Tomorrow’s world: The rise and rise of PC gaming

Monday, 7 November 2011 09:00 GMT By Stace Harman

Stace Harman takes a look at how PC gaming is inspiring developers to push boundaries, and speak to Nvidia’s Ben Berraondo about health of a much maligned and misunderstood market.

For as long as I have paid attention to industry rumblings, PC gaming has been dying. Or is dead. Or is to be given a new lease of life thanks to a fresh initiative, a new distribution platform or the arrival of a software title or programming standard that signifies such a leap beyond that which has gone before that the whole sector is reinvigorated.

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Of course, bold statements by commentators and ill-considered rhetoric by irked publishers will always grab headlines: declaring the death of anything is quite the proclamation but, in this instance, it’s a foolish notion. We forget sometimes that publishers and developers are not one cohesive group of like-minded individuals working towards a common goal.

Instead, they are a loosely defined gaggle of individual companies with conflicting opinions and varying business strategies that will likely never agree on how best to deal with any of the issues that affect the entire industry; just look at the myriad approaches to evergreen topics such as DRM, second-hand sales and DLC.

And so, one high-profile developer or major publishing house declaring their lack of interest in the PC sector does not a downfall make. Furthermore, recent high-profile titles like DICE’s Battlefield 3 highlight just how stark the difference is between the capability of current PC technology and that of consoles that are at least half a decade old.

Unsurprisingly, this is something that graphics card manufacturer Nvidia has a vested interest in and when I meet with Ben Berraondo, the company’s PR manager for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, he’s quick to highlight the importance to the PC sector at large of milestones such as Battlefield 3’s release.

Battlefield 3 PC beta on ultra settings.

“I think a lot of people will use Battlefield 3 as a benchmark title as they did with Crysis,” he begins. “Some of the key issues that developers have right now is they need to make a [PC] game with the lowest common denominator in mind – and that means working to make games run on even a humble Intel integrated chip in order for them to market to as many PC owners as possible.

“However, what we see with a game like Battlefield 3 is that it causes so many people to upgrade that, as a developer, you can sit down and say ‘we now have a huge user base that has DirectX11 and at least a mid-range card, so we create titles that are PC-led and look great without our publisher getting cold feet because we haven’t got a big enough market to sell to’.”

A piece of the pie
It’s possible to indiscriminately wield figures and pie charts to prove and disprove almost any view but nonetheless, let’s look at some numbers: interactive entertainment and videogame research firm DFC Intelligence suggests software revenue from PC games will outperform that of consoles by 2014. In that same period, DFC also predicts that digital PC game software revenue will account for ten times that of PC packaged software products – up from the seven-fold that it currently represents.

Interpreting figures like this, it seems more accurate to say that the PC market is in a constant state of flux and transition with pronounced peaks and troughs becoming apparent over a longer term than is used for judging the retail performance of a console generation. More objectively, it’s clear that the PC market is predominantly a virtual one, with mass-market acceptance of its distribution model far greater than that of consoles.

This factor further befuddles attempts to spot-check the health of the PC sector, not least because Valve does not publicly release revenue figures or market share data for Steam, a platform which is considered to be by far the biggest purveyor of digital PC software.

Ultimately though, forecast graphs, numbers and retail models are best left to the bean counters. They do not excite and they do not inspire; nobody ever coveted a bar chart. In contrast, tangible results from talented developers are much more evocative.

Epic’s Samaritan tech demo.

“As much as a lot of developers are happy to have a long-hardware generation because it really allows them to get under the hood, just as many other developers are excited by new tech and will push boundaries just to see how far they can go,” says Berraondo.

“The Samaritan demo by Epic is an example of that. That was running on three GTX580s, so it’s still ultra high-end even for the PC but it shows a glimpse of where we’re going. If you imagine that, roughly speaking, an SLI set up of previous generation’s chips is the equivalent of around 1 to 1.5 next gen chips, so we could be looking at maybe one or two generations before it’s possible to get to that level of performance on a single chip in your PC. It’s very realistic to imagine that becoming a standard for next gen.”

Future vision
Those willing to upgrade their GPUs on a regular basis will always be ahead of the rest of the market and whilst many more people are now willing to carry out the physical process of opening up a PC to replace components, the cost of the latest and greatest GPUs still proves prohibitive.

