There is no need to be reminded that we’re currently seven years into a console generation and, considering the timespans that consoles have lasted for in the past, that is a very long time. But what does that mean in terms of the consumers, companies and Video Games affected by this long lifespan? What does it mean for PC users, who, unlike console users, aren’t restricted to seven year old hardware?
The most obvious setback to consider is with the hardware. The Xbox 360 console sported some mean system specs…when it came out. It has 500mb of Memory, and 3.2 GHZ of Tri Core Processing power, which in itself doesn’t seem that bad. The processor’s still up to par with the current standard, but what really kills the 360 as a tech machine is its memory, pitiful GPU and out of date design. The PlayStation 3 sports a slightly better CPU (Same Specs, newer model) with an abysmal 256 MB of RAM and video.
Without going much further into the technical details of how this affects game performance, we can see how an industry which has been forced to cater to the least powerful of these machines has largely been holding back the potential of PC gaming, a medium in which the individuals budget is practically the only limiting factor. What would games look like today if the investors who had poured their time and money into making the big titles of the generation run on a 360, focused instead on making a PC game that would blow everyone away? How much greater would the visual fidelity of today’s latest be if the 360 had an extra core, or had the PS3 been gifted with improved RAM?
In an odd way the current generation does help PC gaming. As technology gets older it gets cheaper and, unsurprisingly this is particularly true of PCs. As time passes a gaming PC becomes more affordable, and at a much faster rate than that of consoles. Once you throw in the benefits of playing your games on a machine that can surf the internet, edit video, etc, you see the desirability of owning a high end PC skyrocket. Why play Skyrim on your PS3 when you can build a 500 dollar gaming tower and crank up the settings to maximum? Why get an outdated system when you can get a gaming rig with access to the benefits of better graphics, cheaper games on Steam, GOG and access to the many PC only titles available?
How does making the PC more desirable help PC gaming? Well that’s simple, the more money being spent on the PC platform; the more funding PC projects are likely to receive.
There are things we don’t like to talk about in the gaming industry. One of these is how, in all honesty, the goal of every developer and publisher isn’t to make good games or make the games that people want. Their goal is always, first and foremost, to make cold-hard moolah, and everything else that comes out of that objective is incidental.
What does that mean? It means that the reason this console generation has been around for so long is likely very simple; it’s cheaper. When you don’t have to make games that look better you don’t have to spend more money on them, and when you don’t have to develop for a new generation of consoles you don’t have to hire people to figure out how to put Madden 15 on the 720 or PS4. In simple terms, innovation loses money and, for investors, the objective is often to slow innovation as much as possible.
The Bright Side:
They can’t stop innovation forever.