PC Won E3 2012, And It Wasn’t Even Close

Ubisoft pulled a fast one on everyone at E3 2012 by slipping in one final surprise demo during its pre-E3 press conference, for a little game called Watch Dogs.

Immediately after the demo concluded (and, really, even during it), the Internet was alight with buzz about the game. What was it? How did you play it? When would it be out? Was it a next-gen game?

Watch Dogs certainly looks the part. The demo Ubisoft showed is beautiful, with smooth character animations, realistically-moving clothing and wind effects, and fire that looks absolutely phenomenal. Surely this was a game for as-yet-unannounced consoles, because the aging current-gen hardware could never have produced visuals like what we were seeing.

Sadly, no. It wasn’t some next-gen console powerhouse on which Watch Dogs was being presented: It was a cranked-up PC sporting at least one NVIDIA GeForce GTX 600-series video card.

PC gets overlooked at E3. There’s no big PC press conference that points out all the great things that are going on with the platform, unlike those thrown by Sony, Microsoft and all the big publishers. The PC announcements happen piecemeal, divided by the various companies working on them, and the big news from the card makers and component manufacturers is easy to miss. It all tends involve far fewer flashy lights and Usher concerts.

But behind the scenes, the PC platform is the workhorse of E3. All the great-looking demos that were running during the show and wowing journalists and gamers — Watch Dogs, Star Wars 1331, Crysis 3, FarCry 3 (single player, anyway) — weren’t running on console rigs, but on decked-out PCs. Developers continue to downplay the PC platform and concentrate their efforts on the easier, more marketable consoles, but the fact is, nobody wants to run their demos on hardware a half-decade old. Consoles are ugly compared to PCs, and make for crappy demos.

Jason Paul, NVIDIA’s director of GeForce Product Marketing, said that many of the demo rigs at E3 were PCs running the company’s GTX 680 graphics cards. And as consoles get old, he said, the gap between their capabilities and those of PCs continues to widen.

“There’s this life cycle that happens, where a new console comes out, and PC and console performance are closer, and generally they’re working off the same version of DirectX, and so a game developer can build a game and it’s going to deliver a similar experience on consoles and PCs and maybe they put in a few features for PC,” he said in an interview with Game Front. “But as a console ages, you see such an enormous gap in performance. I think our high-end cards are, like, 10x that of a console. And that gets tough to ignore for a developer in terms of what they can do with their game.”

And what they can do, it seems, are things like we’ve seen in the demos for the best-looking games at E3, like dynamic fire and wind effects, and intense particle effects. As Paul mentioned, the demo for the Unreal Engine 4, which will likely see heavy use in the next generation of games the way Unreal Engine 3 did in this generation, was on a rig running with a GTX 680 card.

The simple fact is this: Many of the things that were impressive at E3 were impressive because of the capabilities of PC technology, even if there wasn’t a big press conference to make sure everyone knew it.

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16 Comments on PC Won E3 2012, And It Wasn’t Even Close

R.J.

On June 18, 2012 at 1:40 pm

And the point is what, exactly? “PC is dying” has been said for a long time, and hasn’t happened yet. PC surpassing consoles graphically years into the life of a console generation happens every time. Sure, I’d like to see a new set of consoles come out, but we’ve also had the economy collapse and many people are just now in a position to afford such luxury items. I really can’t stand the elitism surrounding PC gaming. I play on both PC and PS3, and I like both for different aspects of what they offer.

Phil Hornshaw

On June 18, 2012 at 1:48 pm

@RJ

The point is, 1. this is a PC gaming-centric site, and 2. PC as a platform is constantly struggling with developers and publishers who’d prefer to support it less than consoles because it’s easier. Therefore, we as journalists are intrigued by the fact that while the publishers and developers would love to support only consoles, which see less piracy and require less work on their parts to develop for, PC is forming the backbone of the biggest demos at the biggest conference of the year.

