You hear it from XBox 360 and Sony PlayStation fans all the time. “If you’re spending $60 for a game that’s not on a high-end XBox 360, PS3, PSP, or insert-high-end-console-name-here, you’re being ripped off.” This group feels that the idea of gaming on a PC is crazy. They’ll argue that no computer comes with game pads or joysticks and you’ll have to buy those too. They’ll say that PC’s cost twice as much as a console — or even more! The idea of using a mouse and keyboard for an FPS (First Person Shooter) is like asking them to play on the console with one hand tied behind their back. But what’s the real argument against PC gaming here? Will the casual gaming market be the end of the $60 PC game? My answer is no. I’d pay $60 for a PC game. I’d pay because of the specs, the convenience, and the price would only depend on the games lasting value and quality.
PC’s can easily be higher-end systems than consoles. The drawback is that you just pay for it up front or as you go by upgrading your video card and adding in more hard drive space and RAM. The good news is that a good PC has historically still had more options in their games than the console counterparts. For example, you can run UT3 on a PS3 or XBOX 360, but it’ll run at the native resolution of 720p. A PC version of the game gives you the controls to run at a much higher resolution if you have the hardware to support it. You’ll also get access to user-created levels or complete mods on the PC without dealing with the censoring of that content on a console.
However, I can respect the “console gaming > pc gaming” sentiment and I sit happily on the fence between both worlds. It’s become harder and harder to justify the hundreds of dollars you can easily pour into building a good gaming PC vs. the prices of consoles for somewhat similar performance and features. The game selection and ease of use of the consoles has always been their appeal and it’s just gotten better. The PC world (and especially the Apple world) have been unable to match the consoles in the ease of use for gaming department.
For quite a while now, there’s been a new market evolving in both the console and PC worlds. It’s a market where you can just download smaller titles at much lower prices. They typically have a little less flare, but pack in just as much fun. In the PC world, these are casual games that don’t require any high-end systems. Most people at least have a low end PC. A PC of some sort is almost required for daily living in today’s day and age, whether it’s a necessary evil to the user or something they love. These casual games will usually work the same on the low end $500 laptops as they would on the $5000 gaming PC. There’s even a market for completely free titles where you just pay for additional upgrades in game rather than paying for the gaming experience up front. These casual games that cost less than 10 bucks are perfect for people that don’t want to build a high-end gaming rig or just want some new experiences. Facebook and other web-based games have become successful with this market as well. Since everyone has a computer, the convenience of these titles and the ease of paying for them and downloading instantly means there’s no reason not to try it out.
Overall though, I don’t understand how you can complain about a games price if you’re willing to buy a 2 hour movie on DVD or Blu-ray at $10-$30 that you may only watch once or twice. It seems like getting 10+ hours of game play should be worth paying a premium for depending on the production quality and enjoyability of those hours of game play. I’d pay $60 for a PC game. I’d pay $60 for a console game. I am ecstatic that there are companies also making games for under ten bucks, but games cost a lot to make and you’re probably not going to get the same quality or lasting power with a $10 game vs. a $60 game. This is why the free and cheap games are really just a new segment and not a replacement for games with those higher prices and higher production costs. The price I’d be willing to pay only depends on the experience that’s being offered and the quality of that experience.
I paid $80 for Street Fighter 2 the day it was released on the Super NES. It was the most expensive title ever and there was a lot of debate surrounding the price point. The price quickly dropped, but the few of us that rushed out to get the game despite the price got to enjoy playing many more hours and saved some quarters from playing in the arcades. The debate over the pricing or games and gaming on PC’s vs. consoles will not end any time soon, but hopefully the markets won’t just take the development of these for granted either.