Despite contemporary game consoles sharing similar hardware designs to PCs, there is a main reason why people choose sides between Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo. Performance specs and features aside, exclusives have been the ultimate choice for gamers without deep pockets to go multiplatform.
Aside from the Nintendo Switch hybrid format, the console is the only place to play the latest Zelda, Mario, Metroid and Kirby games. Sony continually sets the standard for its cinematic single-player titles on PlayStation consoles, such as Last of Us Part II and Ratchet and Clank, developed with multi-million budgets.
While the Japanese electronics manufacturer has recently been involved in PC releases, more recent releases like Gran Turismo 7 and Horizon Forbidden West can only be played on Sony’s latest console.
Meanwhile, Microsoft has turned its Xbox brand into an ecosystem that spans consoles, video game streaming and PC. That means first-party releases like Halo Infinite and Forza Horizon 5 get day one releases on all of their platforms. This makes sense considering 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 the Xbox suite is named after the Microsoft Direct X API used. by PC game developers.
Games made exclusively for PCs technically still exist, and some of the best free games available are PC exclusives, including many of the most popular esports titles. However, large sustain AAA exclusives are definitely rarer than ever.
In 2020, we’ve seen a slight resurgence of big-budget PC exclusives like Microsoft Flight Simulator, which launched on PC a year before it was released on Xbox Series X|S consoles, and Half Life: Alyx for VR only. Since then, PC gamers haven’t liked the excitement that comes with God of War: Ragnarok or Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2.
PC gaming exclusives used to be the norm
It’s a shame considering how PC gaming has historically served as the foundation for many popular series that are still at the top of the charts today. EA’s John Madden Football was first released on the Apple II (opens in new tab) in 1988 first before being ported to other PC platforms and eventually making its debut in 1990 on Sega Genesis consoles. Another EA property, The Sims, was a PC-only title for years before finally coming to consoles.
When it comes to shooters, the PC gaming legacy involves debuts from classic franchises like Doom, Wolfenstein, Call of Duty, Deus Ex, Far Cry, Serious Sam, Max Payne, and Crysis, all of which were released first on PC.
The debate over whether Quake III: Arena or Unreal Tournament was the best tournament shooter was once the dominant conversation in gaming, and it was completely lost on console-only gamers — and it was as controversial as any PS5 vs Xbox Series X debate.
While recent PC versions of the latest AAA games often become a showcase for new technologies on the best gaming PCs, they aren’t enough to sway console gamers who aren’t used to thinking in terms of ray tracing and streaming speeds. SSD access. After all, they are the ones getting all the exclusive releases these days.
Plus, the best graphics cards have always been the domain of a few PC enthusiasts, so most PC gamers aren’t even experiencing the high-quality 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 the propensity of PC gamers to steal their games for free.
A sizable minority of PC gamers are responsible for the death of AAA exclusives
according to one 2016 PC Gamers Reportnearly 35% of PC gamers have pirated games, and they did – and still do – it much. Digital Rights Management (or DRM) has been a controversial topic for developers and gamers alike, but it’s not hard to see the commercial sense in this.
One of the reasons PC exclusives are drying up is that so many players on the platform could find a way to get a free pirated version. While major AAA developers from EA to Activison to Ubisoft may take the financial hit and readjust their strategy, indies do far more harm.
In 2008, World of Goo was released by 2D Boy without DRM protection. With a developer seeing 500 seeders and 300 leechers on torrent sites, it wasn’t hard to see as its piracy rate reached around 90 percent. World of Goo was co-released on the Wii, which had much stronger piracy controls, so it’s obvious which platform made the most money for the two-person development team. And in the end, it’s the money that keeps the studios going, not the love and adoration of their fans.
It also doesn’t make sense to focus resources on PC-only games when only represents about 30% of the video game industry market share (opens in new tab) along with consoles and the hugely successful mobile market. This is even more true when a significant number of users within the PC gaming community pirate games – and it’s enough to force larger, but especially smaller, development teams to protect their investment and stay away from PC-only content.
The lack of exclusive PC games that can actually take advantage of significantly more powerful PC gaming hardware is a serious problem for those who have made substantial investments in their equipment. This is especially true when many PC editions of cross-platform games doesn’t even get graphical improvements like the latest Madden and FIFA releases, but ultimately this problem started within the PC gaming community itself.
Is there any hope for PC exclusives in the future?
With the rise of Steam, the Epic Store, and other smaller PC game distribution platforms, independent developers get a chance to shine in ways they couldn’t before.
Games like Gone Home, Disco Elysium, Bright Memory: Infinite, and Hotline Miami were all small-budget independent projects that enjoyed explosive success on the PC. These games span multiple genres and don’t have AAA budgets, but they provide a unique experience enough to stand on its own. More importantly, they were released on PC before they got console ports, if they ever got one.
Outside of Half Life: Alyx and Microsoft Flight Simulator, however, there aren’t many PC exclusives that utilize the best available computer hardware the way they did in the 1990s and 2000s. And some of today’s best indie games might even run on computers that were considered top notch in the early 2000s, but which may now struggle to run Skyrim with more than a few mods active.
And while PCs will always be the true home of the best MMO games like Final Fantasy XIV and Guild Wars 2 – along with popular esports titles like Dota 2 and Valorant – there just won’t be many blockbusters, visual pieces made exclusively for one. high end gaming platform the way it used to be.
There is simply no more economic reason to make these types of games. And with the rise of more affordable development tools like Unreal Engine 5 that make cross-platform development easier than ever, the days of PC gamers bragging that their rig “can run Crysis” are likely to fade. gone forever.