Console Games Have Helped Save The PC

Console Games Have Helped Save The PC

In 2013, the PC is arguably one of the strongest gaming platforms on the planet, blessed with a massive variety of games, the promise of virtual reality and a planned invasion of the living room imminent. But it hasn't always been that way.

Before the release of the last generation of consoles, the PC as a mainstream gaming platform was in serious trouble. Many publishers and developers were abandoning it to seek the safety - and money - of a booming console market. Most dedicated PC games were playing to a niche audience, and those that weren't would see their sales plundered by piracy.

By the middle of the last decade, you couldn't open a gaming site (or open a magazine) without tripping over articles pondering the death of serious PC games entirely. It was never going to die completely of course, that was ridiculous fear-mongering, but it was certainly in danger of becoming a second-rate market.

Then something happened. The PC started filling the void. With...console games. Or the type of games that a PC owner would used to have called console games.

The main party to thank for this is Valve, who in 2005 began the process of courting third-party publishers and asking them to sell games on their Steam marketplace. By 2007, most of the industry's biggest companies were onboard.

And many of the games they'd be selling would be ones you could also buy on Xbox 360 or PS3. Fighting games. Action games. Brawlers. Platformers.

What was once a curiosity, or even a cause for derision from hardcore PC gamers, is now a huge deal. Sure, the PC has long been the recipient of ports of certain console games. I played Final Fantasy VII and Grand Theft Auto III (itself a series that started on a computer!) on a PC. Sports games, too, have (until recently) long called the personal computer home. But for the most part, big console action titles would only be released on big consoles like the PS2 and Xbox, and on the rare occasion they did make it to PC, they'd often be terrible. Anyone who can remember Capcom's port of Resident Evil 4 will attest to that. Then hate themselves for remembering it.

Steam has done two things for a market that was once sagging. It's provided a form of copy protection, a problem that was driving publishers away from the PC. And it's also provided a centralised marketplace which can take advantage of one of the PC's strengths: the ability to digitally sell a title with ease, free from the controls of a platform holder like Microsoft or Sony.

A coming together of technology has helped too. Where the PC was once a distinctly different beast to consoles like the PS2, the Xbox 360 was like the PC's little brother, making the porting of code a much simpler affair than it had been in previous generations. Microsoft's decision to make the Xbox 360 controller compatible with the PC was also a masterstroke: for the first time in its life, the platform has a standardised control pad.

Console Games Have Helped Save The PC

I mean, it used to be news back in the day when a big console game got a PC port. These days, it's big news when one doesn't. For years now, with the exception of exclusives (Uncharted, etc), we've grown to assume that if a game is coming out on Xbox 360 and PS3, it's also coming out on PC.

What's more, these releases have become so important that instead of developers using the PC as a dumping ground for a shitty port, some - like Square Enix's stable - go the extra mile on their PC games, spending money and manpower on extra features and visual flare.

These multiplatform releases have become such a big part of PC gaming's present (and potential future), in fact, that they've been the driving force behind the development of stuff like Valve's Big Picture mode, which lets you operate the entire Steam service with the use of a console controller on your TV. For, you know, the type of games designed to use a console controller.

It's gotten to the point where people don't even consider the PC version of a game like Assassin's Creed or Batman a port anymore. Even though they're designed for console hardware with sales on consoles in mind, and are the kind of game that 10 years ago wouldn't have come near the PC, they're now just different versions of the same game. In 2013, it's natural that they're on PC.

Things have even gotten to the point where publishers who originally overlooked a PC version of a game on 360/PS3 are now, sometimes years later, circling back around.

Now, I'm not saying console games saved the PC single-handedly. Far from it. There have been any number of things contributing to the platform's renaissance, from a surging indie scene to advantageous hardware like Oculus Rift to the continued strength of PC-only series like Civilisation, mod-friendly games like Skyrim and anything Blizzard releases.

The ridiculously cheap price of games on Steam sales doesn't hurt, either.

But I'd ask anyone who was gaming on the PC in 199X-2005 to think about the type of games they played, and the number of games they owned, then compare that to how they play in 2013.

Yeah. Things are different. And we've got console games - once considered poison to the PC crowd - to thank for that.

Last-Gen Heroes is Kotaku's look back at the seventh generation of console gaming. In the weeks leading up to the launch of the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One, we'll be celebrating the Heroes — and the Zeroes — of the last eight years of console video gaming.


    Sounds like we have Valve/Gabe to thank as much if not more

    No Plunkett.

