This is How PC Gaming Ends… Not with a Bang, but with a Whimper

PC Gamers are some of the smartest people you will ever meet. At the same time, the most dogmatically pro-PC Gamers are complete idiots. PC Gaming is dying (I’m lumping the Mac in here too). There won’t be a single event that causes its final death; it will merely cease to be over a long period of time. For the past couple of console cycles, PC Gaming has endured blow after blow as western developers leave their traditional PC home and migrate to the consoles. The most recent blow is the announcement that Diablo 3 will be released on consoles. I know what you’re thinking, internet, “One game cannot make that much of a difference in the long run”. You are absolutely correct, but Diablo 3 being released on consoles isn’t about one game, or games at all. It is about developers. What Diablo’s console debut means is that its developer, Blizzard, has left PC exclusivity, and that, internet, is a monumental blow.

I thought you told me to plug the keyboard into the monitor? What did I do wrong?

PC Gaming is synonymous with western gaming. Back before Microsoft unleashed the Xbox upon the world, if you wanted to develop console games, you did so on a Japanese device, in a Japanese dominated industry, where North America was a very small priority. Western developers mainly developed games for the PC. In fact, many western games and genres that did not traditionally have any place on a console, have roots in PC Gaming. Long ago, there was a mighty Cold War between JRPGs (Japanese Role Playing Game) on consoles and WRPGs (Western Role Playing Game) on the PC. Neither side acknowledged the other’s existence and both brought out amazing classics. The Fallout series, the Ultima series, Baldur’s Gate 2, Neverwinter Nights, PC Gaming introduced many RPG classics to the world. These games were markedly different from their JRPG contemporaries. These games emphasized choice: both in battle, and outside. They had darker stories and their graphics were not inspired by anime. In fact, most WRPGs drew heavily from Dungeons and Dragons (JRPGs did too, but they went a very different direction with it). In the modern gaming world the two greatest PC RPG developers out there are undoubtably Bioware and Blizzard.

One of the greatest games ever made and only PC Gamers can play it

Here is where the problem lies. Bioware is one of the greatest developers out there. The made the Baldur’s Gate series, Knights of the Old Republic, Mass Effect, and Dragon Age. In fact, their recently released, PC exclusive, MMO, The Old Republic, has launched to great praise and is doing very well. Unfortunately, Bioware does not work exclusively for PC. While The Old Republic is only on PC, most of their games have found their way to consoles. In fact, console development has been more and more of a priority, as can be seen in Dragon Age 2. With Bioware working for both PC and console, the only major RPG company left on the PC was Blizzard. Blizzard has three series: Warcraft, Starcraft, and Diablo. The first two are strategy games that have grown to include heavy RPG elements, and include the MMO World of Warcraft, while the last is a straight up dungeon crawler RPG. Blizzard released the original Diablo on the Playstation back in the day, so it could be said that there is no cause for alarm. However, in today’s climate, more and more PC developers and switching their focus onto consoles and Blizzard seems to be following this trend and not just a whim.

This was pretty hardcore back in the day.

It used to be that consoles had very clear limitations. Any gamer could tell you that the only way to play a first person shooter (FPS) was on a PC with a keyboard and a mouse. This held true for a very long time, until console developers figured out how to do it. Whether it was started by Goldeneye or Halo, FPSs became viable for consoles. Innovations like a second analogue stick and auto-aim, allowed console gamers to enjoy FPSs, and, since Halo, the FPS market has exploded. Its hard to look at a rack of new releases without seeing at least four new FPSs. Whether they are played better on consoles or PCs, it doesn’t matter. FPS developers discovered an untapped goldmine in console users and they quickly went to work. Racing games, action games, adventure games, all of these genres went from predominantly PC experiences to being all over the consoles. Another one of the great PC developers, Valve, has released the Orange Box, Portal 2, and Left 4 Dead on the consoles, thus abandoning PC exclusivity. Why has this happened?

Get it?

The reasons for the migration of western developers from PC exclusive to multi-platform are not easy to explain as each developer has its own reasons; however, there are some basic truths.

