to releasing games for the platform except for the licensing costs to decode whatever format of audio or video file you decide do use (which can be dodged by using OGG files, and this cost is avoided by releasing on game systems and tablets, since the device is what will be decoding them).
And, since you theoretically don’t have to deal with anyone specific to release games on it, you should be fine, right?
The internet is far too vast, nobody will find your game unless you advertise heavily or deal with major platforms like Steam. Or should I say “platform”? Steam is pretty much the only big player on the market (I refuse to acknowledge Origin, and most of the others that aren’t free flash sites are still small, but slowly growing).
Due to this, Steam is pretty much the holy grail here if you’re not releasing on Mac (in which case you have to deal with the Mac App Store instead if you want good market penetration) or Linux (for which Steam is coming, just wait). Windows 8 will have a dedicated marketplace, too, but games for it will mainly need to implement Windows 8 features or get tossed into the Legacy section.
But you can’t get on Steam very easily, which makes it as rare as the holy grail. Nor does getting on Steam automatically equal success, so…
In any real event, the reality of developing for PC is that you get less exposure if you can’t get on one of those major platforms. But, unlike the other development targets, it’s not like it’s your only option.
Want a physical release of your title? There are services out there that can print copies of your game, one at a time, on DVDs or Blu-Ray discs, or even USBs, and you can have custom logos on the USBs, double-sided cover art and inserts for the DVD/BD cases, and custom printed images on the discs. Yes, you can have them shrink-wrapped in the factory before they’re sent out, too, and they go directly to the customer.
Sure, you don’t make as much of a profit margin, but there is a market for people who want physical copies of their games so they don’t lose it in a computer crash or if you’re forced to remove it from Steam or something for some reason.
And that’s something you outright don’t have the option to do without a publisher for all other platforms (or at all for the smartphone and tablet market), in which case you’d also sidestep every single other problem I listed, but you’d also open a whole new can of worms. It’s just not worth it.
You lose a whole bunch of problems while opening a bunch of new ones. At the same time, the possibilities for how you can go about releasing a game are endless. This openness is unlike any other platform out there, and I doubt any will ever come that can hold a candle to it.
Table of contents can be found here.