The "Who cares about PS5/XSX, I Only Play PC games" Myth
That's just not the case anymore... and we should all be thankful for that
Ever heard of the "PC Master Race"? Maybe you have, maybe you haven't, maybe you feel that you belong to that group, maybe you own a PlayStation or Xbox and the very notion of the term amuses you, but - in any case - it used to be a thing. People that talked about the "PC Master Race" claimed that the games they play on computers were superior to the ones people opting for home entertainment systems play, because PCs can be configured to be much more powerful than a consumer product like a PlayStation or an Xbox can ever hope to be. Hence the perceived superiority of the "PC Master Race" when it comes to gaming.
Technically speaking, they were obviously right. The same games a PlayStation or Xbox offers will look and play better on PC costing 3-4 times as much (but that's a different discussion altogether). The thing is: nearing the end of 2021, that technical superiority does not seem to matter anymore. Certainly not as much. Furthermore, people that identify with the "PC Master Race" group may want to start paying close attention to what's happening on the other side of the aisle: come 2022, that's where a lot of what PC gamers have been asking for will finally start to take shape.
It's all happening due to a number of recent developments. First of all: PlayStation5 and Xbox Series X. Sony's and Microsoft's latest home entertainment systems not only sport a PC-like architecture (with plenty of custom work going on under the hood) but they have managed to almost "catch up with" PCs by being unusually more powerful and versatile than past PlayStation and Xbox systems. The SSD storage they both ship with as standard is also expected to be a game-changer (pun intended) at some point down the road, as it can be the cornerstone of new gameplay mechanics not possible with mechanical hard drives.
What this means for PC gamers is... well, the obvious: the ceiling for multi-format games (that's the majority of titles most people play nowadays) is now raised considerably. Developers can create games aligned with minimum hardware requirements that roughly translate to the specs of a PS5/XSX (which exceed the minimum system requirements of most current PC games). This will lead to more complex in physics, better in AI, richer in graphical detail games that will look and play even better on PC.
Then there are new hardware options and the software used in games development that is also in the process of changing. With PS5/XSX being SSD-based, for instance, it's only a matter of time before the first PC games actually require an SSD in order to be played hit the market. All it would take is a couple of top AAA titles to be developed by Microsoft exclusively for XSX using every one of that system's features: those titles would only be playable by an SSD-sporting PC (and an NVME PCIe 3.0 SSD at that). Technologies like DirectStorage - already implemented on XSX, allowing for graphics data to be streamed from SSD directly to a graphics card's memory - will be added to Windows 11 next year. Meanwhile, the most popular game creation environments on the market - such as Unreal Engine or Unity - are heavily upgraded or modified in order to fully support the PS5/XSX feature sets, further blurring the lines between PCs and home entertainment systems.
Last but not least: the strategy of both platform holders that offer PC-like home entertainment systems now includes PCs as a separate format. Microsoft was the first to move in that direction by developing a number of first-party games for Xbox One S/X accompanied by a separate PC version. Then came Game Pass for PC, which was almost as important a step, while now all Microsoft-developed titles offer a PC version. Sony only supported PCs reluctantly at first, offering just a PC app for its PlayStation Now game streaming service. But the company is now officially a PC games publisher with two top PlayStation titles already out on Steam/EGS, two more coming in a few months and many more coming down the line.
So the "I only play PC games, I do not care about the PS5/XSX" myth, which was more or less in line with the "PC Master Race" mentality of many PC gamers, is now properly debunked. There's simply too much going on in the PlayStation and Xbox camps right now - directly affecting the release schedule of titles coming out for personal computers - to be ignored. PC gamers practically have no choice but to follow those developments closely.
For better or worse it's "the consoles" that will drive game development to new directions over the next few years and that is perfectly fine: raising the bar of the lowest common denominator is never a bad thing. Of all the games coming out for PS5, XSX and PC, computer owners will always be getting the technically superior versions. What they will now be getting on top of that, is games that they'd have to wait another five years to play. That is a win-win, no?
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