Game industry icon John Romero, best known for his work at id Software on the Doom and Wolfenstein franchises, says in a new interview that the PC platform is "decimating" consoles. That's because, Romero tells GamesIndustry International, PC games are often less expensive (sometimes free) and the platform itself is more open than traditional consoles.
"With PC you have free-to-play and Steam games for five bucks. The PC is decimating console, just through price," Romero said. "Free-to-play has killed a hundred AAA studios."
"It's a different form of monetization than Doom or Wolfenstein or Quake where that's free-to-play [as shareware]," he added. "Our entire first episode was free--give us no money, play the whole thing. If you like it and want to play more, then you finally pay us. To me that felt like the ultimate fair [model]. I'm not nickel-and-diming you. I didn't cripple the game in any design way. That was a really fair way to market a game. When we put these games out on shareware, that changed the whole industry. Before shareware there were no CD-ROMs, there were no demos at all. If you wanted to buy Ultima, Secret of Monkey Island, any of those games, you had to look really hard at that box and decide to spend 50 bucks to get it."
Free-to-play games have not been without criticism, but Romero argues that developers are getting smarter at designing these games so that they are more player-friendly when it comes to monetization.
"Everybody is getting better at free-to-play design, the freemium design, and it's going to lose its stigma at some point," Romero said. "People will settle into [the mindset] that there is a really fair way of doing it, and the other way is the dirty way. Hopefully that other way is easily noticeable by people and the quality design of freemium rises and becomes a standard. That's what everybody is working hard on. People are spending a lot of time trying to design this the right way. They want people to want to give them money, not have to. If you have to give money, you're doing it wrong... For game designers, that's the holy grail."
Another reason why Romero said he believes PC and mobile are surging ahead of console is because of the "closed" nature of traditional machines like the Xbox One or PlayStation 4.
"The problem with console is that it takes a long time for a full cycle," Romero said. "With PCs, it's a continually evolving platform, and one that supports backward compatibility, and you can use a controller if you want; if I want to play a game that's [made] in DOS from the '80s I can, it's not a problem. You can't do that on a console. Consoles aren't good at playing everything. With PCs if you want a faster system you can just plug in some new video cards, put faster memory in it, and you'll always have the best machine that blows away PS4 or Xbox One."
Romero also chimed in on the topic of virtual reality recently, saying that while he is personally excited about technology like Oculus Rift, he--like others before him--questions its mainstream appeal. He co-founded id Software and now works at the Universe of California, Santa Cruz.
The next Doom game was recently officially announced. The game is coming to Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC. It runs on id Tech 6 at 1080p and 60fps.