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PC Game Market 'Becoming A Niche'?

Zonk posted about 8 years ago | from the delicious-delicious-niche dept.

169

simoniker writes "Gamasutra has quizzed game analysts from Wedbush Morgan, Screen Digest and DFC Intelligence on the state of the PC game biz, with thought-provoking results. From Michael Pachter's comments: 'The PC games market is becoming a niche, substantial in size, but a niche nonetheless.' David Cole also notes: 'When I first started covering the game industry back in 1994, the general consensus was PC games would dominate the market and console systems were doomed.' What changed?" How do you think Microsoft's recent push to treat the PC as the 'fourth console' will affect things?

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You're kidding, right? (3, Insightful)

popeguilty (961923) | about 8 years ago | (#16082172)

In the gaming industry, the platform that hosts World of Warcraft and its seven million subscribers is a niche market?

Re:You're kidding, right? (2, Insightful)

interiot (50685) | about 8 years ago | (#16082252)

I've got two friends who spend almost all their free time gaming. Both of them recently gave up PC gaming, citing HD, surround sound, and the ability to plop down on their couch while gaming as benefits of consoles, and having to spend $500+ every year to keep up with the latest games (and be competitive in multiplayer games) as downsides of PC gaming.

Personally, I've moved my PC to my living room, and I think PC's will always be where the most innovative games come out, so I'm sticking with the PC. But I'm not really any good at multiplayer games either, so...

Re:You're kidding, right? (1)

Erectile Dysfunction (994340) | about 8 years ago | (#16082313)

Hardware doesn't make you competitive in multiplayer games. People that play multiplayer games competitively turn off all of the features that they can to make the visuals simpler and easier to compete in. To spend $500/y on hardware you'd have to be buying a brand new video card every year or making some pretty poor hardware choices. Either way you can count the sale of one-year old computer hardware toward your new purchases. Video cards don't depreciate so rapidly that it's a total loss, and that's the most significant piece of hardware in modern games.

Re:You're kidding, right? (1)

Achoi77 (669484) | about 8 years ago | (#16082609)

People that play multiplayer games competitively turn off all of the features that they can to make the visuals simpler and easier to compete in.

I disagree

People turn of all the features not becuase it simplifies visuals, but rather to optimize PC performance by giving you a faster framerate allowing you to react faster, since most people don't have the latest and greatest hardware. I attest to this because this is what I do when I pvp. Trying to deathmatch at 17fps is much more difficult than trying to do it at 90fps. If I could deathmatch with all visuals on and at 90fps and the highest resolution, then I totally would. But I can't afford it. :-)

Re:You're kidding, right? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16082658)

... You have a 90Hz refresh rate on your monitor?

I've never understood people who want more frames-per-second than their monitor is capable of displaying.

Re:You're kidding, right? (1)

Ford Prefect (8777) | about 8 years ago | (#16082679)

... You have a 90Hz refresh rate on your monitor?

At low resolutions, my rescued-from-disposal EIZO monitors can manage 120Hz.

Of course, my graphics card can't manage to render new frames for all that... ;-)

Re:You're kidding, right? (1)

GundamFan (848341) | about 8 years ago | (#16082719)

Think of it as breathing space.

When you system running 90fps starts to choke it is less likely to drop below 30fps which is where most humans start to see flicker or at least get sea sick.

Re:You're kidding, right? (1)

Erectile Dysfunction (994340) | about 8 years ago | (#16082815)

My monitor will do 1600x1200@90Hz, and obviously higher at lower resolutions. It's a shame that the LCD market has cannibalized the professional CRT market, since you'll have little luck finding many new CRTs with that sort of bandwidth.

Re:You're kidding, right? (1)

onkelonkel (560274) | about 8 years ago | (#16082891)

My old Viewsonic G90FB 19" which is far from top of line will sync 1024 x 768 @ 120Hz

Why am I replying to an AC?

Re:You're kidding, right? (1)

AuMatar (183847) | about 8 years ago | (#16082701)

They turn them off for both reasons. Turning off details and removing things like ground cover can help you to notice things quicker. As you have lower detail, you have fewer distractions and less cover to hide in. The framerate is really the least important reason to drop graphical options, unless you have older hardware.

Re:You're kidding, right? (1)

Erectile Dysfunction (994340) | about 8 years ago | (#16082775)

People turn off the features to simplify the visuals. Competitive players do this in CounterStrike for crying out loud, and it's not because they can't obtain 90fps with their computers.

Re:You're kidding, right? (4, Insightful)

richdun (672214) | about 8 years ago | (#16082377)

HD? Surround sound? Do you friends realize PC gaming has been pushing high res and surround sound for years? Sure, poly counts aren't always enough to make things look like real life, but my two year old machine can still crank out just about anything on my 20" wide monitor (1680 x 1050...so 10 lines short of HD, whatever) and optically connected DTS/Dolby Digital surround sound.

Re:You're kidding, right? (2, Insightful)

AcidLacedPenguiN (835552) | about 8 years ago | (#16082437)

I've got to say that if your friends have to spend $500+ (I'm assuming CAD) per year just to stay competitive in multiplayer games they are either doing something wrong or aren't very good at them. I spent $1500 a year ago and I can still compete in all the latest games, and will still be able to (as I ramp details down) compete probably for the next 2 years atleast. My last machine before this one was a PIII 450mhz machine, and had only missed out on a year or two of PC games with only about $400 worth of upgrades (that's since I got it in around '98).
If you can live without having 90xAA (exageration) then you can probably go a few years, some key strategic upgrades and they'll last a lot longer.
I've moved my PC into my living room aswell, and it seems to have worked out nicely for me. I do have to say though that I still consider myself a console gamer too, I just think comparing PC to console is apples to oranges. PC games do things that console games can't, and vice versa. I mean, there's nothing like sharing a couch with a few other people and blasting the crap out of each other, all in the same room.

Re:You're kidding, right? (2, Insightful)

grammar fascist (239789) | about 8 years ago | (#16083068)

've got to say that if your friends have to spend $500+ (I'm assuming CAD) per year just to stay competitive in multiplayer games they are either doing something wrong or aren't very good at them. I spent $1500 a year ago and I can still compete in all the latest games, and will still be able to (as I ramp details down) compete probably for the next 2 years atleast.

Let's see. $1500, and you're set for 3 years. $1500 / 3 = $500, which is what the GP claimed.

Fascinating.

Re:You're kidding, right? (1)

AcidLacedPenguiN (835552) | about 8 years ago | (#16083261)

. . .at which point I spend another $200-$300 and extend it for another 2 or 3 years. If you had chosen to read the rest of my response, I stated that my last system lasted from 1998 until approximately 2004, with about $300 in upgrades. Also, the GP said $500 every year, implying that was above and beyond the initial purchase price. Once again, I've been hoisted by my own (unclear, I'll give you that) implications.

Re:You're kidding, right? (4, Insightful)

twistedsymphony (956982) | about 8 years ago | (#16082271)

Yeah, I don't think it's so much a niche market as it's a SILENT market. Meaning a whole lot of the people who game on PC don't really consider themselves gamers, they don't camp out at Best Buy for the latest releases, they don't bombard message boards about their hobby. They'll pickup something that looks fun while they're out shopping for other things, or download something and play it in their spare time.

You can't track sales of PCs that get used for gaming like you can consoles that get used for gaming... and the number of games available for the PC dilutes the market so you don't get clear winners like you do on a console with only a fraction of the library. PC games have a lot more staying power too. PC gamers are likely to buy WoW or EVE and be good for the next 6 months to a year, unlike console gamers who buy a gamer or two every month (because that's about how long most of them last). Not to mention the mod community adds to the longevity of a PC game's life.

I wouldn't call PC games a niche market... PC gamers are just a DIFFERENT market, the gamers who play there have different tastes and attitudes towards gaming and the machines are good at running different types of games. The back and forth is pretty pointless because neither platform is going anywhere anytime soon.

Re:You're kidding, right? (2, Insightful)

badboy_tw2002 (524611) | about 8 years ago | (#16082337)

So you're saying its a different, smaller market that you can't make as many sales to and you need customize how you make your product because the gamers have different tastes and attitudes. ...

