Ever since Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw crystalized the divide between gamers as the Glorious PC Gaming Master Race and the Dirty Console Peasants, both “sides” have been very aware of the gap that sits between them. Mostly, when the divide is played up for arguments, there’s a sense of technical superiority from the PC side. After all, the latest, greatest graphics card costs $1000 all by itself, and, when combined with the latest motherboard, a huge heap of RAM and a solid state drive is undeniably a graphically superior experience to today’s PS4 and Xbox One, which are, by PC standards, using mid-range components in terms of graphical power.
On the console side, there’s the fierce, perhaps even defensive sense of pride that comes from legacy. The Last of Us, Legend of Zelda, Shadows of the Colossus, Persona 4… many of the all-time great, timeless classics of gaming have never been installed on a PC’s drive, hard, solid state or otherwise. PC gamers may have better specs, the console gamers will argue, but they don’t enjoy the same moments of historically brilliant gaming that the greatest console exclusives of all time provide.
The problem is, the day is coming, probably just a few years from now, when there’s going to be very little distinction between a console and a PC gamer. PC will just become another “platform” of consoles, or, taking the opposite view, consoles will simply be another brand of PC.
We’re already seeing this happen even now. With the advent of Valve’s “Steam Machines,” the PC gaming space is seeing the launch of PCs configured with standard specifications, and dedicated primarily to gaming and/or home theater use. That’s pretty much what a console already is. The many games that were previously available exclusively on one platform or another, such as X-COM on PCs, or Grand Theft Auto on consoles, have been crossing the gulf for years. That’s a natural evolution of the PC developers themselves, such as BioWare, Blizzard or CD Projekt wishing to take advantage of numerically superior console audience, while other publishers, such as Microsoft, strive to bring console games to a massive Windows-userbase, regardless of whether they own an Xbox One or not.
But there is one unavoidable singularity that will engulf both PC and console gamers with the inevitability of gravity and smash them together. That factor is the march of technology. We are now probably a decade or less away from a time when 4K resolution and 60-90 frames per second will be achievable on a machine that will cost only a few hundred dollars. In other words, the very best graphics that the human eye can reasonably perceive, will NOT only be affordable to rich technology enthusiasts. Right now $1000 for a Titan X graphics card is more than most people can swallow, even if it does produce nearly pre-rendered quality graphics in real time. But 10 years from now? EVERY machine with a GPU will probably be able to do this.
There will of course, still be some vast gulf in what PCs can do versus consoles, but it won’t be in the realm of graphics. That will be a level playing field. After all, when all gaming devices put out photorealistic graphics, what will separate the Master Race from the Peasants? Interface? Both platforms are now rushing headlong into virtual reality, in which neither a mouse/keyboard, nor a gamepad are good controls. Genres? Even the occasional RTS can be found on consoles and side-scrolling platformers have regularly been appearing on PCs for years.
There will come a time, in the very near future, when technical superiority will no longer be a factor in separating the console from the PC. At that point, it’s going to come down to what should have always mattered in the first place; the kind of games you like to play.