DUST 514 Diary #4: Why DUST 514 Would Thrive on the PC

The living room beach-head has been established, but what lessons can be learned from the silence behind the conflict. A brief stop-over in a town called Serious (normal service will resume in #5).

My first experience of DUST 514: Uprising has been a mixed bag.

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I wasn’t expecting a perfect gaming experience – the mediocre critical reception DUST 514 received on release and my previous experience during the beta had prepared me, but I did enjoy myself and, importantly, have made first contact with more established players whose influence has changed my experience hugely for the better already.

I will certainly be returning to the smoking battlefields of New Eden – and continuing with this diary – in the future. But I will be doing so with a weathered eye and an honest opinion.

Reflections

DUST 514 was always a gamble for CCP Games, but historically the folks at the Iceland-based development studio have shown they aren’t afraid to roll the dice. The ongoing growth and success of their primary product, EVE Online, has been built on many such gambles.

In fact, after enduring the fallout of one of their less successful dice rolls, in his 2012 Fanfest keynote CEO Hilmar Veigar Pétursson showed humility to EVE fans, apologetically explaining:

“I was infected with some reverse disease of the Innovator’s Dilemma, where frankly companies are usually too afraid to risk their current business. I would say that we were too liberal about our current business.”

The DUST 514 concept was born in that same era of fearless innovation. But, despite hard lessons learned, it was an era of which I was quite fond. It was that innovation, that bravery, that lunacy, which made me stick around.

I really want to see DUST 514 succeed and I’ve seen enough already to see some hope. But there are certainly some problems – there’s one stand-out issue for me.

DUST 514 is Hampered by Platform Exclusivity

My chat with Blind Nojoy really polarised the Venn diagram of DUST 514 players. He made me realise that, rather than having a broader appeal than EVE Online as was the intention, DUST 514 manages to transfer all of the niche qualities of EVE Online into a different genre, attracting a very particular audience who enjoy the combination of RPG-standard character customisation applied to a fast paced FPS.

DUST 514 has failed to appeal to the hordes of mainstream shooter purists and not all RPG players will relish twitch gameplay, so already the demographic is looking rather sparse. Add to this that DUST 514 is only available to PlayStation 3 owners, and that platform exclusivity suddenly seems like a millstone.

For all the benefits that console gaming brings, tying up the family entertainment platform for the extended periods just isn’t going to fly in many households. I appreciate that in many cases, people are luckier than me and still have their “man-cave”. But it’s still a factor that whittles away at that demographic. The kind of players likely to be able to invest their time and effort into sustained DUST campaigns are also likely to have a PC. Why exclude them?

Put the Square Peg Back in the Square Hole

I’m willing to bet that PC gamers–more than console players–are more inclined towards slow-burn gameplay and the kind of menu-based jiggery-pokery that underpins the deeper aspects that are apparent in DUST 514. It is those elements which will encourage players to stick around and invest time and resources.

More than that, PC gamers are used to a culture of patching and iteration, can forgive a shoddy rollout and will return to an improving title. What CCP have in DUST 514 is a game with the potential to be embraced by long-term users, but I just don’t think that they’re looking in the right places.

Being free-to-play makes DUST 514 potentially accessible to a broad audience, why not put it on the PC and tap into that market? It would give its player-base a healthy growth spurt.

Let the wives and kids have the TVs back and let budding DUST mercs loose on a more suitable platform.

Or maybe the Innovator’s Dilemma has finally taken hold.

NEXT: #5 – Logistics and Ladders

Previous: #3 – The March of the Tinkermen


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Author
Mat Westhorpe
Broken paramedic and coffee-drinking Englishman whose favourite dumb animal is an oxymoron. After over a decade of humping and dumping the fat and the dead, my lower spine did things normally reserved for Rubik's cubes, bringing my career as a medical clinician to an unexpectedly early end. Fortunately, my real passion is in writing and given that I'm now highly qualified in the art of sitting down, I have the time to pursue it. Having blogged about video games (well, mostly EVE Online) for years, I hope to channel my enjoyment of wordcraft and my hobby of gaming into one handy new career that doesn't involve other people's vomit.