Yep, not a niche!

You misunderstand (1)

TheAxeMaster (762000) | about 8 years ago | (#16082682)

The parent never said smaller, just quieter. You can't use the same metrics because it is a different kind of market. The PC games market has a broader base than the console market, but when you're just comparing AAA titles, it looks smaller. And most AAA titles (read: sequels) aren't worth a shit anyway, so who cares?
 
I own a PC and game with it because it fits my style and has a better control scheme for the games I like to play (RTS, RPG). Then there's MMOs, web puzzle games, and a host of others that I have access to also. The console is only beginning to approach this, and is arguably a poorer solution for it.

Re:You're kidding, right? (1)

Duds (100634) | about 8 years ago | (#16082381)

That's precisely WHY it's a niche market. The PC gamers spend their money on WOW, not on buying games.

Therefore to EB and the like it becomes irrelevent.

Re:You're kidding, right? (1)

Sinnix (898301) | about 8 years ago | (#16082572)

Do you understand the term niche? If everyone on PC is playing a single game, then that is in fact a niche! But if we broaden that to: MMOs, RTSs, FPSs, and PopCap puzzle games then we have... oh look at that... still a niche market.

Re:You're kidding, right? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16083092)

As someone that has been around for a number of decades I can assure you these sorts of things go cycles.

The PC will always have a faster system. (1)

Cybert4 (994278) | about 8 years ago | (#16082201)

Some people look at graphics and CPU and note that consoles seem kilomteres ahead. Consider RAM--consoles will never have tons of gigabytes of space. Or hard disk space--for that matter. And despite all the cell's cores, we'll have more cores with PC's. SLI will never go into consoles as well. For the top end (yes, some gamers do have money), it's PC.

Re:The PC will always have a faster system. (2, Insightful)

MustardMan (52102) | about 8 years ago | (#16082242)

That's the point though... the top end is almost always a niche market. Ferarris cater to a niche market of people want the highest-end sports car, 65" plasma HDTVs cater to the niche high-end home theater market, and PC games cater to the niche high-end hardcore gamer market.

Re:The PC will always have a faster system. (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | about 8 years ago | (#16082355)

That's why games offer an options menu that lets you turn the graphics down a lot. You can play most games on a pretty old rig but if you have the latest and greatest you can turn them up so they look better. Few if any console games offer the ability to look better on future hardware that may be backwards compatible (exceptions include the Super Gameboy and Gameboy Color, some games looked better on those while still running on the old grey brick).

Re:The PC will always have a faster system. (1)

EComni (998601) | about 8 years ago | (#16082473)

But, considering that far too many games these days are ending up as playable tech demos, what's the point? Who wants to play Doom 3 on minimum specs? People who really want to play it for the gameplay??

Few if any console games offer the ability to look better on future hardware that may be backwards compatible
Not exactly true. Since the last generation, older games (PS1/XBox) running on the newer hardware (PS2/360) will at least allow for better anti-aliasing.

Re:The PC will always have a faster system. (1)

Jett (135113) | about 8 years ago | (#16082776)

I played Doom3 on minimum specs - the gameplay obviously wasn't there so I never played it again. I also played HL2/HL2DM/CS:S on minimum specs for almost a year before upgrading my computer so it runs better and looks nice now - the gameplay obviously was there. For people who play FPS games, particularly multiplayer, the PC is where it is at and probably always will be.

Re:The PC will always have a faster system. (2, Insightful)

PrescriptionWarning (932687) | about 8 years ago | (#16082253)

Consoles only seem ahead for most games. But take a look at Oblivion, which clearly looks better on PC than the 360, even though it still looks pretty good on the 360.

The main difference here, thus my preference for the PC version, is the modding. There's so many worthwhile mods out there now that there is no way i could play the vanilla game ever again. If more games were to value the aftermarket effect of moddable games, they'd certainly see sales a year or more after the game first came out. Just look at CounterStrike!

Re:The PC will always have a faster system. (1)

Jaysyn (203771) | about 8 years ago | (#16083476)

People are still buying Neverwinter Nights, 4 years after it was released... As far as online RPGs go you don't get much more moddable than that game...

Jaysyn

Re:The PC will always have a faster system. (1)

DilbertLand (863654) | about 8 years ago | (#16082263)

I haven't seen anything on consoles that even compairs to a decent gaming PC setup in terms of graphics. People must be comparing $400 bare bone Dell systems when they come to that conclusion...

Re:The PC will always have a faster system. (1)

BlahMatt (931052) | about 8 years ago | (#16082278)

You just said it: "Some gamers do have money" . That's the niche that it will fit into. Gaming on a PC is just becoming too expensive. People can't afford to buy an Dual SLI system unless they want to spend two months worth of paychecks.

Also, why would you say that consoles will never have hard disk space. They are using hard drives. It isn't too much of a hassle to throw in a larger one, or even a disk array. Same with "cores" as you put it. Also, why will consoles never have Gigs of ram?

Sure, currently PC's are the way to go if you want really high end performance, but if you are loboking for an average gaming experience (most people) then console gaming is way cheaper and is nearing the same performance level.

That is why it says a "niche" market. The niche being people who are willing to spend significant amounts of money on their systems for gaming.

Re:The PC will always have a faster system. (1)

Ford Prefect (8777) | about 8 years ago | (#16082573)

People can't afford to buy an Dual SLI system unless they want to spend two months worth of paychecks.

BUT YOU DON'T NEED A SODDING EXPENSIVE DUAL-THINGY MACHINE TO HAVE FUN PLAYING PC GAMES!

Almost any halfway-decent modern PC will do a halfway-decent job of playing most computer games at more than acceptable visual quality levels. Yes, you can spend ridiculous amounts of money on something that'll let you run a stupid resolutions and framerates, but the games themselves are the same. Take Half-Life 2, for instance - Valve obviously put a lot of work into making it run well on low-end machines. I first played it on an elderly, near-agricultural 1.1GHz Athlon with a cheapy GeForce 4 graphics card. It was still fun, and looked and sounded better than on the eventual Xbox version.

Yes, the machine cost more than a games console - but it was also the machine I used for all my other computing stuff. I'd upgraded it a bit for games, but that extra gaming ability cost a lot less than an Xbox or Playstation 2 of the time.

My current games machine wasn't even bought to play games - it's a MacBook Pro. But it's a lot faster than my desktop PC, and that additional games-playing-ness amounted to the price of an OEM copy of Windows XP.

Lots of people have fairly modern PCs, not primarily bought for gaming. Yes, there's a niche, hardcore market of nutters who spend a fortune extracting every last ounce of performance out of cutting-edge hardware, but modern computers are pretty capable. And the minimum specs for a Windows Vista machine should result in some pretty nifty graphics capabilities as standard, for everyone....

Re:The PC will always have a faster system. (1)

EComni (998601) | about 8 years ago | (#16082334)

Consider RAM--consoles will never have tons of gigabytes of space. Or hard disk space--for that matter.
That's because PCs (and the OSs that run them) aren't designed just for gaming.

For the top end (yes, some gamers do have money), it's PC.
The same can be said for that "top end" that have to own big-screen TVs and high-end sport cars. They're still niche. That said, like the first poster already stated, WoW alone prevents PC gaming from being niche. I dunno if it's as widespread or well-known as a console Madden or GTA, but it's kinda hard to call that large of a userbase a niche.

Re:The PC will always have a faster system. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16082335)

For the top end (yes, some gamers do have money), it's PC.

" ... and that is why you fail"

Seriously though, PC gaming is becomming a Niche product that only really suits the graphics whores and MMO players because of the need to upgrade your PC for new games; face it I have a 2.53GHz Pentium 4 PC (with a Geforce 4800) at home (which sits next to my gaming rig) that works perfectly for everything except for gaming. How many people are really willing to spend $200-$400 every 12 to 18 months just to play videogames when you can spend $200 for a console and use the hardware for 4-7 years?

"Oooo but it looks better on the PC"

Does I look like I care that much anymore? The only reason I upgrade my PC is because I can only play MMO games on it; if there was a viable option on consoles I would never upgrade my PC again.

