The fall and rise of PC gaming

This kind of graphical horsepower is no longer prohibitively expensive. Most of the games named so far will run at medium- to high-detail levels at 1080p on a Core i3 processor with a sub-£100 graphics card.

Keep detail levels to medium, or drop the resolution, and they’ll run on an AMD A10-5800K APU. Advances in mobile processors mean that even reasonably inexpensive laptops can play games.

Complex simulations

It isn’t all about the visuals, however. Ocean Quigley is creative director at Maxis, working on the latest incarnation of SimCity. “I think that there are exciting things to do with tablets, but the sheer horsepower required to do something as ambitious as SimCity is available only on the PC,” he says. “PCs have become powerful enough that we can create a simulation experience that just wasn’t possible before.”

The new SimCity allows players to drill down into incredible levels of detail, with more accurate simulations of population behaviour, traffic and infrastructure. “Since it’s all 3D, you can enter the city in a way that wasn’t possible with earlier iterations.”


The PC also has a key strength in that it’s an open platform, ripe for independent development. “There’s very little barrier to entry, so all sorts of interesting games are cropping up,” says Quigley. “It’s a vibrant scene. The independent scene’s experimentation is adding all sorts of vitality to PC gaming.”

What’s more, he feels that “the fact that there’s no gatekeeper deciding what can happen on the platform is enabling this flourishing of diversity”.

“The shift to different business models, such as free-to-play [free games with optional paid-for features] and episodic [games delivered in chapters over time], allows people to create games in a different way,” says Button-Brown.

What’s more, he feels that “the more direct distribution channels, such as Steam and Origin, mean that the relationships with the customers can be so much more hands on. It feels like you’re making games directly for the people playing them.”

This dynamic relationship has another effect, enabling user-created patches, or “mods”. These can enhance Skyrim with better lighting and detailed textures, for example, or transform the military shooter Arma 2 into the bleak, apocalyptic zombie world of DayZ.


The big news, however, is that PC gaming’s reach is growing, creeping out of the back bedroom and into the lounge and even beyond. The shape of PC gaming is being transformed.

Going mobile

This year’s CES was short on surprises, but Nvidia pulled one out of the bag. Project Shield is its first gaming system: a handheld device with familiar Xbox-style controls, a 5in 720p touchscreen, and the firm’s new Tegra 4 SoC.

Wisely, the company isn’t trying to launch Shield as a totally new gaming platform.

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