DirectX Creator Sees PCs as Gaming Platform of the Future
The back-and-forth among industry professionals over the future of PCs and consoles as gaming platforms continued recently when ExtremeTech spoke with WildTangent co-founder and CEO Alex St. John. He was originally an instrumental part in the creation of DirectX and was Microsoft’s “games evangelist.”
Tim Sweeney and Cliff Bleszinski, among others, have recently voiced their thoughts that consoles are the future of gaming, and that the PC is dying as a gaming platform. While St. John believes that Intel and Microsoft have done more than their fair share to hurt the capabilities of the PC as a gaming platform, he believes consoles are ready to die.
And the thing that’s interesting in this era, that I think is significant, is that Sony and Microsoft severely overextended themselves. Burned themselves. Burned more money than they could ever hope to get back on these consoles. Even if the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3 are wild successes, they will never get their money back.
Billions of dollars. Billions of dollars. And, to say that they will have—for one, to say that they will be eager to do that to themselves anytime soon, is highly improbable, which means that this generation of consoles could be in the market as the only generation of consoles available for a very long time.
Second, who are the guys making money in the console space? Nintendo! They shipped off the shelf, cheapo, ATI video chips! And they’re killing it! And the reason is that Nintendo correctly observes that graphics is no longer a differentiating feature; it’s a commodity. The feature of the Nintendo [Wii] is a new type of game mechanic, enabled by a new controller. And so what that says is that graphics has become a commodity. As we talked about on the PC, all PCs are gonna have great graphics compared to a console, in many cases; the Japanese and Microsoft aren’t going to engineer a superior graphics chip in the future than one you can buy from ATI or Nvidia; it’s never gonna happen again. For Sony or Microsoft to go and design their own graphics chip would be lunacy in the next generation.
So that means that if there is another generation, it’s gotta be about either input devices, or online community. Graphics will just be good everywhere. And if it’s about community, that puts the console out of business. Because why the hell does Wal-Mart want to sell a money-losing loss leader device, when all the valuable content will be tied to online services and subscriptions and downloadable stuff? So for all the talk about downloadable content on the console, the console depends on the retail channel for that market to be valuable, and the retailer, if they don’t get a cut of that, is going to say why the hell am I trying to sell these consoles at a loss for?
He points to the insane success of World of Warcraft as an indicator that PC gaming is where it’s at, claiming that the only job of consoles is to act as “a giant DRM device” that prevents you from playing games you didn’t pay for.
While I do believe the PC is going to keep going strong, I think St. John is wrong in his assessment that everyone is ready to jump off the console bandwagon. There’s still a huge market for consoles, and as such, I don’t see Microsoft and Sony abandoning ship and leaving it behind.