PC is faster, but console is more optimized (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 8 years ago | (#16082353)

When you're working for PC, you, at the very least, have to take into account the quirks of ATI and nVidia, of Intel and AMD, and more often than not also different additional problems that might arise when manufacturer build shoddy Graphics Cards and/or MoBos around them. Or you can simply forgo any optimization for CPU/GPU and go with DX, which, in turn, means currently that you'll have to dev for DX9 and DXX.

This means that you have less time to optimize for PCs, because you have to optimize for different quirks and different supported additional goodies. Or not optimize at all.

Consoles only have one config. Plain and simple. You can spend your time optimizing for THIS config, because there simply cannot be a different one.

This does not cover progress forever, but it does give a console usually a lot more lifetime than it would have as a PC.

Re:The PC will always have a faster system. (1)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | about 8 years ago | (#16082506)

While your point is somewhat true, the things you mention are embarrassingly wrong.

Consider RAM--consoles will never have tons of gigabytes of space.

Maybe not, but they don't have that much less right now. Perhaps they will never have as much space as PCs, but then, consoles will also never have the spyware to fill it. In any case, saying that they will never have gigabytes of RAM is just stupid. The N64 had an upgrade that gave you 4 megs more RAM, which was a huge improvement. Compare that to the specs for today's consoles -- even last gen, the PS2 had 32 megs.

So yes, consoles will eventually have that, but PC gaming may be far beyond it by then.

Or hard disk space--for that matter.

I have a 100 gig Windows partition set aside for gaming. I don't use most of it, I just occasionally uninstall games. And I don't have a single savegame over 50 or 100 megs, so I could even save all my savegames and reinstall the games later if I want.

And the larger the environments get, the more we might see procedural generation, which actually uses insanely less disk space -- there was a 96 kilobyte modern FPS for Windows recently. It uses more RAM, but it could just as easily generate the level and save it in some temporary disk file while you're playing, then delete it when you're done.

I'd argue that it's nice to have RAID, but really, the disk doesn't seem to be the bottleneck for loading games anymore, it seems to be the CPU. Besides, simply moving to a hard disk for this will speed up console games immensely -- that is, the ones that actually have any loading times to speak of. I can still list far more console games than PC games which do dynamic loading, and games aren't nearly complex enough yet that I could move fast enough through a game that the hard disk couldn't keep up.

And despite all the cell's cores, we'll have more cores with PC's.

Yes. Yes we will. And they will all be CPUs.

As I understand it, the point of the Cell is, rather than having a CPU and a GPU, they have tons of cores, each of which is good at a specific kind of math, so if you can split up your program properly... Remember the buzz about the physics and AI cards, even a gaming network card? All that stuff comes standard on the Cell.

SLI will never go into consoles as well.

Are you fucking serious? The PS2 -- which came out far before there was a hint of SLI on desktop systems -- had two vector processing units. It's not exactly a new concept.

In any case, the Xbox 360 seems to be able to handle high def output just fine. I've never seen a computer scale any modern game to that much resolution.

For the top end (yes, some gamers do have money), it's PC.

For gamers who can afford the PC upgrade cycle to be able to truly claim power as their reason for not using consoles, they probably could buy a console or two anyway. I know I'll be seriously debating whether to upgrade my gaming rig or buy a Wii. That's not to say that I won't keep playing on the PC, or upgrade it later, but the biggest problem I have with consoles these days is political -- I don't want to support either Sony or Microsoft.

Re:The PC will always have a faster system. (1)

ravenshrike (808508) | about 8 years ago | (#16083458)

It's not that they're good at a specific type of math, it's that they are better than general logic cores at doing a single type of math at a time, but if you try to get them doing more than one type of activity they become much less efficient than a general logic core.

Ignore it (1)

Tanmi-Daiow (802793) | about 8 years ago | (#16082228)

It is just another "Death is coming to the PC gaming market" article in the guise of "niche market is coming to the pc gaming market". Just ignore it.

Market (2, Interesting)

the computer guy nex (916959) | about 8 years ago | (#16082243)

"In the gaming industry, the platform that hosts World of Warcraft and its seven million subscribers is a niche market?"

You do know 7 million subscribers is less than the number of copies Blizzard has sold with Diablo2 and with Starcraft right?

PC's are becoming a niche market - for MMORPG's. Everything else to this point seems better fit for a console.

The number of dollars saved from having to test and develop for endless combinations of CPU/GPU/OS/etc is enormous. That extra time/money is spent enhancing the game rather than just making it work.

Re:Market (2, Insightful)

Aladrin (926209) | about 8 years ago | (#16082325)

You are assuming that # of subs = # of copies sold. This is not true.

I don't know the numbers, but I'm guessing there were a LOT more copies sold than current subscriptions.

FPS and RTS too (1)

Optic7 (688717) | about 8 years ago | (#16082327)

PC's are becoming a niche market - for MMORPG's. Everything else to this point seems better fit for a console.

I'm sure there will be a ton of replies to mention that FPS and RTS games are also still better suited for PCs, because of the controllers. However this could quickly change if the Wii's controller does the job well.

Re:Market (4, Informative)

thebdj (768618) | about 8 years ago | (#16082427)

You do know 7 million subscribers is less than the number of copies Blizzard has sold with Diablo2 and with Starcraft right?
I call partial BS. I will give you Starcraft and the 9 million copies. The numbers [wikipedia.org] here may be a bit old, but you will have a hard time, without a valid updated sales number, proving that they managed to sell another 3 million copies of D2. Don't forget this platform also has The Sims at nearly 20 million. I would hardly call this a niche market yet.

The number of dollars saved from having to test and develop for endless combinations of CPU/GPU/OS/etc is enormous. That extra time/money is spent enhancing the game rather than just making it work.
I call BIG BS on this one. I do not think there is nearly as much combination testing as you think. Also, this notion they are spending more time and money to enhance the game is laughable. One of the biggest complaints about the industry has been a repetition of gameplay with only graphics getting better. Don't forget your PC has more storage for a) better graphics, b) more levels, and c) more gameplay/extras. I do not buy this notion that less testing somehow equals more work on the game. Remeber for PC, you have an unlimited beta community. You can do pre-release betas and thanks to the patching (which apparently consoles are slowly catching onto) you can fix the bugs you didn't catch in Betas.

Re:Market (1)

kafka47 (801886) | about 8 years ago | (#16083026)

I would hardly call this a niche market yet.

Good point. And also the games that are not on this list. Millions of people playing casual games or web-based casual. Also there are plenty of games overseas that never see the light of day in North America, yet are vastly more popular in terms of subscribership than many of the games listed there.

I call BIG BS on this one. I do not think there is nearly as much combination testing as you think.

Ouch. :-)

Well unfortunately for us, it's pretty true in any type of consumer-level software development. Audio, Processor, Network, Video, OS (patch-level, revision and hotfix), Libraries, Browser, Network, Drivers... your game may touch one or more of these types of components. If you're lucky, you'll come out relatively unscathed. The companies that briskly test on few platforms more often than not get caught and spend even more money in an expensive patch/validation process. One example is the Readme for Age of Empires. Look at all those videocards that they don't support!

Re:Market (1)

VGPowerlord (621254) | about 8 years ago | (#16083249)

I don't have AOE3 installed at the moment, but I know that it ran (albeit slowly) on my 6 or so year old Radeon 9000 Pro card.

While I really need to upgrade my video card, that's not the point I'm trying to make. The point is... how old are the cards on that list?

Re:Market (1)

timeOday (582209) | about 8 years ago | (#16083488)

Remeber for PC, you have an unlimited beta community.
Yup, even after you go gold. "Sell now, patch later." That's part of why I quit PC gaming.

Online cheating didn't help either, but neither am I willing to let Steam take over my computer. But I don't so much mind DRM in a console, because it doesn't interfere with more important applications.

Re:Market (1)

VJ42 (860241) | about 8 years ago | (#16082435)

Everything else to this point seems better fit for a console.

