I used to be a big PC fan, but lately my attention has largely centred around console games. Back then we had our Starcraft, Tycoons, Age of the Empires, Sims, Counter Strikes… these games, for the most part, didn’t require a super machine to play. Accessibility seemed more important then than it is now for PC game developers. The PC has evolved into this amazing piece of software, arguably the most powerful gaming platform with endless possibilities.
To be fair though, game developers also have more capable platforms to work with. So accessibility no longer means within one platform - it means the ability to make games look, play and run the best over the span of multiple platforms because console hardware can now keep up. This of course reaches larger audiences… but in a different way.
I think my affinity towards console gaming stems from an equal playing field. People’s set ups around the world are pretty much identical. TV, console, controller and you. Sure, there are deviations with the kind of TV you have or the speed of your connection, but for the most part… offline play anyway (okay.. sandbox games too, but you know what I mean), everyone essentially has the same experience. With the PC, they have gaming keyboards, mice or headsets, gaming computers or laptops, and then within those you have your graphics cards, sound cards or RAM. Now brings in the issue of “can your computer run this game smoothly and not burn itself to a crisp?”
I’m currently using the laptop my brother bought 3 years ago because it can run more games than my old laptop that I bought just under 2 years ago (I couldn’t even run Mass Effect). My laptop is constantly on top of a cooling fan, (the old one too… but run Starcraft II for more than 45 minutes? *tsssss) so that removes the portability aspect of my laptop. I can’t run games like Batman: Arkham City or Skyrim… see, at least if a game is released for a certain console, I know that I’ll be able to play it. I have a computer, but there’s all this extra stuff I have to know about before I should even consider buying games.
So then we have sites like “Can You Run It?" which gives you a list of games to choose from, pick the one you’re searching for and the site will run a diagnostics on your machine, telling you if you meet the basic requirements for running that game at its lowest settings. It shows you on a gradient scale, so that you can also see if you can run the game on its highest settings.
Where do I think things will go from here? PCs will only get more and more powerful. Their capacities and memory storage will continue to grow. On the console front, they’ll mostly be playing catch-up with the PC. I think they’ve given up on that though, and turned it into a war amongst themselves. “Who can create the coolest, more expensive new toy that everyone will drool over?” sort of thing. I don’t worry about the PC gaming industry though… the public constantly wants more and better and faster, so it’s not like PC developers will be making power-draining games so fast that people can’t catch up with their hardware. At least with consoles, you’ve got a 5-10 year turnover period before each company starts churning out another generation.
I do think that this makes console gaming a little more attractive to the less loyal, fanboy heavy gamers though. So maybe that’s the most dangerous part for the PC gaming industry.
EDIT: Of course, for the most part I’m talking about more mainstream games. There are a lot of gold nugget indie games, and those pretty much work for any PC you can guy today… however, they don’t draw in as much revenue as the big game stuff, making them somewhat less of a player in their power to dictate a platform’s future.