For years, pundits have been prophesying the death of PC gaming. It’s too expensive, they said, and with the rise of mobile platforms, there simply isn’t a market for it anymore. And for a time, it appeared as if they were right. PC sales plunged, and continue to do so, and mobile form factors, like tablets and phones, took off.
But in 2016, things looked a little less rosy in the mobile space than most imagine. We reached “peak smartphone” meaning that the market was mostly saturated, and tablet sales actually fell slightly. Meanwhile, the PC, long considered to be dead, was actually going through something of a renaissance. We saw the rise and mainstream adoption of some fabulous PC gaming technologies, including things like Adaptive Sync, high refresh rates, 4K and low-APIs, all making the experience on PC far superior to any other platform, including the consoles. PC gaming is the Rolls-Royce of gaming, and although console owners would never admit it, something to which they aspire.
According to CNET, PC games sales are expected to reach a whopping $29 billion dollars this year, eclipsing the $28 billion worth of video game sales in the console market. And if the trends are correct, that gap will continue to widen further. It seems as if we’re looking at the end of the era in which people play certain games on certain platforms, as this list of PC games like Clash of Clans makes clear. People want to be able to access players across platforms, including the PC, in order to play with their friends online and to have the experience of their choosing. Why should users be forced to play a game on their tiny mobile screen, just because it’s a “mobile game” when they have an enormous gaming monitor sitting in their study? And why should people who shell out for VR systems be cut off from the rest of the gaming community in special VR areas? This isn’t what gamers want, and the industry is listening.
The problem for developers at the moment is the proliferation of the many ways in which people can play games. Just a few years ago, there were consoles and PCs. But now there’s VR, streaming TV devices like the Steam Machine and Nvidia’s new console, as well as all the mobile devices you can imagine.
Brian Blau, a researcher from the research giant, Gartner, says that this has played into the PC’s hands. He points out that often the only way to play the latest titles at high fidelity is to play them on the PC. The PC isn’t limited by size or space, unlike tablets, and so there’s physically more room for the high-end components to run games like The Witcher 3 and Ashes of the Singularity.
The PC is also the only platform on which to have a pleasant VR experience. Consoles simply don’t have the horsepower to deliver what we might call “presence” in virtual reality. It all means that PC gaming is getting serious again, and we might be about to go full circle, from PC to console and back to PC.
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