Now, when it comes down to it, PC is really the ultimate platform for gaming, not only because the mouse and keyboard set-up allows for games that are just not feasible on consoles (e.g. Total War games, Crayon Physics, Sims, IL-2, WoW, Counter-Strike…) but also because it is a platform not under regulations of a manufacturer like Sony, Microsoft, or Nintendo and thus is an incredible arena for games made by indie developers, a lot of which are free and full of innovation. In addition, the PC gaming library has a lot of history and its size simply cannot be compared to anything else. Bring in the fact that PC can run emulators for most game systems released and it begins to make sense why some PC gamers act so elitist. Finally, what makes PC gaming so ultimate is that it gets constant updates from the gaming community in the form of mods and updates. There may be a lot of frustrating issues with poorly optimized console ports or extremely buggy releases but when thinking just about the selection of games to be found on the PC, console gaming can be viewed as a sidedish or an appetizer while PC gaming is the real deal.
In recent years however, gaming has become more and more mainstream and PC gaming in particular has been put under serious fire. The most notable developers and publishers have focused much more on the console realm than on the PC. Huge gaming sites have often ignored PC aspect of gaming in many of their articles and features. Whenever a multiplatform game is discussed or debated on, the PC version doesn’t seem to receive too much attention compared to its console counterparts and what’s worse, majority of PC exclusives released this day and age are overlooked and put under the radar by many gamers as many important PC genres have now become extremely niche (e.g. point-and-click adventure, flight simulation, 4X…). Awesome new PC exclusives are released every week (especially so with how huge services like Steam has become) and so gaming wise, PC is still a thriving realm, but the gaming market has drastically changed and I get the feeling that the change has been rather detrimental for PC gamers.
I felt this the most when I visited my local Gamestop or other electronic stores like Circuit City (now gone) or Best Buy. The selection continually got smaller and cheaper each time I went to the store. A game that was sold at $50 three months ago was now selling for $30 new. My biggest surprise was when I was finding games that were selling for $5 or $7 new when these games were selling for at least $30 a year or two ago! Price depreciation in the PC gaming realm is alarmingly fast and not only that, the selection was often extremely disappointing in terms of new games released. It was very easy to find awesome deals or bundles for titles like Diablo Warchest or Adventure Collection (five point-and-click adventure games for $15) but newly released PC-centric games happened far too infrequently.
Gaming wise, PC is still extremely strong, with Blizzard’s World of Warcraft garnering more than 12 million followers. In fact, the mmo arena is becoming fierce with competition and this is the genre that gives PC gaming its legs. Many PC gamers that get into these mmos turn into power gamers where they stick with one or two mmos for months if not years. The market is also heavy on expansions, as exemplified by how franchises like Sims have been handled all this time. With Steam becoming such an integral part of PC gaming, the market has also become more in tune with small digitally distributed titles like Audio Surf and Zeno Clash and the like. It’s become the perfect sort of area for power gamers, casual gamers, those into indie games, indie gamemakers/modders, or for those into niche pc-centric genres like flight simulation or tycoon sorts of games but there is no doubt that with these sorts of changes, the pc market has definitely become limited and only profitable for certain specific types of developers.
Without a doubt, PC is still the ultimate platform for gaming, but I think the way the PC market has drastically changed is a good reason to be worried a bit about how things will be for this platform, especially as pc games become more and more niche to rest of the gaming public.