The notion that PC gaming is dead has been kicked around for over a decade. Pundits have declared it repeatedly only to have games like Half-Life and Deus Ex re-introduce it as the evolutionary heart of the industry. When it once again began to lose traction, the Steam distribution platform made it easier than ever to find and purchase games for the PC without the hassle of manually patching them.
By now, it should be obvious that PC gaming will never be completely dead. There will always be a place for it. Consoles are unlikely to ever have the level of flexibility to allow for the creation of mods or user-created content using anything other than game-provided tools (which aren't very common and often underpowered). Additionally, the majority of gamers still believe that mouse and keyboard control is superior to dual-analog gamepads for FPS games, a genre which makes up a sizable chunk of today's titles.
And by nature, PCs will always be potentially much more powerful than any available console by way of hardware upgrades. So, for technology junkies who want the best-looking and best-performing game experience available (and don't mind paying for it), PC is still the way to go, and likely will be for the foreseeable future.
But all this in mind, it has never been clearer than it is right now that consoles occupy the leading and most influential role in the gaming industry. And it's not necessarily because of game sales. It's not because consoles are generally less expensive. There's no real validity to the "home theater" argument (it's simpler than ever to hook up a gaming PC to a 50" TV and surround sound system).
It's because John Carmack said so.
Here we have the man who helped make gaming what it is today. The technical director and founder of id Software, he's the man behind Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, and Quake, which are not only historical staples of PC gaming, but gaming as a whole. He shoulders and deserves much of the credit for popularizing the FPS genre which stands tall today as the most popular genre in the industry. And the PC has always been his lead platform.
But that has all changed. From the words of Mr. Carmack himself in an interview with Kotaku:
We do not see the PC as the leading platform for games.
Bombshell dropped. The verdict is in. The PC is the Buzz Aldrin of video gaming, sayeth the sculptor himself.
This wasn't an unprovoked statement. id Software's newest game Rage was a hugely anticipated one from the legendary developer, having been the first game developed completely in-house since 2004's Doom 3, and the first franchise progenitor since Quake was introduced in 1996. As previously stated, id Software has always used the PC as their lead platform. The developer has always used the PC's advantages to set the bar in visual quality for that gaming generation. Screenshots and trailers were showing that Rage was not going to disappoint in the areas that we have always counted on id Software to flourish.
So why did things like this happen on the PC on launch day? Why were so many gamers having horrendous technical issues on their computers? And why were the console versions enjoying fantastic releases instead? Is it possible that the console versions were given more attention?
Indeed they were. Another of Carmack's remarks from the interview:
You can choose to design a game around the specs of a high-end PC and make console versions that fail to hit the design point, or design around the specs of the consoles and have a high-end PC provide incremental quality improvements. We chose the latter.
A philosophical change on the part of one of PC gaming's greatest developers is nothing to take lightly.
But the attention disparity didn't show only in the technical performance of the game. A quick visit to the configuration options for the PC version of Rage triggered an alarming revelation: there were hardly any. Texture detail? Filtering? VSync? Draw distance? Sound quality? Not a single one of these standard configuration options were available. This was a PC version of a game that tried - and failed - to serve as one-size-fits-all. It was a port of the console version. It wasn't meant to be played on a PC.
Rage isn't the only recent release to show a serious lack of attention given to its PC version. Techland's recent hit Dead Island proved even worse. The PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of the open-world zombie smasher were buggy enough, but the PC version actually had crippled mouse and keyboard controls. That's right, the control scheme that most gamers go to the PC platform for was not supported in some of the game's control options.
And like Rage, almost every configuration option that is typically found in most any PC game was not included in Dead Island's PC version. Though, with a few file edits, these same configurations could be accessed, which was even worse; it showed that the developer cared so little about the PC release of the game that they didn't even put the time in to create an in-game menu for configuration options that actually existed already.
PC woes continue. Batman: Arkham City is ready to see its release on the Xbox 360 and PS3 this Tuesday. The PC version, though, has been delayed until November. But honestly, I'd certainly rather see a ready-for-release PC version come out a month late than a lazy port release on time. After all, very few games are ultimately ridiculed for a late release so long as that release was worth the wait, while sloppy and buggy releases are rarely forgotten. First impressions go a long way.
Regardless of these issues, die-hard fans of the PC platform are likely to continue to be as such. If you've been gaming primarily on the PC over the years, you're already familiar with the upkeep the platform requires. You know all about patching, editing configuration files, upgrading hardware, and perusing forums for workarounds to bugs and missing configuration options. In trade, you're typically enjoying the best-looking version of the game available - sometimes drastically so - and you're able to enjoy mods and customizations provided by the gaming community.
But if you aren't willing to put in the work required to get to these ends, consoles are currently providing a better-performing experience than they ever have in the past. PC gaming is left to the enthusiasts (and RTS fans). Truly, though, it's not that this is a new revelation. It's the words of the developers themselves that carry new weight. When John Carmack - a noted, PC-centric developer - is declaring consoles to be the lead platform for his games, that's that.
It's unfair to portray the statement as a "nail in the coffin" when it comes to a platform that will always have a strong and vocal fanbase. It is, however, more accurate than ever to declare the PC as the official second fiddle. If you're not playing an MMO or an RTS, chances are that you're better off gaming on a console.
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