Valve laughs off PC gaming doomsday predictions


— 5:02 PM on May 22, 2008

EA CEO John Riccitello took a minute to evangelize the PC as a gaming platform last week, and now it's the turn of Valve Software's Doug Lombardi. During a press event, Lombardi sat down with the Shacknews folks to talk about the subject. He was adamant that PC gaming isn't any worse off now than it has been in the past—quite the opposite, in fact.

Lombardi pointed out that Valve is doing better than ever these days, even though it still focuses largely on the PC. Part of that has to do with Steam, Valve's highly popular online distribution software. The studio's policy of making its games scale well on low-end hardware has also helped. Every six months, Valve uses the Steam hardware survey to gather data on its customers' PCs and gauge adoption rates for new components. Lombardi criticized other developers for not taking such publicly available statistics into account when making their PC blockbusters:

It's a business decision, really. Too often I think the development side of things runs the house. People say, "Oh, we've got to target those high-end core gamers. We have the best graphics, sweetest screenshots, and we'll get more press, and we'll win." Okay, well, you'll win in the pre-launch phase. Then when the game comes out, and 60-70% of the people who don't have that sweet machine--maybe even higher numbers, maybe 80% don't have that sweet machine--well you just cut off your ability to sell to all of those guys.

In Valve's case, Lombardi says, "We've heard this from a lot of people: 'I fired up Portal on my three year old machine and it ran great.'"

As for the doomsday predictions surrounding PC gaming, Lombardi lays part of the blame on the PR teams of Microsoft and Sony, which more or less lack PC counterparts:

There's this kind of roller-coaster ride: the consoles launch, their PR agencies go out and do everything they can to try and say the PC is dying, they'll prop up the sales of the console, the console starts to get old in the tooth, the PC starts leapfrogging in terms of graphics and bigger releases. So we're almost what, mid-way through the console lifecycle now? So yeah, over the next two years the story's going to come back that the PC is bigger, things like Left 4 Dead and Spore, the id titles are going to come out and everybody's going to be like, "Wow, those console titles are looking kind of crappy."

Check out the full first part of the Shack's interview to see Lombardi discuss the PC Gaming Alliance, misleading retail statistics, and where hardware makers fit into all this.

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