    Steam saved gaming, and it wasn't console friendly multiplats or controller friendly games.

    It was just GAMES. Easy to buy, easy to download (after the initial 2004 clusterfuck). Besides, I've been gaming on PC for about 10 years now, and the whole 'big console release doesn't get a PC port' wasn't as rare as you think. But even when it was it didn't matter, because Steam was bringing about more and more third party PC games that were good, showing that there was a market for them to exist in.

    Don't give consoles credit for anything to do with PC gaming other than holding back multiplats and keeping other technology down.

    Last edited 28/10/13 1:18 pm

      I can thank the consoles for giving me value for money out of my PC - I'm still happily gaming on the rig I built in 2007 (with a few minor upgrades for occasional repairs) since this console 'revolution' DID mean the required specs were no longer completely obsolete every 18 months. That's a thing.

      I think his hypothesis is valid. Steam is part of the reason (including the ease it grants for the distribution of indie games) but the games wouldn't exist without cross-platform development. AAA titles are generally (though, no, not entirely) developed for and marketed on consoles, and the PC is a handy platform with similar architecture to make a little extra money on. If the consoles weren't comparable, it would probably not be economically viable to develop many of the big games you see on PC today.

      Back in the day, when the N64/PSX/GCN/PS2 were very different to a PC, that was when commentators were talking doom-and-gloom about the PC. But since the original Xbox, cross-development and the health of PC gaming has really picked up.

      So yeah, I reckon he has a point.

        I don't know. If anything, it seems like it went in the opposite direction - PC always had variety in genres. It was consoles that received the PC-centric titles like FPS.

        Actually, the PS3 and 360 are _very_ different architecture to PC. 360 less so, but there's a reason nextgen are making their systems more x86 (x64?) friendly.

      I'm not sure how you managed to take an article about gaming and turn it into a personal argument between you and Luke about who is right, but...OK.

      Regardless, saying things like "Don't give consoles credit for anything to do with PC gaming other than -negative crap here-" just makes you sound like an elitist, and quite frankly a bit of a dick.

        Where is the personal argument? I was saying No, as in I disagreed.

        Explain what consoles have done for PC gaming. The one I would accept is that several multiplat titles wouldn't exist if not for the console. I would counter with, if there were no consoles, everyone would be on PC, leading to games nonetheless of that quality.

        You're free to disagree with me, just like I'm free to posit that console gaming, while useful for gaming as a whole, hasn't helped PC gaming.

        EDIT: For the record, I own and game on both PS3 and 360 as well. I'm playing devil's advocate on what it's actually done for PC gaming specifically.

        Last edited 28/10/13 2:18 pm

      Absolutely. Consoles have done nothing for PC other than flood it with shitty, low qualty ports. Attributing the PCs success to consoles is just plain wrong (but Luke likes to write these kinds of articles because they attract attention).

      Many in the PC industry would argue that the PC has always done well and has never needed "saving". Look at blizzard...they've always had success on the PC, and MMOs have been very profitable and popular.

    I still think Microsoft (and Sony too) dropped the ball on the XBOX 360 PC controller and PC support in general this generation. It worked out well in the end but man, they should have supported it better (chatpad on official drivers thanks) and made any XBOX 360 controller work with any BlueTooth enabled PC. Games for Windows Live should have given us the ability to use XBOX Live on the PC more like ICQ, AIM or MSN Messenger.

    I think if they had of planned/pursued it properly they could have really gained some ground for themselves and made PC gaming better for all of us. It seems like the XBOX 360 controller being the default template for PC controllers was just an accident.

    It's especially good at the moment because game visuals are held back by the ageing current (until next month!) consoles, but the PC versions will give you superior graphics options and you can usually get the game much cheaper than the console version.

    1980's: Consoles save gaming industry from collapse.
    Present era: Consoles save the PC master race.

    Is there ANYTHING they can't do?

      Cheap games.

        You can get plenty of cheap games in bargain bins, during in-store sales or through online stores such as Ozgameshop.

