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PC Games Retirement Home

By Shamus
on Thursday Jan 22, 2009
Filed under:
Video Games


My previous post on my home console setup was a sort of intro to this post.

The last PC game I played was Fallout 3. I don’t have another one on my horizon. Diablo 3? Starcraft 2? Half-Life 2, Episode 3? Those are all pretty distant yet. [Insert your own Duke Nukem Forever joke here.] I’ll play a dozen console games between now and then.

For the last 19 years, I’ve needed to keep updating my PC if I wanted to be on the same page as everyone else, software-wise. Migrating computers is an expense and a chore, but there was always something worthwhile ahead to justify the move. New computers opened the door to new browsers that offered access to richer web content, better versions of windows, more powerful photo manipulation programs, and better tools for work or hobbies.

But all of this has stalled since 2003 or so. The system requirements behind web browsers have stopped climbing. The latest version of windows is a step down instead of a step up. I have all the photo manipulation tools that I can use, and more. And the latest and greatest tools are increasingly open source programs with very broad system requirements. My machine is nearly three years old, and there is simply nothing out in front of me that might entice me to spend the time and money to bring it up to date. It doesn’t even feel old yet. I remember in the mid-90’s when I was poor. A two-year-old computer was a relic that would choke and wheeze while performing simple tasks, because applications had become larger and demanded more memory. But this machine runs about as well as the day I unpacked it. And when it eventually slows down, I’ll likely add memory rather than buy a whole new machine. This has never happened before.

It’s been a sad process to see the PC gaming platform self-destruct over the last five or six years, and there is a little blame available for everyone. Graphics card manufacturers salted the field by dividing the market into incomprehensibly small segments that made shopping for a new card prohibitively complex. Game developers shed users by continuing to ride the bleeding edge, even as a majority of their audience was stepping off the upgrade treadmill. Pirates made the platform less profitable (Or at least, made it appear so to would-be investors.) which stemmed the flow of money for the development of PC games. All this, and the rising cost of development (because making graphics-heavy content is expensive) forced developers to make cuts in other areas, giving us prettier, more shallow games.

The good news is that PC games can’t die entirely. The platform dominated for so long because of its ubiquity, and the machines are still far more numerous than all consoles combined. They’re just not turning over as often. Maybe big-name publishers are abandoning the ship, but this will leave a nice opening for indie developers. The days of PC gamers getting extravagant games is over, but strategy games and old-school number-crunchy RPGs will likely still be cultivated by the faithful.

And of course, the PC still rules the MMO market. This is more an interface issue than anything else. I know Sony and Microsoft must be looking at the eleven million WoW players and thinking about how awesome it would be if they could get a cut of that action, which comes in at something like 1.5 billion a year. For one freakin’ game. (Think of the money we’d make in Xbox Gold memberships alone, Bill!) The current complexity of the genre demands a mouse & keyboard, and their text-heavy nature suggests that they might need a little more resolution than the average television can offer from across the room. But with the heaps of money at stake, I do expect there to be some effort to claim some territory in MMO land.

It’s my hope that at the very least, the PC will be the proving grounds where indies can practice making games before they join a thundering publishing house and make “real” games for consoles. Ideally, the platform might reboot itself, with a new batch of developers rising up that understand that they need to approach the PC with an attitude of “gameplay first, gameplay second, gamplay third, and graphics a distant tenth”. A little story and character development thrown in there might be a good idea as well.

The PC platform isn’t dead. It’s sitting in the nursing home, looking out the window and muttering to itself about the good old days.

Thanks for all the fun, gramps.

Comments (66)

1 2

  1. Kevin says:

    My box is two years old, and I’m certain to keep it for at least another two. I simply haven’t found anything that won’t run on it yet. (Of course, that also implies that I haven’t wanted to run anything on it that won’t run…) It’s a Mac, so it’s a good machine anyway, and mostly I play MMOs on it, which aren’t as demanding as most games.

    Still, we are saving up for that wall-dominating HD television. I foresee a return to my consoles then.

  2. Sydney says:

    I’m right there with you, Shamus. I’ve been a PC lover for years. I’ve ridden the bleeding edge to the best of my (limited) ability. I’ve spent money on games, on cards, on RAM, on whole new systems. And what do I find myself playing?

    Diablo 2.

  3. Nick says:

    Indeed. Too often, I play a game that I want to like, but it’s poor controls or bland story leave me sick. I want to enjoy Fallout 3, but I could hardly get past the first few quests outside the vault (crashes and graphic irregularities aside) before quitting in disgust. I even reinstalled it after a complete computer reformat, and I can now not even view the menu, as it’s running at .1 fps or less.

    There are a few bright lights in the dung heap known as PC gaming: COD4 (best controls of a fps yet), nearly anything put out by Valve (L4D is dominating my current play-time), WoW (I try others, but none have the depth and shine as Blizzard’s does), and most RTS’s (Supreme Commander, Act of War, C&C, etc), and recently indie titles (World of Goo, Avernum, Braid (yes, not on PC yet).

