The exciting announcements presented by Sony, Microsoft, and a number of developers at this year's E3 prove that this is very exciting time to be a gamer. But, while people often focus on the big console presentations, especially since we're hoping that new generation kinks have been worked out, they often disregard three words that appear a lot during game announcements: "and for PC." With the upcoming release of Windows 10 and the HTC Vive (the first consumer model VR headset), the PC could be the secret star of the show.
The PC is often regarded as a sort of high-tech Switzerland of the console war. While Microsoft and Sony battle it out for exclusives, many 3rd party games eventually end up on the PC with upgraded graphics and other features. But this year seems to have a special emphasis on PC gaming more than any other. This includes the announcements made on the PC Gaming Show, such as how Killer Instinct is coming to Windows 10 along with Gears of War Ultimate Edition, and how No Man's Sky will release simultaneously on the PS4 and PC, but it goes beyond them too. Shenmue 3's Kickstarter campaign, which has far surpassed its initial goal, was announced during the Sony press event, but it's being developed for both the PS4 and PC.
We learned that Street Fighter 5 will be a PS4/PC exclusive with cross platform play, and Microsoft fired back by announcing two exclusive games - Gigantic and Fable Legends - with cross platform play. Killer Instinct makes it three. That's on top of the built-in cross platform features and communication between the Xbox One and Windows 10 as part of a unified experience. Then there are the fringe announcements, like how Fallout 4 on consoles can use PC mods, giving everyone a chance to benefit from a thriving mod community. Or how XCOM 2 is going to be a PC exclusive.
It's probably not a coincidence that this comes at around the same time that Valve and other companies are making a big push to bring PC gaming to the living room, either through micro-PCs like the Alienware Alpha, Steam Machines, or streaming across home networks using Steam, Steam Link, or Nvidia Shield devices. You can now play games with PC graphics quality from the comfort of your living room, and developers have taken notice. Games that have traditionally been limited to consoles, like the Metal Gear Solid series and Dark Souls, are now including PC releases.
Microsoft is going with a reverse approach by allowing Xbox One games to be streamed onto Windows 10 devices, which isn't as good as actual PC ports of games like Halo 5 or The Master Chief Collection, but it's not nothing. Especially given how Windows 7 and 8.1 users can upgrade to Windows 10 for free for a whole year after it launches. While consoles go through hardware generations, PCs are marked by operating systems, and the next PC gaming platform will be free.
The list of reasons why the PC can look forward to a stellar year goes on, but topping it is the fact that the HTC Vive will be making its debut in the fall, followed by the Oculus Rift in 2016. The Sony Morpheus will also release in 2016, but having two of the three most prominent VR headsets on Windows means that the PC will be the leading pioneer as we enter into the era of virtual reality games and entertainment. There's no way to tell where the first generation of VR hardware will take us, but the PC will help get us there. And let's not forget about the HoloLens, essentially a Windows 10 computer, which can play an augmented reality version of Minecraft.
It's not like the platform doesn't have some big problems, like the absurd divide between Steam, Uplay, and Origin platforms, which GOG Galaxy (also its own platform) is trying to help overcome. Also, given how both Rise of the Tomb Raider is an Xbox One timed exclusive, and Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 maps will release on the PlayStation 4 first, along with other console exclusives like every EA Sports game except FIFA, it would be too much to say that the PC steals the spotlight for itself. Instead, it's still the platform that predominantly gets overlooked at E3, even though there has been a profound shift toward PC development over the past few years.
But maybe being in the background is a good place to be. Windows might be a Microsoft platform, but it doesn't charge developers a royalty fee to have their games published like it does for Xbox. That's why Sony can treat it as neutral territory. Although it's unlikely that PC gaming will have the same sort of prominence as console games at events like E3 in the near future, it's getting increased recognition. In the meantime, it's both exciting to see the PC listed among release announcements, and we can expect that will continue to increase as we move forward.