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PC gaming is transforming, says Sorenson

THQ dev boss admits winding down of traditional releases, but eyes huge potential online

THQ exec Jack Sorenson is the latest senior industry figure to launch into the debate on the state of PC gaming, revealing that the publisher is shifting its focus from traditional retail products on the platform to exploit the "massive" potential of online.

Speaking to GamesIndustry.biz at THQ's recent Gamers Day event in San Francisco, the worldwide studios boss voiced his fears for the health of PC gaming in the West, stating: "I would have to say I've probably been more negative in this past year than I have been in my whole career, because something is going on out there in the PC space."

"Whether it really is all about piracy, or it just becomes the domination of consoles, or [...] the ubiquity of gaming: there's a way to get gaming so many ways now that thinking about the PC as a disc-based platform may in fact be old."

Asked if THQ would be winding back on PC releases, Sorenson revealed: "I would just say I think that's already happened. You can look at the numbers and clearly there's a downward trend. We still think there's a market there, it's just where it's at. And then I think you have to augment the boxed product with digital download."

Sorenson's comments come after EA Sports supremo Peter Moore confirmed the US giant would be releasing fewer PC titles over the coming year.

Last month THQ creative director Michael Fitch slammed PC gaming culture in a highly-charged forum post.

However, Sorenson believes that the sector is evolving, throwing up major new opportunities for the industry.

"A lot of what we're looking at is the PC as a delivery mechanism because it's connected to the Internet," he said. "Maybe disc-based software is on a permanent decline, maybe to a certain level where it won't go down anymore, but that digitial download, MMO, free-to-play, all of this stuff is coming through the PC.

"Certainly, casual gaming is all through the PC. All of those business models just don't go through retail, so when you look at retail figures on a comparison, it looks radically worse than in fact it may be. Maybe the PC is just transforming to really being the other end of the Internet."

Sorenson cited the example of a free-to-play version of hit RTS Company of Heroes in development at Relic as an example of how THQ is adapting to the changing environment.

"It's hard as a westerner to get your head around it, but it's quite a fascinating way to structure a game and a business model," he added. "If you think about it, if there's 100 million people playing online games in China and Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, where there's not a single boxed product being sold, how bad is the PC?"

"On a global basis it may have seen the biggest growth of all platforms, but we're so western-centric that we just don't think of it that way."

Part One of the GamesIndustry.biz interview with Jack Sorenson can be read here.

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