One of the things we like to do is talk to some of the top innovators in the industry to see what makes them tick. We’ve spoken to Matt Ployhar -- president of the PC Gaming Alliance  (PCGA) -- before, but he’s been up to a lot lately, so we followed up to get a closer look.
How did you get involved in the gaming/tech industry?
Matt Ployhar: Unprofessionally, I’ve been playing some sort of game all my life. I have a vivid memory of my dad trying to teach me chess. So, technically, it started with an ancient board game!
Professionally, I got my first break in the PC gaming industry largely by accident while working as a contractor in Microsoft’s hardware group. A co-worker stopped by my office one day and asked me to play MechWarrior 2 with the SideWinder 3D Pro joystick over the weekend. I’m not exaggerating; I think I got a total of 10 hours of sleep that whole weekend. I loved the game and the way the 3D Pro joystick paired with the game. The rest is sort of history, as they say.
What made you start the PC Gaming Alliance?
M.P.: The original impetus behind the PC Gaming Alliance was really to address two core problem statements. The first problem boils down to there not being a defined, stable PC gaming platform for game ISVs (independent software vendors) to target. This is a key advantage that the consoles get to enjoy, and a key reason why ISVs like to develop and tune for them.
Secondly, there’s been a ton of stories circulating about “PC gaming is dying’” in the past decade. Good grief. As one person put it on a forum once, “The PC was there before consoles, during, and likely to be there long after.” How does a 501(c) nonprofit go about tackling this sort of misinformation? The only way to fight it is with the truth, backed up with solid facts and research. This has spawned our ongoing investment in releasing our annual Horizon Report covering both the software and hardware sides of the equation for PC Gaming.
What are your favorite games?
M.P.: Yowza! I have about 40 favorites. If I had to pin my favorite of all time, it goes back to the one that got me into this wonderful industry: MechWarrior 2. Honestly, the list would be too long to go into, but here’s a random sampling: Quake II, Age of Empires, StarCraft I and II, Baldur’s Gate I and II, European Air War, Asheron’s Call, World of Warcraft, the Battlefield series, BioShock and Skyrim.
All too often, I see great games get canned for all the wrong reasons. Most come down to people who don’t make or play games, but hold the purse strings, wanting to dumb something down. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen that strictly business approach end up in total failure.
How do you see the PC gaming category evolving over the next five years?
M.P.: In five years, Windows 9 will have likely shipped, and the next eighth-generation crop of consoles will all be in the market with a good amount of certainty. This also means that we’ll see a lot more DirectX 11 (and OpenGL equivalents) and games pushing that envelope graphically.
What I think is less clear, but likely to happen, is that we’ll see some contraction occurring across the splintering of all the form factors and devices on the market today. We’re likely to also see some additional convergence. The tablet/slate mania will be somewhat staunched by hybrid Ultrabook form factors. For example, I love my iPad 2, but I also see its limitations.
Going back to convergence, we’re likely to see this impact consoles, DVRs and PC desktops most because of globalization. We have to keep in mind that a large portion of the world doesn’t have the disposable income rates seen in most of the industrialized world. As more countries’ standards of living rise, which is a great thing, they also have to prioritize those precious few dollars they have. PCs, being the multifunction devices they are, are the clear winners because they offer far more value and bang for the buck.