Future of gaming and Windows 8: Consoles step aside, PC is back?!

Windows 8

One of our readers from Europe, Vincenzo, has just sent me this interesting article (translated version here, if you’re like me and have an Italian vocabulary that is limited to the words you picked up from Assassin’s Creed!) talking about bits of code in Windows 8 programming that mentions the Xbox 360.

It is mentioned in the article that there are several possibilities, from the next generation Xbox console running as a branch off main Windows code to native support and/or emulation of Xbox console titles on your Windows-running machine. Having been a PC gamer for as long as I can remember, I must say I am excited! I have never bought or owned a game console before, ever (though of course I haven’t been living under a rock and have used consoles belonging to friends and family, but I still find their controls clunky to use and graphics to be watered down compared to the PC version of game titles)… and what Windows 8 could potentially bring might solidify the fact I may probably never need to get a console anyway.

The folks at Windows 8 Italia also mention that their speculation is based on the fact Microsoft has already brought over their Xbox Live service on their Windows Phone platform and have Kinect SDK out (albeit in beta form) for Windows… so having Xbox Live and/or emulation on Windows would be the next logical step.

The potential demise of consoles in favor of handheld… and now, PC… gaming?! You’d better be ready for it! If you take a couple of steps back and look at the big picture, you’ll see why this all makes sense. PC gaming was quite dominant before things like the Xbox and Playstation came along, but back then, consoles were invented to cater to the mass market. And consoles made gaming accessible, cheaper (in terms of machine investment) and easier (installations and patching supposedly ‘easier’ than on PC, no graphics or resolution settings to tweak) to pick up. PC hardware has also been comparatively expensive versus buying an ‘all in one box’ like a console (though you might also realize PCs are much more versatile and do more than just ‘gaming’). But now…

  • Intel is coming out with a much more powerful Ivy Bridge processor line next year along with integrated graphics. This is a good start since if Intel’s Ivy Bridge integrated graphics are powerful enough to drive most ‘real’ games (real games as in stuff like Left4Dead and Crysis 2, not Angry Birds) at low to medium settings at 720p resolution at smooth frame rates (comparable to the ‘console experience’), that simplifies shopping for hardware and picking out a ‘gaming capable’ machine for the average consumer/non-hardcore gamer.
  • More and more games that were originally ‘console exclusive’ or ‘console only’ are making their way towards the PC platform. Metal Gear Solid Rising for instance, is the first game in the Metal Gear series in years to be announced for the Xbox and… wait for it… PC platforms! The folks behind LA Noire also recently announced the availability of the game for PC too. And even more recently, I came across an article about the folks at Ubisoft expressing the complexity in developing games for consoles (but who, ironically, release A list games like Assassin’s Creed 4 to 5 months later for PC, after the initial PS3/Xbox debut!)
  • And once again, we’re talking about Apple. I’m a big time HP fan but I’m somehow always delighted to hear about the ‘PC gaming love’ being spread to Macs… because there are many young people out there using Macs (If you don’t believe me, go to your local public college and prepare for a surprise!) and it’s always great to give them a taste of gaming (Valve has been doing a great job at encouraging this by releasing many of their PC titles like Left4Dead and Team Fortress for Mac). Who knows? These kids might be impressed by the small sample of games they can run on their MacBook and go out there to grab a HP Pavilion desktop for a better gaming experience at home, versus sitting on their couches running their Playstation/Xbox.
  • Windows 8 Interface… and this might be the biggest deal breaker of them all. If Microsoft chooses to go back to supporting PC as THE gaming platform (instead of their Xbox consoles), they might want to do things right and make games almost or just as easy to install, patch and play as on a console. Power users like you and me don’t mind hitting ‘Setup.exe’ and tweaking things like anti-aliasing, anisotropic filtering and graphics card clock speeds, but the ‘average Joe’ doesn’t want to, or even knows how to. Easy of use! Microsoft’s already done it on Windows Phone, let’s hope they do the same for Windows 8.

And with all that being said, it’ll be great if HP starts gearing up now and getting some high-end gaming machines out there. Some folks would like to see the Blackbird 002 back, some would like to stuff a Z800 Workstation with triple SLI gaming graphics and that AMD announcement from last night is just *hint hint*!

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