The FPS has always been seen as the poster child of PC gaming. Innovative titles that pushed game design and game hardware to their limits established the first-person shooter as the go-to genre for the hardcore PC gamer. Wolfenstein 3D and Doom established the rules of the genre; Duke Nukem 3D pushed them to their limits; Quake popularized polygons, capture the flag, and mods; and Half-Life set the standard for in-game storytelling. The first-person shooter has long since tried to make a go of it on consoles with varying degrees of success. Golden Eye and Perfect Dark were both perfectly playable in their time, but have aged terribly. Halo, of course, set the stage for a console FPS revolution, and in 2007, six years after Halo’s original release, plenty of fantastic first-person shooters took the consoles by storm: Halo 3, The Orange Box, Call of Duty 4, and Bioshock, to name some of the best.
Sales for all four of the aforementioned games have been huge, with Halo 3 in particular setting sales records. Though, not just first-person shooters or similarly hardcore genres have been prospering; the entire console market has surged compared to previous years and the Wii continues to dominate beyond everyone’s expectations, including Nintendo’s. To combat the continued supply strain and unprecedented demand, Nintendo has even gone so far as to partner with GameStop and offer rain checks – essentially hardware pre-orders in the middle of a console cycle. And yet, as the consoles flourish, some of PC gaming’s most anticipated titles flop. Unreal Tournament 3 and Crysis have both failed to sell more than 100,000 copies.
So, are the analysts, critics, and loudmouthed message board posters right? Is PC gaming finally dying? Hit the jump to find out.
The FPS isn’t the only traditionally PC-exclusive genre thriving on consoles. The RTS has also found success, even if it hasn’t had its own personal Halo… yet. The real time strategy game actually got its start on consoles, of course, in an obscure Sega Genesis title called Herzog Zwei, but it was Westwood’s Dune 2 that first created the genre as we know it today and established it as a PC mainstay. Like the first-person shooter, developers have been trying to successfully translate the RTS to consoles for years, but have mostly failed in suitably replacing a mouse and keyboard with a controller. Early attempts like Command & Conquer and Starcraft 64 are laughably bad, but later efforts such as Pikmin and Goblin Commander learned that only an RTS’ controls, not necessarily its gameplay, needs to be simplified to work on a home console. Finally, EA titles Battle for Middle-Earth 2 and Command & Conquer 3 managed to remap the complex battlefield controls of a real-time strategy title to the 360’s controller. Only time will tell if the upcoming Halo Wars will have the same effect on its respective genre as Halo itself.
Current generation consoles include many features that were previously only available on the PC such as online play, expansion packs, and user-created content. New users who would have never given the hardware the time of day before have invested in a game console for the first time in their lives. With a lower price point compared to gaming PCs and the rise in popularity of HD TVs, it’s no surprise that consoles have only become more popular as they reach a more diverse audience. However, just because one piece of hardware succeeds doesn’t mean another has to fail. While Crysis and Unreal Tournament 3 have sold considerably less than expected (86,000 and 33,000, respectively), both require top-of-the-line PC hardware in order to maximize their graphical potential. As PC hardware becomes cheaper, as it always does, these games will continue to sell to gamers eager to test the limits of their new machine. Meanwhile, less demanding games like the Vista-exclusive port of Halo 2, a three-year-old Xbox game, have found tremendous success on the PC, with Halo 2 being the second most played PC game behind only World of Warcraft. WoW, of course, is the most popular and lucrative game on the planet, and it’s never coming to a console, regardless of how badly the big three might want it.
Just like in the console market, casual games are also thriving on the PC. EA’s Club Pogo has managed to tap into a market of soccer moms and retirees who had never before considered playing video games. In fact, EA even ported several of its Club Pogo games to the DS. Additionally, Flash and browser-based games have become immensely popular, allowing anyone to play them anywhere, serving as excellent distractions at work or school.
The simple fact of the matter is PC games aren’t dying, and they never will. Announcing that “The End is Nigh” is a great way for editorial departments and bloggers to attract readers, but nothing could be further from the truth. As long as AAA developers like Valve, Blizzard, and EA continue to put their full support behind the platform, there’ll be plenty of excellent offerings to keep the hardest of the hardcore and the casualest of the casuals busy. Quit worrying about which games turn up on which platform and just be glad that there are so many great games to play. 2007 was one of the best years in gaming, on consoles and on the PC. Here’s to 2008.