Editorial: I don't want what everyone else wants.
It makes me unique here at IGN. While most of the editors have long-lasting love of video games, I'm the only one who's still playing most of his games on the same platform we were all using to play Populous, SimCity and Prince of Persia back in 1989. Sure, I've switched out hardware year-by-year and replaced entire machines outright, but all along the way I've been consistently encouraged, enlightened and entertained by the PC catalog. As we move into 2010, the entire gaming industry is in the midst of some interesting shifts that will have a profound impact on the PC. Whether or not those changes are positive or negative will depend not only on the efforts of publishers and developers but also on our own expectations.
Over the last decade or so, the PC has seen some of its core strengths absorbed or challenged by the compromises of cross-platform development and the realities of a tougher economic climate. The democratic development environment usually associated with the PC has spurred much of the creativity in the industry, from the creation and preservation of entire genres to the development of hardware and software formats that make developing and sharing content easier across all platforms.
That's sometimes at odds with the mass-market mentality that tends to knock the rough edges off of most console games, a mentality that has tremendous significance depending on your individual perspective. PC gamers sometimes complain about the "dumbing down" of the PC catalog and point to a particular franchise's new console direction as the reason for lowered expectations in the PC marketplace. I've been guilty of it myself, particularly with regard to franchises that I really enjoyed, like MechWarrior or Rainbow Six. Yes, the streamlining of these and other franchises is a consequence of adapting to the consoles' limited controller options, but it also reflects a more important trend that has publishers and developers reaching for broader markets.
The difference between the console and PC markets is kind of like the difference between network and cable TV. NCIS and Dancing with the Stars will always have more mass appeal than Iron Chef or SpongeBob simply because they're designed and positioned to attract a larger demographic. But the specific appeal of the cable show is in finding a smaller niche or an underserved segment of the market and delivering the content they're not able to get from the major networks. The mass-market games like Madden or Street Fighter or Mario are a great fit for the consoles, but I don't think that the most profitable future for PC games is in trying to adopt that same mentality. To the extent that the PC catalog reflects this thinking, it fails to serve the individual gamers who want their war games, racing sims, or sports management titles to have a depth of detail that only the most hardcore can appreciate.