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PC versus console

Posted: Wed Jul 21, 2004 12:57 am
by Jonathan ... /index.asp

This is not the first notice of the impending death of PC gaming that I have read. Probably not the first for you either.

Do you think it's part of a trend? Will consoles take over?

One thing I've read is that gratis gaming is a big chunk of PC gaming and virtually none of console gaming. Demos, mods, free flash web games, and open source games are played by a lot of people.

Despite that, I think the PC market will cease to expand. There is and will continue to be a market for games that are not possible or do not work well on consoles, but the majority of players will use consoles to play video games. More importantly, the majority of new players will buy consoles, not gaming PCs. With the release of the 3rd generation of 3D consoles, pretty much all the elements of a complete system will be available on consoles. I think it will take something on the order of a VisiCalc-type innovation to rescue PC gaming from the price and ease of use pressure that consoles bring to bear.

Posted: Wed Jul 21, 2004 1:07 am
by Dave
pc games suck. I was considering buying a new pc since I have money now, but dont think I have the time nor compulsion to even upgrade to play Doom3 or HL2

Posted: Wed Jul 21, 2004 5:55 pm
by Jonathan

The guy behind Galactic Civilizations thinks that the only advantage PCs have over consoles right now is electronic distribution, but that's precisely the advantage most publishers are hesitant to exploit. Unfortunately for Stardock, I have no desire to play any of their games. Maybe they'll come up with something I want and I'll try their website.

I think with people like Dave and people like the Stardock guy, boxed PC games are going to fade away.

Posted: Wed Jul 21, 2004 6:29 pm
by quantus
I agree that all boxed games will fade away as broadband reaches decent speeds. See here. It's really just a matter of time before the cost/ease factor of downloading a game undercuts boxing and packing the games. I really wonder about stores like Best Buy surviving as a retail store when online stores can sell the same stuff for cheaper because of less overhead. What would be interesting is if consoles came with a dvd burner instead of just a dvd rom so that people could use the internet connection in the console to browse an online game store, download the game and burn it. Alternatively, a hard drive could be used to store an encrypted copy of the game which could be decrypted into memory when playing to minimize piracy. The HD would have to be swappable with ease so that there's no absolute storage limit. Anyway, point is, steps between creation and use are being cut out all over the place and boxing games is a just another intermediate step that can be removed.

Posted: Wed Jul 21, 2004 6:39 pm
by Jonathan
Places that rely on software sales like Gamestop and EB are already transitioning away from PC games. PC games are increasingly stuck in a little ghetto corner amid a sea of new and used console games.

I doubt Sony, Microsoft, or Nintendo is going to roll out electronic distribution in the next generation of consoles, so that's a ~5 year window for PC gaming. After that, well, it's reasoning like this that made Stars! Supernova into vaporware.

Posted: Wed Jul 21, 2004 6:42 pm
by George
I doubt PC games are really going to die. PC hardware generations are so much shorter that within a year after a console comes out, PC graphics cards are more powerful. New features are added in (most) generations resulting in improvements in image quality as well as frame rate. Console generations tend to run to three or four years. By the end of that time, the graphics power is substantially behind PCs.

That didn't matter when everyone played games on analog TVs; the super low resolution meant that the graphics power was focused and could produce disproportionately high triangle counts. As HDTVs become more common, people are going to want comparable image quality at much higher resolution.

Posted: Wed Jul 21, 2004 6:55 pm
by Alan
I think that eventually casual gamers will move entirely away from PC gaming, because consoles just work. Only the hard-core gamers will continue playing PC games, and unfortunately (for companies) hard-core gamers also tend to pirate more games, since hard-core gamers tend to have the fat connections as well.

I can only see the PC continue dominating in one or two genres: RTS and MMORPG. Maybe FPS's. And of those three genres, the only one I think the console can never be as good as PC is in RTS (and other war-sim type games that I'll lump together for simplicity). Oh, and flight sims, but I think the market for flight sims is very, very small (correct me if I'm wrong). I think the key for PC games is stuff like leagues/ladders and downloadable replays/ability to spectate matches. And of course, chatting. In other words, direct competition and plenty of trash-talk.

