Alienware, which is great at throwing parties and getting me stumbling drunk, has acknowledged that consoles are finally getting more PC-like with the upcoming Xbox One and PlayStation 4. It's true, of course. It's all x86 goodness inside the box, making it a more level playing field for developers and gamers alike. It's good for Microsoft's multi-screen scheme, it's good for AMD's gaming scheme, it's good for everyone.
"If you look at what Sony and Microsoft are doing, they're taking PCs and putting them into the living room," said Alienware’s general manager Frank Azor. "It's an AMD CPU, it's an AMD graphics card, it's a standard desktop hard drive. It's unbelievable. That tells you that the PC is the gaming platform of choice out there, there is nothing out there that's better. You look at what they're trying to do and they're becoming more and more like PCs."
PC isn't necessarily the gaming platform of choice; otherwise, developers wouldn't have flocked to the consoles for years. But during E3 2013, AMD pointed out a very obvious flaw in the industry, which is that games are developed on PCs using SDKs, brought to the console, then ported back to PCs again. With next-generation consoles using x86-based hardware, development will be more universal across all three except for small features that each platform will require for differentiation. SDKs will still be in use, of course, but not for non-x86 hardware.
Unfortunately, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 will likely still be the platforms of choice because of PC fragmentation – they're a single hardware set whereas PCs seemingly have an infinite number of configurations (Android has the same issue). Naturally Alienware is going to say PC is the gaming platform of choice – it's indeed the most powerful, the most visually stunning on higher-end machines and supports an open gaming community. But on a revenue level, unnamed developers have told me for years that consoles are where the money lies because costs are low, piracy is less rampant and so on.
Still, it seems like PC is leading the way, and Microsoft and Sony are finally giving in to designing PC-like devices. Developers have reportedly complained about the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 hardware for years (the former more than the latter), so it's fair to say that developers have been the ones championing the new system hardware. Now it seems that the only real obstacle is developing for both a Windows 8-based platform (PC, XB1) and Sony's Orbis OS that's heavily based on FreeBSD 9.0 (which is really nothing new in the PC gaming arena).
"You're installing games [on consoles] now instead of running them off the disc, because that's the right thing to do; you're downloading games digitally, which we've been doing on PC for years; they're integrating certain TV aspects and stuff, well, ten years ago we started experimenting with media center," Azor said. "I mean we can tell you how to do that on Alienware with media center PCs during that whole time. It's a little bit different now because the technology has matured considerably, but a lot of the innovations and things that are proven on the PC are making their ways onto consoles and the consoles are looking more and more like PCs every day."
Of course, in one argument, one could say PC is leading because of games like World of Warcraft, League of Legends, World of Tanks and the huge number of free-to-play MMORPGs like DDO, Lord of the Rings, The New Republic and yes, even FarmVille. But on consoles, gamers have Gears of War, Halo, Uncharted… both platforms have their own blockbuster hits. Imagine if both groups were combined now that hardware is x86 across the board! Yeah... good luck with that one.
"Look at the most widely played games out there, League of Legends, World of Tanks, I mean these are the most widely played games in terms of hours played in the industry. And up until this week those were exclusive PC titles," he said.
The gaming business is getting ready to explode, and you're going to be a part of it. It's almost like that first 3DFX card and Quake all over again…