It used to be simple. Computers were for things like word processing , banking and other real world enterprises. There were some computer games, but not a lot. I remember games like Parsec and Asteroids from the old Commodore 32, I was 10 when my family got that I think, so that would have been 1982. Its graphics were pathetic, it went at the speed of a snail, but it was the only game machine I had, so I enjoyed it. In contrast, consoles were for games, period. I remember Donkey Kong for the Atari. One system did not work for the other’s games. Nowadays however, things are nowhere near as simple. Now we have the Xbox 360, the Wii, and the Playstation3, all of which you can do word processing on. The lines between them are blurring. Is this a good thing?
The first automatic computers (like ENIAC) were designed to do specific jobs, which they did fairly well. Then came the 1980s and the dawn of the ‘personal’ computer. Customers demanded more from their computers, and the computer companies complied. Overnight, computer technology changed. Suddenly computers could do more, faster, than ever before. And suddenly the concept of a game for personal computers was no longer ludicrous. Games like Wastelands were no longer the norm after the mid 1980s, now things like X-Wing, Wing Commander, Battletech, Star Trek, all of these and more were suddenly out there and people who did not have gaming consoles had enjoyment time.
For many years, the consoles seemed to be a niche market. Not as fancy as many of the PC titles that were coming out, but they cost less and were generally less complicated. This is no longer the case. A good console these days will run about $250-$500 US for a really good system, although a decent one can be had for $100 US in many places. But the games… When you have to pay $60 US for a game, it gets expensive fast. And from what I have seen of the games, well, they still seem… I don’t know… limited maybe? They are generally shorter than PC titles. Aside from the Roleplaying games, which by definition are much longer, the action games seem to run about 24 hours worth of original play time, not counting rerunning levels and the dreaded ‘Aw CRUD, my cat hit the controller while I was paused to get a drink, and I lost the game!’. Now, don’t get me wrong, that IS a lot of play time. But for someone used to playing games like X-Wing and TIE fighter, well, they just seem too short.
This has been exacerbated in recent times with game publishers making hybrid titles, once designed for both PC and Console. Probably the worst example of this was Ubisoft’s latest entry into the Splinter Cell franchise, Conviction. Don’t get me wrong, it is a fun game. It’s not Splinter Cell no matter what they might call it, but it is a fun game. But at only 11 levels, and not all very large, it is quite possible to blow through the single player portion in half a day even on the hardest levels. And then we get into The Force Unleashed 2. I beat that, on the hardest level, in a little less than eight hours of playing. Of course I am not a true hard-core gamer, who could likely do it in 4 hours. What the heck?
Is it a cost saving feature? Are they going to try and get us to buy add-on packs to get more things in the games? Things like, the rest of the story? Is that the way that games are going now? Geez, I hope not. I can barely afford the games themselves now.
I don’t think that either consoles or PCs are going away anytime soon. With the standardisation of console hardware, it is much easier for a manufacturer to make a game that will work with any of that brand of console (theoretically anyway). But PCs can usually do more than just games, hence why I myself own a PC and not a console. I can play some console titles on my PC, it just isn’t easy. I would like to know why so many games that are coming out now are so short. Maybe they are just to whet player’s appetites so they will buy all of the add-on packs and downloadable content.
I for one hope that is not the case. Over to you. Do you prefer PC or Console and why?
Image from http://www.library.drexel.edu/blogs/thesuggestionbox/?m=200705