Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Am I Still A PC Gamer?

I started my gaming career on my dad's old 8086 as a child. It really wasn't a game, per-se, that I would play, but we had a 5.25" floppy that contained the training program for the computer. As a young child, the flashing ASCII pixels were exciting and fun, and may as well been an actual game. I "played" that training program countless times. Later, I was given an Atari and NES as a kid, but my true love affair was always PC games. Theme Park was one of my favorites, as well as games like System Shock, Duke Nukem 3D, Descent, Fallout, and any number of the LucasArts adventures (Yup, most of those would be Mature rated games nowadays).

As game developers have been shifting towards console games, instead of PC games, due to sales and less piracy I have also made the switch. I had a Sega Genesis - the next console I bought was a Microsoft Xbox, 2 years after the console was launched. The reason? All the damn good developers were abandoning my beloved platform!

Now, I don't believe the PC gaming industry is dead by any means. I think, like always, it's showing us where the market will be in 5-10 years. That market will be massively multiplayer and filled with virtual worlds and microtransactions, it seems. However, I play PC games less and less. I still buy a game on the PC if it seems like it's the best fit on the platform. For example, Call of Duty 4 was played on my PC, not my Xbox 360. I'm now playing Crysis on the PC.

I'm finding myself wishing these games were on the console in some respects. Sitting on the couch, however, is more comfortable than this office chair. The vibration of the Xbox controller... I find myself wishing my mouse vibrated now! I couldn't believe it - I actually thought, maybe I should hook up a 360 controller to my PC to play Crysis (It supports it out of the box, though I don't have any idea if they have vibration). My TV and speakers are way bigger and better (Though the TV is at a lower resolution, since I run at 720p and most of my games I can play at much higher resolutions on the PC).

I own all three consoles right now, and play each of them when there are games out I want. I still play and plan to play plenty of PC games, but slowly I have a feeling that I am being converted to primarily a console gamer and a secondary PC gamer, which is the opposite of the rest of my life. Luckily, a lot of my complaints about console games have been slowly solved. They are more sophisticated and complex, which is why I gravitated towards them initially. Console games were for "stupid" gamers when I grew up. They were for the people who couldn't handle real games. This is no longer the case. I matured and stopped being ignorant. Also, consoles games did actually become less dumbed-down.

Has this happened to anyone else? Do you find your primary platform switching over time? Am I just growing up, or does this go in cycles (After all, two years ago I was playing World of Warcraft all day and ignoring all other games)?


  1. I was a hardcore PC gamer for years. I started with one of those Tandy buggers and moved on to an Apple 2 C with the help of the argument that it would help me with "homework." I kept trying to get the newest thing or tweak the system I had until I could afford the next big thing once I got to college. I now own a 2.66 GHz quad core, with dual GeForce 8800's. Even when games I really liked, such as FFVII, came out on consoles I waited until the PC ports showed up before I rushed out to get them. I have owned various consoles along the way (including the Atari 2600 LOL), but I was a flaky console gamer at best and no matter how far I got into a particular console, I would always gravitate back to the PC sooner or later. I think that one of the main reasons I avoided consoles early on was the lack of "good" shooter type games available to the consoles. Even when a good shooter game came out on a console I just could never get into the control schemes.
    The games that changed my perspective and brought me back to the consoles in force were the japanese RPG's. I was never really an RPG fan until FFVII came out, and after playing it through on PC a few times I actually went out and got a PS1 and played the console version. The graphics were less impressive for sure, but the sounds and music were 100% better than the midi PC port's attempts. Then the PS2 in all of its glory came on to the scene and my conversion to consoles was complete. I was in Square RPG heaven, and my wife's attraction to platformers like spyro, jak and daxter, and ratchet and clank become a new addiction for me as well.
    The X-box was a big let down to me at first, and I felt I wasted my money until I played Halo and DOA, so even the console that I regretted buying became quite entertaining as time went on.
    My stint on consoles has wavered a bit since the 360, PS3, and Wii hit the scene. It has nothing to do with the consoles themselves or really even the game choices. I owned a 360 and still have a PS3. I just got back into FFXI online on my PC and have been playing that more than anything else that I own. I also got back into designing Quake 4 levels for fun, so the PC is back in my heart again stronger than ever. In the end, I am just a hardware geek with a love for PC gaming so I, for one, hope that the PC future is bright and strong.