    Most recent “big” titles end up selling for a lot, but mostly out of hype generated by marketing or by what it TRIES and not for what it actually contains. Fallout was highly praised, but later nitpicked for it’s horrible PC port, non-realistic animations and atmosphere, and lack of depth. Mirror’s Edge was on the top of my list, but it’s lack of depth and loss of vision put it into the “try once, trade in to gamestop” pile.

    If developers really want people to WANT their games, and keep the games, then they need to make things WORTH keeping. Everything nowadays is a MUST-TRY, not a MUST-HAVE.

    I, too, haven’t upgraded my computer in some time. I still feel the need for more or faster memory, but I’m happy with the current contents of my box. And honestly, it doesn’t need to change. I feel graphics are at a comfortable spot. Just focus on making games that are fun to play, decent to look at, and perform well. Make more games with the quality of Left 4 Dead, and less like Fallout 3.

  4. krellen says:

    My PC is almost four years old and still runs fine. It probably needs a memory upgrade (I’m only running with 1.5G right now), but I can still run most things on high settings and alt-tab to my heart’s desire.

    I think you’re right; the constant upgrade push of the PC era is behind us. I actively advocate 5 year lifespans for PCs at work, and the specs to believably do that are not bleeding edge.

  5. Gandaug says:

    PC gaming is all I do. I have a PS2 upstairs that my son occassionally plays and is very rarely used as a DVD player. My computer is going on three years old and plays games just fine. I can play many of the new games released on full graphical settings.

    I really have nothing against consoles themselves. I would own the current generation of consoles but I haven’t seen a single title that would justify the price tag. My only real gripe about consoles is when a developer releases on a console first and then crosses over to the PC a while later. Almost invariably these games are full of issues that are leftovers from the console version. This happens also when a game is developed for consoles and PCs at the same though to a lesser extent.

    PC gaming is just fine. Its popularity has declined some, but it is not going away any time soon. In fact as is mentioned it’s never going away completely. The reason for the decline is not because of problems with PC gaming so much as console gaming has risen. There is only so much money and time to go around and consoles are taking a bigger share of money and time. There are of course myriad other reasons, but listing all of those would have me typing up a post longer than Shamus’.

    There are a thousand more things to say but I’ll stop here.

  6. ima420r says:

    My PC is some 3 years old, going on 4. It doesn’t even have PCIe slots, but it’s got what was once a top of the line vid card in it. I’ve also maxed the memory, gone through some dvd burners, and replaced the hard drives. Instead of getting a new PC together, I just bought a 360 elite. Won’t need to upgrade it and in the last 4 months I have played it more that I played my PC the last year.

    If I want to upgrade my PC I need a new motherboard, new ram, and a new video card. That’s pricey, especially if I want good, fast parts that won’t be coughing up dustballs in 6 months. My 360 cost $325 new (with coupons and a great online deal).

    Consoles are simpler and cheaper, and the 360 has pretty much everything I can get on my PC and more. They don’t make many PC exclusives, but my PC can run most anything new if I turn the graphics down and don’t push it.

  7. Kritheon says:

    Oh come on. If you truly want a good gaming rig then you have to upgrade. I just bought a 26″ LCD, with a native rez of 1920×1200 I HAD to buy a new video card…went with a nice ATI4870.

    The visuals of COD:WAW, TF2, L4D are amazing. Add the visual mod for Sins of a Solar Empire, and you have a very nice gaming experience. And that’s without trying Assassin’s Creed or Crysis.

    I don’t see the horizon of new pc games being any different than other years. There’s always 1 or 2 big name games on that horizon, then a bunch of little ones with a couple of hidden gems.

    There’s NO WAY that PC gaming is dead or dying. Especially when you can spend an afternoon playing all your old games as well — MOHAA, Wolf, and more. Can’t do that on a console….mostly (backwards compatibility issues).

    Oh, and love the work you do. Been following since someone posted a link to your DM of the Rings stuff. Rereading it through a 2nd time as we speak.

  8. Nick Pitino says:

    You folks with your new(ish) lightning fast PC’s.

    I can coax and cajole my eight year old PC to run Half-Life two.

    Overall though I’m unconcerned about the state of PC gaming. If all of the current developers flee to consoles all that will do is create fertile fields for new developers to invade and set up shop in.

    And thus the circle of life continues.

  9. John Lopez says:

    Welcome to the end of Moore’s Law equaling free performance. Clock rates have stalled (it turned out that the 4GHz chips were great for toasting your bread too thanks to the clock rate squared law of power consumption). Multiple cores don’t do as much as we hoped (I’m looking at you memory bandwidth). Hard drives are larger, but not faster (although Solid State looks promising).

    The graphics guys continue to improve because the task of composing graphics is *inherently* parallel. Not many other tasks are.

