Saturday, March 01, 2008

Gaming PCs

The Death of PC gaming has been foretold countless times -- including by myself. Most recently, it's being claimed that Flash will be the PC gaming killer.. more on that below.

But since I just bought a new PC that should play games pretty decently (specs to come, once it arrives), I thought I'd go on the side of the PC for this post. Usually people point to consoles as the medium to dispatch PCs. I've been thinking about the math of this today compared to the current generation of consoles.

Xbox 360 PS 3 PC
Typical Cost of Machine $350 $400 <$900
Cost of New Titles $60 $60 $50
Online Gaming Cost $50 $0 $0
Cost of GPU upgrade (for consoles, next one)
$400 $400 $100-$400
Email No No Yes
Continuous VOIP Yes No Yes
Significant Rate of Failure Yes No No
Expansion Packs Possible No No Yes
Keyboard Standard No No Yes
Mouse Standard No No Yes
Internet Browsing No Yes Yes
Forces Ads On You Yes No No
Downloadable NEW Games No No Yes

Developer's Section

Installed Base 17.5m 8.5m 800m-1b
Additional dev hardware required Yes Yes No
Cost of dev hardware on top of PC $Thousands $Thousands $0
Free dev tools available No No Yes
Requires royalty for publication Yes Yes No
Can distribute online, on your own No No Yes
Choice of APIs No No Yes

Based on this chart, it makes much more financial sense for developers to keep working on PC than to all move to console. Yes, consoles tend to move a lot of product, but which of the above gives you higher margins? Developers who are on a shoestring budget can develop on the PC.

And on the consumer side, in some situations it makes financial sense. You might pay an extra $400 dollars to get a PC that can play games relatively well, which is about the cost of the console -- especially if you consider the cost of Xbox Live and the extra $10 tacked onto every game.

Now on the topic of Flash games. The people who predict that Flash is the next "big platform" have a few hurdles to overcome. Like, for example, who would pay $50 for a single Flash game title, like they would for Call of Duty 4 or Half-Life 2? Second thing is that Flash can only do a fraction of what a Win32/DirectX title can do.... so Adobe better be hard at work on a 3D API if they really want to enter that space.

The major trick they'd have to pull off is finding people who would pay for Flash games. I already know the answer to this -- Flash games are great for advertised supported gaming, right? Well, how much of the games space can be supported by advertising? If we sell no games, and all games are supported by advertising, would we have enough people to spend money on advertising to make it fly? ( Right now, half of the advertising on gaming websites is for paid games). Are we expecting all entertainment to be paid for advertising commodities (oil, food, electricity) in the future? Lots of questions that need to be answered to make that fly.

But the bottom line is PC gaming is probably safe. If it was in danger, the entire PC platform would need to be in danger. Given how much prices are dropping on PCs, it's probably not a risk to consumers or developers anytime soon.

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