Carmack: “We do not see the PC as the leading platform for games”
John Carmack, id Software’s founder and chief technological officer, isn’t really as interested in the PC as a platform anymore.
At least, that’s the rather huge implication of a quote he gave to Kotaku following the massive, horrific debacle that has been the release of id’s latest first-person shooter, RAGE, on the PC. Here’s a quote from that interview:
We do not see the PC as the leading platform for games. That statement will enrage some people, but it is hard to characterize it otherwise; both console versions will have larger audiences than the PC version.
Carmack goes on to discuss the fact that while PCs are 10 times as powerful as consoles today, it’ll create “an inferior product” to expend “a tenth of the resources on a platform that’s 10 times as powerful.” So it makes more sense, he reasons, to develop for the lowest common denominator — the consoles — and focus on the effort of the development team in working on making the game fun. Instead of worrying about technology, he says, developing for consoles allows id to focus on gameplay, while the PC versions of games can be incrementally better. Developing primarily for PCs, on the other hand, makes for much weaker console games.
But while the audience for PC games isn’t as large as consoles in Carmack’s view, at E3 2011, the developer noted that the PC platform is “an order of magnitude” more powerful than consoles. During an interview with CVG, Carmack noted the power of the PC platform and said that developing RAGE for consoles and porting it to PC had been a mistake.
When we started on the game six years ago, I looked at the consoles and said ‘These are as good as the PCs that we’re on here’, and our development strategy was set up such that we basically developed live on all the platforms there. And now when we’re looking at PCs that have 10 times the horsepower of the consoles… I’m making a large change in my direction, just saying ‘We should be focusing on building things efficiently on the PC and [then] deploying on to consoles.’ And we didn’t make that as crisp of a distinction as we should have.
My development system now has 24 threads and 24 gigs of memory, and we can start putting on half a terrabyte of solid state drives, and these are the things that are gonna drive the development process on the PC. I’m actually as excited about how we’re developing tht titles in this coming generation as the graphic enhancements and things that I’m gonna make.
…it is unhappily true that we have these consoles here running at sixty frames per second, and we could have these massively more powerful PC systems that struggle sometimes to hold the same framerate because of unnecessary overheads. If we were programming that hardware directly on the metal the same way we do consoles, it would be significantly more powerful.
And despite Carmack’s assertion that PCs aren’t the primary platform for its games, it seems taken as a whole (which includes social gaming, admittedly), PC gaming is expected to surpass consoles in revenue as early as this year, according to research by Ignite Media.
NVIDIA comes to a similar conclusion when measuring game sales, which have been rising on the PC since 2008. The graphics card maker expects PC sales to continue on the rise, surpassing those of consoles by 2015.
Granted, NVIDIA’s figures are likely self-serving given that it works on PC components (among components for a number of other devices — including the Playstation 3). We’ve seen a lot of evidence that the PC platform is no longer dying, but, in fact, thriving, but Carmack does not see it as the company’s leading platform — despite years of history there.
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