GTA4 isn’t quite up there with Saints Row 2 in the terrible porting department, but even five years on you can still find people posting threads with titles like “GTA4 is the worst PC port of all time” and (rightly) complaining about the poor optimisation job Rockstar did with it.
The guy writing that has a better PC than the one I’m typing on right now, and he still can’t run GTA4 properly. Mind you, their most recent PC effort is Max Payne 3 and as far as I know that runs pretty fine (it just has stupidly large texture files.)
Tim: Yeah, Max Payne 3 ran fine, although I do wonder what the issues were with GTA4. GTA4, Red Dead Redemption, Max Payne 3, and GTA5 all run on the RAGE engine… but one of those games had an abysmal port, one never made it to PC due to probably-technical-issues, one was basically flawless (for me, at least), and one hasn’t been announced yet. Not that I’m saying the engine would be the sole culprit for whether something is problematic on PC or not, mind you; what you do with it matters a fair bit too, and it’s probably a good sign that the most recent title to hit PC was also the one that was the most polished for the system.
Peter: Since you’ve been playing GTA5 on console like a filthy traitor scum traitor man, what kinds of things would you look forward to seeing in a PC release? Effectively what I’m asking here is are you tired of muddy textures and 30 FPS yet?
Tim: What I’d like to see, ideally, is a proper version of the game. Not a half-arsed port. Not something with bugs up the wazoo, and the bare minimum of options. Not something that’s completely unplayable on mouse and keyboard. Something that is actually built, optimised, and even improved for PC.
I’m enjoying the console version, but since getting a new PC I’ve definitely become a bit of a snob for… if not graphics, then technical proficiency. I’m used to games looking stunning and running at 60fps. So yes, a game that’s aimed at 30fps (but regularly drops to 20fps) which has comparatively muddy textures and inferior shadows and inferior anti-aliasing… well, it’s not pleasant. The game is more than enough to make up for it, but I can’t shake the feeling that it would just be so much better on PC.
I also don’t think it’d require too much work to optimise the gameplay for PC. The way cover and shooting and so on works should map pretty easily to mouse/keyboard without heavy tweaking needed to balance the difficulty for the more accurate control systems (the console versions, by default, feature a “snap-to” lock whenever you press the aim trigger, which levels the playing field considerably). In short, I can’t see much of a reason why we wouldn’t see a PC version.
Whether that’ll actually happen is a matter that’s up for debate – which is exactly what we’re doing here – but it’s something that’s looking more and more likely as time goes by.
There’s one other thing, though, and this is something I know you looked at last night. Is GTA5 on PC financially viable? Would it actually make money? Would people buy it on PC? I know there are articles floating around that claim PC users are a small subset of the target audience, after all, which sort of implies that it wouldn’t rack up particularly large sales on PC. This is a comment that makes me bristle for a variety of reasons, but I think you’ve got some numbers on this.
Peter: There are kind of some numbers on this. Excuse me for using Larry ‘Major Nelson’ Hryb as a source here, but he does work for Microsoft so he should know these things.
GTA4 came out on PC in December 2008. It was then the most played game on the thrice-accursed Games for Windows Live non-service for 2009 and 2012. In 2011, it was in second place. For some reason he didn’t give any GfWL stats for 2010, so that year is a mystery.
Now, yes, GfWL is a piece of crap, but that does mean GTA4 was beating out games like Fallout 3, Batman: Arkham Asylum/Arkham City, Dawn of War II and Dark Souls with some regularity. Those are all popular, big selling titles on the PC; so even though GTA4 is kind of notorious for being a terrible port, loads of people were still playing it about four years after it came out.
That doesn’t give us precise numbers, but it does indicate that GTA5 would have absolutely no problems selling on the PC and would make Rockstar a tidy sum. Less money than the $800 million USD they just saw from a combined console release I’m sure, but it’d be a decent amount up front, followed by a steady drip-drip from digital sales over time. Rockstar would be mental not to do it, which is probably why we can expect a PC version in about six months time.
So let’s make an IncGamers definitive statement on this whole affair: I’m saying that we will indeed see a PC release in early 2014. Tim, do you agree?
Tim: I quite like being contrary so I’d love to argue, but the history and the evidence points to a release around that window, particularly as there are plenty of indications that this is in production. I wouldn’t necessarily be surprised if it slipped to a bit later in the year, particularly if they’re wanting to actually do the port properly this time, but I doubt we’d see it much earlier.
Alright, sure. Early to mid 2014; Q1 or Q2. That’s maybe a little on the optimistic side, but it looks about right.