What is the PC Gaming Alliance? (Future of PC Gaming series Part 1)

In the first of a five part series on the future of PC Gaming - Matt Ployhar, president of the PC Gaming Alliance introduces the PCGA and what it stands for - describing how it's essential to hold together the PC gaming industry, and how he'd love to have Valve on board.

PC Gaming PCGA PC Gaming Alliance

Why was the PC Gaming Alliance formed?

The PC Gaming Alliance was officially formed now four years ago as a 501c non profit organization for PC Gaming Insider stakeholders.  The key impetus behind its formation was to define a stable games platform spec and canon (Certification) to help guide Game Developers and the Industry towards solutions resulting in a better experience across the board. From the Developers themselves to the Consumers to all the other Co-Travelers participating.  The other key goal was to also provide thought leadership to the PC Gaming space.  The other would have been to combat the never ending litany of FUD around the chicken little story of the ‘Sky is Falling’ – ‘PC Gaming is dying’ myth.  To that end we’ve sponsored a ton of research resulting in our annual Horizon’s Reports.
As to how we operate we’ve undergone some minor transitions.  We’ve actually even recently restructured things to lower the barrier for entry a little bit and also ensure that everyone feels like they have a voice by allowing them a vote.  I wanted it to be less about someone being able to ‘buy their seat’ and having the power in the hands of a few.  Three of our four tiers of membership now gets to participate with an equal voice.  The value we provide for those members coming in at higher membership levels is now more marketing attention related and there are a few other perks.  Most of what we drive is done by consensus.  Any member can propose a new initiative, but by doing so, they need to take some ownership in driving the meetings, generating the whitepapers, conducting the webinars etc.  All in all it’s starting to finally come together, and we’re now making progress on several fronts.

How does the PCGA drive awareness of PC Gaming?

The biggest pretty much started with our Horizon’s Research.  We had to be able to back up our claims that PC Gaming wasn’t dying. We also had to stay on point and message and not deviate from our course.  Over the years we’ve been picked up in numerous high profile publications (Online and Print) that shows how and why PC Gaming continues to the single largest platform revenue generator out there. We’re even approaching the point where PC Gaming is nearly as big as all (3) Consoles combined!  There are several other ways we also drive awareness. We’re starting to be a little more self-promoting than we have in the past as well, are starting to grow again, and have a physical presence and marketing at the key trade events.  In addition to that there’s the one to one touch that I have with a ton of pretty high level individuals across the industry.  I wasn’t big on growing the Org last year, as there were some foundational pieces I felt we needed to get in place first before trying to grow the Org.

Why is PCGA Needed?

This comes back to the Thought Leadership I touched on earlier.  We believe it’s primarily needed for several reasons.  First; if we weren’t hosting discussions on Security Best Practices, and Game Specs, etc, it’s unlikely that anyone else would.  Second: Consoles do get to have the luxury of much deeper pockets and only having to work with a few partners to shepherd their platforms.  Third: Perhaps most importantly, it comes back to being an advocate for the Consumer.  Yes.. we are on your side, it may seem like we’re moving at a glacial pace but we truly believe that PC Gaming is the best choice, but can be made to be much better than it is with a few tweaks. Some of our members ship Console games, some don’t, or aren’t allowed to play in their ‘Sand Boxes’.  So we’re here to provide viable alternatives that should eventually be every bit as good or better than a Console.

What do you say to those who criticise PCGA and call it an ‘industry PR quango’ which serves the interests only of it’s members?

I’ve seen some pretty vile comments up on some forums at times about the PCGA, or PC Gaming in general all the time.  While I’d love to make everyone happy I’m not sure that’s entirely possible. I can completely see how or why people would feel that way or draw some random conclusion when they don’t have all the inside information.  That’s completely understandable and perhaps just human nature.  It’s certainly easy to sit back and criticize but much harder to roll up the sleeves and start writing down actual solutions in something like a whitepaper that help developers with BKMs/SBPs to make informed decisions, save them time, lower their bug counts and so on.  That’s what we’re doing now in the PCGA under my presidency.  The goal is to produce stuff that makes a difference and to execute.  I’ll let people come back in 3, 5, or 10 years and then make a judgment.  I’m of the opinion that I’d much rather give it a try, even if it folded tomorrow, than to not try bettering the PC Gaming experience at all.   Yes – to some degree we serve our members, but the higher order bit is to serve the Consumers first.  If we don’t improve, or deliver a better product or end user experience, then it doesn’t matter how good the x, y, or z individual members products are.

Why are key players such as Valve not a member of the PCGA?

I’ve been in discussions with Valve. They’re not opposed to joining. I’d love to have them on board. However I’m not going to be some sort of high pressure salesman with them either.  All things in due time. Some of this may be timing related too.  They’re incredibly busy right now.  While I get to see it and hear about it first-hand most people don’t.  Once a member decides to come on board it can be a substantial time commitment.  The other thing to point out here is, I started taking a different tack last year as well, with members and non-members.  In short, I felt it didn’t matter if key stakeholders in the industry were members or not – we started inviting them to participate in the Webinars which we were hosting (opt-in) and this was incredibly well received.  So I want people to understand that we’re not in isolation.  We get tons of encouragement from members and non-members. Even members that have left we’re still reaching across the table and having those conversations when applicable. I felt this was a good step towards taking the higher ground and it also exhibits thought Leadership.

What specific objectives does the PC Gaming Alliance have for 2013; what do you hope to accomplish? – and in the next 5 years?

Our big plans this year are pretty simple.

  1. Add 1 or 2 more key initiatives to what we already have
  2. Start growing membership
  3. Start utilising our new Website and the associated Developers Wiki and building that out.   That’s plenty of work right there for a non-profit.  What we should be able to start accomplishing is building out a solid framework for PC Games Developers that keep coming back to us for workable solutions that help improve their business to translate into a better end user PC Gaming experience.  Over the next 5 years I’d like to tap more into the University Programs out there, expand the PCGA globally, as well as perhaps seeing if there’s something more we can’t do to reach out to PC Gaming Consumers more themselves.  As right now we’re strictly focused on being an industry consortium.  All in due time.