Prevailing wisdom says that if you delay the PC version of a major game, PC gamers get mad. Really mad.
Funny thing about prevailing wisdom, though: it’s often wrong. Or, to be more precise, it’s rarely unanimously right.
I can understand why Warner and Rocksteady might’ve felt like they needed to have Batman: Arkham Knight on PC at the same time it (ker-pow, thwack, biff) hit consoles, despite the fact that it was a total mess. For one, Steam is arguably the largest current game platform on Earth, what with its userbase of 125 million. That’s a lot of wallets drunk with cash, just waiting to spew money in your general direction before falling asleep in a gutter somewhere. For two, delaying PC versions has become kind of a no-no in recent times—a PR gaffe sure to summon a horde of pitchforks and torches.
Case in point: the dreaded Ubidelay, which saw Ubisoft push the PC versions of its biggest series for years, often for no discernible reason. PC gamers still haven’t forgiven them for that nasty little habit, and it left a mark, a legacy. PC delays tend to be viewed as pointless, illegitimate, even when developers might have good reasons for them.
The only thing worse? A bad PC port. In short, I’m saying Warner and Rocksteady should’ve delayed Arkham Knight’s PC version in the first place, rather than selling us a busted up junker in the same lot they were handing console players the keys to pristine Batmobiles.
In an ideal universe, the PC version of a game would get just as much development focus as its console counterparts. But in the cases where that’s not an option—say, due to a lack of resources or an “exclusive” deal with somebody (booooo) or incontrovertible proof that it was a PC who killed your parents, thrusting you into a life of vigilante justice—there are ways to turn that negative into a positive. A delayed PC version does not have to be a bad thing. It can even bring the unruly PC mobs under your banner, if you play your cards right.
It’s about going the extra mile. Take Grand Theft Auto V, for example. While the announcement that it would be the last version out the gate initially pissed off PC players, Rockstar ensured that the version they got was unarguably the best. It’s a technical marvel, the Rockstar Editor has proven to be extremely fertile ground for machinima makers, and mods—after an initial period of confusion about what was and wasn’t allowed—are starting to come into their own. Yes, Rockstar could’ve added in proper modding tools, but still: they gave PC players an experience tailored to their wants and needs. They made it worth the wait.
I’m definitely not advocating for more delays of PC games (fuck that, give me all the games now), but if it’s an absolute necessity, do it with style. Go the extra mile; add every graphical option under the sun, a bonus gameplay mode or two, customizable everything, mod support. Don’t just throw people a superficial apology bone. Give them features that count. Mod tools especially—while not easy to create—manage a one-two punch of making it obvious a developer cares and (potentially) keeping a game alive and relevant for years to come.
Because here’s the thing about PC gamers: if you give them some actual consideration—treat their platform of choice as a thing bursting with potential instead of a stepchild you’d rather forget about—their support can be just as strong as their ire. Grand Theft Auto V is the most successful non-Valve game on Steam ever. Admittedly, it’s Grand Theft Fucking Auto, but still, people really dug it. Because what they got wasn’t just a new GTA. It was a PC game.
I’m glad Warner and Rocksteady yanked Arkham Knight’s PC version from Steam. I think cutting the disaster watch short was the right call. I hope that when the game returns to Steam, it does so as a proper PC game—not just with baseline functionality, but with tools and features that get PC players excited.
But I don’t think it should take a disaster for big developers and publishers to make PC more of a priority, or even just to make a PC version work properly. If it’s always about appeasement rather than a genuine desire to make a good PC game, then this kind of thing will keep happening. So developers, by all means, delay away if you have to. But if you do, use that extra time to consider what makes a good PC game in this day and age. Study other games, ask PC players what they want, optimize until you get 60 FPS on an Etch-A-Sketch. Do it right. That way, everybody wins.
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