Blog post number 2, going well so far.
It's gotten to the point in the console lifecycle where, despite all the graphical and technical advances in the last 6-7 years, the increase of quality found in the games being released on the ageing systems has started to slow down. Obviously, there are some exceptions. Two games in particular, shown at this years E3, are getting a lot of grunt out of the current generations hardware. But a lot of the really good looking games at E3 this year were running on PC's, and the lack of parity between console and PC is immediately apparent, even to outside observers. My own Mother was gobsmacked over the amount of detail in games like Battlefield 3 and Crysis 2 running on a PC, and the last game she played was Tetris.
Speaking to New Scientist, NVIDIA's principle engineer Simon Green has said that current, high end graphics cards are up to 24 times more powerful than the card found inside your XBox 360. This means that on average graphics cards become around 3 times more powerful per year, and when you take into account that everything in a PC is upgradable it isn't just graphics that get a boost, you can imporve your entire system exponentially. This is great for games like Battlefield 3, which gets a much bigger online experience on PC, as well as giving a game like Minecraft an enormous advantage over it's console counterpart. A game which is, by no means, graphically intensive uses that extra juice, as well as the freedom associated with working on the platform, to bring us bigger and more plentiful worlds, more features, regular incremental updates, better enemy AI, custom skins and texture packs, and access to a huge modding community. What the XBox 360 version get's in lieu of this is a better crafting menu and an easier way to play with other people. A trade off which is heavily weighted to one side and, I think, really curtails the overall experience that over 6 million people have grown to love. What's even more worrying is that Simon Green has also expressed doubts that the next generation will be comparable to the PC technology of the near future. Epic Games VP Mark Rein has spoken out about the growing concern that the next generation of consoles might not be using the latest technology available to them in order to keep down costs, a worry that is shared by a lot of core gamers. When you combine that with the rise in prevolence of affordable, pre-built desktops and laptops from companies like Razer and Alienware, it make's the idea of PC gaming ever more alluring (no matter how much the 'PC Elite' seem to dislike this fact).
One of the other main motivating factors for making the move to PC gaming is the amount of options you have when it comes to purchasing the games for your tower of power. You are still able to buy your games boxed from a retailer, but the majority of PC gamers these days are downloading their games directly from Valves Steam service, who sell games generally cheaper than their boxed counterparts, and regularly offer sales on a large selection of products on their service. But Steam is not the only one, last year EA launched their own download service, Origin. The one stop shop for all things EA did attract the ire of PC gamers by way of some questionable business practices, pulling their games from Steam and forcing gamers into using the service, as well as allegedly scanning the hard drives of it's users, in a way similar to Google or Apple. However, EA's games have started to find their way back onto Valve's popular service and Origin has somewhat cleaned up it's act, making their service seem a little more viable as a platform. PC gamers also have the option of using smaller, independent services like Good Old Games, which offers DRM free games at affordable prices, as well as games distributed directly from developers websites, and the ever popular Humble Indie Bundle (offering great indie games like Amnesia, Sword & Sworcery, and Bastion), which operates a 'pay what you want' business model, as well as giving a portion of the profits to the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Child's Play charities. So while the computers themselves are more expensive to buy outright, you end up saving money when purchasing games.
Consoles, on the other hand, have a very closed system when it comes to game sales. Your choices are buying £40 ($60) boxed games, or downloading them from their respective marketplaces at an inflated cost, with the smaller, 'indie' games making up the middle ground. When it comes to offering choices, Console manufacturers are at an obvious disadvantage because of the costs associated with the certification process that they employ. In an interesting turn of events, though, Sony seems to be exploring different business models when it come's to distributing games. Killzone 3's multiplayer component recently went free-to-play, up to a specific player level, DC Universe Online has been free-to-play on Sony's console for some time now, and the upcoming First Person Shooter Dust 514 is set to release on the Playstation 3 as a free-to-play game. This is an encouraging development, and makes the future of console gaming seem a little brighter. But free-to-play is also growing dramatically in popularity on PC, and the quality of these games is genuinely impressive. Adhesive Game's Hawken, Crytek's Warface, Zombie Game's Blacklight Retribution and Tribes:Ascend from Hi-Rez Studios, to just name a few, are defying belief and showing us that free-to-play games have matured to a level that makes them a more tempting prospect, to gamers and developers alike. Crytek recently stated that they would be focusing entirely on free-to-play games for the forseeable future, and the majority of these games will probably be coming to PC. So not only are retail games cheaper, you have a whole host of games that you can play without having to pay a penny.
