Or is it?
I’m aware that the doom of pc gaming has been predicted by alarmists for some years now but I think that soon, this may prove right and I’m going to explain why.
A few notes before I start:
I’m mainly going to focus on leading consoles in my comparison (meaning the Snes, PSX and PS2). While I am aware of the existence of many, many other great systems, these are sufficient for our purposes.
Also, technological improvements are going to mean Prettier graphics. Yes, good graphics don’t make a fun game and vice-versa but all other things being equal (and they are, the same human beings develop games for consoles and pcs so it all evens out in the end) graphics sell.
Sound is irrelevant. The advances made since CD-quality music and speech came about have been extremely small compared to everything else. Sure, we have surround sound and 128 channels now but let’s be honest. The vast crushing majority of people doesn’t really care or notice. Most people still play in stereo and the last thing the average gamer looks at when deciding to buy a game is to whether or not it support DTS or what have you). Also, consoles have been roughly equivalent to PCs in this regard since the PSX era.
First, let’s look at the traditional pros and cons of PCs:
-Higher Resolution graphics.
Because of their functions, monitors have always had a significantly higher resolution and pc games have used that for a long time. People have played pc games at 1024x768 resolution almost 15 years ago. 1600x1200 has also been available for many, many years. In contrast, the SuperNES was only capable of something around 320x240. The PSX could barely reach 512x384 or so and you’ll be hard pressed to find PS2 games that run at 640x480 (480p). Sure, the recent Gran Turismo 4 is capable of running at a 1080i resolution but it is nothing but an aberration.
Some games are simply suited to the mouse + keyboard combination. Strategy games and FPS are glaring examples of niche genres which the PC absolutely dominates (apologies to Halo and Final Fantasy Tactics). While today’s consoles have offered the possibility of plugging keyboards and mice, they’re just not suited for the living room. I’m not saying keyboards rule and gamepads suck. I actually find console pads more suited to most games but you’ll have point a gun to my head to make me play Starcraft or Counter-strike with them.
Continous upgrade cycle
As opposed to consoles which evolve once every 5 or 6 years, PCs are constantly evolving. More ram, better CPUs and Graphics cards (GPUs) have allowed pcs to catch up to whatever new consoles come out fairly quickly, It usually takes a little over two years for PCs to catch up to current consoles and then they start exceeding them in polygon pushing power. But because of the nature of consoles, they’re much easier to optimize for and it really takes about 3 years for PC games to get to the level of console games. Towards the 5th year or so, PC games are usually significantly better looking than console games.
Lan and Online gaming**
At the risk of getting shot down, Lan gaming is irrelevant. Yes, I know, there seem to be tons of LAN parties and gatherings popping up everywhere. You bring your pc, play til you drop and have a lot of fun. Then you have the LAN cafes where you rent a PC for the same kind of privilege. But the truth is only a small minority of hardcore gamers go to those things. And even if more people did go, these are more social gatherings than a way of gaming. You can’t go to a lan party every week now can you? Oddly enough, even though consoles have supported lan play since the PSX days and it’s easier to lug a ps2 around than it is a PC, console lan parties are not popular at all. Then again, it’s so much easier to plug a second or fourth controller to a console and invite some friends over
Online gaming is a whole other ballgame. Online gaming is BIG and it’s getting bigger. Everybody wants to play online. Even discarding MMORPGs and Online FPS such as counter-strike or Unreal, few are the games that wouldn’t benefit from some kind of online play. Heck, I can’t think of any. And even though the Xbox is doing a great job , The PC still reigns supreme here, once again. If only because many more people own pcs and pcs have many more quality online games than the xbox.
Now, for the PC cons.**
**It’s expensive. **
For a decent gaming experience, you’re going to need a $150-$200 gpu. Odds are, you’ll also upgrade your CPU, Mobo and Ram just because of games. It’s not unusual for a pc gamer to drop $500 to be able to play games the way they were meant to. And you’ve got to do it at least every 3 years. Consoles are much, much cheaper in this respect.
It’s not as user friendly.
Playing on the pc requires you to have recent drivers, an HD install, you’re expected to be familiar with things such as resolution, AntiAliasing, Anisotropic filtering, triple buffering, Gamma levels and the like. You probably also want to be able to upgrade parts, understand the concept of patches and whatnot. It doesn’t take a genius to figure it out of course but it’s definitely not as easy as popping a disc in and pressing start.
There are no japanese games!
The japanese are great game developers and they focus almost exclusively on consoles. Most of the japanese games for PC you can find are either Hentai or subpar console ports. As a result, PCs do not have as many AAA titles as consoles. It is also an important factor as to why console games sell in significantly higher numbers than PC games.
I’m not going to list console pros and cons, I’d just be mirroring what i’ve already listed for PCs.
The reason I think the future looks grim for pcs is because the PC padvantages are disappearing.
Take the resolution for instance. The next generation consoles all come ready for HDTV. 720p is going to be a minimum. That’s roughly equivalent to 1024x768 for the pc which is the resolution most people play at (followed by 800x600). You can bet that 1080i and 1080p (1920x1080 interlaced and progressive respectively) resolutions are not going to be uncommon either. So the consoles have caught up to the PC. Don’t expect vaster resolutions on the PC anytime soon. The best you can get right now (barring the $3000 30" apple monitor that requires 2 GPUs to drive it and specialized medical equipment), the best you can do right now is a 24" LCD with a 1920x1200 resolution. This is not going to improve for the next 10 years at least. PC games will no longer look sharper than their console counterparts.
You’ve seen a preview with the xbox, believe me when I say the upcoming xenon, ps3 and Nintento revolution have all taken a hint. It’s a known fact for xenon and the revolution but i’ll eat my hat if the PS3 doesn’t have a similarly good service in place. Consoles are going to rock the online world, hard. PCs will no longer have any advantage in that regard either. In fact, it may very well become a con for the pc as consoles aren’t as plagued by cheaters and exploits.
In theory, the PC could also lose supremacy when it comes to FPS and Strategy games. All upcoming consoles will feature component and HDMI / DVI outputs. While monitors that support component are still few, DVI is becoming the norm and HDMI is little more than DVI in a more convenient cable. Kinda like composite stereo and headphone jacks. Cheap HDMI to DVI adapters will be available so there is no real reason not to plug your console to your monitor and play your FPS/RTS games right there on your computer desk. Will all fps, rts and sims developpers jump ship? I don’t think so. Inertia is a powerful thing. But a shift may start in that direction.
This is all coming from someone who owns a ps2, an xbox, a gamecube AND a pc with 1Gb of ram, a 24" Widescreen monitor and a $300 Geforce 6800GT. I’m not biased one way or another. It’s all about the games
Well, that’s about it. Can you find any glaring flaws to my reasoning and theories? I also have used some specialized lexicon that you might not be familiar with so don’t hesitate to ask about that either.
Hopefully, this’ll be a nice break from all the more serious religious and political debates in here.