What console is a "better fit" FOR Civ 4, Rome total War, the C&C series or any other RTS game and most decent FPS games (COD, Battlefield & Steam all play best on the PC)? PC gaming is far from dead in any of the afore mentioned generes; and they certainly arn't "better fit" to console gaming.

Re:Market (1)

DrEldarion (114072) | about 8 years ago | (#16083153)

I almost feel dirty saying it, as Nintendo fanboyism is so rampant around these parts, but the Wii probably will be.

Re:Market (1)

CronoCloud (590650) | about 8 years ago | (#16083500)

Any console with a USB port.

It isn't that consoles can't do those games, it's just they don't often get ported.

Personally I've got the PSone versions of C&C, C&C Red Alert, Civ II, and Dune 2000.

And by the way, Steam is a delivery system, not a game.

Re:Market (3, Insightful)

rwven (663186) | about 8 years ago | (#16082542)

The funny thing about your statement is that you fail to realize that 99% of all top-end, ground-breaking First/Third Person Shooters are released on the PC long before they make it to any consoles...

Same with RTS games...and adventure games...and flight simulators...(and MMORPG's)...I could go on and on.

It seems to me like Consoles are a just niche for sports, fighting and racing games...and a lot of those are even released at the same time or slightly earlier on the PC...

There was an article on /. on the recent past talking about how all the "PC's are dying" doomsdayers were all wrong and how PC gaming is making a large comeback.

Re:Market (2, Interesting)

advocate_one (662832) | about 8 years ago | (#16082906)

There was an article on /. on the recent past talking about how all the "PC's are dying" doomsdayers were all wrong and how PC gaming is making a large comeback.
kindly explain to me then just why it is that shelf space for PC games is shrinking in the shops... you're lucky these days if you have two racks... most of the shops in my city just have the one cabinet and most of that is devoted to budget games and pre-owned.

The entire rest of the shelfspace in the shops is devoted to console games and consoles... just face it, it's far easier to sell console games as you know you won't have hassles with customers coming back moaning that they can't run this or that game or if they could, it crawled even with all the settings turned down.

Re:Market (1)

rwven (663186) | about 8 years ago | (#16083369)

Ever heard of best buy? Walmart? Target? These and plenty of other retailers that have PC game sections far larger than any single console section.

The Target I go to often carries about 30 games for each console...and then has an entire aisle featuring PC games.

The Walmart I go to has one whole aisle for PC games and one whole aisle for all brands of console games...

The best buy I go to has 2 aisles for console games and 6 aisles for PC games.

The only major retailer who's done anything in the way of making their PC game sections smaller is gamestop/ebgames. They just cut out the PC games altogether and they deal with 75% used console games now.

Re:Market (1)

xenocide2 (231786) | about 8 years ago | (#16082951)

I must be confused, I'm pretty sure tons of PC games get released simultaneously with the Xbox (if not before). Really, about the only things I see on store shelves for PC of any merit are first person shooters and MMORPGs. Any "PC gaming ISNT dying" article would have to square with the miniscule shelf space given to PC games in stores.

Re:Market (1)

rwven (663186) | about 8 years ago | (#16083400)

Miniscule? Read my previous reply. You need to shop around before you form some biased opinion against PC gaming. I own a gaming PC and two consoles. It was three consoles until last weekend when I sold one of them. There's nothing "biased" about what I'm saying. I'm dealing with logic. The article at hand is dealing with emotion and worthless conjecture.

Re:Market (1)

ravenshrike (808508) | about 8 years ago | (#16083511)

Actually, if you seperate the console sections and then screen out the perephials and game systems themselves, the section for just teen and up PC games is larger, sometimes up to twice as large, than that for consoles, at least at best buy. Add in the Kiddie games, and that goes to 4-5 times.

Re:Market (1, Insightful)

Austerity Empowers (669817) | about 8 years ago | (#16083051)

Consoles are for games that have been tried out and refined on a PC first. PCs are for anything new and inventive comes out first for a really simple, obvious, reason: there's no financial barrier. Way back in 94 when PCs were dominating, was about the time consoles were in a rut because there wasn't enough innovation, but PCs had some pretty different, entertaining games. 3D graphics were just being demonstrated as viable in real time (although computers had been doing it a while, it really lept forward around then). Unfortunately because PCs have such problems with wide component variance, they are niche, because only a small audience has the ability to make them work.

Ultimately, some of what PCs did well in that era, drove for new console architectures that put them where they are today. Not all genre's made it, and unfortunately we're still lacking in adventure games and straight up RPGs.

I wouldn't expect PC gaming will disappear, except from EB stores. It will likely shift to primarily online sales, and that sure as hell beats camping out best buy.

Re:Market (1)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | about 8 years ago | (#16082613)

PC's are becoming a niche market - for MMORPG's. Everything else to this point seems better fit for a console.

FPS. I like the mouse.

RTS. And the genre isn't dead, there are still interesting things being done with games like Natural Selection and Tremulous.

Mods. Free games. Everything on a console seems to have a price tag these days. While Steam is leading the PC in that same general direction, it's still possible to find a huge number of very interesting, very fun games that you can download and play for free, that only require that you've bought one game.

Development. As an aspiring game developer, I need games to work on my development machine. Unless Sony can clean up their act to where I'd touch them with a 10 foot pole AND actually make the PS3 enough of a "computer" that I can use it as a development rig, my development machine will remain a PC.

The number of dollars saved from having to test and develop for endless combinations of CPU/GPU/OS/etc is enormous.

Give me a number or stop talking out your ass.

I'd argue it's significantly easier to develop using something like RenderWare, or even your own custom engine on top of SDL/OpenGL and make it run on Windows, Linux, and OS X, than to develop for the three or four consoles out right now, trying to squeeze every last bit out of each one without going too far.

That extra time/money is spent enhancing the game rather than just making it work.

Interesting... I'd rather some console games spent more time just making it work. Nothing sucks more than to have it destroy your game halfway through, and often no way to get a patch. PC games, at least it's possible to patch, backup your savegames, etc.

MPU! (1)

anti-human 1 (911677) | about 8 years ago | (#16083116)

First off, neither consoles nor PCs (for gaming) are going away. There are billions of dollars on both sides that want to keep the best gaming experience on their platform.

I, for one, would appreciate any developer's motivation to develop for SDL/cross OS gaming. As a PC, mac (mostly retro), and occasional console gamer (have a gamecube and xbox, don't shoot!), I feel that DirectX should be abandoned. Coupled with Vista, it looks to me like just another way for Microsoft to push around yet another market. I value PC gaming on the (dwindling?) merits of its gameplay. I still play CS, and haven't got into many other FPSes since. I played CS for so long because of the game mechanics, and the quality of the experience. Note: I don't just jump into any old CS server. I know damn well some servers can be garbage. I play with people I've played with for quite some time, which heightens the competitiveness, as well as the social value.

I don't, however, value graphics as much as you'd say the average PC gamer does. I've played on the low-spec side of the hardware curve since day 1. As long as the game doesn't drag along, I'll keep playing. I dropped Battlefield 2 like you wouldn't believe. BF2 is the prime example of where I fear PC gaming is going. Bloated games made to sell more expensive hardware. Sure, the maps are huge, which would require plenty of muscle, but loading times and the overall lack of polish are the killer.

I'll stay where the games I like are. I don't like how closed down consoles are for the games that could stand to be modded, but for highly structured online games like racers, It makes perfect sense to keep the consumer out of the hardware and software.

Re:Market (1)

thevoice99 (881959) | about 8 years ago | (#16082896)

If there is one thing you can count on Microsoft for its their marketing department. They decided it would make more sense to sell hardware at a loss with the hope of a recoop than stick with PC gaming. Sure they are doing DX 10 with Vista but its pretty obvious where their energy is going. 6 out of 9 of the latest releases from Microsoft Game Studios are X360 only.

Re:Market (1)

RingDev (879105) | about 8 years ago | (#16083225)

So 14 million copies at $40 = $560 million.

7 million copies at $40 = $280 million.

3 million subscribers paying $13.95/month for a full year = $502 million per year.

