This Console Generation is too PC
So I just got done watching “All Your History Are Belong To Us“‘s episode on Interplay (it’s great stuff so I highly recommend checking it out), and it reminded me of something I hate about this generation.
You see, the episode reveals that many of the big name games and companies of this generation got their start at Interplay…on PC. Of course the episode goes on to reveal that Interplay’s big problem was that they could never manage to port their successful PC games to console and so it should be no surprise that now that those games have made the leap, they’re wildly successful. However it doesn’t change one fact: they’re PC games at heart.
This has been perhaps my biggest complaint with the generation: It’s too PC-esque! It’s true that videogames are videogames regardless of system, but back in the old 8-bit era many companies determined that PC and Console games were two different beasts because they had different audiences. PC Gamers were more patient and preferrerd slower but more complex games while Console Gamers wanted something quick and immidiate that they could fully understand in minutes.
Now this especially made sense at the time. Consoles were generally owned by children back in the 80s and PCs were the realms of much older people. So, as the core userbase of videogames mature, doesn’t it make sense that the games mature with them? Isn’t that what’s happening here? Console games are “evolving” into PC games because they’re intended for an older audience?
No, I don’t think so.
You see, in the previous generation, many PC Gamers were starting to make the switch to console. The constant need to upgrade their system, install and patch their games, and slog through numerous troubleshooting issues made the act of gaming on PC too much work. So when the XBox started offering more immidiate versions of PC games, many hopped on board. Now, in the previous generation, Microsoft went out of their way to make sure the XBox was as far from “just a PC you hook up to your TV” as possible. This generation, with the XBox 360, they made the decision to scrap that. It was a smart move as it made the 360 much more useable than the original XBox with it’s USB compatibility and plethora of features.
But along with this, it also made it that much easier to port PC games to 360. This was a great move as it let the 360 quickly accumulate a game library as PC games were quickly ported to it. However, developers quickly realized that their games saw more success on 360 than they did on PC. Pretty soon they started developing with the 360 in mind rather than the PC. This lead the hardcore PC gaming crowd to complain about the “consolization” of their games. It was a legitimate complaint as many PC versions saw a sudden drop in the quality of their keyboard and mouse control and many common options quickly vanished.
However, on the flip side, consoles were becoming PC-ized. PC game developers were porting more PC-style games to consoles, which quickly began to dominate the market and began to make more Console-style games obsolete and no longer profitable. This had a further adverse effect on the industry as Japan just…disn’t really make PC games. In Japan, the PC had a stigma as being a pervert’s game system as it’s lack of regulation allowed pornographic games to flourish on it. So they’ve always had this Console-esque mentality when it came to game design. So, with that style of game becoming obsolete, Japan is kinda screwed.
Of course, I also take issue with the game journalists and reviewers of this era as well. With the psuedo-collapse of the PC gaming market (there’s still Steam, which has plenty on it, but is a whole other beast entirely), many PC Gamers seem to have seeped into the Console Game segment of game journalism. It’s a thing I’ve been noticing more and more, how many of these journalists have few fond memories of the Soul Calibur series, old NES games, or the Dreamcast; but they can regail you with the entire history of the X-Com series and go on long winded tirades about how much they miss point and click adventures. I have no qualms with these people, but they really appear to be in the striking majority these days.
So, what’s the problem? Well, people who prefer more console-style games are kinda being driven out of the market! The sheer number of people I know who say “Gaming just isn’t FUN anymore!” is absolutely astonishing and I have a jawdropping number of hardcore gamer friends who don’t have any current generation console. Have they grown out of videogames? Heck no! They still play their PS2 or new DS games regularly and are very serious about them. But there is litterally nothing this generation that appeals to them and I find that to be very very disconcerning!
But wait! Aren’t instantly accessible pick up and play games also known as “Casual Games”? To a degree they are. However the nature of Casual Games has sorta warped and twisted over the years. With the awkward touch-screen based smart phones becoming the leading system for casual gaming, casual games have gradually become closer and closer to Flash games…or maybe Atari 2600 games.
What we’re missing here is the middle ground. Something more complex than a Flash game, but more accessible than a PC game. There is still some market for this. XBox Live Arcade is one grand example and indeed some of the most fun I’ve had this generation has been on XBLA. If I could choose the future of videogames it would indeed be low priced, short but sweet downloadable games like those seen on XBLA. However, XBLA has plenty of issues. The DRM may become a nightmare in the future, the marketplace is over-curated, and Japanese companies shy away from it.
The DS is also a great place to find more Console-esque games. However, it seldom gets the attention and press it deserves and with the release of the 3DS, it’s release list has started to dry up. So, can;t the 3DS continue to deliver these same kinds of games? Well even that is questionable. Now the games are becoming to expensive to allow developers to take risks and consumers to make impulse purchases. Meanwhile the growing smart phone market is seemingly taking a chunk out of the portable game market, making it less profitable than it was.
Yes, for the first time ever, I will say that casual games are hurting the industry…in an incredibly roundabout way.
Yes, what I’m seeing here is the industry increasingly moving towards two different extremes with the middleground slowly vanishing. One almost wonders if this will tear the industry apart. Maybe not cause a “collapse” per-se, but definitely a split. Actually, considering how apparent this split already is…well…yeah.
Make no mistake, gaming will always be here and as such I will never quit. But wow, I sure wish I had a Videogame Console and not a PC hooked up to a TV to play on.