By comparison, 3D gaming looks to offer a more affordable way of obtaining dramatic results. Nvidia’s recently released 3D Vision 2 features a number of enhancements over the original technology, with some easy to understand improvements such as more comfortable 3D glasses with bigger lenses, sitting alongside the surprisingly complex Lightboost technology supported by LED screens.

A demo of Batman: Arkham City reveals the undeniably impressive results that can be achieved if 3D is incorporated into the development process early on. Here, Rocksteady’s non-intrusive, subtle and sparingly used out-of-screen trickery mixed with comprehensive depth-of-field effects make it wholly evident why games, not films, are the real champions of 3D technology.

Arkham City PC graphics comparison.

“We’re getting to the point where developers are learning how to best use 3D effects,” says Berraondo. “I think 3D is best described as an addition to your toolset but I compare its early use to that of HDR. When HDR first came out every developer put massive amounts of lens flare in, every game had sunset scenes but it lost its effect because of that.

“That’s been the case with 3D both in film and games, there have been some developers that have added 3D really late on in the process and you can tell it’s just tacked on. This kind of practice doesn’t do anyone any favours and people start to view 3D as a gimmick because of that, whereas if you actually have 3D thought about from the beginning it becomes much more effective.”

Witnessing its possibilities it’s difficult to think of PC gaming as being on anything other than the ascendency but it’s also galling to think of what could be achieved with a more unified vision and whole-hearted publisher support.

PC gaming should be celebrated by the industry and gamers alike for it’s the efforts of the pioneering few that inform the gaming experience of the many. Unfortunately, PC gaming’s headlines all too often concern rampant piracy, draconian DRM measures and inexplicable delays to PC versions of multiformat titles, threatening to undermine its achievements.

Yet achieve it does, both through its application of innovative technologies and by offering a tangible glimpse of the future, and thus it ensures that rumours of its death continue to be greatly exaggerated.


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  1. Edo

    F’k yeah!!

    #1 4 years ago
  2. Erthazus

    Yeah, judging by that thing. 580 GTX alone is more powerfull than consoles by X10 times.

    Back in 2005 PC was already X2 more powerfull than consoles.

    It’s time to move on. PS3 and 360 these days are children toys and yes, 99% are BAD looking games. Even first party titles. You can look at extremely horrible fps drops in Uncharted 3.

    and no way you can compare current gen titles like Battlefield 3 or Witcher 2 to console titles and they are not next gen. Just current gen games with current gen Direct X10-11 effects.

    PS: also, i still think that 1-2 580 GTX is enough for Samaritan demo if you can optimize it. some effects are really incredible of course.

    #2 4 years ago
  3. Dralen

    “Batman: Arkham City” is looking awesome on PC! Cannot wait to get me some of that.

    #3 4 years ago
  4. BULArmy

    Erth stop hatin’ on the consoles it just look silly and looks like you try to convince that PC is a superior, but in reality is not. Just stop you are not making us a favour.

    For the article, it is very good and I completly agree for the 3D part. I just can’t watch movies in 3D, even if they are filmed for 3D and not the case in which is just added later. For games if as said, they are developed with 3D, and is not just a gimmicky, is just great. It really help me experience better the given game. And most interestingly NVidia 3D don’t give me headaches unlike movies.

    #4 4 years ago
  5. Erthazus

    “like you try to convince that PC is a superior, but in reality is not”

    No one ever tries to convince someone here about something. Sorry. PC is a superior platform in terms of capabilities and controls for some games. It’s a fact. If you think otherwise you are a fanboy.

    this is a great thread explaining the importance of that platform and i just said that i agree with the article.

    #5 4 years ago
  6. YoungZer0

    @5: “If you don’t agree with me, you’re wrong.”

    Conversations with Erthazus in a nutshell.

    #6 4 years ago
  7. Zeydlitz

    > Back in 2005 PC was already X2 more powerfull than consoles.

    It’s a mistake. If you count rare performance, such as GigaFlops, than consoles are x5 weaker that GTX580, and in 2005 was x4 faster, than PC (CPU+GPU). Even now consoles CPU have more raw power, than modern x86 CPUs. But what’s more important, that PC architecture are pretty bad, it lowe PC performance a lot.

