The death of PC games is nigh!

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.

**Special Controls
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.

In Conclusion:

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 :slight_smile:

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.

The problem is that PCs will continue to be more powerful on the bleeding edge, so the geeks and early adapters will stick with them. They are more moddable hardware wise . And software-wise: people like that. The modding scene for PCs is huge and highly important.

I think consoles will become more PClike until the markets join, not the other way around. The direction for developers these days is to make games that scale fairly wide in specs, which means that you can make the same game for both the low end and high end of the hardware market.

What about that having bought a PC primarily for gaming, you can use it for other purposes too? - such as surfing for porn, spamming or trolling on internet message boards… I mean… word processing, home accounts, online buying & booking etc.

I’d say that’s a pretty big ‘pro’ for the PC - of course you can do most of that on a lower-spec PC and have a console too.

Exactly - I already need a PC for other stuff. Why should I buy another box just for games?

Damn, no Ultra Tentacle Rape 2K3 Neo Sailor Moon Edition for the PC? Damn.

Guess I’ll just have to trudge on with IL2 Sturmovik and Hearts of Iron 2 and The Operational Art of War and Joint Operations and who knows how many other titles that either wouldn’t be practical to port over (most strategy games), or puny console hardware would choke and die if it tried to play it at its intented scope and settings (Joint Ops, IL2).

I have an XBox and a PS2. The PS2 is just for GTA. The XBox is for KOTOR. Other than that, I see them as amazingly underpowered PC’s, with huge catalogs of games that don’t interest me, look bad, or both.

And storing recipies. Why did they always talk about storing recipies on your computer back in the eighties?

Dunno; maybe it was one of those kitchen of tomorrow things.

I own three PC’s, and gaming is not the main reason I own a computer, although I enjoy computer games.

The upshot is that no matter how pretty the graphics or what have you, I’m not buying another box, particularly not one that JUST plays games and nothing else.

Except that there is very little difference between the newer gaming consoles and a PC, and this difference will be even less as consumer trends continue, but thanks for playing.

In general you make good points. The most important points to me are that PCs are damn expensive for games. The hardware changes so quickly that the software has to be several layers removed from the hardware, and therefore very unoptimal. Very few computers are the same configuration, so the game is never the optimal experience for anyone. Just look at a game like Gran Turismo 4, on the PS2, which is an old box from over 5 years ago, but which has the best looking cars in a racing game on any platform including PC. The average applications I use my PC for require very little of my PC - in fact a PC I have that was discarded from work suffices for most of the stuff I do, and most of the stuff most people do with PCs such as surfing, emailing and so on. Heck, my Blackberry can do most of those things. The 3D capabilities needed for games go far beyond anything else most people do with computers, and the 3D videocards alone cost as much as a console, and you need to buy a new one every year if you really want to keep up.

Anyway, like you I’ve tried all platforms, and although I have a fairly capable PC, my PS2 gets almost all airtime, currently divided over DDR and GT4 (mostly the latter).

With regard to LAN parties though, I’ve been to one this weekend, a GT4 LAN party (fifth edition, first with GT4, before we used GT3 and i.Link) using PS2s. Some of Europe’s finest drivers from Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland were present. Here are some pictures:

The trouble with game consoles is that they don’t have long useful lives. You can play the same PC games that you had 15 years ago, but the console you played 15 years ago is now obsolete. With consoles, you really can’t predict if the software will be there. Example: Atari Lynx- great little handheld system, in my opinion superior to GameBoy in every way, no software=dead in water.

That’s fine, but not everybody is a serious gamer; I like games, but I spend probably less than 10% of my computer time playing them - fancy graphics are nice, but I’ll sacrifice them a bit for good gameplay. I’d miss them, but they aren’t my top priority.

If everyone was a hardcore gamer, the future of PC games might be shaky, but they’re not - there’s a huge diversity of demand in the market which is going to keep the PC alive as a games platform, even if it isn’t the top platform at every or any given moment.

In this sense, there is a market for games that are less than state-of-the-art in just the same way as there’s a market for cheap & cheerful cars - some people want top performance and prestige, so they’ll buy an Aston Martin (or whatever) - and can justify the expense, but most people just want to get from A to B and will settle for something a little nearer the ordinary.

