The Consolization of the American Videogame

The Consolization of the American Videogame

Consolize. According to the Wikipedia entry, it's the process whereby an arcade game board is modified for use on a standard television set. But lately, the term has taken on a new and sometimes emotionally-charged meaning for a small but particularly dedicated group of gamers, to whom it means something entirely different: The process whereby a PC videogame is modified for use on a standard gaming console.

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Funny rant, this article. :)

PC games look and play more like their console brethren than ever before, and major PC releases without a corresponding version for at least one of the Big Three console systems is virtually unheard of.

Well...

This game is a minor product, nearly a noname fart in the industry of PC gaming.
This game... if it's not on a console, it does not exist..

I'd also argue that the exceptional mechanics and design of Deus Ex were consolized for the sequel, with very mixed results.

There's also the fact that unless every single console comes with a keyboard and a mouse - which is not really consoley by the way, since it's not living room friendly - there are genres which will simply remain under the crown of PC gaming.

I'm not convinced that waving the wii at the screen is as good as using a mouse for certain applications, just as much as I think that a infrared A4 sized sort of touchpad from Nintendo would be a good alternative to the mouse. It'd also also have several keys on the side.

Accessibility in action: You buy a game for the PlayStation 3. You bring it home, stick it in and wait for it to tell you what buttons to punch. Punch 'em, and a few seconds later you're racing through mud-splattered canyons or beating the crap out of some guy in Tulsa. PCs don't offer quite the same experience; if the game doesn't autostart, you'll need to find and run the installation program, at which point you'll tell it where to install the game (you do have enough free hard drive space, don't you?), select your resolution and perhaps your sound hardware, and finally whether you want a desktop icon, a quick-launch icon or, if you'd prefer it, just be buried somewhere in your Start menu. Not exactly brain surgery, perhaps, but my dad still hasn't quite figured it out, and I'm beginning to doubt he ever will.

It's an unintuitive system, and it's killing PC gaming.

It's not killing it more than it did years ago. Actually, things are getting much better. Not to count higher PC sales that I keep hearing left and right, we've also come a long way since Windows 3.5.

That said, I'm all for a couple of simplifications as well.
I also like my consoles.

Most gamers coming on stream today, young and old alike, don't even know what a sound card port address is, much less an IRQ or a DMA; suggesting that such knowledge is an inherent part of gaming is likely to elicit nothing but weird stares.

I barely do either. Never stopped me playing games for ages on computers though.

Microsoft's Games For Windows program is designed to eliminate much of that headache by mandating an "easy installation" option that simplifies the process as much as possible; like consoles, gamers will insert the disk, make a few mouse clicks when prompted and be ready to go. Not everyone thinks it's an ideal solution - some gamers are loathe to surrender any degree of control to an automated process - and presumably the more standard installation options will also be available. But for today's game-buying masses, "turn it on and play the game" is vital.

I wouldn't say it's vital, but it surely does help. That's a very good reason why sometimes, I prefer to switch the console on. When I need a more arcade feeling.

Accommodating streamlined gameplay is also an unavoidable part of the evolution of the videogame. Having 104 keys and eight mouse buttons doesn't necessarily mean they all need to be used.

Sure, but there's like an undisputable advantage of being able to map every single useful shortcut in a game, the difference between average player and good player.
Of course, that's only niche related. Just how many players really care about such details, in the light of worldwide gaming?

An overly obtuse interface spells trouble for any game. Some games are more complex than others and will be inherently more demanding as a result; but just as often, if not more so, a concise and simple control scheme will allow for easier and therefore deeper immersion into a game, heightening the experience for everyone.

I'd agree. Funnily though - and that's tongue in cheek - a console exclusive product such as Metal Gear Solid 3, is a hell of a mess when it comes to controls. Yet, it's a big success as well.

Maybe not everybody's wanting to play on a Simon for hours...

That said, I do agree that stuff is converging... in an odd way in fact, since the consoles are incorporating more user friendly PC functions, like web surfing, checking mails or knowing that the weather is.
Safe a few gamepads and joysticks peripherals that not every PC gamer owns, a computer, as a whole, is still the same thing that it was more than a decade ago.
The consoles seem to be evolving more than PCs do, and that's probably why they're leading.

But really, what's the deal? We know that PC gaming has always been smaller.
As for predictions, they're just that, and it's not impossible that another group would disagree, as it happens a lot.
Though I don't expect to see PC gaming becoming larger than console gaming anytime, anyway, it would be funny, for example, if Apple decided to produce sort of more user friendly Macs (easy PC?), with fewer functions, less access to rather pointless stuff for the average Joe, and with a very stable and lighter OS. Macs are standardized, stable and powerful. So in a way, the roots are all there. It would also be made to be very easy to play games on, as much as work with Photoshop, Maya or Sound Forge.
Let's even imagine that they even manage to make it trendy, like their iPods.
They'd even add typical console controllers to the initial package, besides stylized keyboard and mouse.

Though one could easily say that it's a consolized computer, and that would probably be true, it would also mess up with predictions.

My final word will be that actually, for consoles to fully embrace all aspects of gaming, they'll have to computerize themselves a bit, or certain genres will always be best played on computers.

