Sad Truth About PC Gaming

Before anyone leaves a raging comment about either consoles or PCs, take a second to read the article. This isn’t to bash either of you, but instead put some new argument points in this age-old battle. As far as graphics are concerned, comparing the potential of a PC to the reality of a console is a little unfair. It’s always possible to get a computer that processes faster, has a better video card, and more space on the hard drive to download games and play them—however, using that ideal computer model assumes that most PC gamers have the money to put together a beastly machine like that.

I was lucky and bought most of my computer’s parts while they were on sale—it only cost $600 or so, compared to a regular price of $700 or $800 for cheaper gaming builds. It runs everything I’ve thrown at it—including Skyrim at maximum graphics—but in the short-term, it would have been cheaper to simply buy a console and a game than build an entire computer dedicated to playing games. Unless I was buying all of the consoles, it would take a while (perhaps until the next console release) for the purchase to become worthwhile.

Frankly, even putting aside the fact that not everyone can build a computer based on web tutorials, not very many people have the foresight to see the monetary advantage of PCs, even if they know that PC games get patched faster and play better than some console versions. Along with that, even if they do have the foresight, they might be willing to forego faster game patches and get the console version anyways—there’s always version exclusives, the simple setup, and a warranty on the system that is much more complicated when using a gaming PC. They might only want a few games, and they may not be interested in getting a next-generation console at all, so getting a current gen console and sticking with their office computer is the best monetary approach for them.

Console exclusives in particular give an advantage to console owners. Not everyone can render Heavy Rain’s graphics, even with a powered up computer, and there is still plenty of untapped power in the Playstation 3 to push the graphics limit even higher. Luckily, this generation has convinced many developer companies that cross-platforming is the way to go, so exclusives are becoming rare. Microsoft in particular is paying top dollar for exclusives, keeping even their XBLA games in limbo for as long as they can hold them, and penalizing indie developers by requiring exclusivity for at least six months before another console release. Even larger companies have been swayed by this money-waving—Bethesda released the Dawn Guard expansion specifically for the XBOX360, and a PS3 and PC release date remain to be seen.

All of this adds up to an increased revenue for game console companies, who will then continue to offer new consoles and extend their exclusive ownership of many of their games, despite the ability of PCs to play them and their long-term monetary advantage over consoles. Paying for exclusives rather than allowing developers to have a cross-platform release only serves to stagnate the market and is ultimately detrimental to gaming, PC or not. Perhaps with the next generation, PC gaming will see a surge in participation—Microsoft seems to be gearing up to integrate Windows 8 with their XBOX360, so it might only be a matter of time before they make the transition to PC-only games, with perhaps a default ‘console’ system that users can customize at will. However, that day is still a long way off, and the sad truth about PC gaming is that it simply isn’t available for everyone, and because of greed or piracy concerns, no major publisher or developer is trying to change this.