Everybody loves a killer. What do we mean? Well, whenever something’s popular or established, anything, anything that comes out afterwards is a that-thing-killer. When Asus invented the EEE PC, it was a laptop-killer. It started the netbook trend. And then, every netbook released afterward was touted as the EEE-PC-killer.
Take the iPhone. By gum, did take the world by storm. And every crappy, half-assed smartphone released afterwards was supposedly an iPhone-killer. We’ve had electronic infrastructure-killers in the form of the “dreaded” millennium bug, Google’s Linux Chromebook was a Windows-killer, everyone loves horror movies about psychopathic killers, or planet-killing asteroids in apocalyptic films and as for The Killers? Well, they’re a great band.
The question today is: are next gen consoles PC-killers? The gaming gods only know we’ve had more than our fair share of PC-killers the past couple of decades. Just one example was when the previous-gen consoles were released 8 years ago
A Time of Renaissance to the PC
So how’s the ol’ PC doing right now? Well, we’re yet to see the final sales figures for 2013, but even then, it’s unrealistic to gauge. After all, the new consoles only came out in Q4 this year. 2014 will be the first full year of competition, but, with so many new buyers picking one up in the January sales with Christmas, perhaps 2015 will be a fairer comparison?
What about 2012? Well, as we reported in our article on the renaissance of PC gaming, 2012 saw the PC game sales alone produce $20 billion, an 8% increase from 2011. The PC is far from a dying species. MMO, RTS, MOBA and many popular browser-based casual games such as Farmville, (look, it’s technically a game, okay? Even if we die a little inside every time we get a request…) all contributed to this success. Could the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One derail this road to recovery?
The PC Gaming Association (PCGA)
The PC Gaming Association (PCGA) is an organization whose task it is to evangelize PC gaming (and we suspect one or two members of The Newbiverse team are secretly employed by them). It released market research data earlier this year that suggests there’s currently 1 billion PC gamers in the world. And yes, that’s billion with a ‘B’.
In comparison, combined console sales of the Wii U PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 totaled less than 300 million. What’s more, the PCGA projected higher game sales figures for the future, with PC games sales growing up to $26.5 billion by 2016. It’s nice to see positive figure, but we can’t help but feel it’s a little difficult to make that call. The PCGA crew is optimistic, and so are other PC-centric companies such as Nvidia which even thinks this generation of consoles will be the last. Could they be right?
Console Guts Now Closely Resemble PC Guts
Some developers believe the many parallels drawn between the new console’s hardware and PC hardware will make porting games to PC much easier. Rather than receiving half-baked console ports (ugh…), PC titles will be considered from the get go. In an interview with Polygon.com, Brad Wardell CEO of game developer, Stardock, uses the PS3’s cell processor as an example of a something that was a very different beast to the x86 architecture used in popular CPUs such as Intel’s Core i7 line. It wasn’t pretty porting things over in the past.
So, it will be easier to develop games. What other incentives are there to tantalize talented developers to flog their gaming wares on this old-school platform? Well, the increasingly popular Steam means developers instantly gain access to 60,000,000 gamers on a tried and tested publishing platform that’s very difficult to crack. That’s a lot of potential sales… Rather than kill the PC, the hardware similarities may well have just done it a big favor.
Which Has the Better Graphics?
Obviously PC…. (Kidding). But, really, what about the graphics? As we said, it was the same when the 360 and PS3 came out. The current gen consoles were the PC-killers because the graphics were “comparable.” But, now console lifespans are around a decade, the PC will enjoy around 10 years’ worth of hardware horsepower updates while the consoles stay the same. Sure, developers will become more adept at creating games on these new platforms, but nothing makes things easier like more power.
It’s easy to say PCs have better graphics. But which PC? Which graphics card does that PC need to be better than current-gen? Is it one of the graphics cards that costs four times the amount of the whole console (and that’s before you buy the six or seven other core components needed to actually build a PC). Well, that’s more difficult to answer. But, as was recently demonstrated on Techradar, you can build a solid gaming PC for the same price as a next gen console anyway, with a budget version even being achievable for around $450. And year after year, you’ll get more and more power for the money.
Inter-species Relationships: PC Merge With Consoles
There’s one more factor to consider when it comes to the idea of our so-called “PC killers”. It’s not only consoles becoming more like PCs, but PCs are becoming increasingly like consoles. Valve’s Steam Machine sees the company push for the living room with what is essentially a PC in a box. Or, is it an upgradeable console with PC hardware? With the Steam Store (which inspired the equivalents for the PlayStation and Xbox) is fully installed, it’s becoming difficult to tell the difference.
Alienwear also has its own range of micro PCs. Imagine you have one of these was connected in your living room with the Steam Controller, allowing you to use it for everything from FPS games to a Civilization IV. Are you playing a PC or a console? Nvidia’s Shield is another example. This handheld games console has the ability to stream content from a PC. So, when you’re playing on it, are you a PC gamer or console gamer?
Nvidia is also starting to make smaller PCs. In a press conference recently, Nvidia stated it’s working on small form-factor PCs to offer the convenience of console gaming but with a PC system and “The Newbiverse experience” as it sees things.
So? Will the New Consoles Kill the PC or Not?
Nope. Not a chance. Sorry, we know you love killers. The new consoles have been a huge leap in the right direction for gaming in general. But, as we see things, there’s no way the PC is going to keel over and die an expensive, elitist death. Worst case scenario, it could go underground. Maybe something akin to DJs using vinyl records, but it will still be around.
With increasing ease for developers, access to such an epic market through platforms like Steam and the many genres that just play better on PCs (like MMOs, RTS, MOBAs) it will be with us for some time. Not to mention, the graphics will always be better… (Seriously, kidding… I think).
What’s more likely is some kind of merging between the two platforms. Perhaps in a few years’ time, there won’t be consoles and PCs, just a group of people who prefer mouse and keyboard as an input option and some who don’t. It seems much more likely we’re witnessing the co-mingling of two previously warring species. And considering how the products are shaping up so far, that promises to be a very beautiful new breed with a bright future.