    One thing to keep in mind is that the current generation of consoles also significantly hurt PC gaming in the first place. It was the first time ever that game developers began to develop hard-line AAA titles for a platform other than the PC. This meant that to get the best game, you could just buy it for your 4 year old console that you bought for a couple of hundred dollars instead of having to go through the old routine of upgrading your system regularly to keep up with the latest titles. In the last 5 years or so, however, this has also resulted in stalled development of graphic and game mechanic technology to remain inside the limitations of the now 8-year-old technological architecture. I'm not just referring to visual specifications, but the limited memory and cycles per second of the old architecture can only process a limited number of computations. This resulted in limitations to the game's actual design and physical/environmental realism, not just dated graphics. You couldn't run separate calculations on how a huge number of physical objects would interact. You couldn't run real-to-life models of npc interaction. You had to remain within the limits of what the technology was capable of. Therefore, the incentive to purchase a game for the PC just wasn't there. Similarly the incentive to upgrade your current PC wasn't there.And please don't get me wrong, the game developers made incredible leaps in ways to make use of the technology available within those limitations. But people are looking at the modern technology now and realising just how much more the new PC (and soon-to-be-released console) architecture is capable of, and the vast improvements this can bring to game design as a whole. And I think that, of late especially, THAT is a significant contribution to what has resulted in the return of PC gaming to the crown.

    Another factor to keep in mind is digital distribution. With consoles, you are finding more and more games available on the market, but you are limited as to how many you can have on your console at a given time by the dated capabilities of the old consoles. Not to mention the fact that most of these systems are now based on the model developed by pioneers in the field such as Steam. With a digital distribution system like Steam or Origin, you can have most those games and more delivered right to your PC, stored on there, and have guaranteed support and auto-patching service. Not only that, but you can often purchase them for ridiculously low prices in the regular sales. The sheer convenience of digital distribution, combined with readily accessible and upgradable storage and financial incentive to use these systems over the consoles' online distribution systems, has also contributed to the PC's return to power.

    This is what happened. . .
    PC and consoles were separate entities. Their market share not really crossing over until the PS3/360 era.
    New consoles get released, gaming PC market slumps because people can by a cheap gaming platform with good graphics.
    Then when the consoles start to age, theyre four, five, six, seven years old, people start jumping back to PC because they want the better looking games.
    With the release of 4Play and Xbone the cycle will swing to consoles again and for a few years people will once again claim that PC gaming is dead.
    Then those consoles will get a few years old and gamers will start to swing back to PC.

    The PC will always be the platform driving the gaming industry with its expensive technology and innovations. Then, what works will be stuffed into the next console.

      LOL i love that you get downvoted for possibly the best and most accurate comment in the whole thread.

        kotaku commenters are notoriously quick to downvote.

          well I for one have never downvoted a thing on here. To me, 'not agree' isn't worth a downvote. Perhaps if someone posts something horribly offensive, but just for posting their opinion that i might disagree with, nup. I'm more into voting things up that I agree with, than downvoting that which I do not agree with

          Back to topic, I agree with dnr, great post by warcroft (like warcraft 3, but with Lara instead of Thrall? hehe), very accurate I think.

          Yes I estimate a year or two after Xbone and ps4, another dearth of 'pc gaming is dead!' articles. Been there, done that, bought a new pc and kept on playing.

      I don't know about that. I think we're moving into a period where simplified devices are driving development more than the $1000 graphic cards. PC is a great testing ground but tablets, consoles, phones, etc show that there's a lot of interest/money in purpose built dedicated hardware. The hardware is based on PC designs but we could easily see a swing where this stuff is designed for iPhones and Surfaces and simply made bigger for the PC as an offshoot. We sort of see that with Windows 8 being built for PCs with tablets in mind at every step. It wouldn't take that much to flip that over to Windows 9 being built for tablets with PCs in mind when convenient.

      I think part of it is that you don't need to know about computers to use them anymore and knowing about the guts of PCs really drives those sales. Before my generation you had to know how to use a computer, but only those who knew how needed to. Then with my generation they were hard to use but it became increasingly more important that you had to use them. Now it seems like even though they're used everywhere they're so easy to use that you don't need to know how.
      There's no pressure to learn how to use computers and really dedicate yourself to getting into them. So proper hardware is now sinking back into the hobby realm. It's a bigger market that's for sure, and with the internet communities and online sales it's huge, but even nerdy teenagers now don't need to know more than how to plug their tablet/console in.

      Granted I don't think it's going to be a sweeping, cataclysmic change. Just a simple change in tone like it always is when these things change.

        Have to agree with this @Dogman. A number of manufactures are moving into integrating complete hardware packages just to remain competitive. Rather than the old plug and play PC parts we're used to, this saves costs dramatically. Not something I want, as I love tinkering with interchangeable parts on my PC, but it does make sense.

        But jumping on what @Warcroft said regarding the PC/Console cycle I think Valve may have put a bit of a kink in it this time. But it remains to be seen just how much a kink it really will be with the whole PC living room scenario becoming mainstream.

