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The PC Revolution: Read about the emerging tech and trends that are defining the PC games market

The PC Revolution: Read about the emerging tech and trends that are defining the PC games market

The PC Revolution is now. Our sector is about to undergo some colossal changes in the coming years so it's time to get wise and find out what the trends and shifts that are going to affect the sector are.

New innovations such as cloud tech, machine learning and raytracing are going to dramatically change the way that games are made and what is possible for developers, while the blockchain could introduce new ways of engaging with projects. Meanwhile, giants such as Microsoft, EA and even Google are investing some serious cash to ensure gamers can stream content to whatever device they want, opening up releases to an even bigger audience than ever before

Steam's position as the dominant PC games marketplace is starting to wane, with competitors such as Origin and GOG proving more of a threat, newcomers including Discord, Robot Cache and Tencent's own WeGame entering the sector and publishing giants like Activision, Bethesda and CD Projekt deciding to go it alone rather than launch on Valve's platform.

And then there are emerging markets such as China which companies need to be addressed to maximise the potential of their releases.

You can keep up to date with the trends, tech and news that is going to affect the PC games market in the coming years via PCGamesInsider.biz and our upcoming event, PC Connects London 2019, which is taking place on January 21st and 22nd.

At the show we'll be talking about the state of the market, how to get your game noticed, going behind the scenes on the biggest releases and the newest tech  how to run a games-as-a-service project, as well as the trends and tech that are going to inform the next decade of the PC games sector.

Tickets for just PC Connect are available now and can be bought here. For tickets that access to not only PC Connects London 2019, but our sibling events Pocket Gamer Connects London and Blockchain Gamer Connects London, click here

On PCGamesInsider.biz we're going to be talking about these trends and emerging technologies with weekly editorial pieces, letting you know what is happening, the impact they could have and what you need to know to stay ahead of the curve.

We're still on the hunt for speakers so drop me a line at [email protected] if you want to be involved with the show, or if you want to add your voice to the PC Revolution here on PCGamesInsider.biz.

There are also sponsorship opportunities available for the show. To find out more, please email [email protected].

Complimentary events or media outlets interested in a media partnership are welcome to contact [email protected].


Click here to view the list »
  • 1 How Minecraft's success led to Steam's 2018 issues

    How Minecraft's success led to Steam's 2018 issues  logo

    Valve has made its platform more open as not to accidentally block the next big and unlikely thing - but in doing so it might have damaged its business beyond repair

    Since 2012, Valve has taken a number of steps to make its Steam platform as open as possible.

    Starting with Greenlight in August of that year, the company stopped treating its marketplace as a walled garden where only projects selected by the Bellevue-based PC giant were deemed worthy of appearing on Steam. It turned over some of that power to the community; Steam's audience could suddenly decide which titles should be appearing on the platform.

    The following year, in 2013, Valve further lowered the barrier to entry with Early Access, allowing developers to release unfinished games with the aim of developing with the community.

    And then, of course, earlier this year, the barrier to entry was dropped altogether with an open-platform policy that is still the subject of much debate. Over this six-year period, the number of releases on Steam has grown exponentially with around 200 titles each and every week hitting the digital storefront.

    In trying to make releasing a game more accessible, Valve has made it much harder for developers to get any attentiona phenomenon dubbed 'The Steampolcalypse' by some.

    This slow lowering of the barrier to entry can all be traced back to one game - Minecraft.

    There's no doubt that Notch's survival and crafting project influenced the decision to launch a scheme like Greenlight. Here was a game that came out of nowhere and took over the world - but went completely against the conventional wisdom of the market at the time. At a point where most major publishers thought consumers wanted technically brilliant, gorgeous and fast-paced titles, here was an ugly, super technical and slow game. Any developer relations person who tells you that they would have signed Minecraft had they seen it before launch is - honestly - a damn liar.

    Minecraft became popular through its alpha and beta releases, creating a groundswell of excitement and enthusiasm that has not been replicated since. Fair play to Valve for recognising that its community might know a thing or two and that the company might not always know best and creating Greenlight to allow games that were popular with the community to reach a wider audience.

    Through this process, Early Access and now the open-platform policy, Valve has tried incredibly hard to not accidentally block the next big thing from release. And while it is incredibly easy to release on Steam in 2018, actually getting any attention paid to your game is exceptionally difficult. What started out as an attempt to make releasing games easier has turned into Valve simply letting go of the wheel and allowing for anything to come on its platform.