Even if that number drops off dramatically after three years, they're still set to gross well over a billion dollars on the WoW franchise. With expansions and a continued fan base, they'll have have no problem pulling down billions more.

Calling PC Gaming "niche" is like calling Microsoft "niche". Like whys, calling console gaming "niche" is just as blind. Both will continue to exist, both will thrive and stumble, but the headline "Video game market expected to continue on." just doesn't pull in the crowds like something sensational like "Your favorite band sucks!"

-Rick

different focus (3, Interesting)

EggyToast (858951) | about 8 years ago | (#16082246)

I think PC games will have to stop focusing on having the most whiz-bang graphics and actually try to be innovative. The recent spat of high quality FPSs have explored new ways of story telling... but are still, very obviously, FPSs.

With the constant push for fancier and fancier graphics, the push for new hardware keeps people from really getting into gaming on PCs. There are PC gamers, and then there's people who play old games and puzzle games. Sure, you can drop your graphics down a notch and play some of the newest games, but even then they don't often work (and often the graphics that are reduced truly affect the gameplay or ambience, making the game no longer all that fun).

We just had a super-cheesy "article" about why consoles are better, but regardless of subjectivity, it's very true that with consoles people only need to buy one thing, and then are free to play any game for that system. People aren't afraid of gaming on consoles. If Microsoft succeeds in making Vista a "stable target" for game development, with any game that's "Vista-approved" playable to high standards, then I think it could come back. But playing with a mouse/kb is limiting as well, and the gamepad market is all but extinct. If nothing major changes, then PC gaming will likely remain a niche for the forseeable future.

Pachter Strikes Again (2, Informative)

gorbachev (512743) | about 8 years ago | (#16082247)

I swear every time this clown opens his moouth, I feel the urge to punch things.

As clueless as he always is, I'm sure he is bound to have heard of World of Warcraft, the most successful video game on any platform, ever.

Niche my ass.

Re:Pachter Strikes Again (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16082362)

Mod parent up please, I can't believe this made the headlines here. It's stupid flamebait and really, WoW says NO to this.

Re:Pachter Strikes Again (2, Informative)

AndyG314 (760442) | about 8 years ago | (#16082394)

World of Warcraft, the most successful video game on any platform, ever.
By what criteria do you declare WoW to be the most successful video game ever? If you were going by total units sold, wikipedia gives that to the sims for the pc at over 16 million, and original mario borthers sold over 40 million (though it was bundled with the NES so that number is kinda skewed). WoW isn't the top grossing game of all time eather.

Re: WoW the most successful video game ever (1)

gorbachev (512743) | about 8 years ago | (#16082636)

WoW has 7,000,000 active subscribers.

That's roughly $100M every single month. That's $1.2B per year.

And since it's subscriptions revenue, it's ALL going to Blizzard/Vivendi unlike revenue from copies sold, where the publisher/developer has to give a cut to the retailers and others involved in selling the game.

Mario might've sold 40 million copies. At $30 a pop that's about the same amount of money WoW makes in a year. At $40 a pop, 15 months worth of revenue. At $50 a pop 20 months.

I'd love to have a position at Blizzard that receives performance based bonuses. I think I'd be driving several of my dream cars by now.

Re:Pachter Strikes Again (1)

Darth_Burrito (227272) | about 8 years ago | (#16082869)

7 million subscribers @ $50 for game = $350 million
7 million subscribers @ $15 / month = $1260 million / year
Total: $1.6 billion + $1.2 billion/year

Box office totals for the top grossing movies:
Titanic: $600 million
Star Wars: $461 million
Shrek 2: $436 million
Total: $1.5 billion

I would not be the least bit surprised if World of Warcraft was the most successful entertainment venture of all time.

Dupe! (1)

kamapuaa (555446) | about 8 years ago | (#16082258)

It seems like people are saying this every two hours and thirteen minutes. That's how long it took from the last story on games.slashdot, that said pretty much the exact same thing.

Re:Dupe! (1)

regular_gonzalez (926606) | about 8 years ago | (#16082560)

Well, there's certainly *something* going on. I clearly remember in the late 90s, going into CompUSA or BestBuy and having a huge section devoted to PC games. Both of these retailers have shrunk the PC section down year-by-year, until in CompUSA it's down to the front and back of 2 very short aisles, or about 1/3 of what they (nominally a computer store) devote to console games. The situation is even worse at retailers like Wal-Mart. The PC gaming market is absolutely smaller than it was 5 years ago. OTOH, consoles have and will continue to become more computer-like. I'm reasonably confident that the next generation will come standard with keyboard/mouse, making it a de facto gaming computer, thus bringing the argument full circule. The mod scene might suffer, though.

Whatever (1)

Rhys (96510) | about 8 years ago | (#16082283)

Until MMOs die out (not looking likely) and voice chat takes the place of MMO text chat (yes just what I want to hear the oriental gold farmer spam-yelling "GOLD LOVEBUY SIXTY FOR ONE THOUSAND" in a bad accent), you can bet that PC gaming isn't going anywhere. Or until consoles get keyboards, I suppose, but those aren't usually standard equipment even if they are available.

Blizzard is claiming 7 mil subscribers right now. They're paying them $15 a month, which is about 3-4 games a year. Plus the expansion (when it comes out) and the initial game cost. So that's 21 to 28 million "copies" sold in what, two-ish years? Those numbers approach the "sales" numbers of some of the console world's bundled video games.

Re:Whatever (1)

Babbster (107076) | about 8 years ago | (#16082612)

It may not "go anywhere," but that still doesn't make it any less "niche." Even Civilization 4 (since you mentioned it) virtually requires a graphics upgrade for someone 2-3 years behind to run, and it's a turn-based strategy game!

I don't think anyone with PC gaming experience could contend that PC gaming isn't fun, but compared to console gaming it's absolutely a niche market. It has fewer games with high production values, it requires more work and money to keep up with technology and PC games are harder to play.

Upgrading (0)

LX765 (971520) | about 8 years ago | (#16082286)

I used to be into PC gaming pretty heavily, but over time it became too expensive of a habit. To keep up with the latest games, you're forced to constantly upgrade your computer. If you don't, you end up playing the same games all the time. They only come out with a new console every 5 years or so. With console gaming, there's no tweaking, fixing drivers, etc... the games just work. The gaming experience as a whole is definitely better on a PC, it's just way more of a hassle. With a console, it's so much eaiser, and I enjoy it more because i can be on the couch in front of my 50" TV instead of sitting up at a desk looking at a much smaller monitor.

You're living in the wrong territory (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | about 8 years ago | (#16082320)

Come to Germany, look at the store shelves and try telling me PC gaming is a niche. Yeah, a niche that gets more shelf space than all consoles combined!

Re:You're living in the wrong territory (1)

hal2814 (725639) | about 8 years ago | (#16082881)

"Yeah, a niche that gets more shelf space than all consoles combined!"

Yeah, in a market that is very small compared to just about any other video game market.

Simple Maths. (0)

Chaffar (670874) | about 8 years ago | (#16082323)

When I first started covering the game industry back in 1994, the general consensus was PC games would dominate the market and console systems were doomed.' What changed?"
Back in 1994, a top of the line PC (a first-gen Pentium chip, since Pentiums started around 1993) would run the latest games, i.e Doom2: Hell On Earth, Sim City 2000, with the "details" (yes I know) at their maximum settings.
However, the next 10 years were characterized by games that wouldn't run on even the best PCs money could buy at that time. Quake III was a hog that would be used to benchmark 3D cards for YEARS to come, Sim City 3000 never had enough RAM, and don't even get me started on the latest C&C's.
I used to be a PC-games freak. But my hobby turned out to be too expensive to maintain. If I was to play the latest games the way they were supposed to be played, I would've bought at least 8 PC's during the last 12 years, and that is unacceptable.
Compared to the 7-year lifecycle of a console, it suddenly all makes sense.

Re:Simple Maths. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16082772)

However, the next 10 years were characterized by games that wouldn't run on even the best PCs money could buy at that time. Quake III was a hog that would be used to benchmark 3D cards for YEARS to come, Sim City 3000 never had enough RAM, and don't even get me started on the latest C&C's.