        Last edited 28/10/13 5:05 pm

    (sorry, meant this as a reply to Dogman, not a new thread)

    Now it seems like even though they're used everywhere they're so easy to use that you don't need to know how. There's no pressure to learn how to use computers and really dedicate yourself to getting into them.

    Ahh so that explains why I have to spend half my days showing people how to use their own tablet or phone or how to even log into their own email.

    While agree with your assessment of how things are, I do not agree with it being necessarily a step forward.

    Makes me wish there WAS still pressure to learn how to use them. In fact I still think it wouldn't be a bad idea to have to be licensed to use computers and the internet. It sure would stop quite a few virus's that spread purely because some people just have to click on everything they possibly can, and agree to everything they are prompted to agree with.

    IMO tablets might be good for some people in some situations, but places of business in particular from my experience are still heavily requiring PC's to do most of the work. To me, a tablet is the equivalent of a text message vs an email message, useful for small and quick things, but personally I couldn't stand using a tablet for full-time work.

    Last edited 28/10/13 4:29 pm

    I think the best thing console gaming did was bring in the bacon, they kept the rivers flowing with dollars while PC players almost pirated the medium into the ground. Would gaming in general have penetrated the social conscious as much as it has now without millions of consoles sold and characters like the Master Chief? Would video gaming in general be as big of a business as it is now if the only way to play high end games was on a $1000-ish device? Probably not. People can complain all they want that consoles hold PC gaming back, but they also bring millions of recruits into the hobby that can't survive as a niche hardcore hobby on its own.

      I disagree. Videogames can, and easily have, survived as a niche hobby for a long time. Sure, if we lost consoles, they'd be a huge market drop, but there would be less focus on commercialisation as well.

    This article perfectly describes my return to PC gaming.

    A number of years ago, I was disillusioned with PC gaming. All the best games were coming out on console and consoles ran better than my PC. But then a lot of console games started getting really good PC ports, Steam started selling 3rd party games, Steam starting having sales and I had brought a powerful PC (which I had originally brought as a last hurrah for the occasional PC-exclusive title). And of course, the 360 controller came out, which made using a gamepad on PC (because let's face it, most console ports are designed with controllers in mind) super simple for the first time.

    But I’d ask anyone who was gaming on the PC in 199X-2005 to think about the type of games they played, and the number of games they owned, then compare that to how they play in 2013.Pretty much the same all the way through (ie. Frequently and a fairly broad range of games alongside regular console gaming). If anything though, ironically (according to the article which I don't fully agree with anyway) I'm playing my PC less these days because aside from indie games, console only games are much more interesting. That being said, I'm seriously thinking of returning to being mostly PC next gen because consoles are more PC-like and PCs are more console-like so it feels like it makes more sense to just go PC for everything.

    Last edited 28/10/13 8:10 pm

    WTB more speculation and ideas rather then hard evidence.

    Not much to agree with in the article here, unfortunately.

    - Consoles are a great product with a purpose, but they've hindered PC growth through the entire last generation due to developer focus being on console platforms first. As the consoles have aged, PC gaming figures have normalised.
    - Articles predicting the death of PC gaming were, and still are, clickbait. They used the statistic of declining new PC unit sales, an understandable trend as office-grade PC hardware plateaus and mobile devices cut into low-power tasks like browsing and checking email, but ignores the fact both PC gaming unit sales and PC gaming hardware component sales have increased steadily the whole time. It also ignores the fact that PC hardware unit sales have no correlation to PC game unit sales, which aside from a few minor dips (eg. around X360/PS3 launch year), have also been steadily climbing.

    As an aside, many PC game sale graphs only show physical retail sales, because those metrics are much easier to obtain. Graphs only showing physical sales often show a prolonged decline in PC sales. This decline is expected as more and more sales move to digital outlets. Steam doesn't generally release sales figures, but CD Projekt released their sales figures for The Witcher 2 in late 2011, showing that of a million units sold, more than 20% of those were through Steam alone. This trend has continued to grow as digital sales take away from physical sales, but when combined, PC game sales have been growing.

    It will bw interesting to see what happens to PC gaming with the new consoles. I can buy a PS4 for less money than a new high-end graphics card alone, and looking at the specs, the PC versions won't look noticeably better at 1080P which is what most people are going to be running in their loungerooms. I have shifted to PC gaming in the last couple of years, but I am buying a PS4 at launch it will be interesting to see if I keep buying PC versions or PS4 versions over the next 2 years.

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