    This isn’t to say we won’t see substantial improvements and some game changing technologies… but the glory days of 3 years of technology making a night and day difference are over.

  10. Rats says:

    my pc is a megre 2 years old, and i shall more than probobly purchase some update or another for it at some point soon. For the first time however, this will not be a necessary upgrade, but simply some more storage space for my music collection, and my various games. Its quite liberating.

    Heres to hoping that the indy developers of today grow into the mighty pc publishing houses of tomorrow, and that they will remember what the market they came from believes in and wants. Gameplay and story, NOT intrusive DRM on pretty graphics.

  11. Coyote says:

    I have four consoles in my house – six if you include the little Atari joystick things that have ten vintage games each on them.

    And yet, most of my gaming is still on the PC. In GENERAL. Rock Band gets a good workout when friends are over, and some console RPGs have glued me to the controller for a while. But I still come back to the one true gaming platform. :)

  12. BlackBloc says:

    My PC is 5 years old and I can run Fallout 3 at the lowest level of details. And quite frankly, while running it at a better quality level would be neat, I don’t exactly *need* to do so. I’m at a point in my life where getting a Wii and playing PC games at low quality seems fine enough and that any money I spend to improve my graphics while keeping the gameplay at the same level is a waste (considering I throw away money like it’s water on collectible games like WoW minis, I need all the gaming money I can save).

    Of course the PC itself was bleeding edge 5 years ago.

  13. JKjoker says:

    2008 was a weird year for my gaming, the pc has been my playing hardware of choice since ever yet the games i played the most last year were ps2 games with the emulator (and i spent a pretty big ammount of time with the psx emulator on previous years)

    ive been attacked by the “damn, i need a new graphics card” feeling several times last year and everytime i did my research planning my upgrade all i could see were goddamn expensive cards and the only ones on my price range are already obsolete, on top of that i need to buy a new psu because they need a dedicated power plant to run, so i look at the extremely high number and i think : “ok, what am i going to play with this ?” and you know what ? i havent been able to give myself a good reply during the entire year… thats a massive fail right there ea, ubisoft, activision and co.

    we’ll see if diablo 3 or sc2 deserve an upgrade, but i have my doubts

  14. Trianglehead says:

    Typo, 5th paragraph. Filed should probably be field? I’ve never been the first to get around to correcting you before, Shamus. Usually one of the other nitpickers beats me to your posts. ;)

  15. Eric Meyer says:

    If anything, I think the need to upgrade machines will be driven by things like Photosynth and other data interfaces, not games. And that will be a slower progression than we’ve seen in the past.

  16. Cavtroop says:

    Im a laptop gamer myself – it keeps me in the living room with the family, without monopolizing the TV (I’m looking at you, consoles).

    However, the laptop is on its last legs, and I’m having a hard time justifying another $2k to replace it for 2 years or so. I may end up with an Xbox, but that will alienate my wife a bit, as we only have the one HDTV.

  17. Anaphyis says:

    Well, 12 years ago or so I watched a pre-rendered intro cinematic with a friend and we all said “Wow. And imagine, one day computers will be powerful enough to render any realistic cinematic in real time.”

    They can do that now. Well, not yet blockbuster movie grade quality but good enough. And now, sitting in a world full of gritty coffee filter brown and gun metal grey realism I look back at those innocent years with longing.

    The point I’m trying to make: We are done. End of line. And it is not an issue which only applies to PC’s. As with CPU’s, it is not going upwards any more, it’s going sidewards now – with new concepts instead of running on the graphics update treadmill. Nintendo got that. When I first heard they were making a handheld with two screens I thought they were all raving lunatics and how many people blurted out the Wii is certain to be a disaster? Or most Apple products. How did that turn out, looking at the daily trucks filling Scrooge MacTendo’s and Steve Jobb’s respective Money Bins?

    Maybe Sony got it too and the PS3 is developed for the long run. Looking at the Cell processor requiring a high degree of parallelization to completely take advantage which no game developer afaik has even marginally tried so far … I wouldn’t be too surprised.

  18. Robyrt says:

    I’m in the same boat you are, and because I have a laptop, I couldn’t upgrade if I wanted to. And it sure is tough to justify the cost of a new graphics card for Supreme Commander and mythical future games alone.

    The question to REALLY ask is: How do we get the thriving indie community, the intricate mouse/keyboard controls, and the fruitful mod scene onto consoles? Instead of retrofitting Fallout onto the PC, let’s retrofit turn-based strategy onto the Xbox.

  19. Anaphyis says:

    @Robyrt: As for turn based strategy, I think the future is more along this way.

  20. Oleyo says:

    Frankly, I am really enjoying this ‘settling down’ of the rocket-sled tech advancement. I think we have come a long way with compatibility and interoperability.

    It makes me remember why I fell in love with these devices as a youngster; that they are machines that can do almost anything.