True. The designers/developers started doing something called "looking ahead." They made the games so they were capable of resolutions and detail that were unattainable on current consumer hardware. That way when the games were finished the games would still look great on the newest hardware available and they didn't end up with good games that would be eclipsed by newer POS games that have flashier graphics.

They still do this today you know.

Think of your current hardware as being "unworthy to compute the parameters of the gaming computer that is to come." Think of the games as being designed to run on "Deep Thought."

If I was to play the latest games the way they were supposed to be played

Supposed to be played? You mean at maximum resolution with all the eye candy turned on?

Sounds to me like you're exactly the reason why designers/developers did what they did. If they hadn't done what they did then you'd have pooh-poohed their games for having out of date graphics when compared to the flashy-piece-of-shit eye candy games.

Don't blame them for your unwillingness to spend sufficient money on cutting edge hardware to provide the horsepower to "play the latest games the way they were supposed to be played" as you put it.

Re:Simple Maths. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16082810)

Right. Essentially PC gamers have to buy a new PC every 12-18 months along with a $200+ videocard. At 24 months that machine is only going to be able to play new games at low or not at all. Of course there are exceptions but thats the general rule. I think a lot of non-techies have been burnt by this. They'll buy some game and it wont work on their store-bought PC. The idea of blowing $100 for more RAM and $200 for a videocard to run the occasional game is mindblowing to them. That's assuming their PC is worth upgrading.

I've seen this happen first-hand. The current market is only for serious enthusiasts and techies. Its works for me, but I'm the exception. Just the other day I was dreaming up the specs for a new machine to replace my 'barely plays bf2 at 1024' beater. A "beater" which cost me the price of a few consoles two years ago and is still mostly on my credit card. I probably would be happier if I just bought an xbox with xbox-live and said the hell with PC gaming. I'm only sticking asround becaue I love multi-player games and have no patience for another non-interactive 1-player solve -a-puzzle snoozefest.

When PC games die out it wont be a sad day. The consoles will at that point have caught up in terms of graphics and networking. Sure, a specialized box will never be as powerful as a custom rig, but it is more stable and affordable and the less time we're screwing around with drivers and dodgy motherboards the more time we have to actually, you know, play the games.

"What changed?" (1)

manno (848709) | about 8 years ago | (#16082344)

the general consensus was PC games would dominate the market and console systems were doomed."What changed?"

Um a decent video card costs as much as an entire console... PC games with a few notable exceptions, have gone from being able to play them on almost any PC, to now only being truely playable on top of the line machines. Once you reach the pint where The point of entry for a PC game is 1GB of RAM, and a $200 video card it becomes hard to compete with a $200 - $300 console.

Blizzard has done one thing very well, WoW for example, and that's make sure their titles run on fairly low end hardware. I've heard of people playing it and enjoying it on integrated graphics. Part of it is the game itself doesn't require a ton of eyecandy, or 60fps for people to enjoy it. I'm a PC gamer myself "Battlefeild 2" fan to be specific. At this moment in time consoles still don't have anything to rival it, but I see them coming closer and closer every year. the last console I owned was an n64 and I think I played it about a month before I gave it away.

I've started playing party games something the PC just doesn't lend itself well to, so I am planning on picking up a Wii only for party games. I'm sure that once it's in my apt. I'll probably pick up games in genres that I used to play only on my PC though.

-manno

How long will that console last? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16082589)

Yes, consoles are often cheaper than a decent video card. But there's a reason for that: a massive lack of quality.

My NES is still working, over 20 years later. It's slightly scuffed, and the cartridges don't always work the first time. But with a small degree of effort, the system is more than usable. Back then, they built consoles to last.

My PS2s, on the other hand, have been nothing but a complete failure. One of the controller ports of the first one I had stopped working. I'm not sure why, as it didn't suffer from any trauma. A PS2 for playing multiplayer games when the second controller port isn't functional.

The second PS2 I got worked a bit longer, but eventually it just stopped reading the discs. At that point, I sold the few games that I had and purchased an Xbox.

The Xbox, what a piece of shit that was. The disc lid broke off a month after getting it. It just clean broke while closing it. Thankfully, I was able to glue it back on with some success. Then the power button sort of broke. It'd take three or four presses to get it to work. Finally it just up and died one day. I didn't bother get another one after that.

I don't abuse my gaming consoles. They're not in a dusty or harmful environment. They sit next to my NES and VCR (both of which have worked perfectly for decades) on the media rack.

The only reason I can see for the newer ones breaking so often is a complete lack of quality. To keep costs reasonable, the manufacturers are forced to use the shittiest parts possible. And the end result is that it works fine for a short time, but eventually some component goes and it can't be fixed.

That's why I'm sticking to PCs. I figure the newer consoles won't even be half as good as the last generation, which was quite a shitty generation compared to those before. At least with my PC I can control the quality of the hardware that is used, and can easily swap out broken components with minimal hassle. Unless the console makers do something remarkable to improve their quality control, I will never buy a console again.

"Niche" works both ways (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 8 years ago | (#16082413)

Show me a decent beat-em-up for a PC. Anyone? Ok, well, then show me a decent MMORPG or flight sim on a console. Well?

In a nutshell, both platforms have their benefits and shortcomings. Mostly, interesting enough, not because of their computing hardware or their capabilities, but because of their controllers. Yes, of course, there are gamepads for PCs and for some consoles there are ways to attach a mouse or steering wheel, but they are few and far between, and it's not what people are looking for when they think of "console" or "PC" games.

Both have their advantages and disadvantages, both have their "niche" games, and some kinds of games run smoothly on both (and, of course, games of that kind also exist on both platforms, e.g. shooters or RPGs).

People will buy their platform based on their preference of games. If you're into platformers and beat-em-ups, you'll most likely have a console. If MMORPGs or sims are your kind of game, you'll prolly have a PC.

Re:"Niche" works both ways (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16082973)

If you want a good beat-em-up (I'm assuming you mean something like Final Fight, not Tekken), look up Zombie Smashers X 2. Its the finest side scrolling beat-em-up ever made.

Re:"Niche" works both ways (1)

Firefly1 (251590) | about 8 years ago | (#16083046)

Show me a decent beat-em-up for a PC. Anyone? I've always wondered about this; there is no technical reason why such a thing cannot exist, especially with USB gamepads being so readily available...

Re:"Niche" works both ways (1)

guru42101 (851700) | about 8 years ago | (#16083281)

I wouldn't say it is completely a controller issue. It is also a location issue. MMORPGs work best at a desk where you can read the text and easily type. Party games work best at the TV where you can sit around with friends and all comfortably see the TV.

Well... (1)

static0verdrive (776495) | about 8 years ago | (#16082414)

I don't think PCs are only good for MMO's. I have 7.1 surround for my PC (cheaper than 5.1 surround for my living room, too) and I like the graphics and mouse/kb better for more than just MMOs. First-person games, of which shooters may be the best known but not the only kind, are much easier and more fun for me at my PC. In fact, I only like consoles better for having people over and playing multiplayer - all other games that I play, even if it's multiplayer, I prefer on the PC.

Not a niche ... yet. (1)

OverDrive33 (468610) | about 8 years ago | (#16082424)

I agree with most of the other comment posters in this thread - PC games are by no means a niche market - but the article headline says 'Becoming a niche', and I think that's key.
I think we're starting to see more and more developers putting their main focus behind consoles, then just doing a lazy port over to PC (Ubisoft's XIII and Beyond Good & Evil spring to mind). When this happens PC game quality suffers, and does in fact become a niche.
We're not there yet, certainly not for at least 3 or 4 more years, but I seriously doubt PC games will ever reach the 'niche' status. Especially with big money makers like WoW backing them up.

As far as pc hardware vs. console hardware, if you already have a computer, really all you need is a basic 3d graphics adaptor ($70+), if you buy the lowend $70 cards - yes expect to buy a new one next year. If you buy a $200 card, chances are you won't have to upgrade for at least a couple years - maybe more depending on the level of quality you're willing to accept. I've had my X800 Pro since it's release 2 years ago, and it handles all the new games VERY well.

