E3 2009: IGN's PC Trends and Predictions

Find out what gaming's biggest show has in store for PC gamers.

May 13, 2009 - We expect a relatively quiet show for the PC this year, as many publishers are still a bit unsure of this return to the old format and are wary of making a large marketing investment in titles that aren't going to be released until 2010. These publishers will be holding back a bit, hoping to make a bigger impact by delaying announcements of new titles until closer to the end of this year. Not only will this give publishers the chance to announce new titles with less expense overall with fewer games competing for visibility.

Another way publishers are going to play it safe is by sticking with sequels and cross platform titles and we expect to see a lot of these at E3 this year. The tyranny of sequels is nothing new in the industry, but the new mass-market approach required of console development is going to push PC developers towards less riskier projects. On the plus side, in the massive scramble to poach proven franchises, some publishers are going to have to turn towards games from earlier generations and moving current properties to mobile platforms. If that means we finally get new games based on Grim Fandango, X-COM, TIE Fighter and Dungeon Keeper, well, that's all right with us.

The PC has lost a bit of momentum in certain key genres but has found new life in others. Though we still expect the PC will dominate the MMO and RTS markets, the success of the FPS and RPG genres on the consoles will encourage publishers to spread their investment in new games over as many platforms as possible. The PC's not likely to be the lead platform on any cross platform titles, but the recent success of games like Fallout 3, Mass Effect and Fable 2 will help give the single player RPG a boost in the PC market. Furthermore, the success of the microtransaction model in Asia will prompt American publishers to support more free-to-play MMOs and supplement them with microtransactions.

E3 will reveal increasing foreign influence in more general terms. With many of the big North American publishers moving more towards cross-platform development, foreign and independent developers and publishers are going to come in to fill the vacuum. Free of the controlling influence of platform manufacturers and unrestrained by some of the conventions and traditions of American game design, these lesser known studios from around the globe have an opportunity to present some of the most innovative and inventive titles at the show.

Mass Effect 2 is a huge PC game, but it's also on Xbox 360.
And, of course, no feature about the possible shape of E3 would be complete without a parting shot at Microsoft's near total lack of support for the platform. Despite being the company in charge of the Windows operating system and the DirectX programming interface, the company's claims of support for PC gaming gets harder to swallow with each passing year. This year, we expect to see the PC platform entirely neglected in their presentations, with the possible exception of ports of Halo 3 and Fable 2.

So while it might seem that the PC market has lost a bit of its cachet recently, the opportunity is there for developers within the US to resurrect brands and concepts for a hungry audience, and for developers from around the world to introduce new ideas that haven't already been done to death. To the extent that those two trends are represented at E3, it's going to be a very satisfying show for fans of PC gaming.

Turn the page for 5 predictions about the PC and its software line-up at this year's E3. The fun starts on June 1, so make sure to check out our E3 Expo coverage.

Half-Life is one of the pillars that the first-person genre rests upon, and the saga of Half-Life 2 that began in 2004 continues today with the Half-Life 2 trilogy of follow-up episodes. However, Episode Two shipped with The Orange Box shipped in 2007, and we're far overdue for news on Episode Three, the final chapter of the Half-Life 2 saga. And to think, when Valve originally announced the trilogy it said that it planned to get all three episodes out in a twelve month period. That was way back in 2006. In addition, since Left 4 Dead shipped last year, Valve doesn't have any announced games in the works. It's time for Valve to make some noise again.
Ever since the Xbox premiered in 2001 Microsoft has held an E3 press conference, and every year that press conference took some time to highlight PC gaming. That is, until last year, when Microsoft didn't even bother with a sizzle reel of upcoming PC releases. Sure, Vista was a disappointment and the Mac took some of the steam out of the platform, but to ignore the PC seemed altogether seemed unthinkable. Since then, Microsoft has shut down Ensemble and canned the head of the Games for Windows - Live effort. We think the best we can hope for this year is some kind of Windows 7 demo. Also, we wouldn't be surprised if Microsoft announces the PC version of Halo 3. If the port of a 2007 Xbox 360 game is the highlight of Microsoft's PC announcements, then expect some tepid applause.
The PC rules when it comes to massively multiplayer online games, but it seems that everything else is cross platform these days, whether they're single-player RPGs, action games, or even strategy games. We're also hearing that a number of companies are still focusing on their 2009 lineups, which means that we may not hear about some of the PC-only stuff that's early in development. It also doesn't help that Blizzard, the 800-pound gorilla in the PC industry, is skipping E3 this year. That just means that most PC-exclusive games are probably going to be in the online realm, with more and more jumping on the free-to-play with optional microtransaction revenue model that's popular in Asia.
2009 has been a relatively quiet year for PC releases thus far, but there's little argument that two of the biggest games to emerge in the first part of the year were Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II and Empire: Total War. The former came from THQ and Relic, while the latter was the work of Sega and Creative Assembly. Now that both games have been available for several months now, it wouldn't surprise us to see both teams continue their momentum. Relic has made no secret that it plans to add new campaigns featuring other Warhammer 40,000 races, and Creative Assembly does have a tradition of making expansion packs for every single one of its Total War games. E3 is when we may learn of what's next for those franchises.
Crytek is a pretty huge development company, with studios in Germany, Hungary, Bulgaria, the Ukraine, and the United Kingdom. Yet we don't know what any of them are working on. Crytek shipped Crysis Warhead last September, and it hasn't announced what's coming next. Warhead was a stand-alone offshoot of 2007's Crysis, and Crytek boss Cevat Yerli has stated that the series is planned as a trilogy, so that means that there's a second and third chapter lurking out there. (The ending of Crysis certainly reinforces the entire trilogy thing.) Will we finally get Crysis 2 revealed at E3? Or will Crytek announce its new multiplatform console IP instead? We expect that the company finally breaks radio silence and tells the world something.

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