    In a strange way I even look hopefully at the seeming slippage of PC gaming. I haven’t been a fan of the ‘type’ of games that have been coming out for PC for several years now.

    The ones I remember fondly are the ones that excel on a PC: hex grid tactical or strategic wargames, sims, rpg’s and other UI or text intensive games. I hate when a game UI gets simplified for platform compatibility. I think it changes the very nature of the game. I understand why it is done, but I hate it.

    I would like to see indy developers step into this potential void and make much more of these ‘old school’ games that excel on the PC and leave the ‘blockbuster’ market to the console, where for the most part they excel, and are more easily ported to each other.

    Besides, since the PC is our machine that can do anything, you can always plug in a USB console controller of your choice and play these blockbusters as the UI was designed… :)

    At least this is how I would like to see the industry move.

  21. Magnus says:

    I’d like to make one point only.

    Can the time, money and energy that has gone into making top-of-the-line graphics for the current generation of games please be re-directed into better animations, better A.I., better gameplay, and more support of niche gaming.

    Oh and I do almost all my gaming on PC, and my biggest wish right now is for EA to allow Good Old Games to sell their back catalogue.

  22. Ben says:

    I just wanted to humbly point out that Final Fantasy XI came out on the PS2, and is also on the 360 as well. It’s much smaller than WoW, but the console technology and the user inclination exists, for sure.

  23. Kizer says:

    I was a PC gamer for years, mostly playing Blizzard titles. But I constantly had computer problems. There was always some weird cross-interference between the games and the sub-programs required to run them. After my fifth DirectX issue, I gave up on PC gaming, focused on consoles, and haven’t looked back since. The only games I play on my PC now are free flash games from websites like armor games, and old classics like Diablo II and Riven (Still haven’t beaten it . . . >.<).

  24. Riesz says:

    Speaking of indie games, perhaps you should check out a charming game called Aquaria. Apparently it was developed by just two guys over two years and it’s an absolutely stunning game. It kind of feels like Super Metroid–but is, of course, completely different. The design, gameplay and music are all really great. It revived my faith in the future of PC gaming just a little, after suffering from much the same frustration and disappointment as you.

  25. Cuthalion says:

    My computer is about 5 years old. It runs Windows 2000. With 512MB RAM, 80GB HD, no DVD drive, and a Radeon 9500 card. I have run into nothing that can justify spending $300 updgrading motherboard, processor, RAM, card, and OS. Basically, all I’ve missed out on are a couple strategy games that require XP and a bunch of other stuff I don’t care about anyway. Although Morrowind runs a tad slow, even with optimization mods…

  26. MadTinkerer says:

    Dude, you need to check out:

    Rock, Paper, Shotgun

    Indie Games Dot Com

    The Independent Gaming Source

    And various sites like Battlefield Heroes and Instant Action Dot Com.

    PC gaming is bigger than ever, it’s just that the majority of new, smaller developers have broken away from the traditional model of 1) get game into box on shelf 2) get eaten by EA. Other than JRPGs, SRPGs and certain game genres that are only available on PSns, the majority of games that I buy are for my PC.

    Also, I realize Valve has been really quiet about exactly when they’ll be finished their upcoming games, but surely you’re looking forward to Episode 3 and Portal 2?

  27. Ham08 says:

    I agree with you Shamus that quality PC gaming titles have been on a steady decline for years (excluding graphic improvements). However, I wanted to comment on what someone else said “As with CPU's, it is not going upwards any more, it's going sidewards now”.

    The new AMD 4x Phenom II (940) processors are clocking in at 4Ghz with good air cooling and 6Ghz with liquid nitro. That’s all four cores running at that speed.

    AMD Phenom II Runs Crysis Time Demo at 6GHz

    I suspect that in order to continue with a steady increase in clock speed, manufacturers will need to concentrate on better cooling options and processor materials that can withstand greater heat. Air cooling will go the way of the DoDo bird, while water cooling will become the norm and Peltier or liquid nitro will be meant for PC enthusiests.

  28. Glalev says:

    *Takes a minute of silence to mourn the impending doom of PC gaming as it has been known for so long*

    Now that this is out of the way… both the Independent and the Freeware gaming scenes are already growing with impressive speed, both giving several surprisingly good titles.

    Off the top of my head, my most recent favorite freeware game would be Iji (http://www.remar.se/daniel/iji.php)

    And my favorite Independent games have all been mentioned here already. (Aquaria and World of Goo)

    Anyway, though PC gaming as it used to be is slowly dying out, I expect it to be reborn out of the flames almost instantly, that rebirth is already occuring.

  29. Miral says:

    My gaming PC is about three or four years old, but it can still run most games at full quality and a decent frame rate. Where things start to fall down a bit is that it’s only single core, so it occasionally gets bogged down with rogue threads, and the scheduling overhead saps performance a bit anyway. So I might eventually upgrade for that reason, but that’s about all.

