Although contemporary game consoles share similar hardware designs with PCs, there is one major reason why people choose Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo. Performance specs and features aside, the exclusives were the defining choice for gamers without deep pockets to go cross-platform.
Other than the hybrid Nintendo Switch form factor, the console is the only place to play the latest Zelda, Mario, Metroid, and Kirby games. Sony continually sets the bar for its cinematic single-player titles on PlayStation consoles like Last of Us Part II and Ratchet and Clank that are developed with multi-million dollar budgets.
Although the Japanese electronics maker recently jumped into PC versions, newer releases like Gran Turismo 7 and Horizon Forbidden West can only be played on Sony’s latest console.
Meanwhile, Microsoft has transformed its Xbox brand into an ecosystem that spans consoles, video game streaming, and the PC. That means first-party releases like Halo Infinite and Forza Horizon 5 are getting Day-One builds on all of its platforms. This makes sense given that the best PC games are mostly a Windows-only affair (although the best Mac games also have a lot to offer), and let’s not forget that Xbox gaming was named after the Microsoft API. Direct X used by the PC game. developers.
Games made exclusively for PC technically still exist, and some of the best free games are PC exclusives, including many of the most popular esports titles. However, big AAA exclusives are definitely rarer than they’ve ever been.
In 2020, we’ve seen a slight resurgence of big-budget PC exclusives like Microsoft Flight Simulator, which launched on PC a year before releasing on Xbox Series X|S consoles, and Half Life: Alyx in VR only. Since then, PC gamers haven’t enjoyed the excitement of a God of War: Ragnarok or Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2.
PC gaming exclusives were the norm
It’s a shame considering how PC games have historically served as the basis for many popular series that still top the charts today. EA’s John Madden Football released first on Apple II (opens in a new tab) in 1988 before being ported to other PC platforms and eventually debuting in 1990 on Sega Genesis consoles. Another EA property, The Sims, was a PC exclusive title for years before finally coming to consoles.
When it comes to shooters, the legacy of PC gaming involves the debut of classic franchises like Doom, Wolfenstein, Call of Duty, Deus Ex, Far Cry, Serious Sam, Max Payne, and Crysis, all launching on PC first.
The argument over whether Quake III: Arena or Unreal Tournament was the better tournament shooter was once the mainstream gaming conversation, and one that was completely missed by console-exclusive gamers – and that was as contentious as any PS5 vs. Xbox Series X debate.
Although recent PC releases of the latest AAA games generally become a showcase for new technology on top gaming PCs, they are not enough to sway console gamers who are not used to thinking in terms of plotting. Rays and SSD access speeds. After all, they’re the ones getting all the exclusive releases these days.
Also, the best graphics cards have always been the domain of a few PC enthusiasts, so most PC gamers don’t even enjoy the high-end visuals that make the PC the gaming platform it is. . And that’s not a large enough customer base to justify the incredible expense of a modern AAA title, especially given PC gamers’ propensity to steal their games for free.
A significant minority of PC gamers are responsible for the death of AAA exclusives
According to a PC Gamers Report 2016almost 35% of PC gamers have and have pirated games – and still do a lot. Digital rights management (or DRM) has long been a contentious topic for developers and gamers, but it’s not hard to see the business sense.
One of the reasons PC exclusives are drying up is because so many gamers on the platform could potentially find a way to grab a free pirate version. Although big AAA developers from EA to Activison and Ubisoft may take the financial hit and re-adjust their strategy, independents are much more affected.
In 2008, World of Goo was released by 2D Boy without DRM protection. With one developer seeing 500 seeders and 300 leechers on torrent sites, it wasn’t hard to see how its piracy rate reached around 90%. World of Goo was co-released on the Wii, which had much stronger hacking controls, so it’s obvious which platform made the most money for the two-person development team. And, ultimately, it’s the money that keeps the studios afloat, not the love and adoration of its fans.
Nor does it make sense to focus resources on PC game exclusives when they only represent around 30% of the gaming industry‘s market share. (opens in a new tab) alongside consoles and the hugely thriving mobile market. This is even more true when a significant number of users within the PC gaming community hack games – and that is enough to force larger but especially smaller development teams to hedge their investment and stay on top of it. spread of PC exclusive content.
The lack of exclusive PC games that can really take advantage of much more powerful PC gaming hardware is a serious problem for those who have made substantial investments in their rigs. This is especially true when many PC editions of cross-platform games don’t even get graphical improvements like the last Madden and FIFA press releases, but eventually this problem started within the PC gaming community itself.
Is there hope for PC exclusives in the future?
With the rise of Steam, the Epic Store, and other smaller PC game distribution platforms, indie developers have a chance to shine in ways they couldn’t before.
Games like Gone Home, Disco Elysium, Bright Memory: Infinite, and Hotline Miami were all low-budget indie projects that were explosively successful on PC. These games span multiple genres and don’t have AAA budgets, but they offer an experience unique enough to stand on their own. More importantly, they were released on PC before they got console ports, if they had any at all.
Outside of Half Life: Alyx and Microsoft Flight Simulator, however, there aren’t many PC exclusives that use the best hardware available like they did in the 1990s and 2000s. can even run on computers that were considered top-notch in the early 2000s, but now might struggle to run Skyrim with more than a few mods active.
And while PCs will always be the true home of top MMO games like Final Fantasy XIV and Guild Wars 2 – as well as popular esports titles like Dota 2 and Valorant – there just won’t be many exclusively visual blockbusters. designed for high-end gaming rig like before.
There is simply no longer any economic reason to create these types of games. And with the rise of more accessible development tools like Unreal Engine 5 making cross-platform development easier than ever, the days of PC gamers bragging that their rig “can run Crysis” are probably over. for real.