Last year, we posted a series of articles that examined the state of PC gaming and its related culture. Since that time, even fewer PC exclusives have found their way to market, with PC gamers widely blaming the rapidly aging hardware in consoles. I pose a question: will new consoles actually help PC gaming at all?
One of the aforementioned articles examined how, despite reports to the contrary, PC gaming culture is booming (even if retail titles are shoddily put together). This article is still relevant over a year later, with digital downloads and independently developed games leading the way. Despite this, the number of hastily thrown together PC ports of retail games has increased, and companies seem less interested than ever in using the PC as their lead platform (DICE aside, naturally.) Many PC gamers cite the hardware gap between a modern gaming PC and a current-gen console; both the 360 and the PS3 are horrendously outdated in hardware terms, and with one or the other console generally being chosen as lead development platform, many PC games suffer. Need we remind you of the Crysis 2/DirectX 9 debacle? (Note: this didn’t bother me much, although many PC gamers out there were upset about it.)
So: will newer, more powerful consoles help PC gaming? That depends on how you look at it. On one hand, more powerful hardware won’t hold back complexity as much as the current-gen consoles do (both visually and non-visually). On the other hand, continual usage of consoles as lead platforms won’t change the fact that most PC games are nothing more than ports.
The 360 is already somewhat designed like a gaming PC, but it’s still its own unique monster. The PS3 is notoriously difficult to program, with porting to and from providing some tricky obstacles. The Wii is…well, it’s the Wii. Reportedly, Nintendo’s next hardware is supposed to be as powerful if not slightly more powerful than the 360/PS3, but that will be moot by the time Microsoft and Sony announce their next platforms. Also, Nintendo platforms are traditionally built entirely within Nintendo’s unique way of doing things, so standardization in their hardware or software isn’t likely. If next-gen consoles are designed without much regard to easily porting titles between them and the PC, this mess will continue.
The only way to prevent this is if the next-gen consoles are built to be powerful enough for new ideas and new technologies, yet simple enough for developers to speak multiple “languages”. Barring that, the PC will continue to be stuck with sub-par ports. There are, however, two lights in the darkness: Battlefield 3 and Diablo III.
Two massive franchises with legions of loyal followers, set to unleash their most anticipated (and, based on the previews, best) entries yet. Despite occasional appearances on consoles, they’ve somehow maintained their PC heritage, developing a group of extremely dedicated fans in the process. In my opinion, the future of PC gamers enjoying unique experiences that live up to their hardware’s capability relies on these two titles doing well. Here’s to hoping they ship with minimal DRM, sell millions of copies, and remind other developers of one thing:
PC gamers still exist.