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A major source of Internet Backdraft, the PC vs. Console wars pit fans of both platforms in battles of nerd rage on forums all over the internets. As with Console Wars, fans of both platforms will argue on which is better for gaming.

  • PC gamers usually cite the computer's modding abilities, keyboard/mouse control, cheaper games, openness to indie games, free online play, and sheer practicality: ever since the late nineties, the PC has turned from an optional luxury to a necessity for modern life. Usually, it is also cheaper to build a very powerful gaming PC, although pre-built PCs are another story.
  • Console gamers cite ease-of-use, larger communities, simple control scheme with the controller (sometimes unusual), the ability to resell/buy used games (let's not get into the Internet Backdraft on that subject in this page), game stability, and easier local multiplayer, such as split screen.

Naturally, this results in many a Flame War on the web, not to mention high levels of Fan Dumb. To PC gamers, console gamers are either twelve year olds screaming obscenities into the microphone or a bunch of skill-less, obnoxious, and unintelligent frat boy dirty peasants, who couldn't even type their own name into a computer, both of which completely unwilling to play any game not Rated "M" for Money. According to console gamers, PC gamers are elitist, stuck-up geeks with no life that consider themselves the glorious master race and who live in their mom's basement. Unfortunately, magazines only reinforce these stereotypes, making gamers who play both or even exclusively one to yell "Stop Being Stereotypical" every time they read the next issue of their gaming magazines.

One thing that's almost never mentioned is the developer's point of view. Consoles are easier to develop for because every single version of that console has (or should have; hard drive size will vary) the exact same hardware and firmware; it's much easier to tailor the game to the platform, and to push the platform to its limits. Meanwhile, the PC world doesn't have standardized hardware; you might be running one of three operating systems[1], two manufacturers' style of graphics cards[2], two manufacturers' style of CPU[3], and God only knows what amount of hard drive space and RAM. And to be popular, your game needs to be accessible to as many of these options as possible. Part of the reason that games like Trespasser and Ultima IX flopped was because most computers then available could not run them without melting down; likewise, part of the charm of games like League of Legends, World of Warcraft, and pretty much all indie games in general is that you don't have to upgrade your computer to run them -- you could run them on lower-to-mid-end computers. It was part of what pushed Sins of a Solar Empire up, because they targeted the low end of the spectrum. (And yes, there is Crysis, the Trope Codifier for the Tech Demo Game. It's an exception to the rule.) This actually allows for greater accessibility in a format where developers push for the top. PC game developers already have to develop their games the way console developers would develop a third party game.

Until it became more common than not to have a console almost always connected to the Internet, PC games had the advantage and disadvantage of patching. Patches for PC games can often add new content and fix game breaking bugs, as well as fix other issues that slipped past the beta testing. The disadvantage of patching is that, for some reason, developers seem to use patches as an excuse to release games half-completed, using the consumers as testers to find issues for them to patch. By no means is this exclusive to the PC platform; it's become pretty much a standard for games to require a couple of patches because they're rarely without a couple game breaking bugs fresh out of the box. (Unless there's an Updated Rerelease, like a "Game of the Year" edition, Blizzard's Battle Chests, bundle games, etc.) Currently, there are plenty of clients that automatically patch the game for you, making this better. Bottom line, if you buy a PC game on release, most of the time you can expect to have purchased a late beta.

It should also be noted that some genres just naturally fit onto certain platforms better. Real Time Strategy and other Real Time simulations are accepted by most people to be PC-only territory, due to the complex nature of their interface (Starcraft is the most-played RTS in history, but its Nintendo64 port was a wipe), and trying to do a MMORPG on a console is probably suicidal (Final Fantasy XI makes it work, but it's more or less the exception). Meanwhile, fighting games belong in Console Country, since those games are designed for local multiplayer, which video arcades have been offering since the '80s but which PCs only managed around 2006 once HDTV sets became affordable.[4] Today, the major battleground is the shooter genres (be it first or third); wars have been fought, only some of them digital, over whether a game's console version or PC version was better. Initially, PCs had the edge, due to the awkwardness of gamepad controls in a shooting environment and the lack of Internet multiplayer, but then GoldenEye and Halo 2, combined with the innovation of dual analog sticks, made both those things work on a console, and from that point on all bets were off.

