In the videogame retail store I work in, there is at least one customer a day that comes in and asks where our PC games are. They are always shocked when I point them to a lonely rack in the corner. I was shocked, too, when I first noticed this change. When I would visit these videogame stores when I was just ten years old, I saw entire walls covered in PC games. Now, this selection has been reduced to a few lonely shelves in the middle of the sales floor.
Has the quality of PC games dwindled as well? As most successful console games are made, they are also ported over to the PC at some point down the line. Gears of War, though it took a while, finally made it to the PC. Call of Duty 4 is out for the PC. BioShock made an appearance on the PC. After all, the very first Call of Duty was seen on the PC and became known for an incredible experience. The PC is also home to all the popular MMORPGs: World of WarCraft, EverQuest and EverQuest II, Dark Age of Camelot, Star Wars Galaxies, Lineage II, and other free RPGs like Silkroad Online or Maple Story. The PC is also home to Counter-Strike, one of the most popular online games on this planet, and Counter-Strike is just a modification to Half-Life! Consoles lacked this multiplayer appeal in the past.
This is where the real strength of the PC is: its modifications. It is no secret that to play games on a PC, it requires the user a little bit of tech finesse to finagle compatability issues, installation, frequent patches, and all the problems that come with owning a PC. However, because the games developers make sometime come with development kits, map editors, and even third party map editors, it makes it easy for players and designers to edit and create their own versions or complete remakes of games. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (and its predecessor, Morrowind) both have world editors available. This, however, is not available for the Xbox 360, and thus the console player does not have the option to play with and create their own fantasies or download user created content (with the exception of Shivering Isles, which combined Bethesda’s expansion along with many player created mods). Players of Half-Life had an immense library of mods to download and play for free: Counter-Strike, Day of Defeat, Firearms, Natural Selection, and Science and Industry to name a few. Many say that the real hardcore gamers are PC gamers because of the fact that it is so customizable. Even the Sims 2 falls in this category: there is a ton of downloadable content for the PC that all the console players are missing out on because the consoles are so restricted.
Also, before HDTV and the next-gen consoles, the PCs reigned supreme in graphics. Computer monitors handled a much higher resolution than standard definition TVs, which by itself provides a clearer and crisper image. The hardware a knowledgeable PC user could get his or her hands on and install also gave a grave advantage. A console is just what it is, no upgrades until the new console comes out, but a PC you can buy separate parts for and never have to buy a whole new unit again as long as you keep upgrading your internal components. Games for the PC also always come with more options to accomodate the users’ differing hardware. You can change all aspects of the way the game handles its graphics: antialiasing levels, texture filtering, view distances, particle detail, etc.
Online gameplay also favored PC gamers. There was no fee to play online (unless you subscribed to an MMO, and even then there are a handful of free to play MMOs available) because any place you played was running a dedicated server, or in Blizzard’s case with battle.net, you ran a server on your computer for a specific match (battle.net just paired you with opponents).