Why PC games need E3 now more than ever before

Friday, 6 June 2014 11:52 GMT By Dave Cook

E3 has long stood as a launch-pad for the biggest console titles gaming has to offer, but right now the PC market needs the show more than ever.

e3 2012

”By signing with Sony, indie teams can have the professionals handle all of those headaches and promote their project at shows like E3 2014, right under the noses of the world’s industry critics. This leaves them free to do what they do best: make interesting, innovative and thought-provoking experiences.”

We’ve already written about why E3 2014 is a vital event for the console market. Both Sony and Microsoft need to show that those multi-million dollar projects, with their hundreds of staff and high production values, really can survive the industry’s choppy waters.

Spending millions on a game that fails is simply not an option any more. Things need to improve or there will be an increase in studio closures, lay-offs and franchise annualisation. Nobody really wants these things to happen, let’s be honest with ourselves.

It’s a common belief that these matters don’t concern the PC market, what with over 65 million Steam users keeping the market afloat, and the influx of indie darlings making interesting projects on a shoestring budget. Why should bedroom coders give a toss whether their passion project appears on that sweaty Los Angeles show floor? What possible reason could they have for wanting a piece of that action?

Nidhogg

Nidhogg will be at Sony’s E3 2014 booth…

They should care, because the volatility of the PC market is increasing thanks to its own unfettered success. Just recently, respected indie developer Jeff Vogel penned a blog that addressed fears over visibility and profitability within the indie market. The biggest takeaway was that there are now too many of these games flooding the PC market, making it harder for new games to succeed.

The same thing happened on iTunes following the smartphone gold rush, and now the makers of indie mobile games find themselves increasingly smothered by the sheer glut of titles launching on iOS each week. How do you rise above the clones or the big names like Rovio and Gameloft? You can either score a viral hit – which is unpredictable – or side with a big publishers – which is unthinkable to some.

”More formats equal more players and increased sales. But to deliver that game’s message and raise awareness to staunch console players, you need to shove it in front of their faces. Why not do so at the biggest gaming event of the year?”

Except now we are seeing a shift in attitude thanks largely to Sony’s PC indie drive. One glance at the company’s E3 2014 show floor roster reveals a heft of independent, formally PC-only projects at its booth, rubbing shoulders with the likes of The Order: 1886, Driveclub and Killzone: Shadow Fall.

This is significant, because it shows that many indies are willing to sign a deal with a firm like Sony to increase their own audience and raise the visibility of their project. Is that selling out? No, absolutely not, it’s just what needs to be done to get your game noticed these days. Being a cult indie title with a small, but dedicated fan-base can still be admired, but that approach has less chance of putting food on the table.

Home

…as will the indie horror Home.

Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo have opened their doors to indies because of several reasons. First, they recognise that their multi-million blockbusters take more money and time to make than they did in previous generations. This means there are less of them per year, with larger gaps in between. Why not fill those gaps with a slate of affordable, interesting indie games from teams eager to cut a deal and make some money back? It makes absolute sense.

”E3 2014 is not the enemy of PC, but it is now, more than ever, a relevant launch-pad for independent projects and large-scale titles to shine on the world stage.”

The alternatives are Kickstarter and Greenlight, two formats that have been abused by a torrent of creative-types trying to ride the gold rush and make their concepts a reality. Should developers be condemned for this? Of course they shouldn’t, but there’s simply too much content hitting both services to make anything other than the most prolific names stand out. Those indies who are good at marketing and shouting about their product will win, the rest will be lost in the tide.

Game developers are not PR people. They are not marketing executives or social media gurus. They are individuals pursuing the simple dream of making games and having people play them. Many of them do not have the skills needed to multi-task all of the legal facets of the industry, the media campaigns, getting their game reviewed and all of those other essential pieces. But you know who does? Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo.

The Witcher 3 - new screens 012814 (3)

It’s not just PC indies that need E3. Big games like The Witcher 3 do too.

By signing with Sony, indie teams can have the professionals handle all of those headaches and promote their project at shows like E3 2014, right under the noses of the industry’s critics. This leaves them free to do what they do best: make interesting, innovative and thought-provoking experiences, but the only way people will ever seek them out in high numbers is if said experiences are visible. That’s where expos and bigger companies can help. Of course some publishes will purely exploit indies, and I agree, those kind of outfits need to die. Quickly.

It’s not just PC indies that need E3 however, as games at the other end of the budget spectrum – such as The Witcher 3 – cost so much to make that it makes sense for CD Projekt RED to launch its RPG on PS4 and Xbox One as well. More formats equals more players, and of course, increased sales. But to deliver that game’s message and raise awareness to staunch console players, you need to shove it in front of their face. Why not do so at the biggest gaming event of the year?

E3 2014 is not the enemy of PC, but it is now, more than ever, a relevant launch-pad for independent projects and large-scale titles to shine on the world stage.

Latest