Are we seeing PC gaming's unlikely comeback?
20th Aug 2012 | 09:50
It's an Indian summer for PC gaming
Have reports of PC gaming's demise have been greatly exaggerated?
The latest news regarding PC games sales, up over 200%, along with box-office busting success from Diablo III suggest just that.
Of course, you can certainly make a case for a PC gaming industry on the slide. For starters, much of the mainstream media interest is dominated by the big games consoles. Those consoles are a lot more cost effective than PCs, too.
The purchase price of a console is a small fraction of a good gaming PC. And the life cycle of a console – as much as seven or eight years - is aeons compared to the relentless upgrade cycle of PCs.
Making matters worse, consoles have been that little bit more innovative when it comes to controllers and interfaces. Whether its the Wii shaking things up with motion sensors or Microsoft taking things a step further with Kinect and now SmartGlass, it's consoles that have been at the cutting edge.
At the same time, a lot of the buzz in terms of the growth of gaming of late has involved mobile devices - smartphones and tablets, in other words. Put simply, girls and older gamers aren't going to be getting into PC gaming.
Then there's the trend towards cloud gaming which threatens to pull the rug out entirely from the very idea of distinguishing between different platforms. If cloud gaming takes off in a big way, surely it will be endsville for the PC as a gaming device?
Maybe. But just about every time it looks like the towel is finally arcing across the canvas on PC gaming, it leaps up, Muhammed Ali style, and gets ready for another round.
In the last few years, it's been the success of the Steam platform from Valve and epic single-title online games like World of Warcraft that have made the argument for PC gaming's viability.
More recently, the crusty ancientness of the two high-tech (relatively speaking) consoles, the Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360, seems to have given PC gaming a lift. The gap between the graphical performance of consoles and PCs is now absolutely monstrous.
Will consoles continue to suffer?
The upshot of which is that PC game sales are up 230%, while console games have slipped 28%. Meanwhile, Diablo III topped the all-platform gaming charts earlier this year, something a PC title hasn't done for a while.
Right now, then, there's no question PC gaming is on the up, even if the money spinner that is World of Warcraft has seen its user base shrink. But will it last? Later this year, a raft of triple-A console titles are due - Halo 4, Grand Theft Auto 5 et al. That's bound to give the consoles a boost.
The next generation of console hardware is looming, too, which will be the real test for the PC. And if the rumours are right, both in hardware and software terms at least one of those new consoles could turn out to be little more than a gaming-optimised PC.
Exactly what that will do to the relationship between consoles and the PC is a very interesting question. But based purely on the PC's indisputable coffin-dodging ability, I'm going to predict that computing most resilient and adaptable platform will remain in the game for the foreseeable future.