December 20, 2007 - Welcome to IGN's 2007 Year in Review for the biggest and baddest platform, the PC. Over the next seven pages we're going to cover the highest highs and lowest lows, the biggest news and highest reviews of 2007. We're going to look back at the year's events, like E3, GDC and BlizzCon, and see how well PC games kept up with the surging big three consoles. You'll find a list of the year's highest rated and most popular reader titles along with a list of the best selling games of 2007. We'll break down the biggest news of the year and provide a few tips and tricks on the hottest games. And finally, we'll take a look at 2008 and see what's in store for the PC in the fight to retain supremacy in the traditionally PC centered genres.
So break out the frosty beverages, we're going to party like it's 2008.
State of the Platform
Welcome to World of PCcraft.
2007 turned out to be one hell of a good year for gaming across all platforms. While we saw plenty of highly anticipated titles take a little tumble into next year we were also treated to an amazingly high standard of entertainment, especially in the first-person shooter genre. Here on the PC we saw some games long in development finally release and, in many cases, live up to the hype. In other ways, the PC market isn't looking strong. While the console markets grow in North America, we're seeing a decline in PC gaming. It's probably exactly the fact that there were so many strikingly excellent games this year that makes this so much more surprising.
Just look at the FPS genre in particular. We went over this in greater length in our Year of the FPS ramblings but the short of it is that this was an unprecedented year for PC shooters. There were a ton of beautiful games to choose from in all walks of the genre. Corridor shooters, run and guns, free-form, team-based, class-based, twitchy, and tactical all had entries that could easily satisfy even the most hardened gamer. S.T.A.L.K.E.R., BioShock, Quake Wars, Team Fortress 2, Half-Life 2: Episode Two, Call of Duty 4, Crysis, and Unreal Tournament III were only the biggest and brightest.
Strategy, the PC's other traditionally strong genre, had just as many titles as years past. Of course, that also meant just as many mediocre titles as well. Thankfully, the genre wasn't without its winners. We saw the release of Supreme Commander early in the year and while it's not for everyone, it turned out to be well worth the wait and showed some pretty innovative interface decisions. Just recently we saw the release of the stand alone Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance which changed the game rules a bit to make the game a bit faster. World in Conflict was the other groundbreaking real-time strategy title this year proving that you don't need resource or base management to create a deep and fun game. Its multiplayer mode alone brought class based gameplay into strategy in about as successful a way as we could imagine. Turn-based strategy largely took a back seat this year but Stardock still managed to release the excellent Dark Avatar expansion to Galactic Civilizations II while Firaxis pumped out Beyond the Sword for Civ IV.
But the most interesting section of PC gaming right now is definitely the MMO market. Blizzard has a stranglehold with World of Warcraft that only got stronger with the release of Burning Crusade. Other MMOs, while they still have a chance, have been forced to adopt similar gameplay styles whether they want to or not. A member of Funcom developing Age of Conan recently told me how hard it was to develop for people complaining that they want something different than World of Warcraft and then turning around and complaining that they don't understand it because it doesn't play like World of Warcraft. The influence on the industry is immense. Yet there are still plenty of developers hoping to lay claim to a piece of that green pie. Age of Conan, Warhammer Online, Warhammer 40,000 Online, Pirates of the Burning Sea, Star Trek Online, whatever BioWare is working on in Austin, The Agency, are just a few that are hoping to catch players falling stunned from the mountain that is Blizzard after gorging themselves on WoW for years.
As mentioned earlier, one of the other surprising things about this year was the huge number of quality titles released when there were more than a few that were pushed into 2008. Games like Spore, Frontlines: Fuel of War, Assassin's Creed, Age of Conan, Warhammer Online, Sins of a Solar Empire, Dragon Age, Left 4 Dead, Mercenaries 2, Project Offset, and Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway were all on our radars at the beginning of the year. In a way, we're actually pretty happy they weren't released this year. The market was too crowded (especially with World of Warcraft sitting their stuffing its face with everyone's money) as it was and this way we have some good things to look forward to in 2008. It's a good thing because we're having a hard time believing that this next year could possibly have the bloated excellence of 2007.
So with all these great games released on PC this year, the question is: what the hell happened to the gamers? What's most troubling about the PC market is the sales numbers. The best selling game in North America, according to NPD numbers, was the World of Warcraft expansion pack Burning Crusade. That was the only game on the list that sold over a million PC copies this year and its base product World of Warcraft the only other game to pass a half-million sold. The next best seller, The Sims 2: Seasons, was down around 300k. And check this, of the 31 games that managed to sell over 100,000 copies this year, 21 of them were released in previous years and 11 of them were Sims products. Command & Conquer 3, Supreme Commander, Lord of the Rings Online, BioShock were the only games released this year to sell over 100k that weren't Sims or World of Warcraft related according to NPD.
Now, while we're saying that, we have to wonder how much of the sales decline from retail stores is due to people downloading the games online since NPD doesn't track services like Steam and Valve won't release sales numbers. What we're talking about here could be much ado about nothing, but it's concerning, not because we think the PC will die as a gaming platform, but because we may continue to see a decline in PC specific titles. Compared to console sales, these numbers are pretty sad and we have to wonder how much longer bigger companies are going to see the PC as a primary option for making money. I suppose as consoles get more powerful, it becomes a bit easier to make cross-platform titles, but as John Carmack said recently in an interview, the days of PC only titles could very well be winding down. It's not happy news for us PC gamers.
While we don't have any sorts of "facts" or "numbers" or "credible sources" to back up our wild claims at this point, we're also wondering whether World of Warcraft is helping or hurting the PC gaming market. Yes, it's attracting a lot of players that might not have purchased PC games before, but it's also sucking them and the previous hardcore players in so intensely that they don't want to play anything else. When people are actually letting their marriages be ruined by the need to play a game they're definitely not running out to buy anything new.
It's also not surprising that we're still seeing our traditionally big genres and franchises make their way to consoles. EA continues to push their RTSs onto the 360 and the release of Command & Conquer 3 proved it as a very viable solution. The news that World in Conflict, Supreme Commander, and Universe at War were all being pushed onto consoles has us wondering how much longer the PC will retain the edge in this department. These are three very different and, in some cases, very complicated games. If Supreme Commander with its huge scope can be successful, it'll be an easy maneuver for the rest of the RTS developers to begin drooling over the possibilities. We remember when shooters first came out on consoles. They were awkward. The same is going to be the case with strategy games but developers will find a way to make them work well.
Either way, it's an interesting time for PC gamers. When the high end graphics cards needed to run games, but that still can't run the over-promised DX10 well, are as expensive as they are, it really is the hardcore that are left to hoist the flag for gamers games. The PC market will always be there for casual games if nothing else simply because these games can run on any of the millions of computers around the world. It'll be an interesting year next year to see how many more developers jump ship to consoles for the promise of greater riches.