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What the 'console-ification' of PCs means for gamers

Brad Chacos | April 24, 2013
Simple, streamlined, and cheap: The words once used to describe the strengths of console gaming may soon apply to PC gaming, too.


Traditionally, gamers have voluntary segregated themselves into two camps: console gamers and PC gamers. Hostility between the two runs irrationally deep, and rare is the gamer who's willing to proclaim allegiance to both sides. Either you're part of the Alliance, or you're part of the Horde.

But the times, they are a-changin'.

Convergence is the buzzword of the day, and it's rearing its head big-time in the gaming world. On one side, the upcoming PlayStation 4 console sports a suspiciously computer-esque core. On the other side, a wave of new technologies is bringing a remarkably console-like experience to PC gaming. The lines are beginning to blur. Mr. Miyamoto, tear down that wall!

The implications of a shared gaming backbone could span a whole series of articles, but this is PCWorld, not Game Informer. As such, we'll limit our scope thusly: What does this titanic technology shift mean for you, die-hard PC gamer?

Diff'rent strokes

Computers maintain some crucial advantages over consoles, including overall customizability and control-scheme complexity, as well as the absence of a central Nintendo-esque gatekeeper for the ecosystem. That said, consoles hold a number of advantages over gaming PCs, too. Most revolve around their sheer simplicity.

"You plug a console in to your power plug and TV, and you're good to go," TechHive editor Jason Cross pointed out while we were discussing the topic. "Every game works the way it's supposed to without configuration. You turn it on and you're up and running in seconds. You can't mess it up. You can't delete a critical file. There's no game your system isn't good enough to run well."

All are valid points, and PC gaming doesn't currently offer any of the benefits mentioned above. But it may be able to soon, thanks largely to the efforts of Valve and Nvidia.

The best of both worlds

Valve is already a legendary game developer and it runs Steam, the premiere digital distribution service for PC gaming. The late 2012 launch of Steam's Big Picture mode--which transmogrifies the traditional Steam interface into a living room-friendly 10-foot interface similar to YouTube Leanback--paved the way for easily playing games on your big screen. And, now, Valve's upcoming Steam Box venture bodes even more portentously for so-called PC consoles.

Most of the details are still nebulous, but the Steam Box ideal revolves around small, quiet PCs built to fit in with your receiver, Blu-ray player, and Xbox 360. Because Steam Box is more a series of certification blueprints than anything else, many manufacturers will be able to build them. Valve's Gabe Newell says Steam Boxes will fall into three categories:


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