    As a result, I feel we are now beginning to witness the start of Steam's downfall. And before you start leaving an angry comment, I'm not for a second claiming that the platform is dead. Rather, Valve's marketplace has been constantly rising and increasing in popularity but now it appears that things could be heading in the other direction for the first time. A report from SteamSpy earlier this year pointed to the platform's userbase dropping significantly, too, again likely due to a combination of factors including Fortnite's success.  

    Steam's monopolistic position on the PC games market has long-irritated some but was accepted by the majority because it was a platform that worked for most people. Slowly it has transformed into a marketplace that no longer has the same role. Developers and publishers were fine giving Valve 30 per cent on sales because the sheer exposure projects received by virtue of being on Steam was worth the cost of admission. Now, it's harder to be seen and that money no longer is a worthy sacrifice for many. What was once a walled garden is now an overgrown space, with many companies suffering as a few games get all the sunlight. 

    This is arguably one reason why some of the major players in the PC games market are deciding to launch via their own platforms - the other factor being Fortnite being a massive hit despite not being on Steam.

    It's no coincidence that Activision has finally started releasing Call of Duty on Battle.net, Bethesda is rolling out Fallout 76 via its own platform, and CD Projekt RED is launching The Witcher card game Gwent and single-player RPG Thronebreaker on GOG.com in this year of all years

    With new marketplaces like Kongregate's Kartridge or the blockchain-powered Robot Cache entering the sector as well as communications app Discord starting to sell games, competition in the PC games retail space is about to heat up - and it looks like Valve no longer has the edge required to maintain its supersized slice of the pie forever.

    This isn't game over for Steam, and there's no telling what Valve will do with the platform in the future. But this is the point where the wave breaks and rolls back - and that might be a good thing for the PC games space.


  • 2 Western gamers aren't going to be as much of a focus for triple-A publishers moving forwards

    Western gamers aren't going to be as much of a focus for triple-A publishers moving forwards  logo

    More projects built with a Chinese audience in mind are going to be coming in the future

    Whether you like to admit it or not, the current global games market has been incredibly centered on the Western market for much of its life.

    Though the likes of the UK and United States have been hubs for games development - both boasting huge consumer markets, too - the time of games being primarily made for a Western audience is now coming to an end.

    With China opening up to foreign companies, there is colossal potential in this part of the world. Not only is there a massive population of 1.4bn people, but there is a rising middle class who have cash to burn. As a result, Western firms have been trying to get in on the action, teaming up with local firms to do so. You've got NetEase facilitating the launch of Minecraft as well as Activision Blizzard's roster of games and Tencent publishing Playerunknown's Battlegrounds and Fortnite in the region, to pick two huge examples.

    But where before it would seem that China was viewed as an extra source of revenue for companies, i.e. they can make one game and just move it to China with a few content changes to appease the country's culture regulators, now the region is being baked in much deeper to games.

    We've seen two instances of this in just the last few days.

    The first was Ubisoft making a number of changes to its flagship online tactical shooter Rainbow Six: Siege. Announced via the game's website, the developer said that the removal of references to sex, violence and gambling from the title was coming ahead of a rollout to the Asian games market. Unsurprisingly, this has been met with a backlash from the 

    These teaks were to appease regulators in these regions, including China, which has strict laws about pretty much any content in public circulation. The decision to make this change globally was to make life easier for Ubisoft's developers - having one build for the entire planet as opposed to one for every single region makes updates and bug fixes much easier.

    No doubt this Chinese launch has been facilitated - or at least influenced - by tech and entertainment giant Tencent helping get French media conglomerate Vivendi off Ubi's back and taking a five per cent stake in the publisher.

    And then there's Blizzard rolling out a mobile version of one of its flagship IPs in Diablo Immortal. This was being made in collaboration with the company's long-running Chinese publishing partner NetEase - and bizarrely not Tencent, which owns almost five per cent of Activision Blizzard.

    Predictably, this has already caused a great deal of anger in the games community, which has resulted in a dip in share value. This anger from the community largely stemmed from incorrect expectations - Blizzard had published a blog post in the build-up to its BlizzCon event talking about the future of the franchise. This led many to suspect that a brand new 'fully-fledged' [read: PC or console] iteration in the Diablo series.

    Though PC certainly has its audience in China, without a doubt mobile is the dominant means of playing games and, well, living life in general for the 1.4bn people living in this part of the world. The fact that NetEase is on-board to help develop this suggests that this a product designed primarily for the Chinese games market and is coming to the rest of the world anyway.

    This isn't to say that its game over for consumers in the West. This isn't a 'digital killing both print publications and physical games' conversation. There will still by a massive amount of content for users in America and Europe as there are still billions of people in these parts of the world who will be buying it. 

