Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Year of the PC

I am smack dab in the middle of E3. Like every year, the cacophony blends into a general chorus of "look at me!" While actual games make up the majority of the show, the feud between Microsoft and Sony (and after this week's Sony conference, it's certainly a feud), is clearly the hot topic on everyone's minds. For the most part, the consensus is on the side of Sony. Yet looking at the consoles on display, it seems pretty clear this is the year of the PC.

During both Microsoft and Sony's press conferences, particularly the latter, all the game highlights and montages seem to express the inaccurate message that they are completely console exclusives. For the most part, the biggest or most exciting games, from Triple A to Indie, are platform agnostic. Those games that are exclusive are either new and untested franchises or dated far enough in the future to award those patients for a console price drop.

Of course the DRM features of the the Xbox One boggle the mind and completely sway me away from any early purchase of the hardware. Still, I'm also not entirely convinced that Sony will earn my dollars either. The indie games I was so please to see on stage are easily acquired on the PC, so while its positioning itself as indie friendly against Microsoft, it has no sole claim to that title. Likewise, Sony's decision to charge for multiplayer gaming deters me from embracing the console as a base for social gaming.  

The price may not be exorbitant, but when I have a system that is, one hundred percent, free and open, I see no reason to migrate to another that barely competes with its hardware. My computer is endless upgradeable, but this "last gen" console cycle will forever remain a stagnant.

It was strange during Sony's press event when the crowd went absolutely wild when the company announced it would allow players to share games freely. The celebration was more intense than any other announcement at the conferences. What sort of bizarro world do we live in where allowing us to lend things we ostensibly own is a gifted feature to celebrate?

I have my weapon against this madness already. It's customizable, playable on my TV, supports controllers, and offers free multiplayer and frequent sales. Next-gen consoles? Maybe one day, but so far, I'm not sold.


  1. Yeah, same goes for me.

    I'm starting to feel better and better about my PC purchase last year and I'm confident my 7970 will serve me well for the upcoming multiplattorm releases and beyond.

    Curious to see how far developers will be able to push PC ports on a technical level when console limitations will be less of an issue.

    Maybe, however, we'll fall back into the dark era of shitty console to PC ports since developers have to focus on where the money is being made.

    So here's to hoping for lots and lots of PC releases of console games (GTA5 and MGS5 you guys!!!)

    P.S. On a scale from 1 to 10 how much did Scott flip out when they finally announced the new Mirror's Edge game? Goddammit I almost literally lost my shit on that one. So freaking awesome ;)

  2. Personally, I am going to save up my money for an Oculus Rift. I think that sucker is the innovation that consoles lack this next gen.

  3. PC gaming, more than any console, has led the charge in DRM and used game restrictions. Steam is itself a form of DRM, with an offline mode that is notoriously finicky. The used market for PC games has been dead for years, first because of CD keys and now because of digital distribution. (Criticizing consoles for restricting used sales while championing PC gaming is flatly nonsense.) MMOs first tapped the market for recurring charges and I'd argue that modern-day DLC is a natural extension of expansion packs. Remember all those Doom and Quake mission packs, which are decades old at this point?

    In theory, yes: PC is a more flexible platform, and certain companies provide standalone, DRM-free games. GOG.com is probably the best example. But let's not pretend that Sony and Microsoft invented these issues, or that they aren't also present on PC. (Diablo 3? SimCity?)

    This is, and probably always will be, about publishers and the games they make. Steam will gladly sell you games loaded with DRM, with server-side game saves, tons of DLC, and recurring monthly charges.

    This is a complicated problem. Used sales and piracy are both real issues whose impact is nebulous but undoubtedly real. AAA development budgets are enormous and publishers are hard-pressed to justify them as they continue to expand. Publishing a multiplayer game means you need to spend continued development dollars maintaining and upgrading the game and running servers. And on top of all of this, gamers haven't proven they really care enough about these issues to put their money where their mouth is, so why should MS and Sony?

    I don't offer those points as justification for anything, but this isn't necessarily a case of big mean corporations tightening the screws on poor consumers.

    Above all else I am surprised nobody is saying this is the year of the Wii U. The Wii U sells traditional disc-based games, has no DRM, the lowest cost, plenty of exclusives, and a unique controller you can't simulate on the PC. It's backwards compatible (with games AND accessories) and offers a sizable back catalog of games through the virtual console at fairly low prices, in addition to releasing its share of budget titles on disc. And I think their E3 showing was pretty good!

    But for some reason, nobody's saying that, and I'm not sure why.