Are Consoles Killing PC Gaming?

Posted on March 30, 2010 7:07 AM by Rob Williams

Ahh, the age-old argument that never seems to die: Consoles vs. PC. You might imagine that because I get to test out the best PC gaming hardware on the market, I’d prefer gaming on that platform, but that’s something that varies. I prefer FPS titles on the PC by far, but enjoy racing games on consoles, as an example. Both platforms have their strengths, some more obvious than others.

But it’s easy to understand why some would be concerned, because over the past couple of years, PC gamers have really gotten shafted time and time again. Take a look at Modern Warfare 2, for example, which was little more than a “console port” (though it still looked quite good). Even one of the errors on the PC version said “Xbox Live” in the description, further proving the console port theory.

Bad Company 2 is an even better example. As popular as it is, its graphics don’t compare to Modern Warfare 2, and neither are designed for the PC. Lately, you can pretty much expect that if a game is available on the PC, it’s going to be available on a console in some form as well. At quick thought, the absolutely only commercial (and non-RTS) game I can think of that’s not available for the consoles is S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat.

Just Cause 2? Metro 2033? Left 4 Dead 2? Assassin’s Creed 2? Alien vs. Predator? These are a couple of the most popular games on the PC right now, and every-single one of them is also available on a console. Fortunately, a lot of those games aren’t exactly console ports and happen to look quite good (Just Cause 2 and Metro 2033 in particular are notably impressive), but overall, the list is still small.

Are Consoles Killing PC Gaming?

NVIDIA released its Fermi-based GeForce GTX 400 cards last Friday, and ATI released its Radeon HD 5000 series last fall… both of which support DirectX 11. At this point in time, some games support DirectX 11, but not to the extent that they could. The reason? It’s hard to justify the extra money developers would have to spend to increase the graphic detail on the PC, a platform which has a much smaller player-base (for the market’s most popular games) than the consoles. Plus to add to it, it might cause even further problem if the game is designed to support certain PC-only features and then a mass amount of code has to be altered just to have it run on a console.

One of the biggest issues with PC gaming though is piracy, and I doubt many would refute that. Piracy on consoles is a very real problem as well, but not nearly to the extent of PC piracy. On the PC, you usually only have to double-click a crack and be done with it, while on a console, modifications to the actual gaming hardware may have to be made.

Whenever I picture PC piracy, I think back to the announcement that Crytek wasn’t going to focus exclusively on PC gaming going forward. It’s still likely to release games there, but the company has a hard time justifying the development costs only to have the number of pirated copies outweigh the number of legal copies. And for a company like Crytek who actually did push the boundaries of PC gaming, the announcement really highlighted the incredible effect of pirated copies.

What do you guys think needs to be done in order to invigorate PC gaming, or to see more games being developed with the PC as the target platform, rather than just an afterthought?

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