June 3, 2005 04:00 PM PST
Slashdot linked to an article on news.com.com.com on whether PC gaming will be killed by consoles
. Sure you could post your comments on one of those two sites, but we're more rational.
I've previously posted my issues with console gaming
, and these focused most on the games and platforms themselves. But something else bothers me about console gaming, and I had to think for a second about what it is. I actually have a fear of what will happen if PC gaming does die. I hope I can explain it so that even if you love consoles, you can see why it might not be great for them to take over PC gaming.
The issue that worries me most about console gaming is control
. There are some positive aspects to this - hardware is compatible, games are a certain standard, there's a common online service. But I feel these are outweighed by the many negatives that always come with too much control:
- Vendor controls console hardware choices with obvious benefits, but this also reduces the competition between nVidia and ATI and AMD, Intel and PowerPC.
- Vendor controls SDK, limiting potential functionality
- Vendor SDK for platform is expensive and has a huge learning curve for small developers.
- Vendor controls what games are published on the platfom. This is a mess with exclusive platform deals, delayed launches on secondary platforms, etc.
- Vendor controls what applications are available on the platform (don't look for Yahoo messenger or iTunes on your Xbox360 any time soon)
- Vendor controls pricing for games to a large extent. Yes, this means game prices will be higher.
- Vendor controls media format, severly limiting piracy and the price controls that come with it.
- Vendor controls the pipe for online activity. This is both expensive and limiting to potential functionality (very similar to the walled garden nightmare we see in cell phone based data applications).
- Vendor controls e-commerce on the platform and all associated content provided. Think you'll be getting a Counter Strike type mod for free?
- Vendor controls exclusive licensing so you'll have to buy into their platform if you want a specific game. Developers play a political game with releasing software on multiple platforms.
To sum it up... the main reason I don't like the trend of console gaming is the massive concentration of power it gives to a few large players. Each vendor wants to become like your cell phone provider, and that will be an absolute nightmare (the subject for another post).
As for commentary for the article, which talks a lot about how it's really expensive to be a PC gamer. You have to ask yourself if Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo are really trying to make gaming cheaper for you. They're not. They're trying to lock you (and game developers) into their system so they can make more money. I'll leave you with a few more points:
- Micropayments in XBox live will be a nightmare compared to the free game, player and map mods we're used to on the PC. Think ringtones and cell phone background screens. You do not want this genie out of the bottle.
- Awesome Mods like counterstrike and day of defeat will become a thing of the past because volunteers can no longer develop them without an expensive SDK and a lot of training.
- Windows provides a single massive platform for games. This produces a competitive ecosystem for developing new games and lowering prices. Developers will now have trouble targeting the three main platforms for their games. This means more expense, and less choice.
- The upcoming hardware might be nice and "cheap", but they will farm it out of you in $60 games, $50/year online fees and micropayments for any content going forward.
- PC hardware is no where near as expensive as they're claiming. I already have a PC. For between $100 and $150 I can get a card that does full effects at 1024x768 - more than the resolution of a vast majority of TVs and projectors out there. Plus the online service and all game mods are free.