Jeff Mills

On June 18, 2012 at 1:52 pm

@RJ I wouldn’t call it elitism, but pride. PC Gamers have been essentially spat on by developers who release games for the console then give us a very substandard port of that game. Many times they don’t even attempt at redefining the controls properly and throughout the game will tell you to hit keys that were obviously meant for a console (hit “x” to continue, for example)

So when it comes to light that it took the power of a decent gaming system to power these games because those consoles they are actually meant for couldn’t, why shouldn’t we have a little chuckle about it?

JawaEsteban

On June 18, 2012 at 2:35 pm

I love the smell of schadenfreude in the morning. It smells like victory. And Nvidia.

SXO

On June 18, 2012 at 3:46 pm

The ironic thing is that this new renaissance period that PC is entering isn’t being spearheaded by its prowess in GPU or CPU power, but rather by the innovation coming from the indie devs rediscovering the freedom PC gives them.

Swcloud99

On June 18, 2012 at 4:08 pm

I agree with this article completely. I also hate gaming on my PC. It’s never going to be has comfortable sitting in front of my computer screen has it is lying in my bed in front of my 50 inch tv.
I can’t stand the idea of having to worry about upgrading my hardware when on the other side, I can buy one machine that will be able to play every single game released for the next ten years.
It’s a comfort thing. Console gaming is more suited to gaming than PC.
That said I don’t want PC gaming to die, I just don’t want to see console gaming dying.

Kevin

On June 18, 2012 at 6:11 pm

SWCloud,

My gaming rig is roughly 5 years old. It not only plays every game there is today, it plays most of them on max detail.

One of the things with these more advanced graphics engines is the way they scale. My video card might only be DX10 currently, but its going to look a lot better on a game running an Unreal 4 engine than what is currently out there.

So you can build a PC nowadays, and you’ll get 5+ years out of your current gaming rig if you are smart about it. And you’ll spend roughly 800 dollars or less. A bit more expensive than a console, sure, but not really. I spent that up front at once when I bought it, back when the 360′s and PS3′s were 400 or so. But one which will have a longer shelf life of interesting games, and you can do a lot more outside of pure gaming on that computer than you can with a console.

I still don’t see myself upgrading the vid card for at least another 2-3 years, and I will still be able to play on higher settings for almost all games released.

Will I have all the advanced features of high-quality graphical pron? Probably not. But my rig still, 5 years old, my games will still look better than the supposed “next-gen” consoles. And it won’t look absurdly dated. Look at the games released nowadays. Hell, look at Skyrim on the consoles. Then look at what you could do with it even on a 5 year old rig with the PC modding community. They literally are two different games graphically speaking.

chris

On June 18, 2012 at 8:04 pm

Why do PC trolls constantly everywhere they go? Why cant you just enjoy your graphics and be silent? For the record Consoles dominate sales… and thats all that matters in the real world. EA and Ubisoft are cutting 1/3 of their market when they focus on PC.

David Beyerle

On June 18, 2012 at 8:11 pm

I love reading articles like this! I am a PC Gamer now and forever. PCs will always be at the forefront of great games and especially great graphics.

R.J

On June 18, 2012 at 10:53 pm

@Kevin

I think you’ve missed SWCloud’s point. Sure, a person can upgrade their rig. I’ve done it from time to time as things like The Witcher 2 pretty much demanded it , but there is something to be said for just being able to pop the game in and know it’ll work without issue.

@SWCloud

Don’t worry about consoles dying. PC’s eventually surpass consoles graphically in every cycle. And it’s not really that surprising that some of the demos were running on PCs since they are designed on computers to start with. Plus, the biggest thing that will keep consoles from dying is that publishers prefer them. You can add a lot of incentive to buy a console if games are exclusive or delayed exclusives. I don’t think the article was trying to imply that consoles were dying, but we definitely are passed the point where we would have seen something new out of Sony or Microsoft.

JawaEsteban

On June 18, 2012 at 11:18 pm

@swcloud

Dude, forget about hardware, you just need a better chair. Single most important peripheral you’ll ever own.