Why I think PC gaming might stagnate (1)

ConfusedSelfHating (1000521) | about 8 years ago | (#16082432)

  1. More people are buying notebook computers as desktop replacements, notebook computers are generally poor gaming system. If you buy a $500 notebook, it will not play F.E.A.R. very well.
  2. There are a lot of super cheap desktops which difficult to upgrade, for example go to dell.com and look at their cheapest system. If you buy a $300 desktop, it will not play Elder Scroll 4: Oblivion very well.
  3. Many PC configurations in comparison to a single console configuration, when a game says PS2 or Xbox 360 it will almost certainly work on such a system, you don't have to troubleshoot.
  4. Very high system requirements, for example Crysis whose system requirements are so high that it cannot be ported to a PS3 or XBox360
  5. World of Warcraft sucking all of the money out of gamer's pockets and taking up a lot of their time

Note how piracy is not on my list. Piracy has been around for as long as software has been around. There just happens to be a new attitude that every pirated piece of software is a lost sale instead of a sale which probably would have never taken place. There is also an attitude that when consumers can break the law they will. I think this is probably a result of industry trade groups (notably the RIAA and MPAA) holding conferences about piracy and spreading propaganda. Galactic Civilizations II (which I own) has no copy protection and yet it has sold much better than a number of games with strong copy protection.

I think it's difficult to call an industry in decline when one company (Blizzard) spent $50 million creating a product (World of Warcraft) that brings in a $1 billion a year in revenue. Revenue != Profit, but I strongly doubt that they have less than a 20% profit margin.

Where PC gaming is going (1)

DingerX (847589) | about 8 years ago | (#16082739)

You basically brought up two points that argue for a "niche":

PC Gaming requires specialized hardware. In 1994, it really didn't. That golden age lasted from when the Amiga and Atari ST stopped being valid platforms to when the first 3D accelerator cards came out. 3D accelerators are huge money, but they segmented the market: those computers with gaming graphics capability, and those without. So now, you have to buy a computer specifically for gaming.
The huge price spread in the PC games market has also been a curse. Ever since I started paying attention (ca. 1988), game developers have always had the sweetest hardware, and seem to develop for something that runs acceptably on top-level systems. Now more than ever, we have a huge shear between "Dev Systems" and what most people have in their house. You've got a dual-core Controe, a couple of Radeon 1900XTXs in SLI, a couple of 10,000 RPM SATAs in RAID 0, 2 GB of TerrorRAM, an X-Fire sound card, big-ass monitor, and all that. I have a laptop with a single 60 gig 5400 RPM drive, Radeon 9600, and a 3.0 Ghz Pentium 4D to keep me warm at nights. You can develop games, and play them. I can't buy them -- it's simply not worth it.

So all these PCs are pushed towards "Casual Games". "Casual Games" is now the catch-all for anything that doesn't require top-o'-line specs.

Now, a console dweeb buys into a system with a known lifespan, and a reasonable price. The games cost, but everone knows what they're getting.

So what's left for PCs, besides "Casual Games"? As you said, World of Warcraft. PCs are by far better for socializing than any console. Simulations are also great, since simulation geeks tend to follow a different arc than console gamers: they buy little software, and more interesting hardware (well, some do).

Personally, I've never owned console, and am not tempted by the current crop. Well, if I had a TV, I might consider the Wii, just to see if it really is as fun as it looks.

People are just bad at math. (4, Insightful)

Kirin Fenrir (1001780) | about 8 years ago | (#16082442)

What I find funny is that every time I hear a report that "PC is a smaller gaming market than consoles", they are comparing the PC gaming market to all the current-gen consoles combined. That's hardly fair, since consoles are completely incompatable with each other and shouldn't be lumped into the same market.

Now, compare the PC market to just the XBox 360 market, or to just the PS2 market...and suddenly it's not a niche at all. It's an alternative.

When has it not been a niche? (1)

Achoi77 (669484) | about 8 years ago | (#16082480)

Today's consoles are capable of pushing much more pixels that are comparable to current computers, than consoles 10 years ago compared to comptuers 10 years ago. And think of the price difference as well for consoles to computers back then as well. Not everybody is going to spend thousands of dollars so they can get the latest GeForce2 (!) to play quake or halflife.

That said, I beleive the PC Game Market has always been a niche. Yes, including the Sims despite the huge market penetration (that's more an exception rather than the rule)

And now the current king of the hill is WoW. Even with the millions of subscribers, how many people outside of WoW know anything about it? You spit out terms like MC, dots, nef, raid mob, AQ40 and melting faces (TM), nobody outside of wow will have a clue of what you are talking about. Wouldn't you call that a niche?

I beleive PC gaming in itself is an incredibly geeky thing, complete with their own tight knit geeky community. You have the FPS gaming community that know of every fps under the sun. You have the MMORPG gaming community that's played everything from muds to UO to WoW to beta testing warhammer online. You have the modding community that loves to mess around with the internals of whatever game they are interested in, whether it be the Sims or Oblivion.

Geeks are all about the niche, whether it be Trekkies or Gamers or Browncoats - you can't really say that about your average game console owners. Almost everybody has heard of Mario, and Madden - and they have a good idea of what people are talking about. Can you say the same about MMOs, roguelikes and RTS games (argueably the 3 most popular genres in PC gaming)? or Trekkies? or Browncoats? or D20?

You're ignoring casual games. (1)

EWAdams (953502) | about 8 years ago | (#16082595)


Grandmother likes playing Word Racer for free on Yahoo. Grandmother wouldn't buy a console if her life depended on it.

MMORPGs are just a fraction of all the kinds of games played on PCs. Teaching games for little kids. Casual games on Pogo. High-end shooters that have real-money tournaments. If it needs a keyboard and a mouse, it's not gonna be on a console -- and certain games do and always will.

This idiotic discussion comes up every damn time we get a new generation of consoles. It's not true and it will never be true. Neither the PC nor consoles can push each other out of the market BECAUSE THEY SERVE DIFFERENT MARKETS.

Could be a problem for hardware manufacturers (1)

Secrity (742221) | about 8 years ago | (#16082483)

Except for servers, for all generations of PCs, PC games were the major driver for increased PC processor speed and video display requirements. New versions of Windows helped cause the increase in processor speed and memory requirements, but new versions of Windows were introduced must less often than games were introduced. Most PCs and video cards released in the past 5 years will run Windows 2000 or XP and normal user applications just fine, and there has been no reason to upgrade hardware -- unless you wanted to play recent games on the PC. If PC gaming becomes a niche market, the main reason for upgrading and replacing home PCs will be gone. Video and audio on PCs has caused dramatic increases in hard drive space, but I doubt that it will ever be as big of a reason for hardware upgrades that PC games had been.

Re:Could be a problem for hardware manufacturers (1)

nologin (256407) | about 8 years ago | (#16083069)

I personally think that the hardware manufacturers are a part of the problem rather than the unfortunate victims here...

What makes consoles attractive is that the upgrade cycle is measured in periods of years. If your only purpose is to play games, the low price (discounted hardware recouped through game licensing) and the idea that the game platform will still be the same in a few years means that the cost of having a gaming platform is relatively cheap in comparison to...

PC gaming, which has been trying to distinguish itself as a viable gaming platform by pushing the envelope of hardware and software, has been pushing itself towards niche because of the cost. Graphic card cycles are at best 6 to 9 months, and these cycles just don't allow for the prices to come down. When you compare the costs, the top of the line video card is usually more expensive than the equivalent top of the line gaming console.

Of course, it doesn't help the situation that PC game developers are pushing the envelope also. Better hardware begets more compute intensive software games and vice-versa.

The fact that the PC gaming industry is leading to differentiate itself from the console market by outperforming it in terms of technology is the cause. In terms of lasting value, console gaming is far less costly than its PC counterpart.

Re:Could be a problem for hardware manufacturers (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | about 8 years ago | (#16083276)

Windows vista will push out a lot of older hardware as it's requirements are very high.

