As it occured to anyone, like it has to me , a gamer from DOS days, that PC gaming decline is mostly about the dumbing down of society? I mean how many 16-17 year old's today could get a MS-DOS game running, even if they had never touched a console and had been playing games on their XP machine for a couple years? Could you give them a DOS system and a Book for Dummies and expect him to get the original Wing Commander working? I do not think so.
We were a different typeof kid back in the late 80's-mid 90's. We were open to new things. We had a better education, and we grew up in 'the real world' of bikes. mates, football (soccer) in the local park, etc. We had been brought up on ZX81's, Sprectrum's and Commodore 64's. We were willing - and able - to type in BASIC listings, de-bug them and run them! We learnt the various POKES to get the C64 to do our bidding! Gaming magazines like Zzap 64 and Crash were flippant while telling us how to use a hex editor to cheat in games without talking down to us!Computer Gaming World was a serious magazine that took a very mature approach to PC gaming though. Other magazines sold in huge numbers that just detailed the in's and out's of PC's and we got articles on 'how DOS works' in out gaming magazines that were quite technical.
Console gaming has taken off because young people today are just not as confident. We on the other hand, 15 years ago, were ultra confident! We knew we'd get System Shock or Wing Commander 2 working on our DOS machines, and later, we had to do it again to get them weorking in Win 3.1 then Win95! Today, we are older, and are grateful for free utilities like DosBox (5 million plus downloads show this!), but if we still had to work out how to get our old games working in DOS, our generation would do it. I am not sure the current generation would.
If Gaming was coming along now, with the first Spectrums and Commodores and DOS PC's, I am not so sure they'd take off. They'd be seen as too much work in our world of comfortable cable TV, DVD and air conditioned cars. In this decade I think PC's would have stayed in labs and offices and would not have moved to the home unless huge investment was made so the 'first' PC had something like at least Windows 98!
So I say at least one of the reasons for PC gaming's decline is just the fact that new gamers don;t want the hassle of installing new drivers occasionally, and having to understand the 'PC' part of the machine as well as the game. They'll use a PC for web browsing and doing their personal diary, but that means they don't really have to touch the 'PC aspect' of the machine.
The PC one day will have a 'console' version,just as consoles are getting more 'PC like'. That's the only way I feel PC gaming will survive beyond a small (unprofitably small for the big publishers) group of hardcore gamers who know how to build their own PC for $500 as opposed to buying the same for $1200 in the stores! Mind you, more and more hardcore PC gamers (like me) are looking to retro PC games like Terra Nova: Task Force Centauri, Darklands, Albion and Morrowind to re-satisfy them and remind them of how it's the older games that had gameplay first and graphics second!