E3 2011: The Future of PC Gaming


Where was the PC this year? Mostly tucked away on the sidelines, from the looks of it. PCs are practically insignificant on the show floor compared to the console crowd, and while most of the big titles (outside of console exclusives like Gears of War and Resistance 3) will also arrive on the PC, it seems like the once-great gaming PC is doomed to another year of half-baked console ports. Even Microsoft, the PC gaming granddaddy, couldn't be bothered to give the PC any time in their press conference.

Instead, we're seeing the PC's greatest hits gradually find their way into a console incarnation. Deus Ex defined "blockbuster" to a generation of PC gamers; Deus Ex 3 is a console game with a PC port. PC indie darling Minecraft is making inroads towards the Xbox 360 and Sony's Xperia Play smartphone, with nary a mention of cross-platform compatibility. PC-only MMORPG EVE Online developer CCP was proudly featured at the Sony press conference for their upcoming Dust 514, a PlayStation-exclusive massively multiplayer first-person shooter that will somehow be able to interact with EVE online players.

What's going on here? Judging from the examples above, it seems that the PC, as a gaming platform, is not short on talented developers making great games--games which could only take root on the PC, due to indie-friendly publishing platforms like Steam and the abundance of sheer processing power compared to their console counterparts. As soon as those new, great games attract the attention of the big boys however they'll get repurposed to plug into the big boys' consoles, which makes perfect sense. Microsoft might make a couple bucks off a PC gamer's Windows license (which you probably had for you PC, anyway), but that's about it. Xbox gamers have to buy the console, gamepads, headsets, hard drives and memory cards, not to mention paid downloadable content, and as soon as they're all set up, out comes the Kinect. They may love their PCs, but they make their money from their consoles.

PC gaming isn't dead, far from it in fact. But it's certainly not commanding the attention it deserves.