Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The state of PC Gaming

Under constant debate and crossfire is the state of PC gaming. I thought, hey why not throw my 2¢ in, for what it's worth.

(Author's note: By PC gaming, I mean computer gaming, not only gaming on Windows systems)

PC gaming has been a cornerstone of of the gaming market for many years, being the top dog for periods of time, and usually staying miles ahead of anything available on other systems.

These days, as people put it, it's on the verge of dying... So what led it here? Is it really going to die? Could it be saved?

To start with the first question, we shall go back a few years.

In the late 80's, computer gaming started with the help from gaming-computers, like the Commodore64 and Amiga, along with having it possible for any user to create their own games for it.

Because of the life-span of consoles, and the fact that computers could be constantly updated, the games made for computers could be significantly better then those found on the consoles, nearly all of the time. With the early 90's rise of Real-Time Strategy games and turn based strategy games PC gaming really found a niche to fill.

As the years went on, heading towards the late 90's, Keyboard and mouse became the 'hardcore' gamer's control of choice for FPS games, with buttons, or a single analog stick simply not giving the same range of control.

With the rise of Sony with the Playstation and the Playstation 2, gaming consoles found their way into more houses then ever before, expanding the gaming market far beyond it's previous numbers.

I believe at this point was the start of the decline of PC gaming. With the rising amount of consoles, the games that made the most money were designed for consoles. While developers still made games for PC, development was shifting towards consoles, as with everything in the industry, it took a while.

In the time from 2001 to 2005, the number of games designed for consoles increased by an imaginable amount, and the number of PC unique titles continued to shrink, and PCs became more and more for a dedicated audience.

A few problems accelerated the decline of PC gaming. The first of which is the raising cost of the PC hardware, and the speed of which it needed to be updated, making it very hard to keep up with PC gaming unless you had a lot of time and money to dedicate to your PC. With the easy of use with consoles, (No worries about compatibility, no having to install anything) PC gaming, while not changing, became something you had to put more effort into. With the raising cost of developing games, independent PC full quality titles became harder and harder to find, lagging more and more behind with quality.

Lastly, we have Piracy, the big one. With the raise of file sharing starting with such services as Napster, file sharing quickly became easier and easier, with even casual computer users downloading stuff. Sony had problems with Piracy on their hand-held platform, the PSP, which led to a lot less games coming out for the system for nearly 2 years. Yet, with all the piracy on the PSP, it wasn't even a sixth of the sales (15%ish) while current PC piracy estimate 60%-90% piracy rates, something that no one can ignore.

These days the PC has a few dedicated developers, and hardcore fans, but mostly survives on the hand-me-down ports of consoles games, which are often delayed and contain harsh DRM (Digital Rights Management/Copy Protection) along with, often, missing features.

With companies like ID, Valve, Bethesda, and Blizzard all at least looking into console gaming, with all but one of those companies with at least 1 confirmed console game, it's obvious that PC gaming isn't on the top of the pile, in fact, it may not even be in the game.

So, is it going to die off?

No. PC gaming has some things still not adapted by console gaming, and will never completely die.

One thing PC gaming has in favor for it is the fanbase of dedicated "PC Fans" that will support it till the tides turn neon and all the jazz. There are also people that enjoy being able to work and play on the same machine. There are the people that use their PC simply to play MMOs (Massive Multiplayer Online games) like World of Warcraft, and nothing else. And finally, there are the casual gamers, the ones that play 'The Sims' and the games on facebook, or myspace.

There is also the matter of modding, being able to take apart games and make your own content, or even just using developer supplied modding tools. The content created by fans can far eclipse what the original developers thought was possible, and sometimes overshadow what the original developers made.

Then the biggest difference between console gaming and PC gaming is probably the fact that anyone can make a game on it. Anyone can make something that has the potential to become popular, which is something that is much harder to do, and more costly on consoles.

Even with all this, I believe PC gaming as we knew it, the PC gaming from the 90's is gone.

So, could PC gaming be saved?

Interesting question, to say the least.

As I said before, I think PC gaming as it was in the 90's is gone, and I don't think it will ever come back in the same way... That being said, I don't rule out the possibility of some other form of non-casual gaming taking hold, but I doubt it will be what any of us are expecting right now.

I say, "Maybe" is a good answer, since really, the future isn't 100% predictable.

So, say goodbye to the dominant rain of PC gaming, and accept it for what it is, a choice of how to game, and don't push what you know isn't true onto others, ("Console gaming sucks!", "Console gaming will never match PC gaming") because, really, no one wants to hear it.

These are the opinions of Jon God, and this article was written Wednesday, October seventh, two thousand and nine, or "10/7/2009".


Zwicky Chesterfield said...

But Steam is so big right now. I think it's going (fairly) strong.

Jon God said...

Yes, Steam is going strong, but, these days, not much *new* PC stuff is coming out in general.

To clarify my statement, nearly anything available for PC is also available for consoles, and the vast majority of PC ports are missing features, have a delayed release date, or are more buggy.

In this event, while steam does a good job of selling games. It's not really the savior of PC gaming, but it does help.