With an increasing number of console games making their way to the PC, platform convergence is seemingly inevitable. I for one welcome this and have thought about it at some length (that is, for more than five minutes) as to why this should happen going forward, even though I’m still an advocate for the existence of both dedicated gaming consoles and PCs.
Console manufacturers make the bulk of their profits from software. The hardware eventually turns into a profit-making exercise down the road, but for a significant part of any console’s life, the software is its lifeblood. As such, would it not make sense to have the same titles available on PC as well? This should not be isolated to traditional cross-platform games, but to exclusives as well – especially the AAA titles which cost tens of millions of dollars to create.
Convincing a traditionally PC-centric gamer to buy a $299 or $399 console is going to be a lot tougher than getting them to commit to a $60 purchase. Yes, I’m using US dollar pricing because the rand is all over the place, but for the purposes of this opinion column it shouldn’t make a difference. This is especially true because time and time again, the requests for porting games to PC have come in various forms – even as petitions, which mostly go unheard.
While I’m clueless as to the exact terms and conditions of software licensing on consoles, I’d imagine that since there’s no additional cost in bringing a console title to the PC (as in, there’s no arbiter deciding what software can or cannot be used on the PC), there’s no additional expense in seeking to publish on the platform. This isn’t the case when choosing to publish on a closed platform that has its own licensing terms. Of course, there are other considerations like development costs, quality assurance and validating for the PC to keep in mind. But for the most part, this shouldn’t be a problem given that we all share a common feature set and APIs.
For those that would cite piracy as an issue, there are two obvious responses to that which are not mutually exclusive. The first and most obvious is that, even if 80% of the PC copies of any one game are pirated, with only 20% legitimate purchases, that’s still 20% that would have otherwise not existed had the title not been available on PC at all. If that isn’t a great motivator then simply consider anti-piracy measures such as Denuvo, which have thus far managed to thwart all attempts to circumvent the scheme. It also looks as if it’ll stay that way for the foreseeable future. Assuming any one of the above justifications satisfies the piracy concerns, we’re left with a situation where a publisher is rewarded with a larger customer base, while the end user or potential buyer on the PC has more content from which to choose.
Of course, this applies more for PlayStation titles than games for Xbox, for obvious reasons. I imagine that should performance considerations be a major factor, a sandbox mode within which games run is entirely possible. While I detest games that require a persistent Internet connection, it’s a viable anti-piracy measure for disc-based games. That is, should you wish to, for instance, play Uncharted 4 on PC, you’d need the original PS4 disc, a persistent Internet connection, a PSN account and a PC that meets the system requirements. Of course, the ideal situation is if you could just buy the game online, but that isn’t anything new. A Steam-like platform for PlayStation games or Nintendo titles would be great, so the titles would run as they would on the native platform, without needing customized settings for resolution, AA, etc. – just simply operating as they would on console.
Streaming games is a more direct method of achieving this (as is the case with PlayStation Now) and indeed it is available, but considering the compression quality and unpredictable network performance for most users, it isn’t as feasible as one would imagine, especially given that wherever a user may be, there may not be a local server or servers may become overloaded.
Here’s hoping that this actually becomes a thing, if only so I can play all the older PS3 and PS4 titles I missed or want to replay, but are unlikely to ever be ported to PC.