Console: The Leash That Is Holding Back The PC

Console: The Leash That Is Holding Back The PC

Writers note: All mentions of the numbers “360” refer to the current gen console Xbox 360 and all mentions of the name “nextBox” refer to the unreleased next gen Xbox console

November 13, 2007. The day Crysis is released. The graphics of this game were mind-blowing. It was one of the most graphically advanced games at the time. The trees were stunning, the colors were amazing and the humans were life-like. It became known as one of the most hardware intensive game ever made and was used as a benchmark that only the toughest computers could reach. The sad part is that it’s still like this today, 5 years and the benchmark has yet to be raised. Why is this? What happened to Moore’s law? What happened to technology advancements? If Crysis, a game that looked THAT good, was released 5 years ago, then the games today should look life-like! Instead, we are just now reaching the point where games are looking as good as Crysis. So who is to blame for this despicable graphics deprivation? Microsoft? Sony? Game developers? Hardware companies? The consoles themselves? Well, they are all to blame.

Crysis is one of the most beautiful games to have ever been released.

The 360 launched on November 22, 2005. The 360’s sales were massive. Game developers saw the potential for millions of dollars. Shortly after, the turning point began. The time when most developers started caring less about the PC, graphics, gameplay, and making good games and instead focused on consoles and money. The 360 and PS3 were the developer’s cash cow. More people buy games for consoles than for PC, which leads to the console’s products making more money than PC’s products. As such, Developers started to focus more on making games for consoles instead of PC. When the developers started to focus more on consoles, they made more ports, made less changes from sequel to sequel, copy and pasted work from previous games, and rushed the game so that they could fill their wallet as soon as possible. When most console games are ported to the PC, very little changes are made and that includes the graphics. Consoles have very limited hardware and today, most PCs are equal to many consoles in terms of hardware and the ability to have better graphics. So when developers make the game for a console, they are constrained by the systems poor hardware. PC gamers are then stuck with a port that has console quality graphics. What could have been a mind-blowing realistic game on PC is now just an average game with mediocre graphics. Crysis was a game that was made for only PC (at the time), the developers weren’t constrained by the limits of the console hardware, so they made a game with glorious graphics, something no console could even come close to. Then Crysis was released on consoles on October 4, 2011, but even though every 360 game developer had 5 years’ worth of knowledge of the ins and outs of the 360, the game still came nowhere near the PC version. So just imagine if games were released for PC only or at least developers put more thought and care into their ports. With today’s technology, if developers pushed modern day PC hardware to its limits, just as Crysis did, we could have games that look almost life-like!

When the nextBox launches, it should have hardware that is comparable to the PC hardware of the year it launches or at least be comparable to today’s PC hardware, right? Hahaha,WRONG. A widespread rumor says that the nextBox will have a Radeon HD 6670. This is a video card that has only about half of the power of today’s mid-range to high tier video cards. Assuming Microsoft stays true to their sayings that the 360 will have a “10 year lifecycle”, it means the nextBox will be launched in 2015. This also means that when the nextBox launches, the video card will have been 4 years old and 4 years is an extremely long time in the hardware industry. The console will be outdated the second it hits the shelf! Even if the nextBox launched today, a 6670 might be acceptable, assuming the developers actually use it to its full potential. Though in the coming years, there should be no excuse for a video card with power this low. The video cards in the next gen consoles should be at least double, if not triple the power of the 6670. Console graphics aren’t going to increase by a whole lot if Microsoft stays true to their word. If the next gen consoles are on another “10 year lifecycle”, that means we could have 20 years of almost no increase in console graphics (from 2005, the launch of the 360, to 2025, the end of the nextBox’s proposed lifecycle) and since most games on PC are console ports, PC users could be stuck with 2005 graphics until 2025.

Skyrim: a recent console-focused game that is lacking in the graphics department

Video game companies aren’t the only reason why consoles hardware power is so low. There is also the matter of the hardware companies themselves. Console prices are based around (more or less) 2 things, the price to make the console and how much the company wants to sell it for. One of these directly affects the other. If the price to make the console is high, than the MSRP (manufacturer’s suggested retail price) will most likely be high. If the price to make the console is low, then the MSRP will most likely be low. The price it costs to make the console all depends on the hardware. This is the reason Microsoft decided to use the 6670, because it is an old video card and it costs less, which means both the price to make the console and the price the consumer buys it for is lower, which is what Microsoft and the consumer both want. So what if you could buy a video card that’s double the power of the 6670 for the same price? The console price is lower, the price the consumer pays is lower, the graphics are improved and the PC isn’t stuck with ports that have terrible graphics. Everybody wins. This is why we need another major technological advancement, something that will either lower the price of hardware, or increase the power of hardware by a magnitude, such as when we switched from vacuum tubes to solid state devices and the invention of the microprocessor. Both of these inventions reduced the cost of computers, something that was very much needed.  Until another major technologic achievement is made, console hardware is going to stay pathetically weak for a long time.

It’s been 5 years since Crysis was released. It was one of the most beautiful and graphically advanced games released and it left people wondering what kind of games could be released in the future. Yet 5 years later, the game is still king of the hill. Game companies and hardware companies are the ones to blame, and it’s a shame that nobody is doing anything about it. Until someone breaks the norm, our game’s graphics will be at a standstill.

