Staff Roundtable: The Future of Simulations Part 2 – PC’s versus Consoles

Gramps: I’m an old fart so my belief is that consoles are for kids and PC’s are for grown-ups. Having said that, and not knowing anything about them, don’t a lot of the FPS sims have console versions?

I remember trying something like “Stealth Fighter” or something on the old megadrive, I suppose consoles have come a long way, but I haven’t seen anything in the current crop of console games that improves my opinion of them, flight sim wise.

With PS3 coming out soon, who knows? So in essence I agree with Joe, if it meets the criteria, why not?

Cat: It’s all consoles. PC gaming is a niche, and serious simming a smaller niche within the niche. It’s sad. However, we’ll never see PC games die, I think, because there will always be people who want that flexibility that only the PC brings.

Beach: I found some 2003 statistics from the NPD Group that are interesting: “Overall, 2003 U.S. sales of console games totaled USD 5.8 billion (186.4 million units) while computer games accounted for USD 1.2 billion (52.8 million units) in sales. Total game software sales in 2002 were USD 6.9 billion, with console games bringing in USD 5.5 billion in sales and computer games accounting for USD 1.4 billion.”

“Console game players most often purchased action (27.1 per cent), sports (17.6 per cent), and racing titles (15.7 per cent), role-playing games (8.7 per cent), fighting games (6.9 per cent), family entertainment (4.7 per cent), and shooter games (4.6 per cent).”

“Computer gamers, however, most often purchased strategy games (27.1 per cent), children’s entertainment games (14.5 per cent) and shooter games (13.5 per cent), followed by family entertainment titles (9.5 per cent), role-playing games (8.7 per cent), sports titles (5.8 per cent), racing (4.4 per cent), adventure (3.9 per cent), and simulation games (3.5 per cent).”

And these figures from 2004:

“According to the data compiled by the NPD Group, overall U.S. video game console software sales reached $5.2 billion (160.7 million units), computer games sales were $1.1 billion (45 million units), and a record $1.0 billion (42.3 million units) in portable software sales. In terms of total units sold, approximately 248 million computer and video games were sold in 2004 — nearly two games for every home in America by ESA estimates.”

So you can see that from 2002 – 1.4 Billion, 2003 – 1.2 Billion, and 2004 1.1 Billion. Sales for PC titles are dropping off… but $1.1 billion of sales is still a pretty big chunk of change. The question is, how much of that $1.1 billion is sales to OUR type of games (sims). I’d venture not very much — 3.5% of 1.1 billion is what… 35 million or so…? Surely that can pay for some development.

WKLINK: We also have a healthy percentage of the shooter games and the driving games, possibly also some of the strategy games as well. I will be willing to bet overall our kind of games probably bring in closer to 8 percent of the total market. It is still small but it isn’t insignificant. Having said that, I still think that if a game meets the requirements for a simulation then we probably should review it. I don’t think this will happen for a few years yet but I do believe that it will happen one day.

20mm: Let me jump back here just a little. Jay, I know the thread you are talking about from the Community Hall. The title was interesting, “I’ve had it, console gamers, a few questions” something like that and it speaks volumes. Very hot topic, right after E3 there were probably 5 or 6 PC versus console threads on site. And it really is a question of where we as simmers are going. How do we get there and do we have a say in the road building?

Let me ask you a question:

If PC simmer’s were offered a platform with all the gaming peripherals needed — HOTAS, wheel & pedals, so on, that had all the capabilities we currently have and more, only it was way cheaper, faster, better, would they take it? Would it be cool if everybody’s platform was pretty much the same instead of 200,000 variations on a theme? Would that be good too?

I think the answer is YES, even if it was constructed out of old banana skins and rubber bands. If the next greatest generation console is made of new banana skins and really good rubber bands, but it costs $400, so what? We spend that much on a video card.

What I am saying is that the goal of a simmer is to sim. The platform, quite frankly, is secondary. Is anybody married to their PC as a gaming vehicle? I doubt it. Most people use their PC’s for a variety of things, burning CD’s, doing homework, writing, or other office-type tasks, accessing the Internet, email, etc.

But if we focus just on the simming part, it doesn’t matter. So maybe the PC versus console prejudice that I think a lot of us have is not necessary. Frankly, I don’t care what a lot of pubescent teen-agers do with an Xbox. If the Xbox suddenly becomes capable of running Falcon 4’s console counterpart (big assumption there!), with a Saitek HOTAS, why should I care?

Are console games taking over the video game world? The answer is they already have, quite some time ago. And that’s OK. It’s just that there aren’t currently any simulations for those machines.

Not yet, and that’s the big assumption I am making so that I do not cringe under the table while the console legions beat feet over me. If the developers or their audience tire of each other, or more likely, when the developers see an untapped market — namely us and those who will follow us — and decide we are worth pursuing, it may happen.

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