I find this article to have a somewhat confusing thesis. How is the death of the characteristics that the hardcore players love in PC games in favor of "consolization" work to their favor? Even if the PC market keeps the same volume of hardcore games and expands in terms of the "consolized" games, it's irrelevant to their situation as it fails to grant them any of the games they desire. I happen to be of the opinion that consoles and PCs do some things better than one another and comparing them on a one to one basis is completely facetious. While consoles and PC games can borrow some characteristics from one another to improve their respective experiences, I an not convinced that PC games really need "consolization" to become more popular. I find the critizisms of PC gaming to be more tied to the nature of the modular and multitasking nature of PCs than with any out and out design flaws of the software; and casual games tend to be a sort of different animal than hardcore games so finding how one necessarily affects the other needs a good explanation. The new demographics of more older and female players should seem to me to be viewed by the hardcore not with disdain or hope but apathy; they seem peripheral to the problem of the shrinking hardcore PC games market.

PC gaming is going online, something that this article completely misses. NPD figures still don't include digital sales but Steam alone is responsible for a huge wad - one million for HL2, back in 2004 before the platform was well-established or popular with publishers, a quarter of total sales. It's also improving the level of accessibility up to or beyond the conditions on consoles (assuming a reliable internet connection). Microsoft's attempt is helping as you point out, and well-meant, but it's stuck with what is rapidly becoming an outdated medium.

Sorcerer Arcane:
I find this article to have a somewhat confusing thesis. How is the death of the characteristics that the hardcore players love in PC games in favor of "consolization" work to their favor? Even if the PC market keeps the same volume of hardcore games and expands in terms of the "consolized" games, it's irrelevant to their situation as it fails to grant them any of the games they desire. I happen to be of the opinion that consoles and PCs do some things better than one another and comparing them on a one to one basis is completely facetious. While consoles and PC games can borrow some characteristics from one another to improve their respective experiences, I an not convinced that PC games really need "consolization" to become more popular. I find the critizisms of PC gaming to be more tied to the nature of the modular and multitasking nature of PCs than with any out and out design flaws of the software; and casual games tend to be a sort of different animal than hardcore games so finding how one necessarily affects the other needs a good explanation. The new demographics of more older and female players should seem to me to be viewed by the hardcore not with disdain or hope but apathy; they seem peripheral to the problem of the shrinking hardcore PC games market.

On the same hand, the article seems to be written by a person who appreciates the works of Nintendo (first big image of the article being a wiimote, and the near last paragraph ending on a good note about Nintendo against the two other bigs).

That said, PC offer a level of customization at every single level that is also very appreciable. Consoles will simply never offer the bliss of moding, and I'm not sure we can epect LANs of a hundred players suddenly shifting to consoles anytime soon.

First, simplifying does not automatically equate "dumbing down". I'm sure that astronauts may get a kick out of all of the knobs and switches and gauges of the space shuttle, but I'd be willing to bet that they appreciate the simplicty of turning a key in the ignition of their car in order to get them home.

Second, PC vs Console debates are always framed around the "hardcore" gamer, a term that no two people can define to either's satisfaction. Like a lot of technology zealots, these "hardcore" gamers are far more interested in their self-created exclusivity then they are about finding an optimal experience. PC's are designed for raw horsepower: SLI, GBs or ram, large HD's, etc etc etc. It's daunting to non-techies, and that's really the only thing "hardcore" gamers care about because they see it as a gateway to keep out the riff-raff. Developers and publishers, on the other hand, want to make money. When they go where the money is, these "hardcore" gamers complain that they're being left out in the cold. Certainly, the "hardcore" stance and the industry's desire to support consoles is not a cause-and-effect situation, but these "hardcore" gamers maintain TO THE DEATH that if it's not on a PC, it's "dumbed down".

In my mind, the real hardcore gamer is entirely platform agnostic. The true hardcore gamer will be able to find a good game on any platform: PC, console, cellphone, PDA, local arcade, convienience store...whatever. It's OK for someone to favor a platform over others, but if you're not willing to play anywhere, any time, then you're just a fanboi.

At any rate, games for the masses do not necessarily imply games with satisfyingly deep and complex mechanics. It's extremely arrogant to imagine that only a gamer can enjoy a huge and involved game. It just means the death of impenetrably abstruse interfaces that frighten away people who haven't been desensitized to them through previous exposure.

Hope it's not too late to pony up a little more.

I guess I'm a fanboi. I'm a die-hard, unwavering and unapologetic PC gamer. I believe utterly that the sophistication and power of the PC makes it an inherently superior gaming platform, and that its perpetually-evolving nature gives it a flexibility that consoles just can't match. In my quiet times, when I'm alone in my little room and not concerned with public presentation, I rail and rage at the forces of the console, with their handheld D-pad controllers and easy TV hookups and worry-free game compatibility. Unsophisticated sons of whores!

But one of the nice things about writing for public consumption is that it forces you to think more rationally than you otherwise might. And while I will never be a console gamer, and I will never be thrilled about the convergence of PC and console gaming, I'm realistic enough to admit that without Tomb Raider, there would be no STALKER; without Splinter Cell, I would never see Shadowgrounds. There's no direct connection between any of these games, but if the state of videogaming hadn't reached its current point - that is to say, if Nintendo, Sony and the gang hadn't come along and blown the roof off the place - I wouldn't have the opportunity to play unique and innovative (and perhaps coincidentally, mostly European) games that have limited appeal beyond the "hardcore."

The bottom line is money, and all those bazillions of dollars the industry is rolling in ain't coming from the PC segment. Those mind-boggling sales figures are being driven by the consoles, so it should come as no surprise that a lot of traditional PC designers and developers are now producing cross-platform releases that accommodate consoles. The evolution of the mainstream PC game release to a more console-flavoured style keeps the PC alive as a viable gaming platform; as long as that's the case, the more bloody-minded among us can keep our eyes open for the games that may slip under the radar of the masses, but are absolute treasures for those lucky enough to find them. (Shadowgrounds. Check it out. Seriously.)

 

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