‘Mafia III’ PC Framerate Lock Is Indicative Of A Larger Gaming Industry Problem

Yesterday’s news that the latest installment in the Mafia franchise, Mafia III, would contain a framerate cap on PC was met with a strong response from the PC community. The inclusion of a framerate cap in any PC game is archaic in today’s gaming landscape for many users, and doing so has many PC users up in arms.

Mafia III, which we knew might have issues prior to launch that developer Hanger 13 and publisher 2K Games might want to keep under wraps for as long as they can, released today across PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4. And while the game is being met with some good response from critics, the fact remains that many PC gamers feel cheated by the decision to launch the game with the framerate lock in place.

Mafia III developer Hanger 13 released a statement on the Mafia website, explaining the decision. The team cited the need to ensure that “Mafia III’s performance was consistent across all platforms,” and this is why the 30 frames-per-second lock was in place. However, the outcry from the community was likely more than the developer anticipated.

Generally, PC gamers prefer uncapped framerates. Let’s be real: The hardware running a PC is generally powerful enough to give its users double the framerate typically seen on consoles and at higher visual fidelity at that. Also, it should be noted that many PC gamers also use monitors with 120-144hz refresh rates, meaning that 30fps framerate is significantly low for what they are actually able to achieve. However, the larger issue at hand isn’t necessarily the lock itself, but the mindset behind the locked framerate.

Kotaku’s Nathan Grayson lays it out perfectly, and it’s something that is echoed in many a gaming circle: console development holds back PC games.

“PC gamers prefer un-capped framerates, given that their machines are generally powerful enough to push well past the buttery smooth realm of 60 FPS. A cap, then, is a sign of a port that caters to consoles at PC’s expense. That’s no good.”

The line “at PC’s expense” is huge, and it defines a mindset that has lingered in the gaming industry. One only needs to look at the recent history of poor PC ports of video games, such as Batman: Arkham Knight, No Man’s Sky, and Gears of War: Ultimate Edition (at least at launch) and you’ll see a trend. All of these games were console focused, and as a result, the PC version suffered greatly.

The cap itself isn’t as much an issue as the feeling of the PC community being seen as second-class citizens by large, triple-A publishers. Mafia III, with its cap in place and the promise of performance adjustment options to come in an update post launch, feels like an unfinished title. And who could blame the PC community for feeling this way? In a sense, the developer is telling you that the game isn’t up to the standards of the PC community, yet they are going to release it anyway. Mafia III is the most recent example, but it will hardly be the last.

This is in direct contrast yesterday with Gears of War 4. Microsoft, a company that had seemingly shunned PC gamers in years past, is embracing them. Gears 4 is the poster child of what PC ports should be in 2016. Nvidia released a primer on the wealth of graphics options, both expected to be used today and some features that are actually forward-looking like circle depth of field and screen space shadows. It’s striking to see the difference in how Gears of War 4 developer The Coalition has embraced what PC gamers want, versus Mafia III, where standard features and expectations are completely missing from the final release.

Mafia III will have the cap removed in a patch the developer hopes to release this weekend, so players looking to dive into the game’s vision of 1960s New Orleans will have a chance to fully harness their investment’s power, or so it’s hoped. It’ll be interesting to see if the community can move past this once Hanger 13 has produced a PC port where the gamers don’t feel slighted for their money. The coming days and weeks will tell, and it’s something for other developers doing cross-platform games to keep an eye on, so they can hopefully rectify, not replicate, the issue with their upcoming titles.

[Featured Image by Hanger 13/2K Games]