Maybe I was just unaware of it at the time but it seems one of the major differences between the end of this generation and the last is how many people have picked up gaming PCs. Perhaps Ďgaming PCsí is the wrong term but weíll come to that later. Purely anecdotal but it does seem a lot of gamers, or at least more than previously have bought gaming capable pcs and laptops over the past couple of years.
Maybe it's bias on my part, after all the pc has been my go to gaming machine in the back half of this generation. If I'm banging on about how great the pc version of something is and someone agrees with me it's going to stick out. It could be, of course, that I'm talking nonsense and the trend is the same as it always was, the difference being that I'm older now. Not that pc gaming is for old people, but to buy or build a decent pc takes money, something you don't have a lot of in your teenage years (not that I was a teenager at the end of the last gen, depressingly).
Of course consoles cost money, I ended the last generation with all 3 consoles and a newly bought DS and I'm ending this one with all 3 consoles and a 3DS. While the desktop I had access to at the time was pretty basic my laptop, that I was bought to take to university, was capable of running Max Payne 2 and Return to Castle Wolfenstein better than the xbox could. None of those things were cheap.
I think that's part of the difference, at the end of the last generation having your own computer was something rare, you had a house computer you all shared as a family. Now it's not that strange for a kid to have their own desktop or laptop, at the very least for school work stuff. And if you're buying a new computer, even if it's just for school or uni stuff, you're going to make sure it's decent just in the vain hope it's something resembling future proof.
Then there's the performance issue, buying a brand new computer is all well and good but it needs some grunt to play games. Well when you see the upcoming adverts for PC World and Argos take note of the specs, all the laptops will be dualcore with at least 4 gigs or RAM, that's more than most games require. Sure the graphics card, or chip in modern laptops, is important, but that's where the unique thing about this generation comes in; how long it's been.
The release of DMC Devil May Cry earlier this year brought in to stark contrast the relative power of a 'decent' pc and the current consoles. My Graphics card is getting on for 4 years old, it plays everything, plays most things at 60fps, but DMC was running at around 180fps. If you were to buy a £350 laptop today it would run DMC, to what standard I donít know, but it would be playable. Games being built for 8 year old hardware has its problems for those with high-end PCs, but for everyone else itís a bit of a blessing, you donít need a beast of a PC to run console games at better than console levels.
Probably the most important factor, but also potentially the most controversial, is Steam. Steam has its problems, maybe one day weíll go in to them, but for good or bad it does a few things that might encourage PC gaming. For one, everything is in one place; thereís a lot of places to buy games for the PC, a hell of a lot of them offer Steam codes. Iím not suggesting this is a conscious reason for people, only that if it werenít the case it would be a barrier. This is especially true when it comes to indie games, nowhere has the quality and variety of indie titles that the PC does, having access to all those games is enough to get people playing,
Then thereís that thing Steam is pretty good at; sales. Anyone who plays PC games will have raved about Steam sales, got excited knowing one was only hours away. Itís hard not to see that from the outside and want in. The recent Xbox sale was good, probably as good a sale as Iíve seen for digital games on a console, but even that is dwarfed by what Steam offers. Itís not just the prices, although thatís obviously a big factor, itís how recent the games are, and then the quantity of games on sale
So the question then, will this continue in to the next generation? While I think thereís a segment of the market who will keep their computers up to date, sticking in a graphics card at the start and halfway through the gen, I canít see the swell of gamers staying. Weíve got a perfect storm at the minute, technology being somewhat stagnant, people needing PCs, and people wanting something new, all those things will come to an end in the next year or so. Consoles will be able to outperfom capable gaming machines such as mine, that new thing itch will be scratched by the new consoles, and sadly tablets will continue to eat in to the PC market.
Still though itís opened some peopleís eyes to PC gaming and the benefits thereof, and with the current gen looking like itís not going anywhere for at 12 months itís not quite a ticking clock until PC gaming Ďdiesí all over again