Warner Bros. released Batman: Arkham Knight earlier this week on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC. While Xbox One and PlayStation 4 owners have — by most accounts — enjoyed the fourth game in the punchy action series, PC players found a world beset by more than just Gotham's thugs. Bugs, glitches, and performance issues ruined the Bat-fantasy for a significant number of PC gamers, making the game essentially unplayable in extreme cases. The situation is so dire that now, less than a week after it was launched, Warner Bros has decided to suspend sales of the game's PC version until the problems are fixed.
The company posted a statement on its forums confirming that it was removing the game from sale. "Dear Batman: Arkham Knight PC owners," the message reads, "we want to apologize to those of you who are experiencing performance issues with Batman: Arkham Knight on PC. We take these issues very seriously and have therefore decided to suspend future game sales of the PC version while we work to address these issues to satisfy our quality standards." The statement says that Warner Bros. is currently working "to deliver an updated version" of Arkham Knight — presumably by disseminating a patch in the coming weeks — but notes that Steam users can also request a refund now that Valve has updated its policies on the topic.
PC gamers are sadly familiar with poorly ported games on their platform, having received several sub-par versions of popular games over the past few decades. In 2012, for example, it was announced that Namco Bandai's critical darling Dark Souls would be coming to the desktop. The resultant port was locked at a pitifully low resolution, restricted its framerate, inherited memory leak issues from its console cousins, and generally looked several years behind PC gaming contemporaries. Fortunately, it took an industrious modder a few days to release a patch that unhooked Dark Souls from its draconian resolution and framerate restrictions, making the game eminently smoother and more playable. Developer From Software later admitted its ignorance of the platform's coding nuances.
This isn't the first terrible PC port
Other publishers have won the hearts and minds of notoriously tribal PC gamers by hiring experts to do their porting duties. Square Enix used Dutch company Nixxes to handle the PC version of 2011's Deus Ex: Human Revolution. The firm produced a version of the sneak-'em-up that ran smooth and was stuffed with graphics options, earning goodwill from the PC-playing community. Arkham Knight was developed by British company Rocksteady, but the game's credits thank another firm, Iron Galaxy Studios, for "additional engineering and PC support." The company also handled the PC version of Batman: Arkham Origins, but its track record suggests it's more familiar working on console titles, having provided assistance on the PS3 version of Destiny and the Xbox One's Killer Instinct recently.
Publishers and developers have justified poor ports in the past, arguing that the inherent variations in PC gamers' machines makes development for the platform more difficult than it is on console. That argument was easier to make a few years ago, when code also had to be shuffled between the Xbox 360 and the PS3's infamously tricky architecture, but this new generation of consoles are noted for their structural similarity to PCs. Warner Bros., for its part, didn't try to use the same defensive tactic; the problems detailed in videos and screenshots have proven so debilitating to players that the only solution was taking the game off virtual shelves.
Steam is no longer selling Arkham Knight
At the time of writing, Steam is no longer selling Arkham Knight. Warner Bros. hasn't set a date yet for its patch, but even if it does fix the game's missing textures, juddery performance, and painful load times, it may be too late to rescue Arkham Knight's image in PC players' eyes. When the game does go back on sale on Steam it will be saddled with a slew of one-star reviews and complaints, a digital footprint that serves as proof of what happens when you upset gaming's most dedicated players.