Friday, October 26, 2012

Back for a Rematch

A little over three years ago I made a post on this blog about the decline of PC gaming.  You can read about it here.  I still stand by the six reasons I gave as major hindrances which keep the PC from dominating the video game industry.  That said a lot has happened, and as the current generation of home consoles grow older the PC is starting to make a comeback in a big way.  Why?  Well, here's six reasons:

1# Scale-ability.  One of the nice things about PC games is the ability to adjust the visual performance to suit your own preferences.  This can mean better than current console graphics, but on the flip side I tend to think of it as stuff like toning down resolution to get the most out of particle and shadow effects when trying to play Doom 3 on old hardware.  Consoles on the other had give you no such option.  Whatever the settings are your stuck with regardless of your priorities, which brings me to my next point.

2# Mod-ability.  Ever heard of Black Mesa Source?  DayZ?  Europa Barbarorum?  How about Day of Defeat?  These are just a few mods to come out for the PC over the years.  They're free, and many are practically complete games in their own right.  Best of all I've just barely scratched the surface of what's out there.  Not all mods are overhauls either you got everything from a duck tape mod that lets you attach that trust flashlight to your gun to improved UI.  Integrated support for modding is also becoming increasingly common which is great for less tech savvy PC users.

3# Freedom of Distribution.  You make a game for Xbox360 and your looking at licencing fees, Microsoft's tedious certification process and only one digital means of distribution.  Go with PC on the other hand and you got none of the corporate imposed hurdles, plus options like Steam, GOG and even self-publishing.  Not to mention non-standard means of funding such as community supported in-development financing like what we've seen for games such as Minecraft and Kerbal Space Program.

4# HDTV and Controller Support.  One of the costly bits of buying a PC was the need for a monitor.  Thanks to recent improvements to TV and video card support it's fairly easy to connect your PC to that big screen TV you got and while the display tends to not be quite as sharp, there are a number of benefits to this arrangement when it comes to watching video streaming.  Most new games to come out also support your standard Xbox style controller which is a huge help for certain titles which brings us to... 

5# A Mouse and Keyboard.  I don't care what anyone else says.  If your going to play an RTS, FPS or pretty much anything other than a flight-sim, mouse and keyboard is an equal or superior control scheme.  The joke is there's no reason why Sony or Microsoft can make their consoles support these input devices.  They simply refuse to do so for business reasons (In other words people who don't play video games making decisions for us gamers).

6# Bibliotheca Optimum.  I decided to give this one a Latin title in the same vein as Lingua franca.  Pretentiousness aside my point is whenever discussions come up about what is the ideal gaming platform, it always boils down to game libraries.  Well, guess what?  In terms of back catalog, free stuff, and shear variety noting surpasses the PC.  This is especially true when you consider free emulators for everything from arcade titles to obscure 16-bit Japanese imports, not to mention DOS Box.  

So, there you have it.  Of course this list makes some assumptions about proper porting and DRM (or lack there of), but when you consider that the next generation of consoles (aside from the Ouya) will probably have a high entry cost a few launch titles there becomes more and more reasons to go with a PC; better graphics, greater flexibility, more methods interfacing, less publisher bullshit, and the list goes on.  Will the PC  crush the opposition?  If Google OS gets an upgrade and Valve releases a Steam Box then absolutely.  But since neither of those things are guaranteed to happen we'll just have to wait and see.     

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