Covering (but not limited to) all of my thoughts on the PC gaming scene.
I think negative correlation is the correct term...
Published on April 13, 2008 By Phazon88 In PC Gaming

An interesting thought occured to me today.

I have noticed that recently, there seems to be a interesting relationship between the system requirements of a game and its sales and success.

If we have a brief look at some of the more recent, highly successful games (Team Fortress 2, Call of Duty 4, World of Warcraft, Sins of a Solar Empire and World in Conflict - games I just happen to own) we can see that there is a possible relationship between their success and their system requirements.

All games mentioned above have very reasonable system requirements and efficient game engines. If you own a system that was built 4 years ago, chances are you could still play those games reasonably well (with some small, expected sacrifices to graphics).

Of course the games mentioned above could have just had excellent designs that appealled to alot of gamers out there, but its a big coincidence that they also have low system requirements.

I think this has been mentioned by Brad Wardell (CEO of Stardock) in the past someplace on the internet (probably in an interview I read), in that the lower system requirements your game has - the amount of potential buyers for your title will increase. This and the game's genre are the two main factors that affect who may potentially buy your game. Hence why there was a focus with Sins of a Solar Empire to keep the game as accessible as feasibly possible in regards to required hardware. I believe that approach has worked well for Stardock and Ironclad, as we can see Sins of a Solar Empire has been a #1 seller (if you take into account digital sales + retail).

 

This relationship is somewhat true when viewed in the opposite sense. Crysis while being a solid, good quality title with revolutionary graphics (I happen to enjoy it alot and am fortunate enough to be able to enjoy it at high settings) - has very demanding system requirements. This may have had the effect of limiting the amount of sales the title should've really deserved, because no-one is going to buy a game they can't run at a reasonable level.


Comments (Page 1)
on Apr 26, 2008
I think that buying a $60 (example price) game and having to buy a new computer just to be able to run it puts alot of people off. The top of the line in gaming video cards can cost more than some new computers these days.

This does not include the 'latest and greatest' hardware types.
on Apr 26, 2008


I remember running into something along the opposite lines some years back. I was a semi-regular on the development forums for Master of Orion III before it crushed my hopes and dreams, and I remember a lot of people complaining about the sysreqs as they planned them - for being too "plebian." There were people saying the sysreqs needed to be higher for it to be a game they weren't embarrassed to get, etc.

Of course, those are the sillier extreme of the "professional gamer" fringe, so I expect (at least I hope to God) they aren't typical of players. It was something of an eye-opener, though; I was somewhat surprised to see people so openly elitist about the requirements rather than the content. Guess some people needed to justify their rigs.

I've had good luck with games running on my computer better than anything that looked like them had business doing lately though. Sins, COD4 (especially compared with CoD2!), World in Conflict? Someone earned their paycheck on the engine for any of those things. I've seen enough of them lately that it almost makes me think someone, somewhere, is Getting The Hint and designing stuff in a more accessible manner. Not gonna argue with that.
on Apr 27, 2008
Well, they did have a minor point Zibb -- the devs for Moo3 went overboard in reducing the system requirements, and the locking of the resolution to the (relatively low) one they chose was also silly.
on Apr 28, 2008
There is Supreme Commander, which had very high system requirements to run well, well being the key word.

If you got the minimum requirements, you'd be torturing yourself to play the game.

Even the recommended requirements meant you had to put it on medium settings.
on Apr 28, 2008
Any Business tends to go down the route preferred by the dominant people in that business and the personal experteese they have - that, in the main, is because they have no other experience on which to fall back on, not unaturally, we are all human beings. The "Sea Change" in the Games industry is a slow realisation by those who dominated it because of their technical skills, that they are in a dead end street in terms of thinking. Technology for its own sake is not what is needed, its the Application of that technology to the needs of its target customers.

Its the latter thats the reason Stardock are growing, and growing fast.

A Business does not revolve around the technical knowledge within it - whether you are selling cars or software or whatever. The latter is important, of course it is, but without a long term Vision of where you are going and what is needed to serve your target market, a business crashes.

Its no good just grasping the latest technology and then thinking "hmm, what new flash-bang can I achieve with that (and look cool at the same time)". The thought process must be, "what can I use that for, to meet my target markets needs". The difference in that maybe small to some people, in reality its Massive. To get that right a Business needs clear direction and analysis of where they are going and why. Once thats done, developers can then apply their specialist skills to achieve it.

Get it wrong, and development teams hurtle down the route they are comfortable with - playing with technology, inevitable end result is a turn-off for their customers because they are not meeting the customers needs. The needs of a Target Market may well be the latest and greatest wizz bang, many times, in reality, its not. A Games House cannot - in the long term - successfully develop for both PC and Console (for example), its a Huge Tarket Market, and to try and do both they just end up nibbling away at short term revenue picks, and no long term quality.

Its not about the Game in its own right, nor the technology in its own right. Its about a clear long term strategic Vision for the Company, and a singular focus on what they want to achieve. Stardock have got it right, they know where they want to go and, hugely important, Why they want to go there. Stardock developers are developing to meet the needs of their Target Market with a clear idea of what they need to achieve, not just the needs of a Game - a subtle but hugely important distinction that I cant see in any other Gaming House.

Regards
Zy
on Apr 28, 2008
Its no good just grasping the latest technology and then thinking "hmm, what new flash-bang can I achieve with that (and look cool at the same time)". The thought process must be, "what can I use that for, to meet my target markets needs".


Well said Zydor.