  2. I started on a PC back in 85 playing Rogue and have pretty much been a PC gamer ever since. I've owned a number of consoles, but most of those I only played a handful of games on. I always like the PC since most games would run on it. But with all the exclusives these days, I've been leaning more and more towards the Xbox. And since my life has shifted lately and all I really have time for are casual games, the Xbox with the Live Arcade has filled that niche nicely, where I would have turned to the PC before. Right now, the only game I'm playing on PC is Diablo II. And looking at the upcoming games in the next year or two, I really don't see myself going back. Especially if PC games go the way of Crysis, I just can't keep up anymore. $1,500 for a new computer or $400 for a new console?

  3. I've been a PC gamer for a loooooooong time. (There are several (don't know why) PS2s in my house, two 360s, and a Wii.)

    I like games that appear on each platform. For me, the issue isn't about games.

    For me, the issue is input device.

    I don't know about anybody else, but for me I've found that a mouse is vastly superior to a thumb stick when it comes to input. Hands down, no contest.

    If I want to look to the top left, all it takes is a flick of the mouse. A thumbstick, even with the sensitivity turned way up, never achieves the same (perceived) level of responsiveness. Maybe it's because it's what I'm used to, but hey -- that's all I'm talkin about here. :)

    For whatever reason, I can't use a USB mouse to play games on a console. Still don't understand why.

    RE: Game developers jumping ship due to piracy. It's because they target their games at the "hardcore gamer" market segment. These people have the best, fastest computers and generally know how to get your game for free.

    Check out this interview with the guy from Stardock Games. Highest-reviewed game of 2007, best selling game of 2007, and I bet you haven't heard of it.

    Oh yeah, and it doesn't have any copy protection.

  4. PC games were first, but myself I grew up on consoles (Atari, Nintendo, Sega, Sony). I have 2 brothers and there was only one computer between the 3 of us, so the console allowed a better multiplayer experience. Also, it was always nicer 'laxing on the couch with a controller than sitting at a keyboard.
    However, you bring up a valid point. You are willing to go where the games are. I think now that most gamers have a computer, a console it is all about which brings the best gaming experience. However, things like the 360 hardware failures and the PS3 pricing issues may have soured some of the diehard console gamers and hurt the platform.

    I actually find myself going back to boardgames now. I think boardgames/paper&dice games arena is still open and free for testing many different genres and mechanics.

    Also, I think the economy will be a big factor in where games are played in the future. Everyone won't be able to afford a huge plasma TV and PS3 and will look for alternatives.

  5. Greg, you made some good points in there. I am going to add a few musings to your view of console prices.
    The next gen consoles, especially the PS3 and the 360, are very pricey investments for sure and many people will not be able to afford the 3-600 bucks that has to be shelled-out for one of them. The interesting argument here though comes up when the alternative choice is a semi-beefy PC that can run the games you want to buy and at the same time allow you to play them in a resolution that looks good.
    I am going to compare the PS3, since it is by far the most costly of the next gen consoles, to a run of the line gaming PC.
    =PS3= (Price $600+)
    1. Blue Ray for movies
    2. HD compatability if you own an HD TV.
    3. Full fledged gaming console with at least 60 Gb's of storage
    4. Free access to online gaming/demos and a game store if you like to download your games.
    5. Easy to relocate to any room with a TV.

    =PC + Decent Monitor + Decent Vidoe card= (Price 2,000+)
    Yes you can get cheaper machines that will play most games, but you will have to drop all spec.s to do so.
    1. Gaming platform (limited game choices these days)
    2. Work platform
    3. Any HD, sound, or graphical support that is high end will require a pricey video card and monitor.
    4. Full online access to anything that you need.

    The end result for today's gamer on a budget is what is the most cost effective package that one can obtain that will allow for maximum gaming potential. I am sad to say as a PC lover that not only is the most expensive console much more cost effective as a full on entertainment appliance, but it also has a much larger pool of new games along with the convenience of plugging in to any TV. The PS3, Wii, or 360 come loaded with all of your basic gaming needs, while a PC gamer is going to have to have a monitor, decent video card, and semi-beefy system to have an enjoyable experience with a sadly smaller pool of games to choose from. The nice thing about consoles is that developers have to fit their games into the console spec.s, where as with PC releases the developers can just set a minimum spec. that can easily be greater than what your current comp. can handle >.<
    Going back to board games is not a bad thing either, as it is another good way to do things with friends and family. Board games are by far the most cost effective way, out of the 3 choices, to enjoy a game with good company.

  6. Unfortunately I own no consoles, so forking out thousands (native currency) for just one game isn't worth it.

    Another thing is that console games rarely have cheats. (dev codes/god mode, health etc).
    I hate dying in games, I like to slowly go through a game, despite using god mode in games I'm still able to fully immerse myself, then again most games I like are heavily story and character oriented rather than a hitpoint score sheet and run of a mill campaigns.
    And if no cheats exist at least PC games have trainers.