I think eventually, the PC will have only online-exclusive subscription-based games that foster a strong "community", and everything else will be on the consoles.

Posted: Wed Jul 21, 2004 6:59 pm
by Alan
I think the nail in the coffin for casual PC gaming will come when EA stops making a PC version of Madden.

Posted: Wed Jul 21, 2004 7:55 pm
by Jonathan

Interesting. Looks like it's connected to the site I mentioned earlier.

Posted: Wed Jul 21, 2004 8:29 pm
by George
Now that console hard drives and internet connections are becoming more common, I wouldn't be surprised to see online-exclusive subscription games move over to the consoles as well.

I think as time goes on, consoles are going to be less likely to "just work". I remember Jason having trouble with his X-Box fairly often. Think back to SNES. None of those games ever crashed or gave disc read errors. Microsoft's approach of using basically a full featured PC as a console eliminates much of the stability that came with simple, single purpose, dedicated hardware. It's still an improvement over a normal PC because of the homogeneity. But even that benefit will be reduced as consoles become able to take 3rd party hardware add ons. It used to be just controllers and the Gameshark type cheat devices. Now you've added harddrives to the mix along with USB and firewire ports for more. And that's just this generation.

And of course, most software engineers our age never learned how to test or optimize their code, so you'll see a lot more software bugs as well.

Posted: Wed Jul 21, 2004 9:25 pm
by Jonathan
I've been dancing around this point and I finally made the connection over lunch: The only way PC gaming is going to compete with console gaming will be price of games. The various forms of gratis gaming and electronic distributions are just facets of the same issue, which is that PC gaming could be cheaper than console gaming.

Consoles subsidize hardware costs through software sales. Thus, the PS2 cost $300 at launch and $150 now, whereas a comparably equipped computer is at least 50% more expensive at any given time, and sometimes more. Sony is not able to provide hardware at a significantly lower cost than Dell or HP. Instead, they sell the console at a loss to encourage more people to buy games. Sony sells a license to the game publishers so Sony makes money off each game sale. Thus, we have grossly overpriced software subsidizing hardware sales. This is the same model that Microsoft and Sun have been pushing for computing in general.

Currently PC games and console games both cost $50. When faced with a choice of paying $150 for a console and $50 for each game or paying $350 for a computer and $50 for each game, most consumers make the obvious choice. However, there is no reason a company like Intel or even Apple couldn't subsidize the cost of game development, much like how Intel subsidizes Linux development through the OSDL or like Apple how operates iTunes as a loss leader. Both companies provide a software product for free or at a low cost in order to sell more of their other, profitable products: processors and iPods, respectively.

If PC gaming is survive in a professional capacity, some developer or developers is going to need a relationship with a sponsor. The sponsor could be HP, nVidia, or AMD. It could be anyone who has a vested interest in keeping the PC viable as a gaming platform and who also has deep pockets. The sponsor will give the game developer money to create a professionally developed game, with all the art, music, and design elements that gamers have come to expect. The sponsor will then make that game available on the Internet for free or for a nominal fee. The hardware sales will then subsidize the cost of software, not the other way around.

Gamers will benefit because the margins in the computer business are razor-thin as it is. Buying hardware near-cost and getting software for free or nearly so will be cheaper for the consumer than buying hardware under cost and getting expensive software. If games of similar quality to console games were available for the PC now for free, I could buy a $350 computer and play all the games I wanted, or buy a $150 console and four $50 games. Most consumers will opt for the PC, especially considering the PC also has email, IM, and online shopping.

It won't take a quantum leap in game design to save PC gaming like I suggested before. All it takes is a little creative financing. Before this can happen, though, a game developer and a potential sponsor need to make this leap and come to the same conclusion. We'll see if any do.

Posted: Mon Jul 26, 2004 8:48 pm
by Peijen
George wrote:Think back to SNES. None of those games ever crashed or gave disc read errors.
FF6 Relm

Posted: Mon Jul 26, 2004 9:00 pm
by VLSmooth
Peijen wrote:FF6 Relm
Sketch Fun! ... c=14722696

Theorectically you can get General Leo's sprite too, w00t!
(and very likely screw up your game, big time)

Posted: Tue Jul 27, 2004 11:51 am
by George
Ok, and the item duping in FF7, but those were almost more like cheats than bugs.

