All right, here we go. It's been a while, but like the proverbial prodigal son, We, the Staff (TM) have decided to make a meaningful post.
We, the Staff (TM) are currently without an Xbox 360 for at least the next several months. As Fearless Leader may have mentioned, We've moved to the UK, and We'll be damned if we're going to make the investment in a new TV, a TV license, and a PAL-specific Xbox 360. Yes, that's right, one needs a gods-forsaken licence to own a TV here in the UK! Anyway, since our current source of gaming goodness once again is in the form of a PC, We thought We'd report what We could about the state of PC gaming.
Since our re-introduction to the world of PC, We have ran through Universe At War: Earth Assault, Star Wars: Empire at War and its expansion, Forces of Corruption, and begun playing through the more-recent RTS World in Conflict and the CPU/GPU-hogging FPS Crysis. We have also run through several demos of more independently-produced games.
Put simply, it is fairly easy for Us to see why (monetarily, at least) the PC is losing ground against its Console rivals, i.e. the X360 and, to a somewhat lesser extent, the PS3. The PC still suffers from many of the problems that it has always had to contend with. Being forced to provide support for multiple hardware conditions, PC games more often than naught wind up being overall buggy products, whereas the consoles have the advantage of universal hardware.
Maintaining a top-notch gaming PC is something of a task in and of itself. A console, barring any manufacturing defects (as both Fearless Leader and We, the Staff (TM) have chronicled in the past), is ready to play its array of games off the shelf. A PC can often require endless tinkering by means of installing drivers, troubleshooting hardware issues, tweaking settings to attain the optimal performance (usually at the cost of quality), etc. Also, the consoles have an emerging advantage in their online service networks (Xbox Live and the Playstation Network), which provide excellent integration of news, demos, and content updates to the user. Yes, the PC has a long-standing internet-based support network, but XBL and PSN provide significant ease of access to new content. The flip side to this is the effect that console-based networks have had on the distribution of new content. Sadly, what was once always considered free content in the glory days of PC gaming (multiplayer maps, new levels, and various other add-ons) now comes at a price in the world of the console network.
More specifically than all this, We have noticed a different tendency among recent PC games. It occurs to Us that production values for PC-specific games have generally dropped in recent years. Either that, or the console-specific games had their production values continually increase, while PC-specific titles' values plateaued. Such production values include voice acting, cutscene production, and storyline and character development. Many of the console games had their production values reach more of a level commonly held by feature films. Examples of this include the first Gears of War, which premiered on the 360, the Halo series, and Mass Effect (another 360 premiere later followed up with a PC release). There are notable PC-exclusive exceptions to this rule, of course, such as the aforementioned World in Conflict and Crysis. However, they are more the exception, rather than the rule. Granted, the latest-generation consoles have been "graced" with their own share of poorly-produced material, but there seems to be a greater proportion of well-produced material on the consoles compared to what occurs on the PC.
At the end of the day, what We observe is that the PC is increasingly becoming the platform choice of the Gearhead, rather than the Gamer. Of course there is some overlap between the two, but the "Gearhead" market is a very specific and limited one. This is likely reflected by the increasing disparity between the financial performance of the respective platforms.
And thus concludes our long-overdue rant about stuff.