Are popular consoles driving PC games to extinction ?
I think the PC is just in disarray what’s driving the PC right now is “Sims”-type games and “WoW” and a lot of stuff that’s in a web-based interface. You just click on it and play it. That’s the direction PC is evolving into. So for me, the PC is kind of the secondary part of what we’re doing,
“Gears of War” creator and long-time developer at Epic Games, Cliffy Bleszinski, is known for issuing the occasional flame-baiting proclamation. During an interview with MTV Multiplayer, he recently invited another opportunity for such controversy by invoking an argument that has existed quietly in the background of the videogame industry for a long time.
This is not the first time someone has predicted that PC gaming, like novels, newspapers and the good morals of average Americans, is on the edge of extinction. But is it time to pack up your cables and wave your LAN parties goodbye?
The numbers leave no question that console games dominate in terms of sales. The NPD Group, a research company which tracks sales of a variety of consumer goods (including video games), recently said that in 2012, consoles shipped 153.9 million units ($6.6 billion) of software compared to only 36.4 million units for PCs. Even handheld software accounted for more sales at 77.5 million units. However, there is one caveat to bear in mind; the PC numbers do not account for online transactions outside the realm of major retailers. Therefore, WoW subscriptions or games purchased via Valve’s Steam software are not included.
The edge, therefore, in terms of raw power clearly goes to the console camp. But determining if one side makes a superior product is not a simple estimation of facts and figures.
As a gamer, I own both a PC and console. Each has its own pros and cons, with opinions largely coming down to personal preference. Some people love tinkering, modding and upgrading their PC and enjoy the long-standing online community built around PC games. Others enjoy the simple plug-and-play access of a console, the fast and frentic pace of Xbox Live and the lack of frustrations over inadequate hardware specs or out-of-date drivers.
For most people, the console versus PC dispute is a matter of class warfare. Consoles occupy the lower rung with their lack of upgradable hardware, unmoddable software and watered-down games while the personal computer is a bastion of freedom and maturity. Or maybe it’s that PCs are too expensive and can’t run new games well (if at all) while consoles allow for a more fun experience without the hassle.
But to say that PC gaming is dead is an audacious and premature step. Sure the numbers may be smaller, but the proponents are just as fierce and loyal as any Sony fanboy out there. It’s not that the number of people playing PC games is shrinking, it’s that the number of people purchasing console software and hardware is growing (quite rapidly).
A number of reasons exist for this explosion of growth, but they have little to do with the PC gaming industry. The bottom line is that PC games are attracting much of the same audience that they have for the past decade, while gaining respectable new clientele with the growth of “World of Warcraft” and “The Sims” Console makers like Sony and Microsoft, however, have long been pursuing a strategy of total domination.
This Holy Grail-esque quest is to transform the console from game-playing machine to the home entertainment hub for movies, music and all things Internet. As such, they have spent millions of dollars and countless hours of manpower in marketing their machines to a mass audience. The current crop of systems is the culmination of this effort, with the Wii clearly displaying the power of cheap pricing, family appeal and traditional fare like Zelda, Mario and Metroid.
But perhaps the most reassuring reason for the continued existence of PC games is more due to ruthless capitalism than fan enthusiasm. As the cost for game development has risen in recent years, game companies have expanded their horizons in search of profits. The more platforms for a game to appear on, the larger the market for the product to reach and thus companies can get more cash from a single IP. Very few developers are interested in creating a game for a single system and most view the PC as another platform for profits.
There will always be certain things one can or cannot do with each, but it’s the middle ground shovelware, along with the occasional stand-out hit, that will provide the economic engine to drive further growth in the video game industry.
And so, the arguments may rage, colorful insults may fly, but no matter what the fans think, the people who make the games are interested in keeping as many platforms open as possible.
If you still need further proof that PC gaming is alive and well, go log into Counterstrike and watch as the list of available games climbs well above 5,000 after only 15 seconds of searching. There’s still some fight left in this particular dinosaur.