    Or they are modable. (Knights Of The Old Republic or Jedi Knight games, I always customize the look and lightsabers, I even edit the lead actual character face texture so the eyes are pitch black with a tiny red glow in the middle.

    I doubt consoles will match the PC on this anytime soon at least.

    Another reason why consoles seem to be doing better than PC's is a rather obvious one that I'm surprised so few notice.

    If a game is released on consoles first, obviously people will get it for their consoles. Then half a year or year later if your lucky it's available for PC's (crosses fingers for GTA IV)

    If it was released for PC first you'd see better PC numbers than consoles.

    If released for both consoles and PC's you'd see a more or less even spread between the two, with a minority getting it both for their PC and console.

    People hate waiting, so they get it for whatever it comes out first that they happen to have.

    If GTA IV was made and released for the Wii and then for PS3 and Xbox360 half a year later you'd see the Wii easily outnumbing the other console releases or the PC release.

    So comparing PC and Consoles only works if the game is released for consoles and the PC on the same day, now those are numbers worth comparing.

    Another hurdle that the PC has (that Xbox260 and PS3 are having recently with GTA IV)
    is hardware issues.

    Unstable or buggy games are more common on PC sadly, and luckily for console folks it's rare, but it's becoming more common there too, at least these days patching for consoles is more possible than in the past.

  7. Another thing I forgot in my other comment is cycles.

    Consoles have a roughly 5 year cycle right?

    PC's don't.

    If devs made sure that minimum requirements matched 2.5 year old hardware and recommended what is available now, and estimated what would be available 2.5 years from now. For the "average" consumer that is, midrange, as highend is really what the midrange or low end will be in 1.5-2 years from now.

    Also not rushing releases but delaying is fine by me.
    Spore got delayed. heck GTA IV got delayed, it seems more des and publisher dare to delay to make games better or more polished which is a good thing as I'd hate to see Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines
    incident happen to others, great game but the rushing left it bullet ridden with bugs.

  8. "If released for both consoles and PC's you'd see a more or less even spread between the two, with a minority getting it both for their PC and console."

    This is wildly incorrect. In North America, Call of Duty 4 sold over 3 million on the Xbox 360. On the PC it sold 383,000.


    Now, that doesn't count digital distribution, but even if it sold a MILLION on Steam (which I doubt), it's still sold less than half as much as consoles.

    Reasons are many, including piracy.

    Plenty of games are released simultaneously now, and the PC often sells way under the consoles. Crysis was PC exclusive, and had poor sales (it's technical requirements didn't help it of course).

    So I think just to say "It's because the game comes out for the console first" is off-base.

  9. I can't shut up can I? *laughs*

    One final comment.

    The industry want us to buy games, if they don't get that estimated profit margin point they blame piracy, the gaming platform, or something else.
    This happens with games, movies and music, even software and TV to some extent.

    But how much can people buy?
    2-3 AAA+ titles a year or just one?

    There is a finite amount of money around, and this is very obvious to the consumer.
    Myself I have to prioritize sometimes. Decent dinners the rest of the week or get that new game?

    The more the industry want us to buy things whatever they are, the more thinly money is spread out, to the point that some people no longer can get "both" but must choose one or the other.

    And that last part is what worries me.
    It seems the industry are expecting 200% profit or more in many cases.

    If I had my own game studio, guess what I would be happy with? Staying out of the red, maybe a few % profit.
    But as long as the income matches the expenses and I'm able to work another day, I'd be happy.

    Isn't that the dream of say a game developer?
    To do well enough that they an continue doing what they love to do?
    Screw that Mercedes, Penthouse, Diamonds and other bling.

    Having a secure job for 30+ years would be a dream,
    but with expected profit margins of several hundred % that dream is dead for some.

    Example, Microsoft complains they have x million less profit than the previous year, yet they got profit in billions per year.

    Why are they worried? Greed I say.
    I'd be worried if the profit fell a few millions, and are a few millions away from red numbers.

    And the worst part? We the consumers miss out on some really great entertainment due to this.
    Canceled TV series, movies that are never finished, games dropped, or abandoned after release with plenty bugs and no "budget" to fix it with patches even if the game is making a profit, just not "enough" profit.

    Would be nice if the market slowed down a little.

    The grunts working the code, audio, artwork gets little over minimum pay, while the suits upstairs take out millions per year.

    I'm all for capitalism and getting rich but things are really out of whack many places these days.
    It's creeping me out and I wish the industry would slow down and breathe a little.

    Let things catch up, stabilize. Aim for "even" rather than rich. etc.

