Less than two weeks into the new year, CES has already thrown spanners in the works when it comes to handheld gaming. Hardware giant Nvidia are throwing their hat into the ring with their Shield device, and peripheral company Razer has revealed more information about their tablet device, the Edge. The Wii U is hitting its post-launch slump as hungry gamers eagerly await new titles, while Sony and Microsoft are surely gearing up for a showdown at E3, revealing new consoles.
While it seems we could be entering the streaming and tablet age if these early announcements are anything to go by, I'm putting my money on PC being the leading platform in 2013, stepping forward to a new golden age of big rig gaming.
Here are some reasons why.
Low development costs will lead to new IPs
While console development is based purely on sales figures, it seems that low cost development processes could lead to exciting new IPs on the PC platform. Going back to the beginning of this generation, the number of new IPs from leading companies such as Ubisoft, THQ and EA were rather abysmal.
Even worse was when promising concepts (see Mirrors Edge) didn't sell well, which resulted in these interesting new series being shelved indefinitely. It's easy to understand why; games cost millions of dollars to develop, then there are distribution and marketing costs to go on top of that, which means a tonne of copies need to be sold to even break even.
With PC raising in popularity, leading developers could be more inclined to experiment with new IPs. Utilising services such as Steam and Origin, developers can easily distribute and market their games to a mass audience with minimal cost, keep the retail price low to entice consumers, and reap the benefits of a soft launch in the process. If PC gamers eat up a new franchise, then they can put their dollars behind a console port.
Shorter and more innovative titles
As gamers, we throw over $75+ on average for a brand new title on release day. When we hand the clerk at our store of choice that kind of money, we expect to be razzled, dazzled and entertained for hours to come. Our expectations are high, as they should be, considering we are shelling out a high amount of cash for our favourite pastime.
PC games are a different kettle of fish. Developers have a cost effective way to release titles through digital distribution, which allows them to keep the retail price down, sometimes below $5 for a new release. When consumers purchase a game for less than a bottle of vanilla Coke, they don't expect to receive 40+ hours of gameplay.
As a result, we will see more innovative and shorter titles that push the boundaries of each genre in gaming, exclusively on the PC platform.
Valve will dominate the home
Rumours of a Steam Box have been circulating for over a year now, but Valve has finally confirmed that they will be releasing the hardware themselves, along with authorised companies releasing their own Steam Boxes to the mass market.
What we do know about Valve's proprietary hardware is that it will run on Linux as default (with the option to run on Windows), act as a server so it can stream the same game to several screens for local multiplayer, and their controllers will experiment with biometrics.
Gabe Newell has come out to state that now when developers release a Steam compatible title, it will now run on Windows, Mac and Linux for your Desktop, Laptop and Steam Box device. If Valve can get a decent install base in homes across the globe, developers will release the game once to appear across many devices, including a home console device thanks to Steam's Big Picture support.
Newell also claimed that Valve were looking into ways to work with mobile platforms. If they can penetrate that market, a field where Apple is finally starting to feel stale, Valve could become the leading game content provider across all platforms globally.
Stronger awareness as new consoles develop
While Sony and Microsoft may be planning to announce their new hardware at E3 come mid-year, chances are we won't be seeing consoles until the Christmas period at the earliest. The Wii U has already captured its niche market of Nintendo fans, so that gives the PC a full twelve months raise awareness while gamers await the new consoles to be developed.
BioShock Infinite will act as a flagship title for PC as it stands heads and shoulders above its console counterparts, and Crysis 3 will once again show that the PS3 and Xbox 360 cannot compete with the technological advancements that big rig gaming brings. PC exclusive titles such as Monaco and Don't Starve will also gain huge audience with DayZ to wind out the year.
By Stephen Heller
How do you think 2013 looks from a gamer's perspective? Are we looking at the year of PC gaming?