    I suspect I’ll wait at least until Win7’s out, though ;)

  30. Cthulhu says:

    So graphics-heavy, shallow games will have to be replaced by old-school strategy games and RPGs?

    Excuse me, I have some rejoicing to do.

  31. Werdna says:

    I’m still buying, playing, and enjoying new PC titles… but these days they’re all indie games. Someone already mentioned Aquaria, which I also heartily enjoyed. I’ve bought several games that are featured on the Rampant Coyote’s site, one of which I’m replaying right now that I believe a decent number of people here would like. Some of the comments above even reference this type of game: Eschalon Book 1, an old-school style rpg.

  32. Werdna says:

    Made the above post, went off to eat dinner, came back to remember that Shamus had already done a nice series of posts on Eschalon and realize that it was too late to edit the comment. Oh well, them’s the breaks. Maybe a few people will read it who weren’t around back then and missed those posts.

  33. ehlijen says:

    My favourite genres being space fighter sims (dead since Freespace 2) and turnbased wargames (the last I remember being Temple of elemental evil (yes I know it claimed to be an rpg, but really it was a turn based monster basher)) PC gaming has been dying as far as I’m concerned for a long time. There have been a few other things to keep me distracted such as realtime remakes of turnbased classics (UFO aftershock is amazing if you can get it to not crash) and RPGs (though the quality there has been dropping too).

    My worldview was shattered recently though with the release of a turn based tactics game (WH40k Squad command) on consoles only! So I don’t understand the world of video/pc games anymore…

  34. Zerotime says:

    John Lopez: Clock rates aren’t getting any faster, but processors are doing more per clock cycle than they were in the past. Multiprocessing simply hasn’t taken off because of the lack of actual multithreaded applications that can utilise multiple CPUs.

  35. WanderingGrapefruit says:

    I’ve never been a PC gamer. Computers are just too finicky for me. Consoles are designed to run games… and they do it well. That’s all I want.

    The only games I would want to be playing on my computer are some occasional random ones or old games like Monkey Island.

  36. MuonDecay says:

    I wouldn’t peg MMO’s as being inherently better on the PC, myself. It’s more a matter of what devs have chosen than what the platforms can easily support.

    I spent a couple years of my life playing Final Fantasy XI side-by-side with other players on the same servers who were accessing the game with their PS2. It was a pretty seamless mingling, too. All you really needed was a keyboard for the PS2 for chat’s sake, and you were all set!

    Consoles have been capable of supporting a robust MMO market for quite a long time, now. Even more so, now that the current generation of consoles is integrating broadband internet connections and increasingly spacious hard drives.

    Consoles are being shaped into what is effectively a gaming-oriented PC, so as one might expect, the lines between PC and console are going to continue blurring.

  37. Manny says:

    My PC is 7 years old and I am still satisfied with it.

    My very restrained budget on new games leads me to buy them several years after their publication when they are available at discount prices, so I’m living in another era than most people. This might also explain why I’m still satisfied with my PC.

    Last year I discovered the first Splinter Cell game. I was like ‘Man, these are really some smooth graphics! Whoa! Look at the awesomeness of the shadows!’

    I guess I will be entertained for several years before the well will dry out for me, like it seems to be the case for you guys. By that time I expect there to be some awesome new gaming platform that encourages me to a time-leap!

  38. Ding says:

    I think your right in the divergence: The PC will evolve (or devolve) into a platform with specific gameplay seperate to consoles. I predict we’ll see a more stark seperation between console games and PC games in exactly the same way there used to be back in the days when I was pining for a PC that was “386 or higher”. Sonic the Hedgehog shouldn’t be played on a PC and Theme Park shouldn’t be played on a Megadrive after all!

  39. Mephane says:

    Ideally, the platform might reboot itself, with a new batch of developers rising up that understand that they need to approach the PC with an attitude of “gameplay first, gameplay second, gamplay third, and graphics a distant tenth”. A little story and character development thrown in there might be a good idea as well.

    This is especially true since modern 3D-graphics have reached a level of quality where you don’t exactly *need* improvement. The best example is the source engine. It’s being improved over time, of course, but not in the manner of stomping out a newer, heavier, more-performance-than-ever-demanding engine, but little features here and there, optimization and so on.

    Left 4 Dead, for example, was just recently released and uses this engine. It runs perfectly smooth on maximum settings on a modern computer, and by that I mean PERFECTLY. Not a single slightest choke even in the most intense action. And yet I’ve never heard anyone complain about visual quality being “outdated”.

  40. Ben C says:

    I have never read an article that so well echoed my feelings toward PC gaming. I used to ADORE gaming on my PC, but in the last few years, my game time has migrated more and more ‘the couch’. I just got so tired of keeping up with the horse-race of upgrades that now, I’d rather pay $300 to have a dedicated box that will run for 4-5 years without me having to worry about system requirements and hardware (well, RRoD’s not taken into account). That, and it’s an activity that both my wife and I like to share, which would be much more difficult with your typical PC setup. Now that console games can offer in depth worlds to explore and enjoy, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  41. Daimbert says:

    Personal account.