Stop the FUD (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16082501)

Any reason Slashdot keeps posting these headlines? I know console game makers and non-online pc game makers are bitter and all, but WHY is there two of these...stories being posted withing a day's time? I am sorry people don't want to pay for half assed games that require 200$ video cards to play, and I am sorry people aren't interested in shitty copy protection that game companies keep shoving out, and I'm triple sorry that people want more from a game then 30 hours of gameplay with realistic boring graphics and cgi movies.

I am even more sorry that WoW doesn't have to worry about piracy and are making more money then you (bitter game devs). I mean what the hell? Just make better games, console or pc, and people might play them. When I see these stories, all I see is sour grapes with Blizzard written on them, being eaten by crap game companies like EA.

Country Music (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16082814)

A niche market is a market nonetheless. Tell me, would you rather be the 10th country radio station in a region where 80% of the people prefer country music to rock, or the only rock station?

Also remember this. Extrapolation is what the man did who walked off of the cliff, because the ground had been flat so far.

Interesting water cooler conversation, but not much else.

You like this. I like that. (2, Insightful)

kafka47 (801886) | about 8 years ago | (#16082844)

Which pretty much sums up the console versus PC debate. But that's not what this article was about.

They asked three industry analysts, three questions:

  • Is the PC Game industry being marginalized?
  • Are consoles an alternative to Piracy?
  • Will Microsoft help PC Gaming? Will Vista help PC gaming?
They all seem to agree that spending on PC games will experience decline. Yet none of them seem to reliably explain why. One of them completely fudged all three of the questions.

The Realities of Online Digital Media

iTunes. People were "obtaining" mp3's back in 1996. But it wasn't until last year that a storefront was erected, with the necessary legal and contractual agreements, to actually go and purchase a piece of digital music online. Media organizations are among the most stolidly conservative entities in the business world, the reason is because they are shit-scared. Why? Well, it's like how Esther Dyson put it : "The gatekeepers...which are dependant on putting content into inefficient containers...are going to lose."

Big game companies are no different than other big media, having built their entire businesses around the processes and tools that made their products yesterday. New stuff (ie innovation), makes them nervous. Which is why we don't see a lot of radical entertainment coming into mainstream gaming.

Contrary to doomsayers, I've noticed that there is a literal explosion in gaming (particularly online), in which the PC is the central delivery platform. MMOGs. Simple, easy-to-run downloadable casual games. Browser-based games. Digital distribution (from Game Tunnel to Manifesto to Steam and everything in between). The consoles can not do any of these things (they will one day, but right now they're not stealing anyones cake when speaking about online games).

Even WoW has greatly expanded the online gaming market to include people who have literally never played a game online before in their lives. The trend is now unstoppable. Where are they going to go when the lustre of Epic grinding has faded away? They'll try new games. What about the casual gamers (meaning, your grandma)? Is the ad revenue generated by casual gaming portal sites added into the spreadsheets of the PC gaming industry?

Note that not one of the above examples spells monetary goodness for retail stores. But that's the nature of digital media - the suppliers who put stuff on shelves are eventually going to lose and will smartly move to service-based and value-added outlets.

Not Piracy, it's Standardization

Yes modded consoles really stop piracy. Prepare for DEATH when the latest consoles get hacked.

Consoles are less about piracy than they are about a standardized implementation base, which reduces the headaches of supporting a divergent hardware base. This is where the console is vastly superior to the PC. This is where costs are lowered in the release phase of a game (meaning, technical support and patching), and filtered back into the development phase of the game.

Vista

Perhaps, Microsoft will help PC gaming. A greater emphasis on the OS-level can do nothing but achieve this. I don't think the XNA-XBLA route will be particularly significant for AAA, but the casual space should benefit.

A good reason that Microsoft just recently pushed XBLA + XNA for indies is because they control the tools, the media and the channel. They can afford to grab the mindshare because they'll profit from it any way you slice it up. More developers mean more games. More games mean more consoles. It's win-win for them.

Six years ago people were ringing the bell for the PC's demise. Three years ago, yet again. Two...One...oh whoops, the PC is still here. It's all about the games, and how we want to play them. Right now, consoles and PCs seem to make their respective audiences very happy.

Normal people vs fanaticss (1)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | about 8 years ago | (#16082909)

Actually, loads of normal people play loads of games on PCs. However, virtually none of them are the slightest bit interested in paying for insanely expensive kit and the latest games. Get real - the number of people playing Solitaire and MahJongg (the two top games in my house) is astronomical. Most of the world is not going to go out and buy a new game while they are having fun with the one they play now.

Fanatics may be in short supply, and the market for new games, console or otherwise may be drying up, but that does not mean people are losing interest in games.

What I really want is the "Captain Keene" and "Leasure Suit Larry" series on my phone. Then I would give up PC gaming forever. Lets face it, the originals worked fine in 320x240 resolution, just like my phone.

Anyone sell a phone with EGA resolution? ... (Thought not).

subject (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16083077)

So by the time PC gaming is dead, Linux will be ready for the desktop...

What a coincidence!

I agree with the article (1)

DeeDob (966086) | about 8 years ago | (#16083343)

PC gaming is becoming niche. More so every passing year.

A)
Like others have mentionned, PC gaming USED TO be easy to install and play. Doom, for example, didn't require huge computers when it was released. Now games are starting to require at minimum 1 gig of ram and a top end video card with a very specific processor (Pentium or AMD, forget the rest). Also forget laptops since some games don't work well under laptop-based video cards.
Now it's a hassle just to get most games to run.

B)
In the mid-90s, you had numerous RPGs coming for PC, as well as numerous FPS, RTS, adventure games, sim games, racing games, flight sims and even the occasional beat 'em up (even if they wern't up to par with console games, it still got Battle Arena Toshinden 1&2, One must fall, a couple of Street Fighters and Mortal Kombats.
Nowadays, we get tons of The Sims copy cats, RTS are fewer in number every year, racing and sports games are on the decline, adventure games become rarer, flight sims are now almost inexistant beside the few surviving franchises. Only the almighty FPS seems to still exist as it was on PC.

C) (most important)
MMO games. You have that "newer" genre exploding on PC. Does this single type of game enough to justify PC gaming as a whole? You have a few games that work really well and that reflects the ENTIRE problem with PC gaming.
Yes WoW have millions of adepts. Guild Wars have a good amount too. City of Heroes and Villains get up a fair share too.
Those few games that work really well grab around 90% of the cash that can be made on PC by developpers. That leaves about 10% of the market to the "others", all genre mixed-up.
So you get a few developpers which were "lucky" enough to score the big one that sold millions of copies. If you're part of the vast majority of developpers that wern't that lucky, you start to lose profits on each game you make until you find out that consoles have bigger markets and more profit potential even if you don't create the next console "Halo" or "Final Fantasy" game.

Console games are just less of a risk for developpers than PC games.

So PC games focus more on MMO, FPS and the occasional RTS for players that have huge specs for their computers that are DEDICATED to gaming.
To me, this is indeed becomming niche.

marketing budget (1)

PMuse (320639) | about 8 years ago | (#16083489)

One major difference between the PC segment and the console segment is that console makers have an incentive to promote their platform. The PC gaming platform has no advocate spending $$speech$$ and tracking ROI.

Come to think of it, if I wanted to promote my console, it would help immensely if the PC platform were declared a "niche."

Controller (1)

PMuse (320639) | about 8 years ago | (#16083514)

Another interesting difference between the PC platform and a console platform is a dictated controller. A platform company can design and mandate a new controller while PC games must write to a the controllers (mouse, keyboard, joystick) that the marketplace has accepted. It's a real case of the Cathedral v the tragic commons.

Cost got in the way (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16083549)

For me, the problem is I used to budget about $100 - $125 for a new graphics card upgrade every couple years. I can't do that now, as the improvement in performance in that price range is negligible. In fact, what really stung me a few years ago was when I made the leap from a Geforce 2 to a similarly priced Geforce 4, only to discover the card performance was severely crippled.

Couple years after that, I made the plunge and got an ATI 9800 Pro. Wasn't cheap! But guess what? I'm now of the opinion that if I'm going to spend two to three hundred, I might as well get a whole new console.
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