    And battlefield, new batman and so on for PC does provide new-generatin look, it’s just slightly improved current gen

    #7 4 years ago
  8. Christopher Jack

    Look guys, we all know how much of a narcissist Erth is, he can’t even imagine something from another person’s perspective, he truly believes that the only reason a person would own a console is for the odd AAA exclusive, so arguing with him is futile because in his mind- you’re wrong, 100% of the time.

    #8 4 years ago

    Everyone knows PC’s are more powerful than consoles.

    Everyone knows that m/kb is more ‘accurate’ than a controller (for most people).

    Gaming isn’t all about power, though. If that was the case, Game Gear would have beaten Game Boy, Jaguar would have beaten SNES, Dreamcast would have beaten PS1, Xbox would have beaten PS2, etc, etc, etc…

    If the PC had a unified system, with unified standards and didn’t encourage me (even though I don’t have to, I know) to upgrade every 6 months, I would probably still game on PC.

    I don’t get blue screens and driver issues on console.

    I’s rather go buy a mass production sports car from the showroom, than build a high powered kit car of my own, and have to deal with all the problems myself.

    #9 4 years ago
  10. viralshag

    “i still think that 1-2 580 GTX is enough for Samaritan demo if you can optimize it.”

    Wow, what’s that? £300-500 to upgrade just your gfx card there. If you need one or two of the latest cards to run what’s “current” then I’m pretty sure only real enthusiasts and loaded people will enjoy PC gaming when it’s actually at its best.

    Edit: “Everyone knows that m/kb is more ‘accurate’ than a controller (for most people).”

    Amen to that. To the “for most people” part anyway.

    #10 4 years ago
  11. Maximum Payne

    I think whole Samaritan demo is you know kinda stupid.
    Just use BF3 singleplayer for example and how game its not very hardware hungry even for ultra setting.So if I can play it on ultra with 60 frames on 720p with my now aged 5770 then don’t get me started what 580gtx could do….

    #11 4 years ago
  12. GrimRita

    The overall problem with gaming was Microsoft and its ‘plan’ to destroy it with its double assault – Vista and Games for Windows Live, which crippled PC gaming, forcing many to its naff 360 console.

    However, there are enough publishers out there making a fortune from PC gaming only(and I dont only mean Blizzard) whilst console developers/publishers are going to the wall all over the place.

    With the likes of Steam delivering a universal shop window for indies to mix with large publishers, has proved to be a success and when a developer does bother itself to create a good PC lead format title, they do benefit.

    But, Nvidia need to stop confusing the issue by releasing so many scaled down versions of their cards and create a simplier way for those new to PC gaming to identify if a game will work on their system.

    Its not as bad as it used to be, but it could be better. Ben is a top bloke and I agree that if you want to have mainstream success on the PC, you have to appeal to those crappy intergrated cards – hence why games like WoW and The Sims are so popular.

    #12 4 years ago
  13. viralshag

    Errr, the Sims is awesome I’ll have you know. 8)

    #13 4 years ago
  14. bpcgos


    Gaming isn’t all about power, though. If that was the case, Game Gear would have beaten Game Boy, Jaguar would have beaten SNES, Dreamcast would have beaten PS1, Xbox would have beaten PS2, etc, etc, etc…

    Yep, agree with that! Thats why Minecraft (on PC) sold better than any AAA console port released on PC. I dont think that would be possible on console.

    If the PC had a unified system, with unified standards and didn’t encourage me (even though I don’t have to, I know) to upgrade every 6 months, I would probably still game on PC.

    Maybe you should try gaming in Mac!

    I don’t get blue screens and driver issues on console.

    But you get something much worst like X360 RROD (I think many people tends to forget that nowadays) or PSN hacks. And maybe you should switch from XP to windows 7, blue screen are very rare occasion on it except if you messing around with it intentionally like me(turning off UAC, tweak it’s registry, etc). If there’s some driver issue, you will get the fix pretty quickly through updates meanwhile 7 will automatically block the problem if its trully endanger your whole system.

