Is Windows 8 The Biggest Threat To The Future Of PC Gaming?

Stardock is now best known s the publisher of the Sins of a Solar Empire and Elemental franchises, after selling online distribution service Impulse last year. They have just released their annual customer report, talking not only about their experiences in 2011 but also looking into the crystal ball of PC gaming in 2012 and beyond. And the future, they find, may be hazy for Windows-based gaming.

The report examines the company's successes in consumer software and game publishing through the past year and also addresses Stardock's reasons for selling their Impulse digital distribution platform to GameStop. There were three main reasons for selling Impulse, the report explains. First, maintaining Impulse was using too many of the company's resources. Second, Stardock Games wished to be able to release their games on Steam, to the enormous audience there. And third, the Stardock internal culture was not compatible with being driven by sales. Instead, the company preferred to maintain its "focus on making 'cool stuff'" and not on marketing.

The report also attempts to tackle the future of home PC use, explaining that the current trend towards having content streaming, networked, and in other ways cloud-based or remote will only continue:

Within 5 years, decoupled gaming will become common. Decoupled computing is the concept in which the device that is doing the processing/rendering is not physically connected to the output devices (display, speakers) or the input devices (gamepad, keyboard, mouse).

How this future will manifest itself remains to be seen. The likely players will be Apple's AirPlay and Intel's WiDi standards. The actual gaming experience won't change very much except that the player will have a lot more flexibility as to how they play their games. However, the development experience will change radically depending on which platforms emerge as the leaders in this future.

However, in their look to the future, the report highlights internal concerns with the company's ability to continue to make cool stuff going forward. In particular, they find initial impressions of Windows 8 worrying, explaining, "Since we are not currently a cross-platform development shop, our success relies heavily on the success of Windows." They cite problems with the Metro interface, issues with program organisation, and inconsistent mouse-over and element discovery, concluding:

[I]it is our opinion that there is not a viable commercial market for software that exists to fix features of Windows 8 because many, if not most, users will simply not migrate to it and may choose other computing avenues.

We maintain that the primary threat to the PC (and gaming consoles) comes in the form of Apple's AirPlay combined with Bluetooth 4.0+ controllers. A Windows 8 failure may buy enough time for Apple to release displays (and get partners to release displays) with embedded AirPlay. The "computing" will be done on an iPad/iPhone, the keyboard/mouse handled by Bluetooth and the display via AirPlay.

So if Windows 8 follows the "every other Windows release is terrible" historical model and tanks, could the future of PC gaming truly belong to Apple? It's an interesting idea, that one could load a high-powered game remotely onto a seventh-generation iPad and then sit down on the sofa to play it comfortably, and effortlessly, on the living room big screen TV.

Apple's desktop computers are hardly known as the best place to play major release games in the current era, and iOS devices, while heavily used for gaming, generally (though not exclusively) run simpler, 2D, lower-budget, or retro content. The blockbuster, mainstream game scene is the one area of modern technology that Apple hasn't yet leapt into and revolutionised. Perhaps the time is coming.

Stardock Customer Report 2011 [pdf] [Stardock]


Comments

    im either sticking to win7 or trying harder to get games to work on ubuntu, i do not like win8 at all

    Even if it didn't suck the other issue is that MS don't do all that well with the upgrade idea (to upgrade windows xp to windows 7 you loose the xp install and start with a fresh 7 install), and the cost of windows is high (for a home user), so every couple of years MS try to get everyone to pay a not insubstantial amount of money, and go to a fairly large amount of effort to upgrade. Mix that with a brand new architecture that means driver problems and Vista bombed... Win 8 has a brand new interface, and no way to go "Classic" (or at least last I heard), so it may well bomb too (being that Win 7 is actually quite good).

    From what ive seen and read win 8 has some great features, but it's not "Windows" as we know it (that danm Metro interface is great for tablets and phones but fairly crap for PC's), Mix that with most people only just moving to Win 7 and it looks like a bomb in the making... which is a bit of a shame as it does have some nice features... oh well maybe I'll just wait for Windows 9 where MS appologise for windows 8 by giving us Windows 7 with Windows 8 features.

      you can choose the classic interface which is pretty much the windows 7 desktop.

