It used to be that if you wanted the best gaming experience, you’d need to play your games on the computer. There were many reasons for this, including the raw power of computers, the ability to hook up to the Internet, and the ability to upgrade your hardware to play the most cutting edge games. While consoles have always had the advantage of “leveling the playing field” in terms of hardware and thus game performance, many hardcore gamers stuck to the computer.
Since the launch of the Xbox 360, the buzz around the “death of gaming PCs” has gotten much louder. First, from Sottozero:
It’s safe to say the gaming consoles are no longer just gaming consoles — they’re full-blown entertainment hubs. They’ve come of age, and they’ve got an attitude. And they threaten to kick traditional gaming PCs’ collective ass.
The gaming PC upgrade cycle is a rat race, an endless effort. With living room technology coming that’s as powerful as PS3 and Xbox 360 seem to be, it makes less and less sense to hop on the gaming PC carousel, particularly from a financial standpoint.
And second, from Paul Thurrott:
What’s interesting about this to me is that I’m a PC gamer from way back. When I moved to the PC from the Amiga in the mid-1990’s, I had to adapt to keyboard-based gaming and, later, with the advent of Quake and Duke Nukem 3D, to keyboard-and-mouse gaming. I’ve dabbled in video game systems since, but have really been more comfortable with the PC stuff. With Xbox 360 that’s changing. It’s exactly like when I switched from pure keyboard PC gaming.
The Xbox 360 (and the PS3 later next year) boasts raw power far exceeding most home computers for the foreseeable future, and it’s not unreasonable to expect that the next generation of consoles will extend the lead even farther. There’s more to gaming than just power though. Imagine trying to play Team Fortress Classic on the Xbox. I think back to my TFC days and one of the big things that sticks out in my mind is “key bindings”. You basically found a way to use every key on the keyboard – hard to do with a controller that only has a dozen or so buttons. Lots of other games wouldn’t port well to a console either, like World of Warcraft.
On the other hand, I think the fact that Internet connectivity has become so central for gaming consoles opens the door so to speak. I wouldn’t be surprised if consoles do gain the ability to play games like WOW, whether it’s from different controllers (sort of like keyboards) or just unique on-screen interfaces. The fact that Xbox Live is so deeply integrated into the console will definitely make MMO games more likely.
Truth be told, I haven’t really played computer games for a long time now. I have Age of Empires II installed, but it’s been ages since I last played. Maybe Paul is right when he says “I think we’re seeing the beginning of a big transition here.”