Nowadays, consoles and PCs are both powerful gaming machines, capable of online gaming and vibrant effects. It is starting to be unusual to see games exclusive to a platform; releasing a game on not only the PC but multiple consoles is typically where the money is at. This brings us to yet another set of pitfalls: "porting" a game from one system to another. Simply put, it's so easy to do this badly that we have an entire trope for it: the "Porting Disaster."

When it comes to porting a game over from one camp to another, things will go hairy if the port job is half-assed, or if the game in question was never meant to be on the other side. This is especially common with Japanese-developed games, since PC gaming never caught on in Japan and ports of those games are sometimes outsourced to Western development teams. Usually though, the PC ends up taking the brunt of sloppy porting jobs, as many games were designed for controller, not mouse-and-keyboard, inputs. To PC gamers, this is known as consolitis, where it is claimed that the developers are making their favorite game series easier for the console crowd. If a long-running PC franchise goes multi-platform, the console release often gets blamed for any unpopular changes to the game, particularly those which result in simplification or loss of options.

On the other side of the fence, when PC games try to go over to the console side, things don't always go as well either. Control-wise, there are more buttons on a keyboard than on a controller, and it's almost impossible to translate the speed and precision of a mouse to a pair of analog sticks. As a result, games with a wide range of actions or those requiring quick and accurate pointing don't go over so well on the console. Hardware-wise, the relentless drive of PC component manufacturers to outdo each other results in performance advancements that rapidly outstrip that of consoles, whose specifications remain static for their entire lifetime. A couple of years after the release of each subsequent console generation, even the average Joe or Jane who doesn't care much about gaming often has a PC that is far more powerful (especially if he or she has just bought a new computer), forcing the creators to compromise the console port in ways that degrade the quality of the gameplay experience (such as less-detailed graphics, smaller levels, or Loads and Loads of Loading).

As for the market, it is not as easy to tell, unlike in the Console Wars. While it is fairly simple to measure out the sales for consoles and their games, since the sales of console games is related to sales of the consoles, it is much more difficult to measure it out for PC games, since there are millions of PCs in the world that have never had a game installed on them. And this is just including mainstream PC games. It could be argued that the millions of Farmville players are PC gamers as well (though if you did you might Go Mad From the Revelation). There is also the issue of piracy on the PC side. Developers usually prefer to work more on the console side because it's significantly harder to pirate console games.

One more -- and perhaps unrelated -- thing to consider is the advent of Emulation. If accepted for the sake of the argument, this can easily put the PC over any console it is given the power to imitate.

A brief chronology:

