Despite the fact that today’s game consoles share the same hardware designs as PCs, there is one main reason why people choose sides between Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo. Performance specs and feature set aside, exclusives have been the defining choice for gamers with no deep pockets to go multiplatform.
Besides the Nintendo Switch hybrid form factor, the console is the only place to play the latest Zelda, Mario, Metroid and Kirby games. Sony is constantly raising the bar for their cinematic single-player titles on PlayStation consoles such as Last of Us Part II and Ratchet and Clank developed on a multi-million dollar budget.
While the Japanese electronics manufacturer has been diving into PC releases recently, newer releases like Gran Turismo 7 and Horizon Forbidden West can only be played on Sony’s latest console.
Meanwhile, Microsoft has turned their Xbox brand into an ecosystem that includes consoles, video game streaming, and PC. This means that first-party releases such as Halo Infinite and Forza Horizon 5 are getting Day-One releases across all of its platforms. This makes sense since the best PC games are mostly Windows-only (although the best Mac games also have a lot going for them), and let’s not forget that the Xbox itset is named after the Microsoft Direct X API used by PC games. is used by developers.
Games made exclusively for PCs still technically exist, and some of the best free games out there are exclusives to PCs, including many of the hottest esports titles. However, exclusive to large tent pole AAA are definitely rarer than ever.
2020 saw a slight resurgence in high-budget PC exclusives such as Microsoft Flight Simulator, which launched a year before its release on PC on Xbox Series X|S consoles, and Half Life: Alyx, only for PC. VR. Since then, PC gamers haven’t enjoyed the excitement that comes with a God of War: Ragnarok or Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2.
Exclusive PC gaming used to be the norm
It’s a shame when you consider how historically PC gaming has served as the foundation for many popular series that still top the charts today. EA’s John Madden Football was first released on Apple II (opens in new tab) in 1988, before being ported to other PC platforms and finally debuting on Sega Genesis consoles in 1990. Another EA property, The Sims was a PC exclusive title for many years before finally hitting consoles.
When it comes to shooters, the legacy of PC gaming consists of debuts from classic franchises such as Doom, Wolfenstein, Call of Duty, Deus Ex, Far Cry, Serious Sam, Max Payne, and Crysis all appearing first on PC.
The argument over whether Quake III: Arena of Unreal Tournament was the better tournament shooter was once the dominant game talk, and one that was completely missed by console-exclusive gamers – and it was as controversial as any PS5 vs Xbox Series X has been. debate.
While recent PC releases of the latest AAA games usually become a showcase for new technology on the best gaming PCs, they aren’t enough to convince console gamers who aren’t used to thinking in terms of ray tracing and SSD access speeds. . After all, they are the ones getting all the exclusive releases these days.
Plus, the best graphics cards have always been the domain of a select few PC enthusiasts, so most PC gamers don’t even experience the high-quality visuals that make the PC the gaming platform it is. And this isn’t a large enough customer base to justify the unbelievable cost of a modern AAA title, especially given the propensity for PC gamers to nick their games for free.
A significant minority of PC gamers are responsible for the death of AAA exclusives
According to an 2016 PC Gamer Reportnearly 35 percent of PC gamers illegally game, and they did — and still do — it a lot† Digital Rights Management (or DRM) has long been a controversial topic for developers and gamers alike, but it’s not hard to see its business sense.
One of the reasons PC exclusives have dried up is that so many gamers on the platform could potentially find a way to get their hands on a free pirate version. While major AAA developers from EA to Activison and Ubisoft could take the financial blow and adjust their strategy, indies are getting hurt a lot more.
In 2008, World of Goo was released by 2D Boy without DRM protection. With one developer seeing 500 seeders and 300 leechers on torrent sites, it wasn’t hard to see how the piracy rate reached about 90 percent?† World of Goo was co-released on the Wii, which had much stronger piracy controls, so it’s clear which platform made the most money for the two-person development team. And in the end, it’s the money that keeps the studios afloat, not the love and adoration of the fans.
It also doesn’t make sense to focus resources on exclusive PC gaming when it only represents about 30 percent of the video game industry’s market share. (opens in new tab) alongside consoles and the hugely successful mobile market. This is all the more true when a significant number of users within the PC gaming community pirate games – and it’s enough to force both larger and, above all, smaller development teams to hedge their investment and stay away from exclusive PC content.
The lack of exclusive PC games that can really take advantage of significantly more powerful PC gaming hardware is a serious problem for those who have made significant investments in their rigs. This is especially true when many PC editions of multiplatform games don’t even get graphics improvements like the latest Madden and FIFA releases† but eventually this problem started within the PC gaming community itself.
Is there any hope for PC exclusives in the future?
With the rise of Steam, the Epic Store, and other smaller PC gaming distribution platforms, indie developers have the chance to shine in ways they couldn’t before.
Games like Gone Home, Disco Elysium, Bright Memory: Infinite, and Hotline Miami were all budget indie projects that had explosive success on PC. Spanning multiple genres, these games don’t have an AAA budget, but they offer an experience unique enough to stand alone. Most importantly, they were released on PC before they got console ports, if they got one at all.
However, outside of Half Life: Alyx and Microsoft Flight Simulator, there aren’t many PC exclusives that use the best computer hardware available like they did in the 1990s and 2000s. And some of today’s best indie games can even run on computers that were considered top notch in the early 2000s, but may now struggle to run Skyrim with more than a few active mods.
And while PCs will always be home to the best MMO games like Final Fantasy XIV and Guild Wars 2 — along with popular esports titles like Dota 2 and Valorant — there won’t be many blockbuster, visual showpieces exclusive to high-end gaming. installation as they used to be.
There is simply no economic reason to make these kinds of games anymore. And with the rise of more accessible development tools like Unreal Engine 5 that make multiplatform development easier than ever before, the days of PC gamers bragging that their installation can “run Crysis” are probably gone for good.