Back in their heyday, video games were pretty much only found on dedicated machines—first arcade cabinets, then consoles. PC gaming soon became a thing, but it was a pretty small market compared to what was seen in arcades and on consoles. It wasn’t until the late 90s and early 2000s did we really see a truly dedicated PC gaming crowd. Fast-forward to now and it’s a massive juggernaut. It’s gotten so big that even Microsoft has admitted it. Now since Microsoft owns both Windows and Microsoft, it seems a bit strange that they would be the ones to say something like this. But, they said it anyway.
Microsoft’s Senior Director of Product Management & Planning Albert Penello recently had an interview with the Guardian. There, he spoke about how PC gaming has had a renaissance in recent years, and he also admitted that the technology powering it has exceeded the levels of consoles, especially when compared to past generations:
In the last five years, there’s been a real renaissance in PC gaming, and that’s happening with Nvidia and AMD investing in really high-end performance – to the point where PCs have eclipsed consoles much more significantly than ever before. In fact consoles used to lead PCs and it would take a while for them to catch up.
Computers were used for business purposes when they first introduced. After they started becoming household items, entertainment then became a factor. As mentioned already, there were games, but the market was rather small when compared to consoles. PCs were (and still are) being designed to be multi-purpose machines, whereas consoles (although having become more multi-purpose) have and continue to be designed with games in mind first-and-foremost. As a result, console hardware has been on the ‘bleeding-edge’ for quite some time, but as Penello has admitted, that has changed.
When the PS3 and 360 first released in 2005/2006, there were very few machines that could match, let alone surpass, their computing power. The US Air Force even designed a supercomputer out of a cluster of PS3 consoles. As the time went on, though, PC technology began to develop at a rapid pace. That, combined with the arrival of Valve’s renowned Steam service, catapulted the PC gaming market to heights never seen before. When the PS4 and Xbox One launched in 2013, things were much different than what we saw with their predecessors. There were many PCs already out in the wild that were a little bit older than these systems, and yet, they were superior. The gap has only been further widened in the three years since that time.
PC gaming is now easier and more affordable than ever to get into, thus the reason why Microsoft is now heavily targeting that market. This year, the company announced the XBOX Play Anywhere service, which allows customers to play supported titles across both Windows 10 PCs and the Xbox One. Forza Horizon 3, which recently released, is the first game to support this new service.
Both Microsoft and Sony are trying to win back customers who have made the transition to PC gaming with upgraded variants of their existing systems—the Project Scorpio and PS4 Pro, respectively. It will be interesting to see if this truly makes a difference.