Steam’s Big Picture mode has just landed. The reaction to it, and what it might it mean for the future of PC games is fascinating. A lot of the questions and response has centred around the idea that Valve are taking aim at the consoles and that Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo should be worried.
I’m not sure that’s entirely true. The benefits of Steam’s Big Picture Mode, to Valve, to third parties, and to PC gamers are subtler than that.
I don’t think Big Picture Mode is a threat to consoles. But I think it’s a real threat to some console games. Specifically: multi platform games.
What Big Picture Mode does is provide another place to play the things you bought. The PC version of every multi platform game around is now a little bit more valuable, because, with the right hardware and a bit of tinkering, you can get that game running well on a PC you place under or by your living room TV. Not just running well: almost certainly running at a faster frame rate, with more detail, and in a launcher that’s near perfectly suited to a controller.
Now, PC gamers simply have more options on where they can they play their game. They can play in their den or office, up close and personal. If the living room is free, they can take their game, their save games, their progress and achievements and start on the living room PC. If they’re away on a trip, say a holiday or for work, they can pick up a laptop and take the game with them. If they pack a controller and an HDMI cable they can plug their laptop into their hotel room telly and play on that.
The PC version of a multi platform game is now undisputedly going to be the most flexible and most persistent version. And it will probably be cheaper, too.
What that means in reality? Those that choose to adopt BPM will increasingly reject Xbox 360 and PS3 titles. Case in point: I’ve been looking forward to Assassin’s Creed 3 all year, and had assumed I’d buy it, like I bought the rest of the Assassin’s Creed games, on Xbox 360. That’s not going to happen. I want the PC version. At some point, I figured I’d get round to playing Dark Souls – but had assumed I’d get the Xbox version. Now, it’s PC all the way. I’ve been meaning to play the Walking Dead through – but I couldn’t work out whether to buy it on iOS, Xbox, Playstation 3 or PC. Now the PC version is the natural version.