Oops; my last post was in response to Arwin

There’s a big difference. I can’t use a PS2 for word processessing, or creating spreadsheets, or developing 3D graphics, or a million other things.

The convergance of the console and the PC is primarily driven by a desire to simplify the PC. To basically turn it into an appliance like a toaster. We don’t need to know the inner workings of a toaster to make toast. When I go to my car, all I need to know about an internal combustion engine is that it turns on when I turn the key.

The concept of the PS2 as I understand it is to provide some of the functionality of a PC (games, internet, email, DVD, music) for people who don’t want to deal with the price and complexity of an actual PC.

Well the PC has definite advantages but this isn’t really one of them. After all, the PS2 can play original PSX games from a decade ago effortlessly (Micro Machines v3 is still awesome fun, and Pro Pinball USA still looks amazing), whereas to get a PC game from 10 years ago running half-decently on a current PC requires an effort, and if it works at all it has largely to do with DOS simulation advancements in Windows XP over previous versions.

However, the PC is still a platform that people can easily home-brew software for. That is changing too now for consoles though - when that too changes, gaming on PC will truly become bleak looking. But right now the PC rules there, with its fan-bred mods for games and original new ideas emerging, and new programming talent will emerge starting out with PC programming for a while yet.

PCs remain all-purpose gear, also capable of games, and even if it is playing solitaire, gaming will always remain present on the platform. The PC is also the home of the emulators (although this too is changing). I for instance love STEEM, the Atari ST emulator (one of the few ones out there that’s more or less legal by the way), on which I can relive all my Atari ST moments of 15 years ago with extras. That area to me still represents a highlight in my years of gaming experience, the days when the God game was invented by Peter Molyneux (Populous 2 is still an amazing game, even in simulation), the Bitmap Brothers ruled with games like Xenon 2 and Gods, and Team 17 wowed everyone with their awesome stuff on the Amiga - wait that was the competition ;).

But what few people realise is that gaming has overtaken the movie industry in terms of turnover, and it is still growing at a billion dollar a year rate. If you look at the price of the consoles, being generally more affordable than a decent 3d card for PC, and the benefit of all consoles sold having the same hardware specs, the future of mainstream gaming remains with the consoles for a while yet, I believe.

I predict the two will converge though and that it will become increasingly hard to distinguish the two, to draw clear lines. My latest purchase, in December, was a Sony PSP, a wonderful little device with some amazing capabilities and an amazing screen, but in some ways it’s a lot like a PC or PDA - usb 2.0, WiFi 801.3, installeable programs, etc. and it hooks up great with both PC and PS2 over the USB connector, is a decent mp3 AND mp4 player. I’m very pleased and some serious competition on the handheldmarket will do wonders for the so far somewhat bleak handheld gaming world.

Well to be a bit pedantic, both the PS2 and Xbox have their own versions of Linux, but with 32mb and 64mb respectively they’re not all that impressive of course. Still …

The number one reason I don’t play PC games is the controls. Keyboard and mouse just don’t work for me, they don’t feel natural. It isn’t that I can’t use them, it is that I don’t get the same immersive feel when I’m playing. Having played video games since Atari, graphics are just not that huge for me. They are nice, but they are fluff. Graphics don’t make games, and more importantly for me, they don’t break them, either.

Secondly, what I dislike about PC gaming is… patches. Whn you release a game for a console system, it has to run right the first time. True, now and again there are glitches possible which can freeze a game on consoles, but generally speaking the developers have to get it right the first time. I don’t want to buy a game and spend hours getting it set up, downloading fixes to broken systems, and so on.

Pretty much the only games I play on PC are RTS and turn-based strategy games (Civ, Dune, etc). The extra keys make it much smoother, the PC has higher processing capabilities that would choke a console, and there’s no real need for a suspension of disbelief to play them. The tasks are by themselves immersive.

I think console manufacturers need to find better ways to interface with PC technology without giving up the polish that they have versus their PC counterparts. The DEX drive for the PS was awesome, save your games on a PC, share save files, save file hacks… that was awesome. With USB drives being much more common now there’s no reason for proprietary save card formats.

I have no idea why no one has developed a small palm-pilot type application for the GameBoy (or its decendents), or the PSP, etc. Seems perfect.

