The PCGA was founded a couple years ago, if memory serves, to advance the PC as a viable platform for gaming. As consoles grow in market share, and development costs for PC (plus the ever-present threat of piracy) continue to spiral upward, the platform has long been losing its dominance. Which kind of sucks for people who like PC gaming.
Now, since the PCGA’s founding it’s not actually done much to further its goal. In fact it’s been one of the quietest and meekest industry organizations out there, neither vociferously campaigning for the importance of the PC nor working particularly hard to draft new adherents. With the exit of two companies that are arguably the most important players on the stage, the PCGA is likely to become more of a technical advisory board than an industry rabble-rouser. PCGA president and Intel exec Matt Ployhar has even said as much.
The world of computer gaming is a complicated place, where conflicting desires and malleable corporate alliances and enmities define the landscape much more than “what’s best for gamers.” While Microsoft has no vested interest in destroying PC gaming, it does have a keen interest in strengthening its hold over the living room – that means Xbox 360. Microsoft would rather you bought your games for that platform. The abominable Games for Windows Live service – improved but still a festering blight – demonstrates that at least some within the company are willing to sabotage PC gaming a little bit in order to further the company’s designs on your television. To be perfectly blunt, you don’t put together a piece of software that bad unless you intend to.
NVIDIA is another story. This firm has its fingers in many pies. While as gamers we tend to think of them as a gaming hardware company, that’s only a piece of the puzzle. NVIDIA is very heavily invested in high performance computing, for example, where the GPU will soon eclipse the CPU (if it hasn’t already) as a means of performing predictive modeling and simulation for manufacturing, product design, and other sectors that haven’t yet adopted HPC.
NVIDIA certainly has reason to support gaming on the PC. While it and its competitors in the GPU sector make the vast majority of their revenue from integrated or low-ticket video cards, there is cachet and income to be had in the ultra-high end. NVIDIA’s Fermi graphics architecture is only just getting off the ground and right now it’s looking like a winner. Naturally, being tapped to design graphics cores for the next generation of consoles is also high on the company’s priority list (historically AMD/ATI and NVIDIA have battled for control of Xbox and Playstation graphics), but there are no next-gen consoles coming… at least not at the present time. Nintendo is likely working on one, but Microsoft and Sony see (wisely) content to let what they’ve got keep going for a few more years.
So what’s basically unclear is why these two organizations left the Alliance. We may never know the actual reason, though I’m sure both companies will release heavily-lawyered statements explaining their impetus. Another key question is whether it matters. Frankly the PCGA hasn’t done much in its time on this earth, and that may honestly be why companies are dropping out. Meanwhile the PC has enjoyed its own resurgence without the help of the Alliance: Valve has come to dominate digital distribution, developers in Eastern Europe still tend to be committed to the platform and and producing some of the most imaginative work, the rise of the Super-Indies have resulted in games such as Minecraft, Amnesia, Immortal Defense, and what have you, all on the PC; and of course the Zyngafication of the platform means that casual games have become an enormous revenue opportunity for those who capitalize well on the space.
Thus while the PCGA, never very impressive, grows less impressive with these departures, it may wind up achieving its goal after all.
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