I’m Afraid You Have Consolitis

Written by Kapil Bhatt

With the persistence of the current generation and promises from the likes of Microsoft and Sony that their current generation platforms will have a ten year cycle, it comes to question if games are being held back by conforming to the current standards.  Let’s face it, videogames seem to have reached a plateau where technical specifications have been similar for several years.  It can be said that the real issue here is whether or not games are being hindered by developers conforming to said plateau.

The argument here is different depending on which perspective is being analysed.  The general consumer could claim that there being a set standard for games is not a bad thing at all, since the priority of the consumer is the monetary effect this would have on them.  With consoles having such a major effect on development standards, consumers could declare that they are spending less money overall due to only needing to buy one platform.  Whether they buy a console, or prefer to play on the PC, they could say that they have no need to upgrade hardware.  New hardware is always available when it comes to the PC, but with consoles having a lack of hardware upgrades it is apparent that consumers feel like the winners.

Of course, there are exceptions to the rule in those consumers who like to play on more than one platform for reasons such as exclusives, or preference in certain genres.  One such example would be individuals that prefer to play their first person shooters on the PC, and alongside this group of people are those who consider the PC as their platform of choice.  PC gamers, despite whatever opinions you may have of them, are the core driving force in technically advancing games.  This is due to the virtually limitless technology available to the PC platform.  With new components available regularly, PC gaming usually attempts to push the boundaries of what can be done within games via the use of new technologies.

From the perspective of many in the PC crowd, game developers have generally been disappointing.  There are many who believe that devs have begun to create games with consoles in mind, rather than developing for the PC as the native platform.  For some genres, such as role playing games and driving games, it is understandable for console controls and gameplay to be preferred over PC gameplay, but the argument is that for the likes of first person shooters or strategy titles it is the PC that should be developed for, first and foremost.  There are accusations that developers are more interested in developing for the larger crowd and are after higher sales, therefore concentrating on console development rather than utilising the newer technologies available that go beyond the capabilities of consoles.

Examples of the argument are titles such as Crysis 2 from Crytek and Battlefield 3 from DiCE.  Even after the release of just the multiplayer demo of Crysis 2 on the Xbox 360 first, and then the PC, there were opinions that the PC demo felt like a port of the Xbox 360 version, and this continued upon the game’s release.  There are accusations that after Crysis and Crysis Warhead, released exclusively for the PC, Crytek’s decision to make Crysis 2 a multiplatform title with a streamlined user interface was not favoured by the PC audience.  They feel that Crysis 2 has been “dumbed down” in order to play better on consoles, sacrificing the complexity they introduced in the original Crysis – a game designed with PC gamers as the sole audience.

With one audience being in favour of the gaming plateau, and one very much against it, the opinions of the consumers are distinctly split into two.  However, the opinion of those that are involved with the games industry every day must be considered; the perspective of game critics and developers cannot be ignored in such a debate.  There are possible advantages as well as disadvantages to having a plateau in games.  It can be thought that gearing a title for a multi-platform release means that all formats need to be of the same or similar quality, with no one format being distinctly better than any other.  This could lead to limiting a certain version of the game that could have more content or more depth in gameplay via use of a technology that is not possible on other formats.  However, this would sometimes explain why platform exclusives exist; simply because one platform is more capable than another.

On the other hand, it can also be argued that creating a title of similar quality on all platforms gives the title equality, so that the consumer may purchase the game on their platform of preference, and not feel like they are losing out buy not buying the game on another platform.  However, at present, platform manufacturers incentivise consumers to buy the game on their respective format through marketing or offering extra or exclusive content.  This results in the game not being the same on all platforms, meaning consumers would prefer one platform over another.

Some would say that the argument of technical advancement and utilisation of new technologies versus equality and cheaper gaming for consumers is completely irrelevant.  The so called ‘limits’ in current generation technology have not stopped developers from being creative, nor have they stopped them from pushing the technology as far as they possibly can.  Crysis 2 is a perfect example.  Crytek’s CryEngine 3 makes the game look graphically better than anything before it by exploiting the hardware at hand and building an efficient engine to produce quality not seen in the past.  This is the case for both PC and consoles; the game looks just as good, if not better than Crysis, and looks better than the majority of  other console titles to date.