Sony, of course, has long been singing the song that their plans are to make a gaming station be central to an entertainment center. Playing DVDs was a decent push by Sony and Microsoft, but it needs to go farther. Consoles can’t replace PCs, but designing games for fixed hardware always seemed the smart thing to me. PCs are general computing devices, consoles are fixed applications with a relatively long lifetime. The games that came out at the end of the Playstation’s lifetime were still pushing the hardware into new directions. That kind of creativity doesn’t seem to hang around the PC world; at least, that’s the impression I have. Larger worlds, more items, and better graphics is all a PC has to offer over a console, but none of those seem particularly motivating. Sloppy algorithms covered up by faster processing, more memory… bah.

PC gaming has never, ever won me over and I don’t see that it could.

But… but I don’t think PC gaming is going anywhere. Developing for a console is a difficult process for the same reasons that I think it is a better process: you have to pay more attention to the architecture, you have to be able to acquire a dev kit, you have to test a game better to see where critical crashes could lie. I can’t blame some developers from being happier on PCs. There’s a lot of wiggle room. I’ve just never felt the extra room led to anything that resulted in a better gaming experience.

The ‘death’ of PC games has been predicted for years…incorrectly of course. And this current death knell is also going to be proven incorrect. As long as people have a need for a general purpose tool to do everything from they bank statements to surfing the internet, or all the other myriad things a PC can do, they will own them. And as long as folks own them people are going to want games on them. Simple fact. So, unless the PC dies, PC games will go right on being deveolped. Now, it might be plausable that console games will so over shadow PC’s that developers only bother with smaller games for PC’s (I’m thinking of the games I can download to my cell phone…that kind of thing), but even that is debatable.

Myself, I own a PS2 which my son’s use to play some sports type games and a few action games. I use it occationally when some of my friends come by to play head to head games like football or basketball. Consoles do those kinds of things VERY well. By the games I really like are games like the Total War series, Hearts of Iron (haven’t gotten the new one yet), various WWII simulation games…things like that. And currently World of Warcraft. Consoles don’t do such games very well IMO, and I don’t really see them doing them in the future.

So, IMHO consoles are one trick ponies, doing their narrow and limited tasks very well. When console companies attempt to expand on this I think they fail because they can’t be general purpose boxes like a PC can. As long as there is a need for a general purpose box that can fill many needs, PC’s will remain. As long as PC’s remain, people will right games for them. And as long as people write games for PC’s guys like me will keep buying them. :slight_smile: Simple as that.


Isn’t this a function of the variety in the systems? With a console, you write the program to fit one set of hardware. With a pc, you have to try to fit many different hardware configurations. They’d probably run better if they only would work on one specific configuration, but then people would scream that it didn’t run on their system.

PC games and console games go towards slightly different markets and provide different experiences.

Consoles are great for physical games- sports, fighting games, platformers, racing, and funny perephial games. It provides a rather physically immersive situation. They are also good for party games and turn based multiplayer games. Consoles appeal to tech novices that don’t want to worry about hardware problems, and the subset of gamers tha enjoys the collection value of having physical games and systems.

The disadvantages are that they are not as democratic. Your gaming experience is ruled over by one company that controls everything from what controllers work to what games get played. Online play often involves additional fees- which only a small subset of gamers is going to pay about their normal Internet fees. The mod and small scale development community isn’t there. We have to remember that modders are not just hardcore Half-Life modders. It includes old ladies making skins for the Sims. It includes young programmers making flash games. A lot of times these modders use PC applications that exist for different- purely commerical- purposes to create new game content.

A big issue for me is that with my PC, I can play any PC game out there barring a few that have wonky hardware issues. I can play blockbusters like Half-Life 2, or I can play funky old puzzle games and I can play using the hardware and internet connection I already have. I have games available in almost all styles and all price ranges. With a Gamecube, or whatever, I am getting the experience that one company decides they want me to have. If I want to play any console game, I have to own three bulky often-redundent systems instead of my one handy all-powerful computer.

While I’m exited about the new developments in consule gaming, I’m not hopeful for them. They seem to be a driving force in homogenizing, corporatizing and stifling innovation in the game world. As a gamer I am more exited about what games can be, not how sweet GTA VII is going to look. We are on the edge of a new media here. One that I truely believe can have the same power, artistic impact and emotional life as anything in print or on screen. But we arn’t going to see that in a world where big games are king.