    But it's fair to say that we will start to see PC and mobile publishing giants place a great focus on the East moving forwards.

    Come find out about the future of the PC games market at PC Connects London 2019. Emerging markets such as China are just one topic of discussion at the January 21st and 22nd event. 

    Tickets are available to buy right here. One ticket gives you access to not just this event, but also Pocket Gamer Connects and Blockchain Gamer Connects. 


  • 3 Streaming and subscription services are going to change the industry forever

    Streaming and subscription services are going to change the industry forever  logo

    Two buzzwords/phrases that have seemingly been on the video games industry's horizon for about a decade now - streaming and Netflix or Spotify-for-games.

    Streaming in games, arguably, came about with OnLive, announced at GDC 2009 with a rollout in June of the following year. For a set monthly fee, users were able to stream big titles directly to their OnLive box. Despite some substantial investments from communication networks like AT&T in America and BT on this side of the pond, this iteration of the scheme was doomed to fail simply due to internet speeds at the time not being fast enough to support the fancy graphics and speedy response times required for triple-A games at the time.

    OnLive relaunched in 2014 before going bust the following year. The tech still lives on though, with Sony snapping up IP and assets for its own PlayStation Now platform built following the purchase of streaming service Gaikai.

    PlayStation Now currently leads the streaming market in terms of revenue - according to research from SuperData - claiming 52 per cent of revenue spent in Q3 2018 on streaming platforms. But that could all change in the near future. Like EA CEO Andrew Wilson has said, subscription services and streaming represent a massive "disruption" in the way media is distributed and consumed

    Both Xbox and EA are already in the subscription service space with their respective Game Pass and Origin Access offerings, but both have recently announced Project xCloud and Project Atlas schemes.

    Both have defied expectations by actually getting the Netflix-for-games model to work. What started in 2014 as two companies trying to find a way to monetise their back catalogues has swiftly moved to two of the biggest companies in PC and console games offering their latest releases on these platforms on the same day as they launch in store. Xbox started this with Rare's pirate romp Sea of Thieves - with third-party content receiving the same treatment - while EA revealed at E3 2018 that it was going to start launching its biggest titles like FIFA, Battlefield and the upcoming Anthem on the same day as it launches with Origin Access Premier

    It's a competitive offering and a sure sign that subscription and streaming services aren't going to be vague promises on the horizon - they may just be the way things are done moving forwards.

    Microsoft's Phil Spencer revealed at E3 that the firm is working on tech that allows 'console quality' streaming to any device - with the software giant announcing Project xCloud to this end only recently. Conversely, EA purchased streaming start-up GameFly earlier this year, with the firm hinting at E3 that this tech would become part of its Origin Access offering in the not so distant future. Shortly after Microsoft announced its cloud offering, EA revealed Project Atlas, a scheme that seems designed to not only help distribute games, but help them work, too. Honestly, it all sounds much like Improbable's SpatialOS offering. That firm is certainly one to watch in the coming years, too.

    Those aren't the only big players getting into the space. Google recently rolled out a test of its Project Cloud scheme. The tech giant has teamed up with Ubisoft to allow beta testers to play Assassin's Creed Odyssey from their Chrome browser.

    It's not the big names of tech and games that are getting in on the action. French start-up Shadow has launched its impressive Blade service. This one's a bit different; rather than users subscribing and paying a monthly fee to access games, Shadow's offering has consumers accessing an entire PC. The tech is available in a box - essentially an APU to send and receive data - or via a phone app, which is certainly a step in the direction that Microsoft is heading in.

    With 5G mobile data set to launch in the not so distant future, being able to play a top-of-the-line triple-A title doesn't seem quite so impossible. Designing a game that can be played on any platform, however, might be an issue. 

    There's no doubt that streaming and subscription models are not only going to become the norm in the not so distant future for games. This comes with its own pros and cons. On the plus side, it'll make games available to a wider array of people. When you have to pay $10 a month and get access to a huge variety of projects, that's certainly an enticing offer to consumers. Though discoverability could well be an issue with such a platform, the more people that are using a service the more chance there is of your game being played. Xbox's Spencer has said that featured Game Pass titles see increased sales, for one, highlighting how important it is for these platforms to help out projects. 

    But streaming and subscription services come with their own set of challenges. For one, the way we measure success is going to have to change.