    I’s rather go buy a mass production sports car from the showroom, than build a high powered kit car of my own, and have to deal with all the problems myself.

    And if that’s the case, i just can’t say anything because that’s only a matter of taste! But, please don’t throw false judgment towards PC gaming and generalise it like everybody decided to gaming on PC will get the same problem. It will only justified this article that PC gaming will always being misunderstood all this time.


    #14 4 years ago
  15. brotherhoodofthewolf

    the rig i got a year or so ago is great – whenever there’s a pc version of a big title i’ll always get that version. more ‘core’ gamers should take the plunge!

    #15 4 years ago


    Fair points.

    Minecraft is coming out on 360, btw.

    #16 4 years ago
  17. RedBirdiii

    Graphics is not the main thing that I look for when I buy a game.. A true gamer always focus on gameplay and fun..

    #17 4 years ago
  18. Gadzooks!

    I wouldnt game on the PC even if it was the only platform left.

    Bugs, patches, hardware drivers, constant upgrades, OS versions, high cost and assembly/fix/debug time make it unviable for me.

    It’s simply a work tool, not a gaming platform, in my view. Tried it many times and gaming on a PC simply sucks.

    #18 4 years ago
  19. DSB

    I think there are a few things that get overlooked in that article.

    When talking about design, games like Battlefield 3 are the absolute exception, not the norm. Most of the time we’re left with these fairly restricted console templates, that essentially wouldn’t be able to compete with PC games from even a decade ago.

    Something like a tactical shooter would never be possible on a console unless you actually had the console doing your aiming for you, and the closest thing they’ve had to an RTS has been voice controlled.

    Also, the fact that the PC may get ahead in 2014 doesn’t really account for the fact that the current generation of consoles are sick and dying. They’ve all but outlived themselves, and are basically pulling fewer and fewer frames by the day. That’s not going to last far beyond 2014.

    I do agree that the death of the PC is an idiotic concept, and I do agree that it holds a very important role in gaming more than anything else. It’s a platform where you can basically do anything. You’re not held back by a GPU for very long, because someone is always going to make a better one within 2 years, and the same thing goes for any other hardware you can imagine.

    But as the article quite rightly points out, it’s still going to be limited to those who want to spend ridiculous ammounts of money in keeping up.

    There’s also a point to be made for those who could be supporting the platform, but instead choose to work against it. Ubisoft have managed to lose 60% of their PC revenue by introducing punishing DRM for their paying customers, and they’re very likely to blame that on the PC itself, or “pirates”, rather than their own incompetence.

    #19 4 years ago
  20. absolutezero

    “Bugs, patches, hardware drivers, constant upgrades, OS versions, high cost and assembly/fix/debug time make it unviable for me.”

    You heard it here first console games are bug free and never get patches.

    This is exactly what the article is trying to get across all those beliefs are mis-placed and incorrect. Its not all that expensive to get a half decent gaming capable rig which can then go on to do numerous other things. Comparitively once the initial expenditure is down you can expect to pay less for everything there after because of the beautiful open nature. Multiple retailer sales all selling already cheaper games because of the lack of platform holder fees to pay.

    Want some DLC but dont think its worth what they are asking for it? Wait a little while it may well appear in a sale.

    Free online thats so much more advanced (when developers allow it to be anyway), all the benefits of modding.

    You dont want to tinker, you dont have to. Thats the power its so free and massively rewarding.

    Despite everyone seemingly arrayed against it like some bizarre war (there here in this very comment thread spewing idocy all over the place) the PC as a gaming platform will never ever go away. Even if its one man making a game like Spy Party people will always use the PC to experiement and share with one another.

    Also PC Gaming is dying and has been dying for the past 20 years, long may it continue to die if the alternative is an Xbox and a copy of Gears 3.

    There we go thats better. There there.

    #20 4 years ago
  21. DSB

    So since when is Call of Duty a console franchise? It started as a PC exclusive.

    #21 4 years ago
  22. absolutezero

    The irony is not lost on me.

    Whatever its beginnings its still the poster child for the over-whelming under-aged braying console demographic.

    Sadly though im pretty sure there was a News piece around the launch of CoD 4 basically dis-owning the PC and stating its new found loyalty to the console over-lords. Only not in those words.

