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Friday, June 03, 2005

Oh look. The PC Sky is Falling. Again.

Gosh darnit, no sooner than a minute after someone sends me this does it echo around the blogosphore like a drunken bat in large party cave:

So there's a still lot of jockeying in store for both Microsoft and Sony as we head toward next year's E3, where, in all probability, comparisons will abound when we get to compare all the new games side by side.

What I am willing to predict, however, even at this early stage, is that the real loser in all of this will be PC gaming. Let's start with Quake 4, which uses the "old" Doom 3 engine but still came across as one of the more impressive PC titles I saw at the show. Id, Quake 4's developer, was also showing an Xbox 360 version of the same game behind closed doors, and those reporters I polled at the show confirmed what I thought: they really couldn't discern any difference between the two versions.
-- Death to PC Gaming? [C|NET]

Yes, let's start with the Doom 3 engine. And let's reflect on a few facts. 1) The Doom 3 engine is one of the most powerful on the planet. 2) When Doom 3 was released, there was virtually not a computer on the planet which could utilize it to it's full capacity (unless you went into the future and brought back a 512MB video card). 3) When consoles are released, they have to pack enough hardware to survive several years of serious technology addiction.

So ... now, let's poll some more reporters and ask: Should anyone be surprised that the 360 version and PC version of Quake 4 look almost identical? I mean, I was playing Time Splitters: Future Perfect earlier this week and can tell you - it looks better on my PS2 than the original Unreal Tournament looked on my old PC. So ... what does that mean?

It doesn't mean anything. I've never been sure why people feel this compelling need to lump PC gaming with console gaming and see who a la cockfight will survive the longest. Virtually every console gamer I know also owns a PC. Maybe one has an outdated computer that wouldn't play UT2004. The truth is - PC gaming and console gaming are really oceans apart. They have different hardware timelines, different cultures and different markets. Consoles rely heavily on rentals, a concept virtually non-existent on PC's (except for, etc.). PC's have a thriving indie and mod community whereas consoles have homebrews. The genres are even slanted. PC's have a field of MMO's whereas consoles a scant few. Consoles rage at the latest sports genre, but it's mostly some CEO playing Links on his laptop for the PC crowd. And don't get me started on the last really decent strategy game that came out for a console.

With so much different between the two markets, why should anyone jump to the conclusion that one will kill of the other?

My prediction? I used to have this age old debate with my old boss about which would become the dominant form of handheld - a cell phone or a PDA. I said the PDA. He said cell phone. Anyone who has been to a Cingular store lately would know we were both right. If PC's and consoles will ever kill each other off - it will be via convergence and not dominance.

And we're probably a few generations away from that.


Corvus said...

I am so sick of this argument! PC gaming will evolve, not die. Will it evolve into something that that the current generation of players will want to play? Maybe not, but I bet it'll attract a much broader market when people stop lumping the two markets together.

Corvus said...

That was a poorly written comment. To make up for it, I've linked to you again from my latest post (, where I've ranted about cockroaches instead.