1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Other The Able, the Willing, and the future of PC gaming

Discussion in 'Gaming' started by Cthippo, 12 Mar 2008.

  1. Cthippo

    Cthippo Can't mod my way out of a paper bag

    Joined:
    7 Aug 2005
    Posts:
    6,783
    Likes Received:
    102
    PC gaming is nearing the end of it's era of dominance and the console is ascendant. In the next decade consoles are going to be the big thing for gaming and the PC will be home to casual games and innovative indie games, but there will be no more AAA PC exclusive titles. The reasons for this are manifold, but largely come back to the fact that the group of people able and willing to buy and play those games is not large enough to support the development costs of the games.

    Lets start with able, and by that I mean hardware. You essentially have to purchace a gaming computer in order to play any of the big name games on the market today. Modern gaming has requirements that far exceed those for day to day uses for the computer. Low end CPUs and integrated graphics are entirely adequate for everyday tasks. You can easily browse the web, play music, watch video, use office programs, burn CDs and whatelver else on any low-end budget machine from Walmart. It's only when you want to play games or do certain very specialized tasks (image or video editing for example) that you need more than the $399 budget machine. We rant about all the POS computers sold, but the reality is that they are entirely adequate for most users. No, they're not going to be able to play Crysis at all, but so what? The reality today is that if you want to play games you need a better computer.

    Then comes the willing. By the willing I mean the subset of people who have spent the money to buy an adequate computer and who are further willing to spend the money to buy your $50 game. There are a lot of people who are going to be in the first category, but not in the second. There are lots of reasons for this, the fact that they can pirate it is one, another is that they don't like a certain genre, or that they're pouring their money into a WOW subscription every month or whatever else. There are lots and lots of reasons that people choose not to buy games, even if they are able to play them.

    So that's the consumer side, lets look at the production side. Making the kind of huge, gorgeous, AAA games we all want is expensive. Making those games for the PC is also significantly more expensive because of the compatibility headaches, and the need to work around a nearly infinite number of potential hardware permutations. We've reached the point, as has been mentioned in a number of posts by industry insiders recently, where a game has to sell huge numbers of units in it's first couple of weeks to be considered viable. Basically, you must have several million customers who are willing and able to buy your game at full price in order to be viable. The more impressive the game is, and hence tha higher the hardware requirements, the smaller the "able" group of customers is, and hence the smaller the "able and willing" is. The lower the system requirements for a game, the larger the "able" group becomes, and hence the larger the pool of "able and willing".

    With so much money at risk, it's no surprise that studios and publishers are going to be unwilling to take risks on innovative new concepts in gaming. It doesn't take too many 15 million dollar failures to put you out of business. With that much at risk, it's amazing that games like Spore ever see the light of day in the modern market.

    With consoles there is no gulf between the haves and the have nots. Everyone who owns a PS3 (or 360 or Wii or whatever) is able to play your game, some are willing to buy it. You know exactly what hardware they have, and have only one set of standards to program for. You don't have to worry about propritary sound systems or different display driver models or incompatible BIOS issues. If you produce it it will almost certainly work, which means that customers are less likley to have a good expierience and buy more of your games. Sure, gameplay is still an issue, but writing for consoles reduces the number of potential user expierience issues.

    Given the issues at play, fewer and fewer people able to meet ever higher system requirements, the need to compete for the money of those who are able to play games, the pitfalls of developing for such a varied platform as the PC, the huge financial risks invloved and the relative ease of console development, it's no wonder that big budget PC gaming is dying a predictable death.

    That said, PC gaming will never die competly. The majority of homes have at least one PC, and so there is a massive market for games that will run on low spec systems. The advent of digital distribution has also opened up opportunities for indie developers that were not there a few years ago. Combined with the viral nature of the web, any monkey who can code a game has a shot at being the next big thing. Casual gaming and MMOs that run on low spec hardware are massive money makers for their developers, without being tied to a small group of the able.

    Likewise, we will continue to see PC ports of console games because spreading an IP across as many platforms as possible increases revenue and reduces a studio or publisher's risk and allows them to try more things. Essentially, ports expand your base of the "able" without being tied to the limitations and headaches of any one platform. This also allows for cross platform gaming, which both increases your potential audience for a game and also makes feasible more niche online games which are unlikley to attract enough users on any one platform to make a viable community.

    So what is the future of PC gaming? Well, that depends on your perspective. If you're addicted to massive, bleeding edge titles that are exclusive to the PC because no other platform can handle them, then it's pretty dark. If you like innovative new games that can be played online across different platforms, then you're in luck. I think we'll see the death of the "graphics is everything" mindset as the PC moves out of the limelight, but in the end I don't think this will be a bad thing for gaming overall. We've all seen more than a few promising games that sacrificed gameplay in the name of graphics. We've also seen a new platform, the Wii, demonstrate that games can be incrediably fun and innovative without being graphical powerhouses. PC gaming as we have known it is in it's twilight, but that does not mean that gaming is dead. instead, it is evolving into something new and different, and I hope that is something we will all be able and willing to embrace.