    I'd hate to see a game developer go under just because their target audience bought GTA IV and thus can't afford the other game as well.

  10. ""If released for both consoles and PC's you'd see a more or less even spread between the two, with a minority getting it both for their PC and console."

    This is wildly incorrect. In North America, Call of Duty 4 sold over 3 million on the Xbox 360. On the PC it sold 383,000."

    Ok! I stated that without references or verifying my statement, so you got me there.

    Regarding your North America comment I can't help but say. Yeah, North America, what about all of America or the world itself. *holds up a globe* See? Other countries! (ref. Lewis Black standup on President Bush)

    *laughs* sorry couldn't resist.

    But was it just sales difference, or was the PC gamers buying some other game than COD4 at the time?
    A 10:1 ratio is creepily large and I'd wonder what the heck is going on if I was the dev or publisher.

    Any sites out there that track/compare releases of games and sales in form of some date charts?
    I'd love to see that and am currently unaware of such a site.
    (unless some of the game aggregate sites allows advanced searching).

    Btw! Love your blog, been following it for a few months now and have just been lurking until now! *grin*

  11. The issue isn't that I don't care about the rest of the world, but rather that I can't find numbers for the rest of the world. I know CoD4 has sold 9 million worldwide... only a million or two has been on PC. is your best bet, but even they have limited data and numbers that are off. It's better than nothing, however.

    As for targeting the older hardware, most companies DO that, but they still want people with the cutting edge stuff to be able to take advantage of it. The reason - cutting edge customers are more likely to buy games to justify their CPUs and GPUs.

    As for the whole profit thing, yup that's capitalism for you. I hear about profits way too much at work, but it's the reality of the world we live in.

    Thanks for posting and contributing to the comments!

  12. Never look at VGAchartz before.
    I found this:

    CoD4 was released at the same time as these PC releases: Gears Of War, Empire Earth III , Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance, and F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate, Blacksite: Area 51, Need for Speed: Prostreet, Crysis, Kane & Lynch: Dead Men.

    It would be interesting to compare sales figures for all those others, at least two are RTS that really thrive on the PC.

    One thing for sure, that's one helluva busy PC month. Xmas rush I assume? It's possible COD4 would have done better released a month earlier, or after new year. Hard to say.

    I still find the xmas rush "tradition" amusing, if I called the shots I'd insist on releasing a game at the calmer parts (release wise) of the year and up the advertisement a little extra.

    If all those games was more spread out through the year, they would surely sell even better I hope?

    Then again, I'm not a marketing guy (luckily) so what do I know. *laughs*

    But to get back on topic again...
    PC gaming is changing yeah, it's really the heart of all things computing. Movie CGI, Music, Games, Software, it all starts on the PC.

    MMORPG's will always be strong on the PC, due to ease of patching vs consoles, and the control method (how many console games really take advantage of USB keyboards and mice these days?)

    I'm also guessing that RPG's and Point'n'Click adventures will stay with the PC for a long time as well.

    Now, if GTA IV is not released for the PC and Star Wars: The Force Unleashed are not released for the PC but console only. Then I may finally commit the ultimate PC gamer sin and get a console.
    But if those two are released for the PC within a year, then I'll still be a PC only gamer.

    I'll never stop being a PC gamer though, due to programming, music, web design and so on and being part of a in-game radio station (GridStream Productions) in the Anarchy Online MMORPG, I doubt I'll ever stop being a PC gamer.

    So if the game is good and my wallet is moth free, then I'll always buy a PC release of a game, even if it's available for consoles first or the same time.

  13. This is what I realized 4-5 years ago. It's not a sin to get consoles. You can still play both. Some games are better on some platforms... PC will always have its place. Don't be scared of change!

  14. "PC will always have its place. Don't be scared of change!"

    Amen to that. It took me way to long to get into consoles seriously. I find it very relaxing these days to hang out on the couch and pop in a PS3 title for a bit. If I sit in front of my computer, I have recently just ended up working on my website or working on a quake 4 multiplayer level. This is probably a side effect of my job unfortunately >.< I get on the PC and feel like I need to get work done so I gravitate to my projects over gaming, unless my wife hops on FFXI.
    The console has just become a way for me to wind down and unplug. It is also easier to share my gaming experiences with my wife since she also works on a computer all day and typically does not find relaxation in our computer room anymore.
    Even though PC is first in my heart for many types of games, I just find that consoles are forever becoming more relaxing and convenient.

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  16. Well, I use the same couch and the same screen HD for the PC and console, there is no difference in this case. It is possible to use a mouse in an armchair, playing even more comfortable with the controler of the 360;).

    Others systems

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