There’s some hullabaloo at the moment about “Activision wants to replace consoles with PCs“.
Some folks seem to be treating this like the second coming. It’s somewhat more mundane. Activision CEO Robert Kotick is simply envious of the revenue cut that he loses to Microsoft and Sony.
For some reason, much of the interest in this right now hovers around a particular blog posting…
I think that’s poorly stated. Some games are better suited to the game-focused environment of a console: Pop a disk in, power on, play.
Given that console hardware is not that different from PC hardware, how is it that PC variants always load so much more slowly? Better compute power, more RAM, better/faster disk and loading from disk rather than CD and still the PC chugs away “loading”. (Consider KOTOR: it played so much more smoothly on the console despite the fact you had it installed on hard disk).
I suspect that part of the reason is that the Windows PC is no-longer really Microsoft’s preferred platform for gaming, as demonstrated by the beating OpenGL performance took with Vista/Win7.
Making a PC platform attractive to gamers is not a hardware issue; infact I suspect the absence of consumer hardware issues on consoles is a large part of the appeal. Appreciation for the ability to replace your 2-year old graphics card with one of a selection of $500 modern replacements is abruptly reversed when you find you chose poorly.
The big difference between console and PC gamers is the willingness to devote time to studying and researching the nuances of hardware advances. Hell, PC gamers are already beginning to tire of Intel/AMD nVidia/ATI shenanigans.
There are *some* hardware aspects: a gaming-PC has to have wireless controller support and a slew of USB ports easily accessible for plugging in multiple controllers.
The real issue is the software. You need something the machine will boot into that is along the lines of the XBox or PS3 interfaces, even the ability to power on the machine with a game in the DVD drive and have that game up and running in moments without fuss.
For success, in the West at least, you need to deliver a platform to “3 guys with beer and pizza”, operating under the assumption that much of the beer is already inside the 3 guys prior to operation of the device.
These guys want to be playing Tony Hawkes in moments, without trying to operate a mouse; they aren’t interested in a virus scan, or having Adobe+Java+Windows run their auto-updates. All the things that make starting up a PC time consuming and non-trivial.
Personally, I think what they might want to think about is a modular PC. A main unit that houses the graphics card, memory, cpu, and maybe a largeish SSD, which is small and light weight, and can be used to play TV games on. Like a laptop, it comes with a docking station that houses the hard disk, and/or extra stuff you might want for power-PC gaming on your monitor somewhere else in the house.
Undocked, it boots the SSD and a very streamlined operating system absent frivolities like web browser, windows update, etc, etc. This should be a gaming environment.
Dock and you get a choice between booting in full PC mode or the gaming mode.
Reality check time, however. Activision isn’t talking about pioneering anything here. They already make PC games. Kotick simply thinks that if he throws some support in the direction of existing PC vendors he can improve his bottom line.
So I think it’s highly unlikely we’ll see anything resembling a gamer-friendly PC fall out of this any time soon.