Although contemporary game consoles share similar hardware designs to PCs, there is one main reason why people choose Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo. Performance features and specs aside, exclusives were the ultimate choice for gamers without a lot of money to go cross-platform.

Aside from the hybrid form factor of the Nintendo Switch, 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 like Last of Us Part II and Ratchet and Clank, which are being developed on multi-million dollar budgets.

Although the Japanese electronics manufacturer recently jumped to PC versions, newer releases like Gran Turismo 7 and Horizon Forbidden West are only playable on Sony's latest console.

Meanwhile, Microsoft has transformed its Xbox brand into an ecosystem that spans consoles, video game streaming and PCs. That means first-party releases like Halo Infinite and Forza Horizon 5 are getting Day-One versions on all of their platforms. This makes sense given that the best PC games are mostly a Windows-only affair (although the best Mac games have plenty to offer, too), and let's not forget that Xbox games got their name from Microsoft's API. computer game developers

Games made exclusively for PC technically still exist, and some of the best free games are exclusive to PC, including many of the most popular esports titles. However, big 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 released on PC a year before it released on Xbox Series X|S consoles, and Half Life: Alyx in VR only. Since then, PC gamers haven't enjoyed the thrill of God of War: Ragnarok or Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2.

PC gaming exclusives were the norm

(Image credit: Nvidia)

That's a shame, considering how PC games have historically served as the foundation for many popular series that still top the charts today. EA's John Madden Football was first released on the Apple II (opens in a new tab) in 1988 before being ported to other PC platforms and debuting in 1990 on the Sega Genesis consoles. Another EA property, The Sims, was a PC-exclusive title for years before finally making its way to consoles.

When it comes to shooters, the legacy of PC gaming sees the debut of classic franchises like Doom, Wolfenstein, Call of Duty, Deus Ex, Far Cry, Serious Sam, Max Payne, and Crysis, all released on PC first.

The discussion of whether Quake III: Arena or Unreal Tournament was the best tournament shooter ever was the main conversation around gaming, and was completely overlooked by console-exclusive gamers, and it was also controversial that any PS5 vs. Xbox Series X. .

While recent PC releases of the latest AAA games usually become a showcase for new technology in the best gaming PCs, they're not enough to sway console gamers who aren't used to thinking in terms of speed. SSD access and lightning. After all, they're the ones getting all the exclusive releases these days.

Also, the best graphics cards have always been the domain of a few PC enthusiasts, so most PC gamers don't even enjoy the high-end visuals that make the PC the gaming platform that 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 significant minority of PC gamers are responsible for the death of AAA exclusives

world of goo

(Image credit: 2D Boy)

According to a 2016 report from PC Gamer, nearly 35% of PC gamers have hacked games, and have, and still do, a lot. Digital rights management (or DRM) has long been a contentious topic for developers and gamers, but it's not hard to see the business sense.

One of the reasons PC exclusives are running out is because many gamers on the platform might find a way to get a free pirated version. While the big AAA developers, from EA to Activison to Ubisoft, may take the financial hit and readjust their strategy, the independents are hit much harder.

In 2008, World of Goo was released by 2D Boy without DRM protection. With one developer seeing 500 seeders and 300 leechers on torrent sites, it wasn't hard to see their piracy rate hit around 90%. World of Goo was co-released on the Wii, which had much stronger hacking controls, so it's obvious which platform made more money for the two-person development team. And ultimately, it's the money that keeps the studios afloat, not the love and adoration of their fans.

It also doesn't make sense to focus resources on PC gaming exclusives when they only account for around 30% of the gaming industry's market share (opens in a new tab) alongside consoles and the hugely thriving mobile market. This is even more true when a significant number of users within the PC gaming community pirate games, and that is enough to force larger, but especially smaller, development teams to cover their investment and stay in the game. .

The lack of exclusive PC games that can actually take advantage of much 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 don't even receive graphical upgrades, like the latest releases of Madden and FIFA, but ultimately this problem started within the PC gaming community itself.

Is there hope for PC exclusives in the future?

Disco Elysium game screenshot

(Image credit: ZA/UM)

With the rise of Steam, the Epic Store, and other smaller PC game distribution platforms, independent developers have a chance to shine in a way they couldn't before.

Games like Gone Home, Disco Elysium, Bright Memory: Infinite, and Hotline Miami were all low-budget indie projects that enjoyed explosive success on PC. These games span multiple genres and don't have AAA budgets, but offer an experience unique enough to stand on its own. More importantly, they were released on PC before they had any console ports, if they had any at all.

Outside of Half Life: Alyx and Microsoft Flight Simulator, though, there aren't many PC exclusives that use the best hardware available like they did in the 1990s and 2000s. It can even run on computers that were considered top-notch back in the day. from the 2000s. , but now you might have a hard time running Skyrim with more than a few active mods.

And while PCs will always be the true home of top MMO games like Final Fantasy XIV and Guild Wars 2, as well as popular esports titles like Dota 2 and Valorant, there just won't be many visual-only blockbusters. game platform as before.

Simplemente ya no hay ninguna razón económica para crear este tipo de juegos. And with the rise of more accessible dev tools like Unreal Engine 5 making cross-platform development easier than ever, the days of PC gamers bragging that their rig “can run Crysis” are probably over. looks good.

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