PC: Is this really the time for the “Master Race”?

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Aina Prat Blasi
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The time is not so far away when betweengaming experience on PC and that on console there was an abysmal difference. Not necessarily one was better than the other, they were simply profoundly different, because they were based on different principles. The exploitation of the greater power of PCs on the one hand, the immediacy and accessibility of consoles on the other. And the gamer had no particular problems placing himself in the most suitable space for him, such was the distance that separated these two uses and conceptions of videogames.

Not only that: it's almost strange to say it today, times in which almost everything is available on all platforms (and we'll come back to it shortly), but it was perfectly plausible that a video game would be developed for PC and not for consoles, and vice versa. In short, the concept of exclusivity was decidedly clearer, without all those nuances (not to say smoke and mirrors) represented by the phrases "temporary exclusive", "exclusive console", "first up" and the like.

This was true at least until the seventh generation of consoles, the one made up of Wii, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, but we can also extend the reasoning to the early years of Wii U, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, because in fact today's almost identity between the console experience and the PC experience has been progressively arrived at, through the various steps that have marked a a gradual but inexorable and probably inevitable approach.

  • Today the most striking evidence of this identity is represented by the one just mentioned availability of almost every production both on PC and on consoles. Including, just to have the dimension of the paradigm shift that has taken place, the first party works of a company that even produces consoles, namely Sony. A small anecdote, simple but very illustrative. On my PlayStation Network account I have €100,00 to spend, and many times I have thought of doing so by purchasing Horizon Forbidden West or God of War Ragnarok, having enjoyed their respective predecessors on PlayStation 4. Why haven't I done it yet? Because I don't have plans to buy a PlayStation 5, I own a non-beastly PC, but still perfectly capable of handling 1080p (even 1440, often) at 60 frames per second and with high graphics options and I know that sooner or later (so by nose perhaps already at the end of next year) both will also be available on this platform. If someone had said not ten, but just three years ago, "I'm waiting for this Sony first party to come out on PC” everyone would have called him crazy, now it's the normality of things.

    Of course, there is always Nintendo which, probably, will never take its first parties outside its own platforms, but for the rest of videogame production, universal availability is now an established, incontrovertible fact. And on the other hand it is easy to understand why, there are various factors that have determined it. The technological one, first of all: long gone are the days when developers had to contend with abstruse console architectures, very different from those of a PC (still today many have nightmares because of the PlayStation 3 Cell processor); today they share almost everything, the architecture, as mentioned, but also libraries, development tools and the like and therefore it is easy to manage cross-platform development.

    As a consequence of this, there is also the economic factor. Porting a game to both PC and console therefore costs relatively little, much less than in the past and, simply, you earn more by accessing additional platforms. Which, given the ever-increasing development costs, this time in an absolute sense, is an indispensable practice, from a financial point of view. Again, Sony's choices can be taken as a perfect example of this.

    However, there is a discourse that proceeds parallel to the discourses linked to technology and the economic factor, which certainly depends on them but goes even further, and it is the one linked to the philosophy behind fruition, the one that a few years ago so clearly divided the field between the PC user and the console user. Today, consoles are PCizing, while PCs are consolidating, and they seem to do it more every day, in a paradoxical way, because in practice the identity has already been achieved. We are starting to be almost on the verge of an emulation for its own sake.

    On consoles, there is now a plethora of graphic options, including modes that favor quality or performance and other customizations that we would never have dreamed of finding there before. And it's certainly a positive fact, even if it somewhat erodes that naturalness and immediacy once typical of the console experience. What is not positive at all, however, is the counter-intuitiveness of increasingly complicated and abstruse dashboards, among which to navigate almost by groping, or in which the game library is in the background compared to the rest.

    On PC, however, the change was only and exclusively positive. Windows has become increasingly simplified and has come to create special spaces dedicated to gaming in a completely intuitive way: the times of "Games for Windows" are, fortunately, gone. Increasingly compact machines and the high resolution of modern televisions make it possible to connect the PC to the TV without too many problems, another thing that not even too many years ago was a nightmare and required too many compromises. The PC in the living room was therefore cleared through customs, also thanks to the special interfaces of the stores, and for those who really don't have the possibility to physically move it, streaming can help, rather reliable (but not yet perfect).

    Considering what has just been written, one cannot therefore not ask a question: At this precise moment in history, is the PC the best gaming machine? At a time when the consoles, except the Nintendo ones, seem to have abandoned the concept of exclusive as we had always known it, and seen an environment that is now very accessible even to non-members of the so-called Master Race, the term with which more or less ironically the champions of PC gaming are identified, are we facing the ultimate platform?

    True, there is always the question of the initial outlay, which will always be greater for a PC than for a console, for obvious reasons, and the video card market has become schizophrenic, between fluctuating availability and out-of-control prices. Thanks to technologies such as DLSS and AMD FSR, however, even GPUs that are not too old represent very valid options, because they are still able to support the technical sector of even the most recent games.

    Therefore, a boundless line-up including titles that were dreamed of until a few years ago, technological superiority, simplification of use and gaming experience, to the point that the PC can fit perfectly in the living room attached to the TV, practically eternal backwards compatibility. Could it be that the time has really come for the ultimate race of PC gamers?

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