    Maybe Ill change the last game to something less knee jerk in my previous post. Gears 3 maybe.

    #22 4 years ago
  23. GrimRita

    Why are some folk under the misconception that you must spend hundreds and hundreds of pounds to get a good rig? You dont. But its like anything in life, if you want a superb sports car, you pay a top price – the same goes for PC Gaming.

    You can pick up some good deals on mid spec rigs that offer superb performance and not only Nvidia cards – ATi, offer excellent value. And people forget, the PC is more than just a gaming system, its does so much more today then it did 10 years ago.

    #23 4 years ago
  24. GrimRita

    @21 yes it did but it turned into a shoddy port for the PC market = No sale!

    #24 4 years ago
  25. DSB

    @22 Just because some people choose to believe their own bullshit narrative, I don’t see why the same should go for me. Or anyone else.

    Personally I think twitch gameplay is as PC as it gets. That’s one of the many reasons why I love the platform.

    I remember seeing a lot of whining about MW2 as well, even though the only real point of contention was the matchmaker. The console versions were the ones with the gameplay-related bugs and exploits still left in them.

    @24 I don’t think Treyarch’s problem is so much in porting as it is in simply not being very good at making games.

    As for Modern Warfare 2, I don’t remember running into any of the bugs or exploits that were pretty highly publisized on the consoles, to the point even of Xbox Live threatening bans for using them.

    #25 4 years ago
  26. absolutezero

    Pretty sure it was a marketing stunt but then the entire gameplay of the multiplayer changed whole sale from what it was before. Remember Call of Duty United Offensive? Lovely thing that.

    Anyway now it was all about endless running and “Quick-scoping” which was a decidely console specific inclusion. One that still made it across to PC version.

    @25 Hey now I think Treyarch might have had some potential at some point in the past, they made the nice Spiderman games remember and the first thing they released was the insane Die by the Sword. Quite depressing now whats come of them.

    #26 4 years ago
  27. DSB

    Well, I never did play United Offensive.

    I don’t see what’s so uniquely “console” about the current multiplayer though. It might not test the PC hardware much at all, but then neither does Counter-Strike, and that’s pretty much a PC institution.

    I’ve played close to 200 hours of CoD, no clue what quick-scoping is, or why it should matter to me. I’ve had issues with the MW2 matchmaker just like everybody else, but perhaps especially as someone who’s gamed on the PC in forever, I’m just glad to see someone trying to move past the old ways and sparing me the busywork.

    Even if the prototypes seem to be faulty as fuck.

    And again you’ve caught me off guard on Treyarch. No clue what they did before the CoD era, but I’m not too impressed by their work at this point :P

    #27 4 years ago
  28. Dralen

    @24 Infinity Ward’s games have always been very good on PC. I’ve found it’s their counter part “Treyarch” that do shoddy PC ports. Black Ops was just terrible at launch – one word: unplayable. I’m not sure about World at War, I wasn’t interested in a step back for the series, not sure why I bought Black Ops tbh lol.

    #28 4 years ago
  29. absolutezero

    Die by the Sword was like Tresspasser but melee. Its mouse controlled sword combat, its bonkers and broken and does not really work but it was a whole heap of fun at the time.

    Quick scoping in CoD is bascially exploiting the native auto-aiming that the game employs, tapping the aim/ironsights trigger while looking vaguely in the direction of another player snaps onto them, then its just a matter of holding down fire. It was a concession to the pace of the new multiplayer model with the limited controls of a pad. That then was brought across onto the PC build of the game. Now you’ll find “hard-scoping” frowned upon, thats basically aiming like you would in any other game.

    Then theres the silly trick shots that illustrates the almost broken hit detection, spinning 360 degress while jumping then using quick scoping to get a lock on and firing usually results in a kill, even when the tracer ends up being no where near the now dead player is.

    This is the perfect example, mute the music and just look at it. This is actually meant to be impressive and not depressing that this is the flag carrier for this generation. Actually just read some of the comments, all of them seem to be upset that the guy landed before he fired, apparently your meant to dire while spinning in the air for it to be an actual trick-shot.

