Say 'PC gaming is dead' one more time please
Last week, we covered the trend of consoles as an all in one media center. The trend is very noticeable, but it is part of a much larger trend that happened over the generation. It's a trend that I feel a lot of people overlook, and perhaps it's because the trend happens on a higher level than that of the consumer.
This trend that I'm referring to, is the morphing of consoles into a piece of hardware that resembles a living room PC. As I like to call it, it is the "PCification of consoles." It's something that the Xbox 360's lifespan in particular highlights, and that the PS3's launch foretold.
Hard Drive Required
The first major sign of the PCification is the inclusion of hard drives. A hard drive in a console by itself is not an odd thing. Theey can store more data than memory cards of the past. PS3s have always required one, but the 360 originally launched with hard drives optional. At the time, I didn't think many would imagine just how necessary large amounts of storage would be.
Downloadable games started small, but grew to be gigabytes in size. This, paired with the inclusion of installs, made a large shift in how storage is viewed. The 360 would see multiple revisions, with hard drives becoming part of a SKU you'd buy off the shelf, eventually ending with the slim model which has an unchangeable internal hard drive. As for the PS3, the system outright used laptop hard drives, which allowed anyone to buy and use their own storage.
Downloadable gaming blew up in popularity this generation. I'm not just talking about stuff like XBLA either. It's very true that sub-retail releases were able to find a nice home on the platform, and as time went on, the size of downloadable games got bigger. Originally, on XBL, a downloadable game was limited to 50 MB. Today, the limit is 2 gigs. Some games are even bigger than that!
Aside from those games, there was an increase in making retail games available to download from home. Steam does this for PC, and it's still much better at it. Digital distribution of retail games on consoles hasn't slowed down at all. On both the 360 and the PS3, a large number of retail games have also been put up on the console's respective store fronts for digital purchase. Many of these games rank in with a good 5-10 gigabytes of data needed to run them, so it's no wonder that the 80 gig hard drive had become standard in a console.
Game Installs and Patches
Up until this generation only PC games were capable of receiving patches. Now, consoles share this trait. Small ones, frequent ones, release day ones, they were all suddenly there! There are updates to fix bugs, and a little note to say what changed. Even the base firmware of a console can get changed in a patch. The most notable case would be with the major revision of the 360 dashboard, replacing the blades of yore with the current metro tiles. Game installs were the cherry on top.
Installs is something that people once said consoles had over PC. On console, all you had to do was pop in a disk and play it. On PC, you had to pop it in, and then wait ten minutes for it to install. Not anymore though! Want to play Halo 4's multiplayer with that freshly opened box you just brought back from GameStop? Hang on a minute then, we need to install it to that fancy 80 gig hard drive that we made sure to install on that 360 slim you have.
Some games have taken this to a ridiculous level, such as Metal Gear Solid 4. You're required to install a chapter you're about to play, but you can only have one chapter installed at a time. Not all games actually need it on console to play so far, but the 360 has a particularly interesting quirk here. Any 360 game can be installed to increase performance when playing. This leads to a situation where installing is desired, as it helps load times move faster and prevent disc stuttering.
Program Expandability! Or Apps...
Installing new programs to do new things with a console hit with this generation.
The first indicator fell with the idea of Channels on the Wii. Not only could games fill these slots, but so could some Nintendo made "non-games" as well. Fun little things, like a photo viewer, a news ticker or weather station. PS3 and 360 would pass the Wii in time when programs, or apps if you will, for things like Hulu and Netflix would become available to install on these platforms. The 360 even began to embrace the nomenclature with the release of the current dashboard layout. Video, music, and social apps are legitimate categories with a myriad of options in each one. Internet Explorer was even made available for the 360, which goes to show just how integrated some programs would become in the future.
The trend of PC-ification does not seem to be slowing down, as we enter the next generation. All ready, we have the Wii U which makes almost all games available at day one in both retail and digital formats. The system has firmware patches being readied too.
Rumors aren't hard set facts, but they do give strong indications -- and in the case of Microsoft, well, let's just say they've been kind of transparent leading into this. Much of the rumors surrounding the next PlayStation and the next Xbox, indicate an even further merging of PC and console.
Rumors suggest each machine will be based off of currently existing PC architecture. That means, unlike the past, much of the innards of the consoles will basically be the same as the innards of a typical PC; so, nothing extravagant and proprietary like a cell processor. In Microsoft's case, there are strong indications that the next Xbox will use a slightly modified version of Windows 8 as the base firmware. Given how much the current 360 dashboard already resembles the Windows 8 start screen, I don't find that to be too far a stretch.
