Take distribution, for example. If you want to sell a product, it is absolutely crucial to be able to get that product into the hands of consumers. Traditional for video games of all kinds, that meant a box on the shelf at a retail store. For some time, the shelf space devoted to PC gaming has been shrinking at stores to its currently absurd presence bordering on non-existence. If you could take this information back to someone ten years ago, they could reasonably assume that PC gaming is on its way out. Instead of giving in, the PC scene has taken this attack against it and, jiu-jitsu-style, turned it around into something of an advantage. The problem with retail distribution is that it creates more overhead all around. PC gaming, however, in its attempt to survive in the face of the growing popularity of plug-and-play console gaming, has given birth to a number of alternate distribution systems utilizing the ever-increasing speeds of home Internet service. In doing so, they have drastically reduced overhead for game developers small and large and have allowed bigger margins to help combat the problem of smaller audiences.
Fortunately for gamers, the PC seems to have enough tricks up its sleeve that it isn't going anywhere unlike our beloved arcades of decades past. It is an incredible platform offering advantages which are within reach of the game consoles but bring about fears from big-wigs of diluting the simplicity of those platforms. Those fears are certainly justified. About a year after launch of a new console generation, any mid-level gaming PC can outperform the most advanced gaming console which is, by its nature, frozen in time. From that point forward (and often earlier) PC gamers can enjoy higher framerates, better resolution, more detailed textures, and a plethora of other technical benefits in addition to user created content for nearly every game, flexible control methods, and (often) more robust online connectivity. If not for their simplicity, I couldn't see a reason for owning a gaming console outside whatever exclusive releases those platforms provided.
Cost is often cited as a key barrier to entry in the argument of PC versus console gaming. By nature of the fact that PC hardware is constantly changing, the cost of a gaming PC that will compare to current consoles is always dropping. I'm in the process of retiring a PC that was put together for about $350--less than either my 360 or my PS3--which can run nearly any current PC game at a respectable framerate in 1080p. I'm running games which were released on both platforms (console and PC) at a resolution 50% better than the console counterpart.
This is not to say I don't love my console gaming. I often find myself retreating to my 360 and PS3 after frustrating bouts with drivers, hardware, and other configuration nightmares. However, there is much to be said for the underdog that is the PC. Simplicity and flexibility are at opposing sides of a continuum; PC gaming has boldly staked its claim in a region where gaming consoles will forever fear to tread.
I rarely think of things to write out of the blue, and indeed this post was inspired by my recent gaming PC purchase which itself was inspired by the fantastic time I have been having with a few recent game purchases which are, too me, uniquely PC experiences. Two of them are, in fact, also available for game consoles. The first is Dragon Age: Origins which has been discussed at length with even much of the community acknowledging the fact that it is truly a PC game with a console port also available. The second is Left 4 Dead 2 which is available in much the same form on 360, but, from my perspective, you cannot properly control a shooter without a keyboard and mouse. The third game is currently confined to the PC platform although it will ultimately be avaliable on XBLA: Spelunky. (Note: If you have not tried Spelunky, I highly recommend you check it out. It is a free game for Windows.)
Getting back to my recent PC purchase, a couple of friends requested I post my build. It is a very modest system by some standards (and I'm sure quite decadent by others). Here it is for anyone interested:
- Antec 300 case
- Intel Core2Duo E8400 CPU
- Gigabyte GA-P43-ES3G Motherboard
- 4GB Super Talent DDR2-800
- Western Digital 1TB hard drive
- Samsung 22x DVD burner
- Antec Earthwatts 650 power supply
- Zotac GeForce GTX 260
- Windows 7 64-bit Home Premium