The trends of the gaming world are ever-evolving. Pre-order culture is booming, games are welcoming micro transactions at an alarming rate, but it’s not all bad. For the console zealots, the rise of PC gaming might seem like an attack, but more and more people are flocking over to the PC and there’s plenty of reason. Simply put, the market has changed drastically over the past decade and here’s how it’s starting to shift in the favor of the computer.
A trip through the ages
For those of us who have grown up in the age of the NES and the Mega Drive, nostalgia is a pretty strong factor. But there are plenty of young people who experienced another great boom in the age of the PlayStation and Nintendo 64 and the last big PC gaming boom. At the same time that we saw games like Donkey Kong 64 and Final Fantasy IX we were seeing Age of Empires 2. But while console markets make it hard to access the past library, almost doing away entirely with the idea of backwards compatibility and releasing a scant few classic titles, PC gaming is offering the opportunity to bring more and more classics to the modern experience.
The plug-and-play promise
The availability of older games is only a very small change, however. A huge change is how the idea of the promise that consoles ‘just work’ as soon as you plug them in is just wrong. Nowadays, you don’t get that experience with consoles. Instead, you have to wait for console updates and patch downloads even if you get a game disc right out of the box. Day one patches are becoming more and more common as developers realize they can ship a game but just complete it after the discs are printed anyway. Meaning that the console lost a big advantage over PC games.
The incremental updates
This is mainly a question of cost effectiveness. Yes, a beast of a PC is going to cost more than a console. But how you buy your hardware is changing now. While you could get a machine with the power of a PS4 or Xbox One at suppliers for the same price or less, you are also getting a machine that can upgrade over time. You can keep replacing parts, one at a time over the years, ensuring that the same machine keeps getting better and better. Consoles are starting to covet that system of being able to upgrade their specs over time, but the difference in the PS4 Pro and Xbox One S is that you have to buy entirely new systems to enjoy those updates.
The generation question
One of the promises of the Pro, the S, and the still far-off Project Scorpio is also one of the big downsides of the systems, however. They’re all going to play the same games. They’ll play them better but, for now, we’re not expecting to see any ‘Scorpio exclusive’ titles. They’re part of the same generation and the same generation cycle that is starting to test the patience of a lot of games. The generation of the 360 and PS3 took too long by all accounts. People stopped spending their money and waited on the newer generation of systems instead. While that happened, they looked to the PC market instead, which kept pushing the boundaries that consoles simply couldn’t because they didn’t yet have the hardware to do so.
Superior delivery systems
Another cost-effective point is that gaming on PC tends to be cheaper overall. Yes, a brand-new game is going to cost about the same wherever you buy it, and even more if you get the season pass and the exclusive pre-order content that crank the price of a single game well into the triple digits. But on the PC, the online marketplace created by Valve is one of the most deal-happy delivery systems for games you will ever find. While PS4 and Xbox online stores drip-feed deals out, Steam Sales happen throughout the year and change every week. Not to mention the Summer and Winter sales, where games, big and small, can get slashes down to 50%, 20%, even 10% of their usual price.
The growing audience
It was mentioned above how generation fatigue led to a big increase in PC gaming audience numbers. Free games and accessible games like Minecraft, League of Legends, and Hearthstone contributed a lot, too. It is especially those multiplayer experiences of today that the PC market has capitalized greatly on. As more people moved to PC gaming, they got their friends to do so as well. The market growth perpetuated itself and it still does, leading to the PC currently being the world’s biggest gaming platform. A strong user base, particularly where online is involved, is essential to the life of a platform and its market.
It’s all about community
Those users on the PC bring something else. Community. Computers are used broadly as a communication tool, making it easy for people to find friends inside and outside of games to play with. But the community on the PC also attracts a lot of people who are not just gamers, but technically literate, too. That has lead to the huge success of community mods that allow players to change their experience in a legion of ways. Console games like Fallout 4 are starting to introduce mods as well, but they’re a very select amount and sometimes, not even available on your console of choice. On the PC, a game is more than just what comes from the developer, but what the community contributes to it as well.
PC gaming still comes with some of its challenges, from poor ports of console games to the fact that it does indeed take a bit more effort to set up. But the barriers to PC gaming are being broken while those in the console world just keep rising. The more opportunities we have to play good games on any platform, the better. It might be time to seriously consider the PC if you haven’t already.