It's a exciting time to be in gaming, no matter what side of the field you're on. I haven't even taken into account mobile or handheld gaming as a part of this article. With a mysterious conference on February 20 by Sony that may lead to the announcement of the PS4, the stakes are high. We may get to see a real look at the future of gaming. And then, of course, there's Valve tackling the problem from the other end, trying to make the PC as viable in the living room as a console. It may still be a long way off, but the intersection point between the two methods will be the most interesting. Did someone say "one platform world?"
|2:00 PM on 03.10.2013|
Pachter: Next-gen games cost $70, no more consoles after
[Update: Keighley has produced another slide in which Pachter predicts that "Durango" will be the generation leader because it has a TV tuner and Skype. Also, there will be no more publisher bankruptcies. Yeah, fat chance.] W...more
|7:00 PM on 03.09.2013|
ScrewAttack TOTALLY has the skinny on Xbox 720
While the rest of the world awaits the proper Xbox 720 reveal, ScrewAttack managed to learn all the juicy details and spoil the whole mess. Behold, Microsoft's grand master plan to edge out the PlayStation 4 juuuuuuuuuust sl...more
|1:00 AM on 03.06.2013|
Head of Xbox doesn't view Valve as a competitor
Valve's Steam Box is going to be a real big deal, but Microsoft's Don Mattrick, president of Xbox's Interactive Entertainment Business, doesn't think so. Verge reports that when asked whether he views Valve as a competitor du...more
|4:30 PM on 02.25.2013|
Eidos co-founder says next Xbox won't play used games
Eidos co-founder Ian Livingston doesn't see a digital-only system this generation, but he suggests the next Xbox will require an always-on internet connection and will feature marked discs that prevent sharing games across sy...more
|12:15 PM on 02.22.2013|
XboxEvent.com registered, industry expects April event
Immediately following Sony's big shindig this week, event planners Eventcore have registered the URL XboxEvent.com. And we're talking right after, yesterday, Feb. 21. NeoGAF points out that these are the same folks that are l...more
|11:45 AM on 02.22.2013|
Ubisoft wants PS4, Next Xbox, to have shorter lives
Ubisoft absolutely loves console launches. Quick to support every fresh system, and first to demand the death of old ones, the company has already expressed its desire to see swifter deaths for the PS4 and Next Xbox, all so i...more
|10:15 AM on 02.18.2013|
Crytek: It's impossible for next-gen consoles to beat PCs
Crytek CEO Cevat Yerli doesn't sound too impressed by the prospect of a new console generation -- in fact, he claims Crysis 3 running on a high-end PC is already ahead of future competition. The ruling factor here, according ...more
|10:15 AM on 02.08.2013|
GameStop: Next Xbox will hurt if it blocks used games
GameStop, North America's most powerful games retailer, has addressed rumors of the "Next Xbox" shutting out the used game market. The seller of secondhand games believes Microsoft's next system will hurt if it introduces cod...more
|8:30 AM on 02.06.2013|
Next Xbox always online? Blocks used games? Not buying it
More rumors are surfacing surrounding Microsoft's next generation Xbox system, fittingly nicknamed Next Xbox. Once again, the new gossip spells gloom and doom for fans of used games, suggesting Next Xbox will demand an always...more
|7:30 PM on 06.17.2013|
What most excited you during E3 2013? - The Question
This has been a fairly thrilling Electronic Entertainment Expo in a lot of ways. Hard not to be when two out of the three major console competitors are showing off brand new hardware and all the new games which come along with that. But what was the most exciting aspect of this year's E3? Watch the video to hear what we think and answer The Question for yourself in the comments below.more
|2:00 PM on 06.17.2013|
Tiny Barbarian DX is a retro soundtrack that you must own
Our top pick for this month's issue of Note Worthy is the NES-flavored soundtrack for Tiny Barbarian DX, composed by Jeff Ball. There's a variety of styles presented, but all of it is super catchy and melodic, and fans of ret...more
|7:00 PM on 06.16.2013|
I ran around and then died at E3
This was a historic year at E3. The 8th gen console wars have officially started, independent developers are infecting Sony like a disease that makes you feel awesome, the Xbone caught more heat than a Alabama volcano in the...more