    About the time I got my PS2, I was basically planning on not upgrading the PC anymore. Only KOTOR got me to switch. I think my next upgrade might have been for City of Heroes, which I don’t play anymore. My plan again is to not upgrade my PC, but maybe keep a more current laptop (although bottom-of-the-line will last me for quite some time).

    PCs, for me, are more pain to deal with than I’d like for the few games — generally MMORPGs — that I’d like to play.

    (Although the KOTOR MMO might make me change my mind again …)

  42. K says:

    My machine is nearly 4 years old and I am pretty unsure if I should upgrade. Because I would do so for only a single game, WoW, which runs less than stellar, but runs (low fps and low details, but I look at health bars most of the time anyway). I could also spend that money on five or six Wii games (and it would be a lot more if I could pay US prices which are half as high due to currency exchange rates).

    I still have more than one PC/mac around for work and will probably be able to play D3 and Starcraft 2 on them, since blizzard usually is careful with system specs. If not, I could just fathom to upgrade then. But not before.

  43. Got me thinking of the most annoying thing that happens on my PC while gaming — the nagware box that pops up suggesting that now is the time to install that javascript update or a new interim patch or … And save me from a family member’s AOL account that decides to just interrupt to suggest an optional AOL service.

    Not what I want pulling me away from a real-time on-line game.

    On the other hand, my wife gave me a new computer for Christmas. I really enjoy the improved visual effects in games ;)

  44. Ranneko says:

    I’m going to have to agree that PC gaming isn’t as strong as it was, but it is hardly dying. More and more retail sales are turning into digital sales (which also do not go into the sales metrics, feeding the death story).

    You still have strong development, you still will have the major titles coming out on the PC, especially since developing for the 360 gives results in pretty much developing most of the PC version too.

    The decline is also regional, I’m not surprised that most americans say that PC gaming is dying, when I was in the US, some of the EB’s I walked into dedicated as much space to PC titles as to PS3 accessories. Fortunately though PC gamers these days don’t need to rely on such stores, more so than the console owners, whilst you can get small games for the various consoles, they still want to get you to buy new games on those shiny discs, whereas with Steam, Impulse, Gametap and the like, PC gamers no longer need to do that.

    Though really if Microsoft could actually put some thought into Games for Windows Live that would be good. Seriously, I can find and navigate the 360 marketplace on my PC more easily than I can the PC equivalent. And the PC equivalent only has 6 items in it.

  45. Jeff says:

    I hope Marketing (delivered with all the scorn of the Dilbert universe) finally gives up on the PC so we can stop getting over-produced flashy garbage and back to good games.

    Speaking of shiny, though, in addition to Diablo 3 and Starcraft 2, I’m looking forward to Dawn of War 2, which promises to scale back in unit numbers and scale up in complexity. Should be neat.

  46. BTW, if your game resolution is the same as your desktop resolution the time it takes to alt tab usually is much shorter.

  47. Apathy Curve says:

    I see this as a good thing. The consoles are drawing away from PC gaming the demographic which is easily distracted by bright shiny objects, leaving developers who target curmudgeonly old grognards like myself.

    You kids go play with your toys; I’ll be in my office drinking scotch and playing IL-2. Don’t bother me unless someone is bleeding to death.

  48. Barron says:

    Another Death of PC gaming post. If all the developers making shallow 5 hour shooters (here’s looking at you, Call of Duty) moving to consoles means the death of PC gaming, bring it on! Let the consoles have CoD, Halo, and Mass Effect. I’ll keep playing Dwarf Fortress, X3, Dawn of War, Sins of a Solar Empire, and Wow. And I’ll be glad to have the 13 year olds out of my online games. If that’s the death of PC gaming I can’t wait for it to die so I can just enjoy it more

  49. JKjoker says:

    its not the death of pc gaming, its the death of the pc gaming as we knew it, the games will have to evolve to please the new market, the success of netbooks and laptops will shape the next generation, theyll have to be scalable (low quality has to mean worse textures and a cheaper kind of effects instead of “turning everything off making it look like crap”, devs will have to learn the meaning of “optimization” again), the games will probably steer away from action and realtime as well since the controls are unconfortable for that, also the fun will have to come in small pieces since most users no longer play in a few long sessions but lots of small sessions

    if ea and co decide to ignore a platform that has more users than all the consoles combined its better for us, nintendo had a pretty console generation aiming at an untapped part of the market, most of the pc users are untapped right now, the time is right, indie developers seem to be taking steps in this direction, and without the mammoths bullying them good games will come soon (there are already some very good signals with world of goo and others)

  50. Maureen says:

    I’m not a computer gamer at all, and thus have managed to get along perfectly well while owning only three computers since 1993. (I did update them. Sorta. When people refused to believe what I was running, I figured it was time to update a little.)

