For years I have read that PC gaming is dead or on death’s door. PC game sales are on the decline, but I would not say PC gaming is dead. But, I think there are several reasons why it is on the decline. Part of the problem is the complexity of many of the games. Take, for example, The Masters of Orion 3. This game has an instruction manual (a real book at that) that is over 150 pages long. Who the hell wants to play a game that has a 150 page manual? It is very detailed and well written, but, again, who wants to play a game with a 150 page manual? Trainz is another game that comes to mind. I fully expected to install and play in a matter of minutes. Nope. While it’s manual is much smaller, the game is equally complex. If I cannot pick up a game and immediately dive in, I don’t want to play it.
Another problem is hardware. Many, if not most, new PC games will want more hardware than I have. The games will generally play, but at reduced functionality or lower resolution/graphical settings. Take a game like the latest Crysis game. Most normal people will not be able to play this game with any satisfaction. It requires a Cray Supercomputer to play. OK, I exaggerate, but not by much.
Price is another factor. I normally will not pay full price for a game. The last game that I paid full price for, Spore, was a bitter disappointment. The draconian DRM aside, it just is not that great a game. I think the build up to the game destroyed it’s fun factor. It was so hyped, so oversold, that it was a disappointment and, by the way, a big reason why I usually wait months or longer before buying a game. Aside from just being a cheap bastard, I tend to wait for the real reviews, from actual gamers, before buying. I should have done so with Spore. Oh well, no need to pout about it.
Perhaps the biggest problem with PC gaming are the consoles. As they get more sophisticated, and the games get better, PC gaming becomes more and more irrelevant. Don’t get me wrong, I’d much prefer a PC game over the majority of console games. Consoles offer game developers something that PC’s cannot: a known, stable platform. A developer can invest in an SDK for, say, the XBOX 360 and begin developing games. They can rest assured that the operating system will be the same over the lifetime of the console as will, most likely, the hardware. They do not need to worry about video drivers, memory, operating system versions, etc. Yeah, Sony and Microsoft may change their consoles over time, but the changes generally are not that drastic, so a game developed for the first PS3 will still work on the most recent version of that console. The ONLY time that I know where this was not the case was years ago for the PS2. Final Fantasy XI, I think, required the hard disk. When Sony redesigned the PS2, it was too small for the hard disk.
I don’t know that there is a magic bullet out there. Obviously, people still love PC games, as witnessed by Worlds of Warcraft. The PC shines when it comes to RPG and simulation type games. Games like SimCity and the Rollercoaster Tycoon games are much better suited for the mouse and keyboard than they are a console controller. Ever played Rollercoaster Tycoon on the XBOX? Ugh. What a pain.
Consoles are great, but I still prefer my PC for many games. Of course, I still play Rise of Nations and Solitaire. Maybe I’m just getting too old.