It is possible, given the level of creative output that we are still seeing, that many game designers would be of the opinion that limits in technology do not stifle creativity.  More than five years into the current generation, new games and IPs that introduce unique features are still being created.  Whether this is the use of a unique art style like in Borderlands, distinctive game mechanics like in Split/Second, or even completely unique titles like runaway indie hit, Minecraft.  There are many more examples of games that utilise current generation technology and still manage to introduce new things to gamers, proving that no matter which platform is being developed for, creativity is not dead in this postmodernist generation.

Despite the differing opinions from various components of the games industry, developers continue to innovate and deliver new experiences for consumers.  Even though technology continues to advance and new processes and tools become available for use, developers are still managing to explore the current standard and keep pushing to use the full extent of the technology’s capability.  Therefore, it can be said that even with ‘consolitis’ being evident, it seldom hinders the ability of many game developers to provide new and intriguing experiences.

Last five articles by GL Guest Writer



  1. Rayven says:

    I doubt these lazy half-arsed developers care much about the effects of consolitis, since they know the PC gamer can usually remedy it on their own time. How hard could it be to make a proper PC version? Take Skyrim for example, within only a couple weeks after release much of the infection has been cured by fan made mods and tweaks. I know a lot of people who wouldn’t even think of buying a new game until there are consolitis eliminating mods out for it.

    For a PC gamer, it’s like he is the older brother who’s parents make him sacrifice so that the younger “special” brother will feel normal or part of the group.

  2. Stu Stu says:

    Interesting article, you hit on a number of very valid points. I think a lot of the issues boil down to PC being a more disparate and troublesome platform to release on from a business point of view. You can’t go a week without reading about some studio ranting about piracy or users condemning some new DRM implementation. Add onto that the point you touched on above about incentives for buying on consoles which also extend to the developers…you think Naughty Dog or Epic went exclusive to a single console only on their biggest games on a whim? Nah, wonderful, happy kickbacks, marketing dollars and other perks. Something the PC market will likely never see unless AMD, Nvidia and Intel & perhaps a decent rig manufacturer form some sort of coalition or someone like Valve steps up and starts offering similar for Steam exclusivity.

    Fear not though, PCs have reached the point where the graphical advances have been tempting back the gaming core. Steam & other digital platforms have also helped a lot, I think, in keeping the core players with money to spare for upgrades in the PC gaming arena. The only problem that needs to really be dealt with is what sits between the chair and the special edition gaming keyboard: the PC gamer. Many of whom build their own rigs (I’m very much guilty of this in the past) but not all that do it understand the hardware matching or the subsequent overclocking/OS tweaks they make. This coupled with the unimaginable variants of slightly differing component builds and driver sets out there means that maybe the publishers/devs don’t want the patch/dev/support nightmare of having to deal with PC gamers who instantly blame the product before checking things like drivers, recent tweaks to their system, etc. and then slagging off the devs as ‘lazy’.

    With the Xbox effectively being a budget PC in a box its likely easier to develop for that, get everything working and then scale to modern PC capabilities and newer DirectX/VGA card functionality with the graphics options, etc.- particularly when some of the devs will have been working with the xbox versions of directx, dev kits, etc for a few years now making the whole process quicker due to the lack of education required to get the most from it.

    Again, great article, certainly thought invoking and interesting – enjoyed it.

  3. Kapil says:

    Hey guys, thanks for the comments. Much appreciated!

    One of the primary reasons I wrote this in the first place is because I am now an indie developer creating title(s) for the PC (at the moment). It has it’s perks, and it has its flaws. I’m tempted to write another article about independent development when the debut title is complete – finance, business, limitations, problems, advantages, platform decisions, design decisions, team size, team capabilities, overkworking, crunch-time, to name just a few issues!

    Chances are that such an article may need to be in more than one part, but when I do happen to write it, I will definitely be sending it over to GL.

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