For the most part, this a golden age of PC gaming. Most big releases hit the PC either concurrently with the console releases or shortly afterwards (Destiny please, Bungie). Much of this I think is down to the PC’s strong digital distribution model, which has been dominated by Valve’s Steam platform. These past few years though have seen competitors try and muscle in on Valve’s territory, and even removing their own games from Steam and placing them solely on their own services as an “incentive” to get people to use them.
Right now Steam is the heavy hitter, but there’s also EA’s Origin, Ubisoft’s Uplay, Trion’s Glyph, and Blizzard’s Battlenet. For those of you jonesing for yet another platform: fear ye not! There is news that WB are readying their own platform, known for now as WB Play. The Escapist reports that Warner Bros. recently filed several patent applications for WB Play under the categories of interactive media, online store services, and video and audio media, amongst others. That certainly sounds like another digital software distribution platform to me.
I have mixed feelings about adding yet another platform to a somewhat burgeoning market these days.
On the one hand it’s more competition (at least in theory, see below), which in general terms is usually good for consumers because prices often fall as companies compete for your money and service. On the other hand it’s another piece of software you have to install and maintain, and at this point if I hadn’t prevented most of them from automatically starting at boot, my system tray would reach from the right side of my monitor to the left. It’s further muddied by the fact that companies like EA now prevent their titles from appearing on competitor’s services. Before Origin, EA were happy to see their juggernauts like Mass Effect and Battlefield appear on Steam, but at some point decided that going it alone and creating their own service under the Origin brand was the way to go for them. In and of itself this isn’t really a problem for me, but when EA then removed their titles from any other service than Origin – this somewhat diluted the argument that this is a good thing due to competition. What you have instead is a monopoly, and they are about as far from a good thing as it’s possible to get with regards to the free market.
Not everyone has this attitude. To their credit, Ubisoft are more than happy for their titles to appear on other services such as Steam and Origin, but the games usually activate and play through Uplay. Still though, there is choice available to the consumer, even if they have to deal with Uplay at some point in the process no matter which platform they choose to purchase on.
The imminent appearance of WB Play is also a testament to the resurgence of Warner Bros. as a force in the gaming industry. From Batman: Arkham Asylum and Arkham City, to Arkham Knight (now sadly delayed to next summer), Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, as well as handling North America publishing duties for the highly anticipated The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, WB are fast becoming a studio to rival industry heavyweights like EA and Activision; WB Play would surely be the next step in this planned ascendancy.
I would ask WB to continue to respect its customers, first and foremost, and concentrate on making good games. Do not become EA and sacrifice everything (including your integrity) in search of the almighty dollar, and remember that people are actually people, not walking bags of money that you need to nickle-and-dime at every turn. Perhaps then you will be entitled to a spot in the lower right hand corner of my screen.