    NOTE: This bagan as a reply to another thread, but got out of hand, so I made it it's own thread.
     
  2. steveo_mcg

    steveo_mcg What's a Dremel?

    Joined:
    26 May 2005
    Posts:
    5,841
    Likes Received:
    80
    One thing to remember is the consoles only have the graphics they do because of pc games development. The nForce and ATI cards are bother adaptations of mid end cards from a few years ago. If that development cycle slows because there is no more crysis or its brethren to drive the market forward then there will be no reason to buy the next console on. If the PS4 graphics are no significantly better than the PS3 then whats the point when the games are largly the same as they were circa PS1.
    In your future you predict the end of gaming as we know it. I know what your saying graphics aren't every thing but if the games your producing are the same every time (give or take) then you have stagnation. Console makers run at a loss for a few years on the console but make massive profits on each game they need to produce a new platform every few years to get people interested again and to convince them to buy there game collection again.
     
  3. impar

    impar Minimodder

    Joined:
    24 Nov 2006
    Posts:
    3,107
    Likes Received:
    41
    Greetings!

    So, the future of hardcore gaming is not on highly personalized machines, with tiered capabilities and prices, but on undistinguishable machines, with the same capabilities and price?
     
  4. theevilelephant

    theevilelephant Minimodder

    Joined:
    5 Jan 2006
    Posts:
    1,334
    Likes Received:
    36
    I dont think pc gaming has been in dominance for a while....

    i also think that pc hardware and software development drives the same for the consoles. If there is nothing for consoles to aim for, in terms of graphics and increased functionality then surely the market will stagnate with new consoles just being new "revisions" (bit like nvidia graphics line up atm :p)
     
  5. Fod

    Fod what is the cheesecake?

    Joined:
    26 Aug 2004
    Posts:
    5,802
    Likes Received:
    133
    you just described a games console...
    careful though - we don't want uh, ...trolls, ruining what has the potential to be a rather cerebral discussion.

    on a less flippant note - doesn't anybody else have the opinion that the xbox is MS's first shot at standardising the home computer?
     
  6. Xtrafresh

    Xtrafresh It never hurts to help

    Joined:
    27 Dec 2007
    Posts:
    2,999
    Likes Received:
    100
    applying for a job at bit-tech Cthippo? You are starting quite a few discussions :)

    I'll read this when i have time, you always do have some good points :p
     
  7. Guest-16

    Guest-16 Guest

    No no no, PC gaming is not going anywhere - it's just the console life cycle is in its prime that's all. When it gets to the end of it in 2 years and PC gaming looks clearly better (remember DX9.0c versus PS2) then people will reinvest in PC gaming.
     
  8. steveo_mcg

    steveo_mcg What's a Dremel?

    Joined:
    26 May 2005
    Posts:
    5,841
    Likes Received:
    80
    If anything the PS3 is a better crack at this, with decent Linux support it can already do everything that a normal Linux box can, but they hamstrung it with limited memory and no access to the 3d sub system.
     
  9. Fod

    Fod what is the cheesecake?

    Joined:
    26 Aug 2004
    Posts:
    5,802
    Likes Received:
    133
    true; but the more cynical among us would point at PS3 linux being sony's vain attempt at getting classified as a personal computer, thus avoiding the EU tax on this sort of device.
    MS has the software infrastructure and experience needed to build a pretty decent new system around standardised hardware; were they to actually try it seriously i doubt sony would be able to approach that sector for a good while.
     
  10. Bungle

    Bungle Rainbow Warrior

    Joined:
    7 Jul 2007
    Posts:
    1,001
    Likes Received:
    2
    Well it can only go one of two ways I reckon.

    1) PC and console gamers will merge.Next generation consoles will start to roll out with a keyboard and mouse + controller as standard, thereby catering for both PC and traditional console gamers. This will also see a rise in "smarter" more indepth titles on the console which now has to cater for the old PC gamer market. A jack of all trades gaming machine.

    2) The current markets will continue as is. I think this is more probable as the PC games market affects not just games developers but hardware manufacturers equally aswell. Taking hardware and gaming software into account, I still reckon the PC gamer on average spends more annually than your average console gamer. They wouldn't want to bite the hand that feeds.

    It's a tough one to call.
     
  11. steveo_mcg

    steveo_mcg What's a Dremel?

    Joined:
    26 May 2005
    Posts:
    5,841
    Likes Received:
    80
    Thats another point, companies like nVidia and AMD/ATI would really struggle without the masses of pc gamers upgrading to the new mid range card every year or two. I'm sure being the gfx for a console platform brings in lots of money but how does it compare to selling discrete graphics cards?
     
  12. Jamie

    Jamie ex-Bit-Tech code junkie

    Joined:
    12 Mar 2001
    Posts:
    8,180
    Likes Received:
    54
  13. Veles

    Veles DUR HUR

    Joined:
    18 Nov 2005
    Posts:
    6,188
    Likes Received:
    34
    I don't, if I look back over the last few years over the amount I've spend on my console and money I spent on my PC, it's probably more on my 360.

