Update: It seems Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment has actually suspended new sales of the PC version of Batman: Arkham Knight. The company announced the game's suspension on its official forums.
"We want to apologize to those of you who are experiencing performance issues with Batman: Arkham Knight on PC," said the company in a statement. "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. We greatly value our customers and know that while there are a significant amount of players who are enjoying the game on PC, we want to do whatever we can to make the experience better for PC players overall."
Guess those Steam Refunds were already doing their duty.
Original story: If you decided to pick up Batman: Arkham Knight for PC, you might be dealing with a mess. The optimization of the PC version has been rough at best, with some owners reporting 10-20 FPS on Nvidia and AMD graphics cards. The problem on the AMD side is reminiscent of issues some players had with Project Cars and The Witcher III. In fact, Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment VP of game technology Gary Lake-Schaal actually updated the system requirements for the game right before launch.
"We also want to note that there are some known issues with the performance of Batman: Arkham Knight for PC owners using AMD graphics cards," wrote Lake-Schaal. "We are working closely with AMD to rectify these issues as quickly as possible and will provide updates here as they become available. We thank you for your patience in this matter."
Even if you're not having any issues with the graphical prowess of Arkham Knight, the game is capped at 30 FPS. Subverting the cap requires messing with an INI file, something that should've been left back in the early days of PC gaming. Poor or erratic framerates, the framerate lock, a host of crashes, poor SLI support, and other bugs; just scanning the Most Helpful Steam reviews for the game will give you an idea of what's happening. Arkham Knight is getting savaged on the platform.
"We're aware that some users are reporting performance issues with the PC version of Batman: Arkham Knight," wrote community manager Liam 'CODA' Ashley. "This is something that Rocksteady takes very seriously. We are working closely with our external PC development partner to make sure these issues get resolved as quickly as possible."
This has been an ongoing problem with ports, especially for the PC. These ports tend to be handled by studios other than the original developer, under tight time constraints. It's entirely possible that many of these issues popped up in QA and the publisher went right on with the release schedule instead of pumping the brakes. It's not just ports though, as original titles like Assassin's Creed Unity, Halo: The Master Chief Collection, and DriveClub have all launched with significant issues.
It's getting harder and harder to justify pre-ordering titles. We reviewers get games ahead of time, but we may not have the same gameplay experience as many of you. A bug may pop up for assorted players here and there, while others may have a smooth experience. The only way to be sure about a game's performance is to hold off and not buy a game on day one. I admit, as an enthusiast player, that's pretty easy to say and hard to do. Those early days are the prime social moments, when you can play a game and share those experiences with friends and the community. That's something many want to be a part of, otherwise we'd just wait it out.
There's now an option beyond just taking the hit. Valve's new Steam Refund system remains a question mark when it comes to the larger effect the system will have on game developers, but for players, it means that Batman: Arkham Knight can be returned for a refund with little hassle. As long as they've coasted under the 2 hour/14 day limit (which begins when the game launches, not when you pre-order) they can request a refund. I'm sure many players have done just that in the face of Arkham Knight's performance.
This removes one of the benefits of pre-ordering and PC patching (Arkham has a day one update!) for publishers. Prior to Steam Refunds, you pretty much had to cross your fingers and hope the publisher and developer would fix the broken game. Now, the lack of a working product actually affects the developer's bottom line. Poor product means returns, which are lost sales. Imagine seeing a host of pre-sales turning into returns en masse. I'm sure that would scare many publishers.
I'm a bit worried about additional issues in this may create. The PC is sometimes treated like a second citizen by console developers (which is still better than how they treat the Wii U), with poor ports and late releases. If they can be punished for a poor port, will publishers step up and deliver a better product or simply walk away from the platform altogether? I'm hoping for the former, but I wouldn't be surprised if the latter happened and I'm sure it's on the minds of some publishers. Until we reach that dark day though, I'm sure people are happy Valve is allowing Steam Refunds.