  • 1984-roughly 1992: Multiplatform galore. With few exceptions, every popular game was ported to almost every platform available.
  • 1992-2002: With the port-it-on-everything phase dying off, both sides pretty much kept to themselves, using the strengths of their platforms to produce games suitable for themselves and mostly not paying too much attention to each other.
  • Turn of the Millennium: The mainstream success (and profits) of the console market led to PC game developers going multiplatform, while some go exclusive for consoles.
    • Epic Games, the makers of acclaimed PC hits Unreal and Unreal Tournament, pretty much goes console-exclusive after Gears of War. There was actually a too-little-too-late PC port, but nobody bothers with it. Similarly, PC gamers became upset when they learned that they would not be getting a demo for Bulletstorm until after the game had come out. You know, because people don't want to test the game before deciding if they want to buy it. Cliff's tweet didn't help matters either.
    • Koei, in the past the makers of many highly complicated strategy games, today are mostly known for Dynasty Warriors and its many spin-offs. Only the Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Nobunaga's Ambition strategy series remain, and to a lesser extent Uncharted Waters.
    • Some time later, the attempt to port some console games to the PC have mostly resulted in bad ports, most notably Halo 2, the first two Assassin's Creed games, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, Resident Evil 4, and Grand Theft Auto IV.
    • Modern Warfare 2 was a major front on the console vs. PC debate. Developers of the aforementioned game removed modding tools, developers console, dedicated servers, among other things from the game, making its multiplayer similar to that of the console. In addition, its price tag was $60, which was a console-exclusive markup as far as AAA games go at the time.[5] Many big PC games are now sold at this price. Naturally, this didn't go over so well with the PC crowd.
      • The backlash from this was so bad that Dice played up the fact that they had dedicated servers for Bad Company 2 (although they were locked down, unlike the dedicated servers in older PC games). Nowadays, when a game is being released for the PC as well as the consoles, somewhere in the game's fact sheet, dedicated servers are mentioned to be available.
      • Every Call of Duty game after MW2 has had dedicated servers, due to this fiasco.
    • Shadowrun allows players on the 360 and PC to engage in competitive multiplayer. The massive imbalance caused by the control differences causes plans for including this feature in future games to be halted.
    • Counter-Strike: Global Offensive was originally planned to allow cross platform gaming between Playstation 3 players and PC players. To help even out the playing field, PS3 players can use a keyboard and mouse with their console. However, Valve has since decided not to support cross-platform play.
    • Minecraft, a once PC exclusive game, was announced by Notch (head developer of the game) that the game would also be released to the Xbox360 with Kinect controls. PC players exploded with fury at the news, saying that Minecraft would now be ruined by retarded Halo/Call of Duty fans who would muck up the Minecraft community with their trollish attitudes and would demand the game to have guns or other things, or were worried that the game would now have even less updates because of how split the development team would be between PC and the Xbox360. This is after Notch has stated that A) a separate team would be working on the console port while he and his team would focus on the PC version, B) a standard controller would be an option to use should Xbox owners opt to not use Kinect controls, and C) updates were still coming regardless.
    • The gaming industry outside of the United States and Japan (particularly in Russia, Europe, Australia, China, Korea, and even Canada) is still massively weighted towards the PC, with many commercial titles being released for the platform regularly. Most of the advertising tends to be for console or Multi Platform titles due to to the larger potential markets, so now -- as always -- countless major and minor PC titles come and go without appearing on the English-or-Nihongo-speaking radar.
    • Battlefield 3: This has currently been a mixed victory for PC players. On one hand, PC gamers rejoiced when they heard that the PC would be the lead platform, and that the PC version would have 64-player maps, and larger maps than the console versions. On the other hand, backlash occurred when the server browser was stated to be in an Internet browser, rather than in game, and that the consoles would have an in-game browser. The fact that the game is not being sold on Steam has also been a source of Flame Wars on the Internet as well, along with privacy concerns with Origin. The issues with Origin snooping around though can be easily fixed by putting it in a Sandbox environment though. Details on how to do that can be found on the 19th post in this thread.
    • Rage: PC gamers were upset when it was announced that id Software's latest wouldn't be using the PC as the lead console. Then, when the game came out, it was found that there were no graphics options on PC (other than resolution and anti-aliasing), that the game engine was optimized for home consoles, and most damningly, that stock AMD and Nvidia graphics cards (which dominate the market) had trouble running the game properly and needed to be optimized/patched.
    • Left 4 Dead 2 already had its share of console version vs. PC version flame wars, but it rose to a new level for the Cold Stream DLC. The DLC was released to the PC players in beta in March 2011 and over time, Valve released ports of the Left 4 Dead campaigns for the DLC in beta as well so players could give feedback on what needs to be fixed. 2012 rolls around and Valve announced in their blog that the DLC is in certification process by Microsoft to which the DLC will be released to the PC and Xbox360 after it is done along with last minute bug testing. An entire year had passed since the DLC was released in beta and no word has been shown for a release date (due to Valve Time). The long wait has caused PC gamers to blame Xbox owners for holding the DLC back (due to the certification process) while Xbox players flame PC gamers because they feel the PC version is taking so long to test that it's holding the DLC back. It's basically a flame war over which side gets content the quickest.

Notes

  1. Windows, Mac OS or Linux. For a long time, Windows was pretty much the default gaming OS, but this is starting to break down now that more publishers and developers are serving Mac OS and Linux as well.
  2. AMD Radeon vs Nvidia
  3. Intel vs AMD
  4. Individual PC games have attempted to make multiplayer using the same system, except that this really does not work as a PC is designed for one person to use
  5. The cost exists to pay for licensing fees to Sony/Microsoft/Nintendo, which are naturally non-existent for a PC game.
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