  51. MadTinkerer says:

    Oh, before this comment thread becomes too old, let me point out the dozens and dozens and dozens of Free To Play MMOs (mostly from the Eastern Hemisphere, but not all) that have come out recently. F2PMMOs have come quite a way since Maple Story.

    The catch is that F2Ps tend to not quite have all the features of a subscription-based MMO, and most of them (but NOT all) are very “cutesy”.

    Cthulhu: “So graphics-heavy, shallow games will have to be replaced by old-school strategy games and RPGs?

    Excuse me, I have some rejoicing to do.”

    I’m tempted to make that into a forum signature. QFT!

    Barron: Dwarf Fortress is awesome but would have been ruined if any major company tried to make it. At best we would have gotten a Dungeon Keeper clone (which, okay, could have been good), at worst, a very very nice looking Adventurer Mode and no Fortress Mode. No, actually, at worst they would have made it another sci fi FPS that ignores what makes the Half Life series good. Indie Developers FTW.

    Maureen: I was in the same situation up until a year and a half ago. It got so bad the last PC game I bought off a shelf (prior to my current computer) was Warcraft 3 Battle Chest, and pretty much everything that came after I just couldn’t play from 2002-2006. On the positive side, according to Shamus’ article nothing much came out in that time anyway. Meanwhile, GOG keeps me supplied with the Golden Age stuff. :D

  52. Yeah, my PC is three years old and runs things like Fallout 3 with most of the settings ramped up and Crysis on medium just fine. It’s actually great that more games are being released where the requirements aren’t that heavy. The only recent annoyance was GTA4, where the requirements are so insanely high (and the graphics aren’t all that in the first place) I can’t run it as I got my PC just before dual-cores became more affordable. I suspect I will survive without it and by the time I do upgrade, I’ll be able to get it for a fiver.

    The only games on the horizon that will test my rig and make me ponder an upgrade are Empire: Total War, Mafia II and maybe Company of Heroes II when it eventually arrives. It should be able to handle StarCraft 2 and Dragon Age quite comfortably.

  53. RPharazon says:

    @Apathy Curve:
    Hey, IL-2 and consoles are not mutually exclusive. I love the IL-2 series, I love serious flightsimming, but I also love console gaming. In fact, I finished up playing some Halo 3 with friends a few minutes ago. In another few minutes I’m going to play GalCiv 2.

    Anyone who thinks that a person can’t be a PC enthusiast and a console enthusiast at the same time is horribly mistaken.

    Of course, my PC is a five-year-old business laptop, but hey, it can run X-Plane, FS2004, IL-2 and Team Fortress 2 at reasonably good detail and speed.

  54. Blurr says:

    Don’t do it Shamus! Don’t fall to the dark side!

  55. Santander02 says:

    Right because nowadays hardware and software sales for the PC are so low that most developers have already stated that they are not going to be making any more games for the PC period, not even multi-platform ones. :rolleyes:

    Of all the persons I expected to jump inside the “PC gaming is dying (or aging, whatever)” bandwagon you were one of the last, Every big game next year and last year came out for the PC too. Yes I see that moving to consoles has been more convenient for you, but that doesn’t mean that most PC gamers are in the same situation, and oh, I own a 360 as well so I am not speaking as a disgruntled fanboy either

  56. DavyRam says:

    Aside from the extent to which it is true that the PC is losing it’s status as an AAA gaming platform, why should this be presented as a relegation of loss for the platform? This seems to me to be the wrong way of looking at things. Shamus’ comment about gamers moving from the pc to “join a thundering publishing house to make ‘real’ games for consoles” seems to me to be the most patronising and small-minded possible way of seeing things, not to mention one that seemingly contradicts points that Shamus has made passionately in the past (about the need for smaller development teams, the pointlessness of bleeding-edge graphics, etc.).

    For all their numerous virtues, a console like the 360 will always be exactly what Microsoft want it to be and nothing more, and it will be a something dominated by the need for publishers to fit the demographics and turn a profit. The PC, by contrast, will always be free, the space for the masses as opposed to an oligarchy. The PC used to be the platform for the biggest titles and the best technology, but it has been more or less surpassed in that by consoles. It’s freedom, in all likelihood, will be an advantage it won’t lose. True, this freedom creates piracy as well as innovation, inefficiency as well as individual vision. But perhaps the PC can excel by ceasing to try beating the consoles at what used to be its game. The Wii has been massively successful by forging a unique identity as a gaming platform, perhaps PC gaming can do the same.

  57. Shamus says:

    Davy: Patronizing? I don’t know if you misread me or what, but I was talking about DEVELOPERS joining the big publishing houses, not… gamers.

    I really do think the big houses make games flashier and more shallow. As someone who values depth over graphics, I see indies as a good thing.

  58. Avilan the Grey says:

    I don’t own any consoles. Three reasons: 1) I have yet to really love the typical console game. 2) We only have one TV, and it is busy. 3) My wife is irritated with me spending 15-20 hours a week playing games as it is… (This is also the reason I would not dream of playing online games).

