Yesterday I read an interesting article over on Playfuls.com entitled “Did Consoles Kill the PC as a Gaming Platform?”. It had much to say about the ascendancy of console games, and there is certainly truth in that.

When I go to one of the local software stores – which isn’t often these days – I find the walls and many of the racks stocked with products for one console or another. Space for PC games is miniscule in comparison.

This isn’t surprising, of course. There are three main consoles and several handhelds all vying for market share, so naturally we expect plenty of games for them. Yet the dearth of PC products is disturbing.

One reason is companies turning more to the console market. Another is development time; PC games are taking longer to produce. But there are some other factors to consider.

Consoles, even at today’s prices, are much cheaper than the high-end computer needed to play modern PC games. The majority of households now have at least one computer, and it’s less expensive to buy a console for the kids to play on than upgrade the PC or buy a new one.

Which brings us to the heart of the matter. A fair number of PC games are, as we know, aimed at the “young male demographic”, the 18-32 range. I suspect the upper end of that range is beginning to dwindle.

There will always be the truly hardcore gamers, ready to upgrade or buy a system in order to play the “latest and greatest”. The rest, I believe, are beginning to feel differently.

Why spend the money to upgrade or purchase new, just to play “same-old, same-old”? Is yet another Diablo clone worth it? Is it really necessary to upgrade a system that can do everything perfectly well – except play games?

Further, many gamers are disenchanted, if not outright disgusted, by the sorry state of new releases. Hardly any of the “hot” games are playable out of the box. At least one patch is necessary, and usually more.

This isn’t endemic to the U.S., either. Gothic 3 was released in Europe first. By the time it reached here, it was up to v1.08, with still another patch needed. The problem is world-wide in the game industry.

Looking over Gamasutra’s list of the five top-selling PC games last week, the absence of Gothic 3, Neverwinter 2, and Dark Messiah is notable. These are supposed to be the “hot games” right now, but they seem to be selling poorly. Perhaps one reason is their poor condition on release.

Of course, we also had the release of two new consoles, but I don’t consider that really a factor. Fans will buy their favorite games regardless. Microsoft’s Flight Simulator X and Medieval II: Total War are both on the top five list, along with that perennnial seller, The Sims (and twice: once for Pets, and once for Holiday Edition).

That alone should tell us that PC games are far from dying. However, it may well be that the “young male” market may be drying up somewhat. There is little real innovation in most of those products. The emphasis is more on “jaw-dropping graphics” than anything else.

And as mentioned above, I think older gamers are becoming fed up with the entire cycle of frequent forced upgrades to play a shoddily-programmed reworking of the same old tired shooter/action/rpg.

So yes, that segment may be dying a slow, perhaps very slow, death. But that’s just a segment. The market for PC games is larger than that. Much larger. So I do agree with Dan Alexa who wrote the article on Playfuls: the day of PC games is far from over. But it would certainly help if the corporate side would widen up their vision somewhat.(see Violence: Whose Fault? for details).miniscorp

Did Consoles Kill the PC as a Gaming Platform? On Playfuls