        No you can't. They completely removed the start menu, the classic interface...as you put it, just dumps you onto the desktop and every second thing you do throws you back into metro.

          Exactly.
          This is why I fear it will bomb for the PC/Laptop market, they are trying to unify their development (much like android has with ICS), but they have gone to heavy into phone/tablet and all but dropped entirely the PC look and feel.

          As Robert said, you can get to the Desktop, but most actions will end with you back in metro, and whist some early builds had a start menu, they have since removed it... I can only assume this is an attempt to force the market to get accustommed to Metro, and but more tempted to get tablets and phones that have an interface they are used to... but it is too diferrent (IMHO) from win 7 for most IT people to be really interested, that said they have added HyperV to the codebase which is nice...

    Win 8 feels incredibly disjointed at the moment. Its running two OSs at once.

    Windows 8 lasted on my computer for about 2 days.. I was initially planning on keeping the consumer preview till release, so backed up a whopping 1.5TB to do a clean format. Then I found myself repeating the process 2 days later to get rid of it.

    It started with the Metro menu. A steaming pile of crap. Then after several other issues, the final straw was its DirectX backward compatibility. Folks wanting to play there old school DirectX games, like Halo + many more that i tested may encounter issues if they are based on DirectX 9.0b and earlier tech. A good 10% of my Steam games Library wouldn run ( I own over 100 titles), asking for a specific direct x version when the system is clearly running 11.1 with the necessary updated 9.0c libraries.

    Microsoft is dumbening (if thats even a word!) up windows, much like the way apple has with OSX and the upcoming IOS iteration.

    The main reason I stear clear of OSX is that it doesnt empower a more advanced user. Hell I'd switch to Linux if it had more industry wide support. Looks like its Windows 7 for me.

      You run an OS that isn't released yet and assume it'll already run all your older software?
      You can't expect beta software to not have issues, if it didn't they'd have it on the shelves.

    Windows 7 had the same dx issues on launch.. + its a Beta its not even feature complete. I dont know why you would install it on your main PC for production use. the RTM version is a good 7 months from release. Microsoft have said all things that currently work on Win 7 will work on win 8.

    I knew this would happen.. peoplke hate change just like ME3 people will QQ all over win 8.. well look people current reports say Win 8 will make or break MS and 99% of publications I have read have said it will make it.

    You can just learn how to use Metro properly and it works better than Windows 7. I think it's alot quicker to use than Windows 7 and metro is better than the windows button ever was, right click at the bottom and select all Apps is a big wide version of the start button. People are whinging too much and jumping back on the "OMG I cant believe Microsoft change the Appearance " bandwagon. It's not just a PC OS anymore people, get over it and wait until the final product. Nice itard journalism though.

      This.

      After getting used to it they'll never want to go back except for specific cases much like I use the command prompt for specific uses now.
      What's worse is all the people saying "I'll never use Win8 because I like my desktop and Win8 doesn't have that", when in actual fact the desktop is literally one click away from the start screen. And it's a better desktop than Win7 thanks to all the updates to the task manager, copy dialogs, explorer, etc.

        If I can run metro apps with Launchy I'll consider switching, but I hate having to use my mouse for anything outside of clicking buttons on a webpage. I agree that anybody that doesn't like it because of the new metro appearance is silly, but if you have a legitimate accessibility concern, I don's see the problem with hating on it.

    I mean seriously.. there are still people swearing by XP.. :| that thing is now 11 years old.. let that corps die already..

      The thing keeping XP alive is businesses - they refuse to upgrade their O/S (to be fair they probably also haven't updated machines in a decade either)

    From day one, they've said you can go back to the classic interface. Think of the metro approach as being more akin to shortcuts.

    I don't think there is anything wrong with 8 myself, having participated in the developer beta. They've drawn a line in the sand and said: the future is tablets. I don't know how that will work out for them.

    I haven't really found any compelling reason to upgrade to 8 full time, because I just found myself using the traditional desktop on my PC anyway. It worked OK. I didn't expect it to work well with games yet because it was a beta.