Swcloud99

On June 19, 2012 at 8:05 am

It’s kind of a huge debate isn’t it?
Anyway, it’s nice to see sensible people commenting like adults instead of calling me a troll or something.
@RJ
That’s precisely what I was trying to say. Consoles are my choice but I’d rather have them both existing than having just one. Never downplay the importance of choice.

wallydog1

On June 19, 2012 at 10:29 am

RJ. First there is no time you can throw a new game in and not worry about it playing without any problems. Not for pc or console, not with some of the bugs that come with some of these games, but I know what you are saying. I’ve been building my own computers for over twenty years and never worried once that I couldn’t play the game or that I would have problems past whatever the developers have created.
As for as elitists go, well you wouldn’t believe some of the names console gamers have called me simply because I play PC, and I’ve never said anything bad about consoles other than the fact I don’t like them. It is much easier for me to play keyboard mouse. Absolutely hate control pads. I have to agree with Jeff Mills on this one. PC gamers are really tired of being ignored. Example: Rockstar who got there start on PC, now makes console games. They sometimes will later port them to pc, but they always create console first. Look at Red Dead Redemption. They never even bothered to port it.. Also look at the new Assassins Creed. They’re bringing it to the computer but telling us if we want to play it we need a controler because they don’t want to put the effort into keyboard mouse. I own everyone of the previous game but will now ignore the series because of their F-up stupidity. I think these kind of things are why some computer users mouth off. Frankly they’re mad and I can understand why. Do they take things too far sometimes? Oh yeah. Both sides, PC and console, are guilty there.
My stance in all this. Pc rules but I love seeing all sides happy.

Kevin

On June 19, 2012 at 4:07 pm

@RJ….

My point was more that you really don’t need to “upgrade” unless you want the graphical pron. A PC built 5 years ago still runs things pretty damn high. Witcher 2 ran without a hitch, and very few people are going to notice the difference between a DX10 turned up to max and a DX11.

If people want to play consoles, play consoles. Yet I think people error whenever they talk about how a gaming PC is way too cost-prohibitive. Not really.

SXO

On June 19, 2012 at 4:18 pm

I’m with SW in that I would prefer them to continue to co-exist.

But I do long for the days when developers made games for each separately, playing to the strengths of each platform. It’s disheartening as a PC enthusiast to see games “watered-down” so they work within the specs of consoles. And I don’t mean graphically either, that’s just a small part of that. Just look as far back as the Halo that Bungie originally planned to make before Microsoft acquired them. That feature list was basically tossed aside in favor of making a fairly straight-forward FPS which featured nothing PC gamers hadn’t seen before. And then look as recent as Battlefield 3 which has so much left out of it and changed in favor of making sure the code across all 3 platforms is similar enough to patch simultaneously. Small maps, small squads, missing features, etc. Basically this homogenization of gaming across PC and consoles has stunted the progress in innovation we used to see year after year on PC. Games like Bioshock garnered praise for being new and original nearly a decade after System Shock 2 was out, which featured much of the same but with more depth.

I don’t hate consoles, or console gamers, but I do resent the vapid success that consoles have had since the original Xbox. Not because of jealousy, or some foolish sentiment like that, but because it’s had detrimental effects on gaming.

Lumilicious

On June 21, 2012 at 4:24 pm

@SWCloud99
” I also hate gaming on my PC. It’s never going to be has comfortable sitting in front of my computer screen has it is lying in my bed in front of my 50 inch tv.”

Is this myth still going around? Really now? Do the Mythbusters have to make an episode before it dies off?
You can connect your PC to your HDTV and enjoy PC Gaming in all its brilliance. Seriously. I’ve my rig plugged into my 66″ HDTV and I am playing games with a 360 Gamepad, lying on my couch.
I see no difference between playing with my 360 or PC like this. It feels both the same, the only difference is that I have native 1080p and not the upscaled crap which comes from my 360. Oh, and no jaggies… Anti Aliasing ftw.

If you’ve got the money, I don’t see why anyone would want to play any Multiplattform game on Consoles rather than on a PC connected to an HDTV.