Don’t Call It A Comeback.

The PC is the future of video games. Wait. Let’s back up for a minute.

“PC gaming is dead.” That is the increasingly widespread belief, over the last decade or so, as the meteoric rise of console gaming has continued to consume a rapidly-growing piece of the video games market’s pie.

“Gamers would prefer to play video games in the living room on their TV, not on a monitor in the computer room! Gamers don’t want to spend $1,000+ on a machine just to play video games!” These are the cries of conventional wisdom, and, for the most part, they still seem to ring true. Top-selling console games like the Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto franchises have continued to leapfrog each other with astronomical sales numbers unmatched in any other form of popular media, while the music and movie industries can only stare, jaws agape. For example, the recently-released Grand Theft Auto V managed to surpass $1 billion in sales in only 3 days. And that’s without even releasing a PC version.

So what reason would I have for suggesting that the PC, this unwieldy, expensive machine constrained to the home office or bedroom, is the future of gaming? Part of that answer lies in the past: The PC’s extensive, decades-long back catalogue of games. Unlike most dedicated game consoles which are, at most, able to play two generations’ worth of games thanks to limited “backwards compatibility,” the ever-evolving PC has been home to hundreds of the top classic games. And, thanks to a somewhat recent trend, many of these old games have been updated to work with modern hardware, and are easily available for a new generation of gamers to purchase.

“Sure, that’s great, but what about the living room? Big TV’s? Dedicated consoles that are comparatively cheaper?” For that, I point to the near future. Valve Corporation, a name that is practically synonymous with PC gaming thanks to their nigh-ubiquitious digital-delivery platform Steam, has long been dropping hints that they’re now dabbling in hardware. Coupled with their already-existing “Big Picture” mode, which focuses on displaying PC games in HDTV-friendly resolutions with console-controller-compatible input, it is easy to make the leap to a so-called “Steam Box,” which could take one of several forms: A small, relatively inexpensive, dedicated gaming PC for the living room, or perhaps a wireless device to simply stream inputs and display from the living room to wherever your PC might reside. Either way, with new consoles debuting at stress-inducing prices ($400 for Sony’s PS4, $500 for Microsoft’s Xbox One) and relatively sparse game libraries, a similarly-priced (or perhaps cheaper) alternative with a thousands-strong back catalogue of terrific games is a legitimate threat.

We’ll have to wait a few more days for Valve to reveal, well… whatever this is. But in the meantime, I’m making my prediction: The next generation of consoles, though sure to be popular, will fail to meet ambitious sales expectations, and we’ll see PC gaming have a resurgence like never before.

PC gaming is dead. Long live PC gaming.

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One response to “Don’t Call It A Comeback.

  1. Great thoughts! I agree!

    Getting Steam into the living room is a no brainer for making huge profit. Maybe the best way for them to do that is to do ALL of the things you suggested. Maybe that’s what those 3 mysterious icons are on their page.

    You can sort of break down the gaming market into 3 major groups (with overlap, of course): PC Gamers, Console Gamers, and Mobile/Casual Gamers. Here’s my theory on those 3 icons in no particular order (much in line with your thinking):

    “SteamBox”: A “Steam Box” could help edge in on the living room in a pretty straightforward way. A huge catalog of games already, with more and more adding controller support. Since the controls are usually the number one issue in console ports, most ports would no longer be an issue in the living room. It just makes sense.

    “SteamCast”: As a Steam User, I don’t want to pay for a whole console, so it would make sense to stream games from your home PC, as you said. Streaming is a very doable and inexpensive option. I mean, look at Chromecast. I would pick up a “Steamcast” if it was under $40 without a thought. With the new family sharing they’re testing, it would translate into more sales for them as the whole family starts buying games to play in the living room together.

    “LiveSteam”: Remember OnLive? This one might be a little more “out there” bit I think it was just ahead of it’s time. What is it that mobile gamers want the most? Instant? Simple? Cheap? This thing wouldn’t have to be much more than a Roku. Let users subscribe to all games for monthly fee, everything is just instantly available. Why not? They’re just gonna play Angry Birds anyway. 😉

    I’m pretty excited to see what they reveal. I hope I’m not disappointed. I’m also very, very curious about this line:

    “Soon, we’ll be adding you to our design process, so that you can help us shape the future of Steam.”

    What does that even mean?!

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