    Firms like Microsoft, for example, keep announcing impressive launch user figures for its first-party line-up, including Sea of Thieves, State of Decay 2 and Forza Horizon 4. But these figures include Game Pass customers. So someone who has just downloaded the game and booted it up once - maybe as part of a free trial - would be counted the same as someone who has somehow put one billion hours of gameplay into a title in the first day of launch. Though the same is true of 'traditional' releases, subscription services muddy the water somewhat in terms of judging just how well a game is performing.

    This is something that the music industry has had to adjust to with the recent inclusion of Spotify data in the UK charts.

    But video games is going to be a different kettle of fish to the music business. Ultimately, one of the reasons that we haven't seen a comprehensive streaming offering in games - as we have in music, film and TV - is that our market hasn't reached a tipping point, yet.

    Where piracy all but destroyed those other industries, forcing them to agree to a situation where they were making at least *some* money off the back of their IP, video games is still a growing industry and, despite piracy still being an issue, it isn't losing huge amounts of money to bad actors.

    It's going to be a while before we see an all-singing-all-dancing Netflix or Spotify-for-games business featuring pretty much all the content from all the publishers you could want. Xbox's Game Pass is certainly a step in that direction, but for the time being it's likely that what we'll end up with is a more fragmented approach, much like how the current streaming market is headed with firms like Disney setting up their own platform.

    Either way, streaming and Netflix-for-games soon won't be terms that appear in press releases and make journalists want to add some whiskey to their coffee at eight in the morning - soon they'll be how we are playing everything.


  • 4 We may be witnessing the start of Steam's demise

    We may be witnessing the start of Steam's demise  logo

    For the past 13 years, Steam has for all intents and purposes been the PC games market.

    Rolled out in 2003, Valve's platform opened up to third-parties two years later with big firms such as Capcom coming on board in 2007.

    While it launched a time when going to a brick and mortar store to buy a new release, Steam helped inform the digital future of this market and subsequently went on to dominate it.

    Over time, Valve made it easier to have a smash hit via Steam. As written before, this largely appears to have been informed by the blockbuster success of Minecraft, the new title that came from nowhere, that no-one was betting on that went on to take over the world.

    Greenlight, and its Steam Direct successor, as well as Early Access helped developers bring their games to a wider audience. With Greenlight, we saw Steam beginning its trend of falling back on the market to decide what the next big hits were going to be.

    This came to fruition in 2018 with Valve announcing that it was opening up its platform to any and all games - unless they are 'illegal' or 'trolling', whatever that means. But ultimately, Valve has made its storefront a massively inhospitable place for developers.

    In 2017, over 7,600 titles were launched on Steam. This year, that figure stands to be much higher than this.

    The result of this is that it's harder to be seen on the platform. As Tomas Rawlings of Auroch Digital has told PCGamesInsider.biz in the past, the way that Steam's algorithm works means that success breeds success with titles that have an initial positive performance being featured and thus getting more exposure. The gap between the games that have success and those that do not is bigger than every, and the projects that just do 'okay' becoming fewer and further between.

    This issue has been compounded with indie developers complaining that their traffic has dipped away since October.

    This coupled with the success of Fortnite - a game that never launched on Steam - and new players entering the space means that it's very possible that we'll see a move away from Steam. Before developers launched on Valve's platform because it was the biggest and best place to get their games in front of an audience. Now it is so hard to get any form of attention that heading to something like Itch.io, Kongregate's new Kartridge storefront, comms app Discord selling games, or even the blockchain-powered Robot Cache, makes sense for a great many studios.

    It's no coincidence that Activision launched Call of Duty on Battle.net for the first time in 2018, the same year when Bethesda opted to release Fallout 76 on its own platform, CD Projekt put out The Witcher card game Gwent on GOG.com and so on. With its new revenue terms, Steam seems to know it has to appear more attractive to these bigger companies, but these are the firms who can just go off and do it on its own. Meanwhile, indie developers are - for lack of a better term - being shafted which could make them think that going to another platform might be beneficial. Being a bigger fish in a smaller pond is always an attractive prospect.

    We're not for a second saying that Steam is dead or anything like that. But this feels like the start of the platform's decline. In trying to make a platform that works for everyone, it might have alienated not only its biggest partners, who can afford to go alone, but also the indie studios that have provided Steam with a lot of cred over the years.


Editor - PC Games Insider

Alex Calvin launched PCGamesInsider.biz in August 2017 and has been its editor since. Prior to this, he was deputy editor at UK based games trade paper MCV and content editor for marketing and events for London Games Festival 2017. His work has also appeared in Eurogamer, The Observer, Kotaku UK, Esquire UK and Develop.

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