Consoles vs PCs - Part 2: Consolization

First off, what is consolization? The idea is simple really, the standards for PC games are somewhat higher than the standards for console games, consolization is when game standards are lowered on the PC platform to accommodate a one size fits all multi-platform release.

But it's just a made up word right? Well yes but it's already becoming recognized which shows that the problem itself is actually common enough to warrant a label.

The first major example I remember is with the Thief series of games. In 1998 Looking Glass Studios released the first game in the series Thief: The Dark Project as a PC exclusive, it was a niche game which had unusual and unique game play elements which primarily only appealed to a narrow group of gamers. But for those gamers who enjoyed the stealth mechanic it was a fantastic game, it had some problems but was a highly enjoyable game that provided an experience you simply couldn't get anywhere else.

Thief II: The Metal age was released in 2000 as another PC exclusive and addressed practically all the fan complaints in the original game, this further improved the game and the fans loved it. I still to this day consider Thief II to be one of my all time favourite games.

Thief: Deadly shadows hit our shelves in 2004, however this time it was built as a multi-platform title for the PC and Xbox360; it's here we see consolization rear its ugly head. The game suffered in many ways, it inherited many technical constraints of the Xbox, for example the game levels were segmented into smaller pieces rather than being large seamless levels, it wasn't even done in a subtle way; it used huge swirling portals of smoke.

The game also suffered many game play tweaks in order to simplify the game for the console crowd; really subtle light grey highlights in the original became hideous bright neon blue, loot had glints added so finding expensive loot was no longer a challenge, the always tricky rope arrows were remove and replaced with climbing gloves and probably most insulting of all a 3rd person view was added.

Even Yahtzee a famously hard to please game reviewer retrospectively reviewed the series because it's one of the few games he has something good to say about. He sings praise of the first 2 but trashes the 3rd.

It didn't take long for this to spread; the same development studio worked on Deus Ex 2, the original was a PC only title which the fans were crazy for (metacritic user score of 9.5), the sequel suffered the same fate as Thief: Deadly shadows (metacritic user score of 6.0)

It wasn't long before it started affecting mainstream games; the Call of Duty series suffered some memorable hits, the once immersive CoD resulted in multiplatform sequels with regenerating health and grenade icons all over the screen.

More recently we've seen even hardcore PC developers like Epic and Valve jump ship for the consoles, UT3 was the first game in a long series of Unreal based games to be multiplatform and was the first one to flop. Valve released TF2 with a lot of the more competitive elements removed, no more grenades, no more concussion jumping. With the release of Left 4 Dead we've suffered the death of proper server browsers, now we have to put up with broken matchmaking. We can't even see our ping in the scoreboard anymore we have to accept a basic red/amber/green set of bars like we're checking our mobile phone signal or something.

Sadly we're now almost used to this trend, the high quality PC games we used to play years ago are now having their quality traded for more simplistic and generic game play which results in sub par PC games. Many of the problems this website addresses such as bad widescreen, mouse acceleration, missing AA and AF controls, are often issues directly caused by multiplatform development.

Have we seen the end of old school PC gaming era? Do you think we will ever see that special PC quality injected back in our games? Let me know what you think in my brand new comments section.


Frosty's Blog.

A gaming blog by Sam "Frosty" Pickering, ranting about games since 1950.

Current rig: Intel 2600k, Corsair 16Gb Vengence RAM, MSI GTX580 Frozr Twin II, OCZ 120Gb Vertex 3 SSD, 6Tb Archive HDDs, 30" Dell WFP-HC Monitor.

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Comments for: Consoles vs PCs - Part 2: Consolization

Posted by: Frosty on 10/26/2011 7:54:38 PM
I agree with most of your points, the PC market is smaller, casual gamers make up the bigger percentage of gamers and developers are businesses who want to make money and maximize profits. I just disagree that this is a good thing. The best argument I can make here is to compare console games to even more casual games, like phone games or facebook games like farmville. What do you think the reaction of the console fanboys would be if they decided to make the next Halo cross platform with mobile phones and work in a browser like famrville does? There would be hell to pay right? But the same argument applies, there's more audience and more money in farmville than any console game, that's not a good excuse to lower the quality of console games in order to make more money. Console gamers want to maintain their status quo just as much as PC gamers do, it's just that our standards are significantly higher than yours, the same way your standards for something like Halo is way higher than farmville.

Posted by: Anonymous on 10/7/2011 2:54:13 AM
I hate PC elitisim. The world doesn't revolve around you guys. No matter how much you bitch on the internet, the numbers prove that game developers make more money catering to the console crowd. They're making games to make money, not please you guys. Consoles are more standardized, and also more convenient to use. Most people have lives outside gaming, which means they don't have time to build their own monster gaming rigs or spend hours modifying files. They just want to have fun, and they make up the majority of the gaming community. Thus, it is obvious to cater to the console crowd. Developers are here to make money, not make you happy. Especially when many people pirate games. Maybe it's for the best to simply not release a PC port at all. It still costs a lot of money to port and PC elitists will bitch anyways. So, there's no point. You guys are precisely the reason why I started moving away from PC gaming. I do NOT want to be associated with guys like you. You might think you guys are all Gods among gamers, but the rest of the world look at you like a bunch of pretentious hipsters. The less the developers and the gaming community listen to you guys, the better.

Posted by: ThePCElitist on 5/28/2011 3:55:16 PM
Awesome read, I agree with all of it. I've started a youtube channel called "thePCelitist where we review games from this perspective. I'm hoping within the month to have a lot more vids regarding this subject. I hope people like yourself would take a look as you are exactly who I'm talking too.

Posted by: TURbo on 9/28/2009 12:33:33 AM
From the Gamesradar forums The PC can still come back, since it does offer the freedom consoles cannot provide. Overall what would help is great engines/ looking games that don't require steam hardware requirements like what id Software from Doom to Quake, where you didn't need an expensive computer to play it. Overall FPS, RTS, are silly on consoles. I play more PC mainly due to my Dad is a computer programmer.

Posted by: piscian18 on 9/25/2009 4:04:02 PM
I agree with the last post in that these days they are just asking for it. Halo 3ODST is a 6 hour campaign that is basically a one day rental but is selling for 60$.

Posted by: topslop1 on 9/20/2009 2:53:42 PM
I think that piracy really comes from the fact that they games are sub-par and no one wants to spend $60 for a game that is "broken". Crysis may have been pirated but it was also pirated heavily because it was an icon for benchmarking the performance of your PC. I think that alot of people downloaded and played it for a short period of time just to see how their new built rig compared to their last etc. If it was setup the way it should be, you'd see less pirating because more people would want to jump online to play a fantastically built game.

Posted by: VeryApe on 9/15/2009 8:32:33 PM
Agreed on everything. Good read.

Posted by: Ph0X on 9/13/2009 10:22:50 AM
I've always hated consoles. For me, playing an FPS on console is just the dumbest thing ever. RTS, let's not even talk about it. Some games though, like streetfighter, could be slightly more fun, even though actual arcade sticks would be better. But yes, i hate consolization. But PC exclusives often suffer like Crysis of crazy piracy...

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