Hanger 13’s Mafia 3 is the latest title to release with a list of issues that have angered PC users. And it is far from the first game this year to release in this state. DOOM, Homefront, and XCOM 2 to a lesser extent, have all recently released on PC with a ton of issues.
Why is it that PC launches are having such problems, yet consoles don’t? Why do consoles get prioritized? While there are a number of factors to take into consideration, the answer to the question is quite simple. When it comes to a game’s publisher, in their eyes, it’s just business.
Consoles sell more copies than PC
Once upon a time, the PC was the number one selling platform for games. Over the past decade, that has changed dramatically — especially since the release of current-gen consoles, game sales on PC are vastly outnumbered in comparison.
More than anything, the surge in console interest is due to the fact that PCs are expensive to buy and upgrade — not to mention the amount of technical skill involved in doing so. With consoles, you buy one and don’t have to worry about whether the system is capable of running the latest games.
With consoles generating the greater amount of sales, it makes sense from a business perspective to develop for them first. This is why publishers request developers to optimize games for consoles as a top priority. This is also why with PC launches, the games can feel like more playing a ported console game than a PC-optimized title.
Console game development is easier
Developing a game for a console is very different than developing for PC. Not only is it different, it is also easier. The reason? All consoles use the exact same hardware. For example, every PS4 uses the exact same graphical and sound hardware, on the same operating systems. This also applies to Xbox.
PCs on the other hand, are the complete opposite. There are hundreds — if not thousands — of different combinations of hardware. There are processors, graphical cards, RAM, and sound cards to take into consideration. For example, there are dozens of Nvidia graphic cards alone, and that is not including other brands like AMD.
The developer must ensure that the game is optimized to run on each different graphic card model. And then they have to worry about all the other hardware as well. If a developer is to miss any particular hardware optimization, users will have issues running the game. Optimizing a game for PC is a lot of work — very difficult and extremely time-consuming.
When it comes to developing a game, it is quicker and more productive to focus on consoles first. Without that early production, there is nothing to show the publisher or audience.
PC gamers are patient
PC users are quick to anger, particularly when it comes to a game’s FPS. They are also very vocal when it comes to disappointment. They are, however, generally very patient. As temperamental and outspoken as they can be, more often than not, a PC gamer will wait for a patch.
Going back to the Mafia 3 launch, while there is a lot of negativity, a lot of players are claiming they will wait for a fix. This patience goes way back to the 90s, where getting a fix for a video game was not as easy or convenient as it is today. Very often you would have to phone up the developer, who would post you a floppy disk with the needed patch.
Depending on where you lived, this could take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Even after the internet became the main means of distribution for updating games, you had to wait for the patch to become available. An example of this would be the 2007 release of S.T.A.L.K.E.R Shadow of Chernobyl.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R took three days after launch and five patches before the game became somewhat stable. Despite the game’s bad launch and ongoing issues, it became a critical and financial success. Within a year of releasing, it sold over 2 million copies.
Console gamers have never had to experience such scenarios, and therefore do not have the patience of a PC gamer. If a console game has a lot of issues from launch, it could be devastating. This plays into the reason why consoles get prioritized.
It’s just business
When it comes to publishers and video games, it is literally nothing more than “just business”. The developer makes the game, but it is the publisher who funds it, markets it, distributes it, and most of all calls the shots.
What’s a publisher’s primary goal? To make their money back. After that, their only goal is to make a profit. This is why they ensure that consoles are the priority. Consoles generate the most sales of video games. Publishers also know PC gamers have patience and a community that is skilled at creating fixes itself. This automatically puts PC gamers last from a business perspective.
It is a sad reality, but that is how the business of video games works in this day and age. For now, PC players will just have to deal with getting the short end of the stick, and hope that better development practices and the rise in iterative console launches will make them a priority somewhere down the line.