    OMG my eyes burn..... Internet Explorer

      Without some registry hacking and other tweaks, you wont be able to bring back the start menu. plus, forgetting the interface, there is still a serious issue in directx backwards compatibility.

      In all honesty, I agree there is a huge trend in tablets these days, and metro is perfectly suited to it, however they could have just as easily split windows 8 into 2 releases with independent feature sets. What may work well on a tablet does not necessarily work well on a desktop.

      Ive never been one to complain about an OS being changed, I welcomed, windows 98, XP, Vista (even with its many issues), and more recently Windows 7

        The start screen is a fine replacement for the start menu. Quicker access to more applications. Still just press the win key then type an application name and press enter and it works without issue.
        DX backwards compatibility is something I'm sure they'll be working on as they approach release, it's certainly something required.

    I work in the microsoft office in vic and they just recently deployed win8 to their machines ... gotta say i dont like it one bit, but will have to adapt to it :(

    I thought W7 was relatively well liked >_>

    I am fricking tired of learning new Microsoft UI's every few years just so they have something to sell; the Office ribbon is still bloody awful and conceptually flawed. Interfaces should become more intuitive not require a complete re-learning just to use it.

    The installation of their OS alone gives me the screaming heebie-jeebies; some data is always missed backing up the old one sitting somewhere obscure on the hard drive...

    The cost is also amazingly high for a decently featured version; $450 for Professional when I looked yesterday out of curiosity. Ridiculous.

    @Roddy

    That is what Technet is for you pay $300 a year and you get access to most of MS software catalogue.. that is what us IT pros do..

    No one in the industry pays retail for a new OS..

    I'll look at Win8 when it's a bit more mature, for now I'm more than happy with Win7.

    'Detached' computing for gaming is a bit of a wank, imo.

    The “computing” will be done on an iPad/iPhone, the keyboard/mouse handled by Bluetooth and the display via AirPlay.

    That's going to be one hell of an iPad.

    I just upgraded to WIN7 late last year and have NO intentions to upgrade again anytime soon.Do we really need a new windows every couple of years?Hell the only reason I upgraded from XP was because of that dick-move MS pulled wiyh DX10/11 only on Vista/Win7.
    Surely they see this as a tablet based companion to Win7.

    As someone already stated this is still a beta OS. I've found things i like and don't like initially i hated metro but have found it is kind of useful once you start customising it but like all new things this is a drastic change from Win7 Vista and XP where vista and 7 were mainly cosmetic changes from XP. Win8 is a complete new shell not just an icon change here and a rename of stuff. Give MS a few months and you may change your tune to what you do or dont like about Win8. I installed it on my Work pc so im forcing my self to learn it i have reverted to the dual boot back to win7 once for more then 5 Min when i did a bench mark test between win7 and 8.

    Problem with Airplay and even the new version of Airplay is lag and latency when it comes to games. The lag between when one shoots on the small screen and the effect appearing on the big TV screen is so noticeable that it kills gaming on Airplay or WiDi. Its fine for ordinary video but gaming needs near zero latency and thats a big gap (pun) that the current wireless technology has to over come.

    gaming will simply leave win and go down the path of linux or something similar as a basis, it certainly wont die it a multi billion or more industry, i have heard and read so much testimony from game devs that having to subscribe to direct-x and windows is a burden and a bottleneck to gaming gfx and so forth, one article stated that the graphical memory demands of their games could be made much less demanding and allot smoother and the gfx could be allot more realistic and polygon free if they did not need to subscribe to using direct-x.

    Ive used windows8, gave it a fair chance.
    if it is released to market as it is "UI etc, not bugs i mean"
    I wont be going to it.

    With vista, and now Win8, Linux/MAC is looking more and more attractive.
    Like many others, might be time to jump ship.
    Win8 is fail. and the big corporations know it too.

    I work for a company I cant mention; and we are discussing the next 2 years
    Most of the staff in meeting were in favor of making a full MAC release and forgetting
    windows 8 altogether.

    Something is about to change the face of the PC world;

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