1.) PC gaming is not uniform.

You see, internet, one of the great strengths of PC gaming is that, with a powerful enough machine, your game will always look better than a console equivalent. Unfortunately, that is actually not a strength. You see, the problem lies with the fact that many PC users do not have a strong enough computer to run the high end games. This is why Blizzard’s games have poor graphics. They understand that, in order to capture the maximum amount of users, they need a game that everyone can run on their computers. Console gaming on the other hand IS uniform. A game will play just as well on any PS3. What does that mean for developers? It means that if there are 30 million PS3s out there, you have 30 million potential clients. On the other hand PC developers that are trying to push graphics, such as with Crysis, will find that so few people can play their games that it cannot possibly become profitable.

This game is beautiful for the five richest kings of Europe who can afford it

2.) Console explosion

It’s not just about PC Gaming being weak; it’s also about console gaming booming in popularity. Playstation, Nintendo, Xbox, these are all household names. Console gaming has been gaining popularity with every generation and it has reached the point where it is weird to not have heard of them instead of the other way around. These systems, particularly the PS3 and 360, are marketed as home theatre systems. They are extremely user friendly, easy to buy, easy to set up, and easy to buy games for. PC Gaming is the least user friendly experience to ever be offered. It doesn’t have  brand saleability, and PC games are becoming download-only. It isn’t just about marketing. With each generation, consoles are able to match or outdo PCs in many different respects. Controllers are evolving and becoming better than the stagnant mouse and keyboard setup that PC Gamers have been using for so long. Games are made to make use of console features that the PC just doesn’t have. Developers are aware of this popularity, and it would be very shortsighted for them to not take advantage of this growing market.

Back when the mouse reigned supreme

3.) Piracy

Piracy is something that affects the entire game industry. There is a reason for the introduction of online passes and new game DLC. The problem is that piracy hits PC Gaming harder than any of the other systems. The reason for this is two fold. Firstly, its easier for people to pirate using very easy to access websites. Secondly, the people most likely to pirate a game, are the people who have the strongest computers and thus are the key demographic for PC game sales. The reason that PC games are becoming download-only is because it is easier to implement anti-piracy software. Piracy is a major problem for everyone in gaming and it seriously hurts game developers. The increased likelihood of piracy would be a major deterrent for PC Gaming.

Yarr! Where be your Wold of Warcraft expansion. Ye know, the one with the Pandas!

PC Gaming hasn’t become worse suddenly. Games are still made for it, and PCs can potentially show off the best graphics around, but the market has changed. There are some bastions of strong PC Gaming left of course. There is no way a console can play a strategy game as well as a PC (Of course, I said this about FPSs too). On top of that there is a smattering of popular free gaming from Facebook games to League of Legends. However, one game no matter how good or popular it is (Minecraft), is not enough to keep a whole platform alive. In order to do this you need developers who are willing to put all of their eggs into the PC basket. Blizzard was one of the very last holdouts, and now it has played its hand.  There is no way Diablo 3 will play as well on the consoles, but that doesn’t matter. It will be available for the consoles, and that is enough to stop many, many people from ever playing the PC version. This is how PC Gaming dies; it will be slowly destroyed by an ever increasing console market until there just isn’t any reason to spend all of your money on a new graphics card. It won’t happen soon, and it won’t be immediate, but it’s already started and its going to take a lot to stop it.

– Mistranslations for the Modern Gamer

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2 thoughts on “This is How PC Gaming Ends… Not with a Bang, but with a Whimper

  1. I really liked this article. Well-written and probably very accurate. You may want to update this by including the announcement of The Witcher 2 coming to Xbox 360. This is one of the best recent examples of a PC-exclusive game worth upgrading your PC for. The news that this game and Diablo III are both coming to consoles really might suck the oxygen away from the PC gaming flame forever.

  2. Thanks for the comment. You're right in highlighting that The Witcher 2 was another loss for PC gaming. The fewer exclusive games that the PC has, the harder it is to justify the large cost of building and maintaining a proper gaming PC.

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