Is PC Gaming Dying?

There’s an interesting discussion on the Technology Liberation Front, a popular blog for those interested in liberating technology from the hands of government, about PC gaming. Adam Thierer fired the first salvo, claiming that PC games are on the way out, killed by the threat of easy piracy. But then CEI’s own Cord Blomquist responded, pointing out that PC game sales are actually increasing (just not as fast as console sales) and that Thierer’s numbers do not take into account free online games or the massive revenues MMORPGs generate. Cord contends that piracy is not as widespread as Thierer would have us believe, because pirated games are very difficult to play online.

I feel compelled to weigh in on this debate. And I’m (shockingly) coming down on the side of my boss. I prefer PC gaming to console, mostly because of the lower fixed costs. I don’t have to buy a $300 X-Box 360 (not to mention a TV) to play PC games – I just use what I already have, a computer. I’m not a “serious” gamer, so I can just buy the occasional interesting title now and then. This wouldn’t make any economic sense for me if I had to first invest hundreds of dollars in a console. If console games were the only games out there, I wouldn’t game.

Further, the recent focus on the demise of PC gaming may just have resulted from fortuitous timing. Console games Rock Band and Guitar Hero are all the rage, and new versions have just been announced. And don’t forget that mega-hit GTA IV dominates the market and it has not yet been released for the PC.

But the PC market has a few tricks up its sleeve. Just look at today’s CNET News article on Maxis’s new creations. Sims 3 is in the pipeline and it’s sure to make as big a splash as Sims 2. But the biggest news is Spore, which is set to release on September 7. Spore users have already created more species than exist on Earth, using the Creature Creator – months before the game is released. Spore has been widely anticipated for three years and it looks like it will not disappoint.

In the fall of this year, I will not give in and buy a console. Instead, I will purchase PC games – Spore and GTA IV – and my GPA for the first semester of law school will surely suffer as a result. Let’s hope Stanford Law drops grades before I get there.