    I have a two year old laptop (DELL 1520) that can run Fallout 3 on quite high settings.

    I have found I am getting old. I laughed at the “what do I need to max out Crysis” questions in the game forums I visit, I find the graphic setting I use in FO3 “spectacular”, and I still find the graphics in BGII and Diablo 2 “decent”. I guess it has to do with starting PC (as in personal computer) games with the VIC20… 8 colors FTW!

    I do have noticed that slowdown though and I enjoy it. I will get a new laptop next year, because I think so far I have seen one (1) game I might want to play that would be sluggish on my 1520. A few years back I would have had to upgrade twice a year.

  59. Avilan the Grey says:

    I don’t own any consoles. Three reasons: 1) I have yet to really love the typical console game. 2) We only have one TV, and it is busy. 3) My wife is irritated with me spending 15-20 hours a week playing games as it is… (This is also the reason I would not dream of playing online games).

    I have a two year old laptop (DELL 1520) that can run Fallout 3 on quite high settings.

    I too, have found I am getting old. I laughed at the “what do I need to max out Crysis” questions in the game forums I visit, I find the graphic setting I use in FO3 “spectacular”, and I still find the graphics in BGII and Diablo 2 “decent”. I guess it has to do with starting PC (as in personal computer) games with the VIC20… 8 colors FTW!

    I do have noticed that slowdown though and I enjoy it. I will get a new laptop next year, because I think so far I have seen one (1) game I might want to play that would be sluggish on my 1520. A few years back I would have had to upgrade twice a year.

  60. Caffiene says:

    Personally, Ive got quite a few games in the relatively near future Im looking forward to. First ones that come to mind are FEAR2 and Dawn of War 2.

    Could be just a bad memory speaking, but considering its a month after christmas (pre-christmas being the prized release date) and during an economic downturn Id say there’s a surprisingly good number of PC titles coming soon compared to the past.

    To be honest I think the disappointment of Vista has been the only real change from the norm. Without extensive DirectX 10 uptake, developers still need to support DX9, and so they are consolidating and finding more efficient ways to use the old hardware instead of wastefully chewing up the new. The consoles have shown the same thing every generation – and when the next generation catches on, it’ll leap forward again.

  61. Simon says:

    Don’t give up on the PC.

    There are lots of new PC games that are worth playing. Try Hinterland, World of Goo, or the Penny Arcade RPG games. Someone mentioned Dawn of War. That game has some very real potential – you might want to try the first one.

    Lots of old games to keep you busy, too. Knights of Honor is one.

  62. Avilan the Grey says:

    Besides there are two major titles this year that won’t eat too much resources:
    Starcraft II and Diablo III. Personally it is the latter I am looking forward to (I did have a nerdgasm when I heard it was coming). I trust Blizzard to do everything right, as usual.

  63. John SMith says:

    Another piece of bad news for anyone that cares.

    Dawn of War 2 now requires steam to be installed even to play the single player. Source:


    Since I don’t have an Internet connection at home this is a real shame. Am I right in saying that all the big name publishers (Valve, EA, Ubisoft, 2K, THQ, Sega and Stardock) now have some form of nasty online DRM either in the box or required for patches?

    I was looking forward to this game but not anymore. I don’t understand what as wrong with their Company or Heros model. If you have Internet access you can activate online and have no need for the CD, if you don’t have Internet access or have problems you can play with the CD in the drive (Their previous model of no DRM was the best though!).

    What really annoys me is that this did not come to light until a few days ago (a couple of weeks before launch). Its like they deliberatly kept it secret to get as much money as possible before people realised.

    Oh well hopefully Blizzard wont go down this route. I’ve just completed the first Starcraft (1st time!) and am interested in the sequal.

    Then again there is GOG.COM and the independent developers who know how to respect their customers and not automatically assume they are pirates can can afford £30 (min line + isp) a month in Internet fees. If I wanted to rent access to my game on a monthly basis I would have bought a MMORPG and not a single player game.

    Rant off, I feel better now for getting that off my chest

  64. Quijote3000 says:

    Considering that in 2008 alone, the PC was the system with most exclusives, yeah, not even Microsoft could pull Xbox over the Pc.

    AND, considering that I can play with the PC online for free, unlike the 360 (and don’t get me started on the PS3 experience)

    AND considering that I can play MOD’s for free (currently playing a Max payne 2 Mod, with Mona Sax)

    AND considering that graphically, the difference between the PC, 360 and PS3 is ever increasing in favour of the PC(yeah, I have seen Crysis in a PC at top settings. Nothing can compare) http://www.gamespot.com/features/6202552/index.html

    AND considering there are multiple PC exclusives in 2009 http://adrianwerner.wordpress.com/games-of-2009/

    I can only conclude that the reports of the Death of the PC have been greatly exaggerated

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