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.