 



  1. John says:

    Blame Microsoft more than anyone. When they decided to sell a gimpy gaming PC in a box way below cost and then buy a bunch of developers or just pay them not to release their games on PC, they destroyed PC gaming. Don’t blame Sony or Nintendo as they pretty much got dragged into this current era of FPSs, western RPGs, and on-line gameplay kicking and screaming. PC gaming was doomed the minute that Halo became a smash hit. We just didn’t know it at the time.

  2. Hazmat Brigade says:

    With Cryengine 3 coming soon ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5nB9u4jjy4 ), prospects for graphics are of course looking great once more… If developers choose to peruse this smartly. The faces look almost touchable, even compared to Crysis 1.
    Also, there are certain jumps being made in technology that the majority of the public is not informed of. Just recently researchers have developed a crystal compound that could be used in quantum computing, at scales far surpassing that of current super-computers. ( http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v484/n7395/full/nature10981.html )

    Console games such as Dark Souls, I would dare say, actually do a fairly good job with graphics. They implement parallax shading, create their textures to the point where with the in-game binoculars you can see features of whatever you’re looking at that you couldn’t distinguish at normal distance, and use some interesting techniques to create certain textures. For example, FROM went so far as to create a face under many of the more full-face-helmeted NPCs. They even gave the ninja in the Forest area asian slanted eyes.(only portion of the face visible, and only with binoculars). Again, going with the Forest area, the leader of that area’s covenant, Alvina, who is essentially the chesire cat, has many underlying layers of thin textures to create a furry yet dimension bending look.

    I feel that in many cases, consoles are holding back the potential of the PC, yet there are rare console gems that outshine 90% of even the PC NATIVE games.

  3. Bl4cklisted says:

    Unfortunately, its always about money.

    Console companies, such as Micro$oft and $ony, fight an uphill battle when trying to sell their systems.
    They have to accomplish two things that are adversely related: hardware power and low price point.
    In order for the console to sell well, the hardware has to take a hit in order for the machine to sell well.
    Lately it seems that the specifications are taking more and more of a hit, as systems like the NES, SNES, Genesis, and N64 were the tech of the time, but more recent consoles seem to be falling further and further into the past. I’d make an argument for the PC, as you can easily build a good gaming desktop for about $400, but not many people have the ability or desire to learn how to put the parts together. Until then, expect each coming system to be less and less “state-of-the-art” and more gimmick and casual.

    • Jay F says:

      $300 or less, actually. Especially if you can recycle parts from your current PC. And it plays any modern game at higher settings and with a higher frame-rate and resolution than its console counter-port.

      With Trinity premiering in a few days, I think things will get even more interesting in the bang for your buck department of PCs.

  4. Anon says:

    You don’t even make a real point. You (sort of) conceded and said that consumers obviously want something at a lower price point. The majority of consumers also don’t understand how to maintain their own PC, nor do they really understand the relationship between parts inside of a PC. They don’t want one! Console manufacturers are creating consoles at a loss, then hope to make up for it with game sales. To do that, they need a wide audience, not a niche audience.

    You need to realize that if anyone caters to high-end, custom built PC owners, they’re catering to somewhat of a niche audience. Yes, there are a healthy amount of PC enthusiasts, but when Crysis released, there weren’t a lot of them with the money to build a PC that could run Crysis.

    Of course older hardware is more affordable, as you said. But a major technological advancement (like the one coming, where we will use graphene rather than silicon) is only going to reduce the price of old hardware. Consoles will always lag behind because the price point is simply better with old hardware, regardless of any advancement. It’s simply more cost-effective. What point are you trying to make with that? It’s inevitable.

    As your benchmark of today’s games, you put up a bad PC port as an example. Skyrim. Why? You completely ignored Battlefield 3, which on its highest settings pushes a lot of PCs pretty hard. What about The Witcher 2 on max settings? Games designed with the PC in mind?

    Your argument just doesn’t seem well thought out at all and your writing is honestly a high-school level read.

  5. Vercinger says:

    Am I the only one who has no interest in super-advanced graphics? I can play games released 10 or more years ago and find the graphics satisfactory. In fact, I’d rather have bad graphics and lower system requirements than have to upgrade my PC components every few years.

    What really bugs me is that developers often use sub-par graphics, yet their games have vast system requirements. I like being able to keep a browser open while gaming and alt+tab to it without crashing the game (or my PC).

    • Johnny says:

      It is rather annoying that everyone gets all hot and bothered when they see the newest graphics of halo 4 or farcry 3 on a console and go all like they just got so much more beautiful, while a PC can easily conjure up 10 times more beautiful graphics.

      What happens then is that you either get something like RAGE, in which turning around will show you unloaded textures for a second, something like farcry 3, in which you permanently get 20 FPS if you play the console version, call of duty in which you look at textures that look ugly as sin, or you get a game which just looks dead and old.

  6. BROBAMA says:

    This article is incredible pandering to /v/.
    While I acknowledge that this is a /v/ born site, try not to basically restate whats already been said, yeah?

  7. Jean says:

    You can’t publish an article like this without discussing the exponential increases in content production time and therefore money; it’s too ignorant. If you want to say there is a way around that without sacrificing quality, then demonstrate it but you MUST tackle that issue in an article like this.

  8. Antoine says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on electrostatic gun.

    Regards

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