There are, however, some inherent advantages to console gaming. Buying a system often boils down to walking into a shop and walking out with a box to play games on. Monitors are not a problem because the majority of people have a TV in their home already, and they allow you to have a 'sit back and play' experience. You don't need to sit at a desk to play your console games, and in a society where more and more people are working longer hours in office jobs, the prospect of sitting at a desk, after having spent several hours sitting at a different desk, is obviously not a very tempting one. In addition to this, according to NPD, the average age of a gamer in 2012 is around 37 years old, so being able to sit back on your sofa, put a disc in, and pick up a controller is a god send, not to mention the additional benefits of being able to use services like LoveFilm, Netflix, and other localised video services on your TV set without having to shell out extra money for a Smart TV, as well as Sony effectively smuggling a Blu-Ray player into millions of homes worldwide. But one of the main advantages the Consoles have over PC has been suspiciously under-used in this current generation. Split-Screen multiplayer, the feature that most differentiated Consoles from their PC brethren, became a rarity in most AAA games, who would have rather strived to go feature for feature with the PC version.
But all these changes and extra features are taking consoles, originally created as single-function devices, back into the realm of a personal computer. They aren't just for playing games anymore, they can browse the internet, stream movies and music, download content and more. They've attempted to take all your entertainment needs and put them all in a single box to sit under your Television. They're not as fully featured as a PC, that goes without saying, but it's clear that they are becoming more than just a place to play games, they're a place for everything you would want to do on, or with, your TV set. Consoles are getting closer and closer to being an alternative for all your other living room devices, and have always strived to be an alternative to PC gaming, but the closer and closer they get to this ideal, the more they seem hampered by their lack of upgradability. And it doesn't just hamper the games released on console, it hampers games generally. More and more you see devs limiting their reach when developing games for PC in order to be able to have their game running on the consoles. While this means that, due to the rise of multiplatform development, there are ultimately more games on PC, very few of them use the technology available to them to its full capacity. PC versions of console games are generally better looking and arguably more stable (Rage not withstanding), but you get the feeling that they could have been even better. When PC games get ported over to consoles, though, the difference is remarkable. Battlefield 3 is a notably different game on PC than it is on console. Not only is it bigger and better looking, but runs at a rate of 60 frames per second, compared to the consoles 30, making for a much smoother and sleeker experience. While it's true that games on PC are often better than their console counterparts, it requires at least some basic knowledge of how computers work. It's not a matter of plug and play in many cases; some games require a degree of trial and error, others can fail to run due to incompatibility issues. For many PC gamers, though, having a better experience makes up for the fact that it is sometimes a little more difficult to set your games up, and it becomes part of the experience. With a little effort it is entirely possible to learn everything you need to play games on a PC in a couple of days, with everything else following behind.
I guess what I'm trying to say is, if you are a console gamer please don't pass up on PC gaming, it really is all it's cracked up to be. There is so much freedom associated with the platform that the little niggles don't matter so much when you jump in. And if you're a PC gamer, don't be so hard on the console kids, everyone has to start somewhere.
If you made it this far, thank you for reading. I'd like to hear from you guys, wether you agree or disagree (especially if you disagree) let me know what you take is on PC gaming.
Like I said in my previous post I'm pretty new to this, so if this is too long let me know and I'll remember for next time.
See you round!
Credit goes to: PCGamesN, IGN, Gamespot, Kertech Blog, Gamasutra, NPD.