Many PC games are shipped with bugs that make them nearly unplayable. Quest items vanish from inventory, blue screens when a certain map is entered, characters stuck in the wrong animation, etc. Almost every PC game in the last eight years has been patched at least once.

So far as I know, console games don't go through any more stringent testing than PC games. I think that their only stability advantage is the known hardware and software configurations. As new aftermarket hardware is added to the mix, and as more lazy/sloppy programmers graduate and go to work, the console games are going to suffer from more common and more severe bugs. They're also running off of read-only media which makes patching difficult.

Although, now that I think about it, until the internet became prevalent, most PC games weren't patchable, and they also were less likely to have software related glitches (as opposed to OS or hardware related). I wonder if PC game makers got sloppy in recent years because of the ability to issue fixes after the ship date? If so, console games may actually suffer if/when patching becomes reasonable.

One way or another, I still think console games are buggier than they used to be, and will continue to get worse over time, until they become comparable to PC games.

more random musings

Posted: Thu Aug 05, 2004 1:03 am
by Jonathan
Here's a thought, and it's not mine. Why doesn't a game company open source their engine? A lot of people have ventured the opinion that bazaar-style development by volunteers on a professional-level scale won't work, myself included. The exception to this rule would be mods, which have the advantage of having an engine provided for them. Counterstrike is professional enough to be sold in stores, yet it was developed by volunteers.

Bazaar-style development isn't the be-all and end-all of open source software, though. A good example is MySQL. MySQL is developed by a for-profit company, MySQL AB. MySQL AB sells support services and commercial licenses for their open source software.

This could be translated to games in several ways. An online persistent world offers the most recognizable business model. Commercial licensing of an open source engine would also work, as companies use that as a real source of revenue already.

Games also have the added feature that the data processed by their software is bundled with the software, unlike databases. I see two possibilities for capitalizing on this. A company could release the software under an open license but retain copyright on the art assets. Assuming the levels of the game are worth paying for, then you can continue to sell boxed copies. The other method, which is already employed by id to a certain extent, is to release the source for your game after your boxes have been sold. id appears to do so after all the games which licensed their engine have been sold as well. However, there is no reason why they couldn't do this much earlier. Most games sell their boxed copies over the course of a few months. After six months, they're essentially no longer producing sales. A relatively short window like this would give a company a chance to make back its money while providing the code while it's still relevant. This would give "mod" makers a chance to create something that breaks out of the core abandonware gamer ghetto, like Counterstrike did.

Here's some guy's thoughts on this issue which prompt my musings: ... 02/1228248

Posted: Thu Aug 05, 2004 3:59 am
by Peijen
damn, that's pretty close to my business plan

Posted: Thu Apr 28, 2005 7:14 pm
by Jonathan
There's no denying that retail PC game sales are on the decline in the United States, which represents about 50 percent of the worldwide game market, and the popularity of consoles are the primary reason this is happening. But in other countries, PC games are still doing well.

In Europe, PC game sales are growing modestly, and in Germany PCs are more popular than consoles. In Asia, where consoles haven't entered the market due to software piracy problems, online PC gaming is growing at an astounding rate. And if you break down the console game sales numbers by platform, the PC is number two behind the Sony Playstation 2.
I had no idea. That's very interesting. I wonder what the Japanese market looks like, since consoles clearly have entered the market there.

Posted: Tue Aug 16, 2005 9:56 pm
by Jonathan

Microsoft will launch a digital distribution service for PC games. I wonder if they'll use it for X-Box 360. There's currently no telling if the all-digital version will have a price break with respect to the boxed version.

Posted: Mon Mar 12, 2007 7:03 pm
by Jonathan

Id says that game developers who traditionally focused on the PC are shifting to consoles simply because the degree of piracy is much less.

How true is this? Or is id whining because Doom 3 kinda sucked? "Oh, it's not our sucky game, it's those damn pirates!"

Posted: Mon Mar 12, 2007 7:20 pm
by Dave
Until all games become MMOs!