The convergence of the PC and consoles?

Usually when figure heads from the PC Gaming Alliance speak, we don’t take it too seriously. As we know, so far they’ve been an organization of a lot promise but with little to no actual substance to date. There are a lot of “we will do this, this and this” and hopeful rhetoric on their website, but so far none of that has materialized since their inception earlier this year. But the truth of the matter is, the organization is made up of some of the most brilliant and powerful people in the industry from Intel, nVidia, Activision etc. (the list goes on and on). One of those people, Randy Stude from Intel’s Gaming Program Office, sat down with GamePolitics for an interview and had some very interesting insights. The one comment that reached out and shook me by my collar was his answer to a question about how to bring PC gaming back to the mainstream.

“The guts of every console should tell you that the capability is there for the PC to act as the central point for all the consoles. If you bought a PC and as part of that equation you said, Okay, when you’re on the phone with Dell, “Hey, Dell, on this PC, this new notebook I’m buying, can you make sure it has the PlayStation 4 option built into it?”

“Well, why not? Why shouldn’t that be the case? [Sony is] certainly not making any money on the hardware. I mean, can’t they create a stable enough environment to specify that if Dell’s going to sell that notebook and say that it’s PlayStation 4 [compatible] that it must have certain ingredients and it must meet certain criteria? Absolutely they could that. Are they going to do it? I don’t know. I predict that they will. I predict that all of the console makers over time will recognize that it’s too expensive to develop the proprietary solution and recognize the value of collapsing back on the PC as a ubiquitous platform.”

Now we have never been one to foster the whole PC vs console war. To us gaming is gaming. But even with that said, I’m sure the concept of consoles merging with PC’s scares some of us. The arguments might be “but I want to play games on my TV, not my computer” or “Sony and Microsoft would not allow their platforms to be open like that.” But I think their convergence is inescapable. What are the benefits of a model like this?

Well, lets think about it. You could theoretically have one machine that plays Xbox, PlayStation and Nintendo games all in one. But what about the cost you say? Well, most people do have computers in their home and the cost of PC hardware has been getting cheaper over the years. You may have to spend a tiny bit extra to get a gaming worthy PC, and then purchase the console option that should be much cheaper than what a current console alternative would cost you. The upside to this is, your PC is upgradeable where as consoles are not. Also, all games are developed on a PC of some kind, so development costs could drop, and the ability to download content and patch games would increase exponentially with the mass abundance of storage that a PC offers.

Of course with benefits comes some negative aspects. The nice thing about consoles is that they’re a controlled hardware set, this makes things a bit easier for developers to know how things will react. PC’s are not so friendly, the hardware sets are so varied that it’s nearly impossible to predict every possible bug without having insane amounts of testing time and access to all the current hardware in the known world. And even then the odds are stacked against you. But then again, it seems that bugs slip through to consoles anyway via rushed deadlines and games released half-baked, so does that really even matter? The other big issue I think that will possibly pose major problems is the existence of mal-ware and viruses on the PC. The fact that one wrong click could land your Xbox Live account key-logged and hacked could be a major sticking point. Because of how open the PC platform is, the door is also open to malicious people trying to rain on your sunny day. The PC also instantly makes pirating easier, which also might prove sticky to developers.

The convergence of PC’s and consoles may or may not ever happen, and if it does, it’s certainly not happening tomorrow. I for one am not going to take Mr. Stude’s word on it, we all know that consumers will drive the industry so ultimately it will be whatever we demand. But we shouldn’t be scared of change, and we should embrace anything that is going to push the limits and make gaming better for all of us. Whether that’s PC based PlayStations or hamster powered Xboxes, as long as it’s awesome, we’ll be happy.