Over the weekend, Eurogamer posted a story about how PCs are better than everything else, including new babies and planets with rings. Well, those weren't quite their words, and nor were they of Mark Rein, VP of Epic, but he said something close. He in fact said that, "We're at the stage in the life of the consoles where the PC has shot by them in terms of capabilities."
This is a regular occurrence of course. Consoles at launch attempt to match the contemporary tech of PCs, and then as their non-upgradeable bodies age, the PC trundles forward until a comparison becomes ridiculous.
This time around has been slightly different, however. The extraordinary mainstream popularity of the 360 and PS3 has meant that developers this time haven't chased after the PC's opportunities quite as quickly. In fact, PC gamers have been in the rather odd position of not needing to upgrade their equipment for many years, with development held back by the need for games to work for the majority of sales, on the plastic boxes. And while the rumours of the next hardware releases from Sony and Microsoft change every other day (currently the next Xbox is expected in 2013, and the PS4 has recently been rumoured to be as far away as 2016 and as close as 2012) either way the PC has likely a couple of years far out in front.
However, it seems like patience is finally running out for those developers who've always been at the forefront of the shiny. John Carmack recently told Eurogamer that PCs were ten times as powerful as current consoles (although suffer from API issues). And Mark Rein continued,
"Don't forget every game that's ultimately built is built on a PC. PCs are always going to be the tools through which all games get made. With the PC you can simulate the future – you can put enough hardware in a PC to show you what a future console will look like."
Whether this means that some companies will be tempted back toward AAA PC exclusives is unlikely. While the PC is still the only place to sensibly play strategy and MMO games, the market has perhaps changed too dramatically for major FPS releases to risk only selling to a fraction of their regular audience. That's only true for the biggest names, of course. Expect to see some truly epic PC games over the next couple of years from those not so entwined in the console market.
You can see the first part of Rein's interview on EG now. And Alec's in it!