    That before I take into account that I get a lot more out of my PC for non gaming purposes that I do gaming purposes. Really, the only thing I wouldn't have bought for my PC if I decided to not game on it was the GFX card, I would have got a cheap one.

    However, that doesn't take into account that I haven't bought a whole lot of PC games recently, I even went so far as to buy CoD4 on the 360 because all my RL friends have it on the 360. There's also the problem that a lot of games coming out for the PC are just poor generic FPSes. There are some good games, but I don't think I've bought a "AAA" title for my PC in years. They might have a lot of money spent on them, but the majority of the time they're pretty dull and boring.

    THAT is the problem with PC gaming, the popular games are cookie cutter crap, some people lap it up, others just aren't all that interesting in playing the exact same game with better graphics and one new mechanic that doesn't really make a difference to the game play all that much.
     
  14. Cthippo

    Cthippo Can't mod my way out of a paper bag

    Joined:
    7 Aug 2005
    Posts:
    6,783
    Likes Received:
    102
    That's true, but consoles have a built in competior, the last generation of consoles. Look at how many people have looked at the capabilities of the PS3 and said "Nah, I'll stick with my PS2". If console makers want to stay in business they have to convince the buyer that their new console is worth the money, and so that will continue to drive hardware innovation. As much as we make fun of it, look at the cell processor. That is pretty bleeding edge tech, even today.


    That's true, a wholesale move away from the custom gaming PC model would be very hard on them. On the other hand, so what? ATi and nVidia don't make games and people (mostly) won't buy their products if they don't have games to play on them. Where I can see them going is into the integrated graphics market and also into specialty HTPC products if the gaming market diminishes. Just as with games, removing the "sky's the limit" mentality may lead to new innovations.

    Only if they pay my relocation expenses outta here! :p
     
    Last edited: 12 Mar 2008
  15. tranc3

    tranc3 ADHD Modder

    Joined:
    16 Jul 2007
    Posts:
    1,622
    Likes Received:
    13
    i don't believe pc gaming will ever die out. but is definetly possible. and if it dose you can already use keyboard and mouse on the 360, and the ps2, and if im not mistaking the ps3 too?
     
  16. Tim S

    Tim S OG

    Joined:
    8 Nov 2001
    Posts:
    18,881
    Likes Received:
    78
    I think this is a very interesting point - many games on the PC just aren't worth the cost of the box they come in. They're recycled generic shooting galleries and as a result, I must admit I've played fewer first-person shooters in recent years than I did in the past. I'm finding PC-based RTS games much more interesting and time draining these days because there's just much more depth in them.

    I'm going to have a look at Sins of a Solar Empire once I get my home PC up and running again, too.
     
  17. atanum141

    atanum141 I fapped to your post!

    Joined:
    22 Jul 2004
    Posts:
    7,986
    Likes Received:
    19
    I can only think of the Orange box as a worthy PC purchase. Everything else was done better on consoles in my mind.
    +1 for Veles comment.
     
  18. BlueTrin

    BlueTrin What's a Dremel?

    Joined:
    15 Dec 2007
    Posts:
    307
    Likes Received:
    1
    I dunno, maybe the cycle of new consoles will go faster and faster, at some point graphics will matter less, we are not at this point, but when graphics will be realistic enough for casual gamers on every console, the interest in PC gaming will drop alot.
     
  19. Neogumbercules

    Neogumbercules What's a Dremel?

    Joined:
    14 Aug 2004
    Posts:
    2,464
    Likes Received:
    29
    I've spent a lot of money on my PC in the last year. $400 monitor, $300 graphics card, $60 CPU cooler, this is on top of the rest of it I spent when I built it, which was about $600-$700 total. If I could take it all back I'd have a new HDTV sitting in my room hooked up to my Xbox360 and PS3. There's just so much more value in console gaming for me nowadays. If it weren't for the occasional PC blockbuster, the entire FPS genre, City of Heroes and the Command and Conquer franchise I wouldn't game on my PC at all. That said, I don't really regret owning a gaming quality PC. I do get a lot of use out of it.
     
    Last edited: 14 Mar 2008
  20. Kipman725

    Kipman725 When did I get a custom title!?!

    Joined:
    1 Nov 2004
    Posts:
    1,753
    Likes Received:
    0
    Open source is the future of pc gaming. WHen I started using computers there were very few non comercial games available, if somone made a game they treid to sell it. This lead to lots of small game publishers and devlopment houses. Over time these consolidated into the situation we have now with a few big publishers. This raised the barrier for entry, this also coincided with the growth of the open source movnment. Leading to the devolopment of many open source games. Many of these games such as nexuiz, wesnoth, world of padman, warsow and free civ have reached a point where I would consider them highly polished complete games. The open source games movment is still emerging but it's growing and with tools such as the opensourcing of the quake 3 engine its perfectly posible with the right coading skills to start making your own games. At the moment the open source games tend to follow comercail titles rather than lead but I would anticipate like it has with conventinal software that eventualy this situation will reverse.
     

Share This Page