A lot of products (not just in the gaming industry) seem to be created to allow so the techs can really wow and marvel at the latest development. While I admire innovation, it has to be within reason, or it turns into a personal 'this is my baby, as long as my vision is realized it doesn't matter what anyone thinks'.

Its incredibly easy to get personally attached like that when creating products and putting your all into them as anyone who has done so no doubt found out early on, but as said above, the moment the idea starts to severely limit the scope for delivering in a usable form to the intended market, it becomes an expensive hobby not a business.

Of course there's other factors too - depending on the product, depending who you're targetting, your objectives (which isn't always necessarily to make money from a sale), when, where and how it all takes place. It is without a doubt a massive subject that's far from always black and white.

Zydor summed up the whole thing really with "needs of their target market".
on Apr 28, 2008
One of the many reasons why Vanguard bombed so badly is that the actual requirements were completely insane. To play it at anything approaching even reasonable performance, you basically needed a high end system less then a year old. They were on the record as saying "sales will pick up once people buy new computers."

Are you kidding me?

Its a pretty easy calculation really. The more people who have systems capable of playing the game, the more potential buyers you have.
on Apr 28, 2008
Its a pretty easy calculation really. The more people who have systems capable of playing the game, the more potential buyers you have.


Unless you go too low, then no one wants to play such a horrible looking game. (Try releasing X-Com, or Might and Magic 3-5, or even Baldur's Gate in todays world, the sheer horror of their graphics would make them tank, great games or not)
on Apr 28, 2008
One of the many reasons why Vanguard bombed so badly is that the actual requirements were completely insane. To play it at anything approaching even reasonable performance, you basically needed a high end system less then a year old. They were on the record as saying "sales will pick up once people buy new computers."


I bought a new computer for that game  ( 

Not really, I needed a new computer anyway, but that game decided how good of one I got. Then I stopped playing a couple months later because no one else seemed to be playing, the game was so empty.
on Apr 28, 2008

Ceteris parabus, yes.
on Apr 29, 2008
It should be intuitively obvious that sales are necessarily restricted by the system requirements demanded: You cannot sell more copies of the game than there are customers who possess the systems required to run it! Assuming, therefore, that your game's actual appeal before system requirements is the same regardless of what system the player actually owns, let's say, just for argument's sake, 30%, 30% of 60% of the computer-owning populace is a much bigger figure than 30% of 5% of the computer-owning populace. It stands to reason that any game which can ONLY be sold to 5% of the computer-owning market is going to be a flop compared to, say, the exact same game with leaner, less bloatedly inefficient code, which can be sold to 60% of the market.

Arguing that "sales will pick up once people start buying new computers" may be TRUE, but only if your game has not been forgotten by the time people actually DO buy those new computers....3 or 4 years from now!

Besides, there's really absolutely no reason people actually need computers that powerful to run the game. The only reason games have bloated system requirements is because of shitty, inefficient code, because people with bloated, inefficient systems code sloppily, as it runs fine on their bloated, inefficient computer. I guarantee if programmers were only given 386ses with 640K RAM, games would run much leaner and meaner!
on Nov 12, 2008

You cannot sell more copies of the game than there are customers who possess the systems required to run it!

Well, you could use atari logic, but well, we all know where that wound up.

The only reason games have bloated system requirements is because of shitty, inefficient code, because people with bloated, inefficient systems code sloppily, as it runs fine on their bloated, inefficient computer.

Or maybe it's because some idiot in marketing wanted shiny screenshots and a checklist of fancy effects. See the Pentium 4 for other examples of letting marketing design a product.

on Nov 12, 2008

I think steam caught on to that trend ages ago when they started running their on-installation hardware survey. and if you look at the results some of their customers use some pretty ancient relics.

 

http://www.steampowered.com/status/survey.html

on Nov 12, 2008

Overheal1987
I think steam caught on to that trend ages ago when they started running their on-installation hardware survey. and if you look at the results some of their customers use some pretty ancient relics.

Thanks for that; I always forget that survey is out there when these kind of conversations come up. Some generally useful tidbits:

- 25% of Steam's users have less than 1GB of RAM.
- 59% of Steam's users are using a single-core CPU.
- 12% of Steam's users have a CPU speed under 2GHz.
- 73% of Steam's users are using 4:3 monitors.
- 97% of Steam's users have only one monitor.
- 78% of Steam's users have a desktop resolution of 1280x960 or less.
- 32% of Steam's users are still using 1024x768.

Unless Stardock has some reason to believe the users of their digital download service are significantly more sophisticated than the users of Valve's digital download service (which seems intuitively unlikely), it seems apparent that even targeting the people that we forum posters typically label the "average user" is aiming too high. A quarter of potential game downloaders have 1GB of RAM or less and a third of them will be playing at 1024x768. You can't exclude percentages that large and expect the game to sell well.

Really puts our conversations about the wonders of 64-bit games (a 64-bit version can't take advantage of RAM that people don't have), multi-monitor support (only 3% of downloaders have more than one monitor) or the like in perspective, doesn't it?

- Ash

on Nov 12, 2008

a 64-bit version can't take advantage of RAM that people don't have

 

Not quite accurate.  Since 64 bit OS's allow you to exceed the 2GB program size limit, you could make use of virtual memory -- but it'd run as slow as hell unless most of what's in virtual memory isn't accessed a lot.  I add the emphasis because I've seen / heard of cases where games decide they need memory space, but never really use it.

Meta
Views
» 8481
Comments
» 37
Category
Sponsored Links