    #29 4 years ago
  30. TraceableX

    Hopefully next-gen games will bring awesome story modes, not only graphics like that benchmark, uninspired, piece of shit BF3

    #30 4 years ago
  31. DSB

    @29 Can’t say I ever noticed, but that seems like a lot of trouble to go to just to cheat at a game and earn a few points. It doesn’t look very entertaining.

    Where does the auto-aim come in though? I think there’s an option for it in singleplayer, but I’ve never seen it in multiplayer.

    #31 4 years ago
  32. mojo

    lol sims aint even a game.

    things like origin, unbearable drm harrasement and what-the-fuck-else ultimately turned me away from pc.
    Wount take to long and consoles will achieve the same.

    Back to board games i guess.

    #32 4 years ago
  33. Ireland Michael

    @2 Nobody gives a flying fuck about hardware power as long as the games are fun to play.

    #33 4 years ago
  34. absolutezero

    Stop replying to Erth you silly sausage.

    #34 4 years ago
  35. viralshag

    @ mojo, You’re wrong. Sims IS great! :P

    #35 4 years ago
  36. loki

    LOL you mean
    Tomorrow’s world: The sux and fail of PC gaming

    #36 4 years ago
  37. blackdreamhunk

    pc gaming is like the borg

    We are The Borg

    The Borg Resistance is Futile

    #37 4 years ago


    This blog is too funny, sometimes!

    #38 4 years ago
  39. DarkElfa

    I like pie.

    #39 4 years ago
  40. aseddon130

    Battlefield 3 to me was a massive reminder on why we need new consoles, the console versions look crap … and then the PC version of Battlefield 3 reminded me how much of a pain in the arse PC games really can be with Drivers and graphic glitches and shit like that, my PC is perfectly capable of running BF3 on medium to high settings and even with the latest drivers from nvidias site i still get mad graphic glitches (despite a nice smooth framerate)

    Both have issues, for this one game (and any RTS) the PC version reigns supreme, but 90% of fantastic games to play these days come to consoles first, the consoles themselves are a damn sight more affordable than a top notch PC and work no matter what.

    #40 4 years ago
  41. blackdreamhunk

    pc gaming and pc gamers are like the borg it will never die we will adapt!

    pc gamers are like Locutus of Borg talking to Worf!

    you cannot stop pc gaming unless your god himself!

    everyone trying to fight pc gaming will fall into place Resistance is Futile> they will end p like Locutus from startrek.

    Star Trek – Locutus Of Borg

    here check this out look at all the pc games coming to the pc!

    consoles gaming never get as good or a close as pc gaming.

    #41 4 years ago
  42. Gekidami

    ^ A typical PC gamer.

    #42 4 years ago
  43. blackdreamhunk

    here is a who was a console gamer until he meet the the borg I mean the pc

    here what he had to say

    Damn WTF Was I Doing Before PC Gaming….

    Console *ONLY* Kiddies Don’t Even Know What REAL Gaming Is LOL

    #43 4 years ago

    Flippin’ Trekkies!

    #44 4 years ago
  45. The Evil Pope

    Where there is a PC article, there is that moron called loki!

    #45 4 years ago
  46. fearmonkey

    I am willing to wait on new consoles till we can run the Samaritan demo running at 1920x1080p at 30FPS or better. Until then, I’m willing to wait..

    I have been amazed how much graphics have improved in gaming, and just on the engine side. Look at the graphics from Oblivion to Skyrim, same hardware, new engine. Look at ID’s Rage and Crysis 2, they still look great on consoles, though PC’s of course look better.

    PC’s are much more powerful in Raw power, but their limitation is the overhead they suffer from, that consoles do not. If a PC can render the Samaritan demo with 3 580′s that still has all that overhead, I could believe a new console with 1 580 could be coded to run very close to it.
    If the next consoles use technology that is above 580′s tech, then i see no reason why it couldn’t run it with any issues.

    #46 4 years ago
  47. Lounds

    If SONY & M$ are looking at proto type builds, I highly doubt a 580 is on the table, you looking at a 460gtx most likely and ATI 5870/6870 but probably with 2gb of memory. Consoles will be power efficient, probably running on 28nm cores for launch.

    #47 4 years ago

Comments are now closed on this article.

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