Going the way of Beta-Max

During the 1980’s a battle raged between two video storage formats. One, pushed by Sony, had some severe limitations on its use including a rather arbitrary (and politically motivated to be sure) line drawn to keep adult material off of it. This format is widely known as Beta-Max and has since disappeared from the marketplace.

We stand here, twenty years later, after a much more heated and less critical debate…

Sony: Use our format, its got more capacity
HDDVD: Yea, but your players cost a bunch more and your discs too! I’m not paying $70 for a god damned movie I don’t want to watch.
Sony: Just buy the PS3, it’s the cheapest BluRay player on the market! It even plays fucking games!
HDDVD: It’s still expensive and the movies are still available on DVD…
Sony: At least this time we are allowing porn! You can see the pimples on the girls asses

… and we all know that this sort of insanity can only do one thing.

Inspire stupid people to say stupid things.

A reader wrote into the Idle Thumbs Podcast a few weeks ago asking if they thought that the PC was going to be going the way of the Beta-Max. This couldn’t be further from the truth, and im going to share why the PC is never going to die, and why this argument is completely backwards, ignoring the very reason for why the Beta-Max format died – RESTRICTIONS.

At each of our finger tips is a functional playground, where we are able to look through a window into any type of game imaginable. We can play…

  • World of Warcraft where our hours disappear as we stomp on spiders for the gold they store in their stomachs
  • Unreal Tournament allowing us to, in its most literal sense, blow our friends up and not have to bother worrying about any judicial books being thrown at us
  • Microsoft Flight Simulator, providing those of us who don’t have the monetary or social backing to step into the pilots seat and actually fly an airplane, without the responsibility of the hundred or so passengers on board, let alone our own lives
  • Countless strategy games where we can, individually or communally, fight it out with our friends or foes, decimating their forces and leaving us none the happier
  • Private servers provide us with a configurable and customizable environment that can be tailored to our own needs
  • and more than any of those, Adult Entertainment

While i may think that the last entry is silly… a little research on the Beta-Max format war will yield a multitude of information about the role adult films played. You cannot ignore the fact that people want what they want, regardless of the things we are told, and usually in spite of it.

Consoles are fantastic playgrounds for games developers because of the limitations that are set in place by the manufacturers and industry:

  • No crazy refresh rates or screen resolutions to deal with
  • Because of the limited screen resolution developers can ignore super high poly models and stick to normal (and other) maps
  • No need to bother worrying about crazy input devices (save the PS3 and it’s keyboard option)
  • No need to worry about the other things running on the system, including peripheral devices like flight controls or so forth. Most use the same controller API.
  • No need to bother with anything else hardware (drivers, configuration, calibration, processor speed, processor type, disc space)
  • No need to deal with operating system types or graphics environments (OpenGL, DirectX *)
  • No issues with CD Keys because the games are usually stand alone
  • Few issues with cheating or piracy and steeply implemented safeguards or punishments for any who go break that rule.

it is a virtual utopia for games developers. All of their attention can be turned to focus on the actual game so they can ignore these issues, almost entirely. I have had countless discussions with friends about the pro’s and cons of moving to XNA and or the PS3. This is also above and beyond the fact that as game consoles have grown they have also become more homogeneous, so porting between them is no longer an impossibility or at great cost to the producer.

One major bone of contention that PC gamers have with consoles is their lack of precision. It does not matter how many joy pads are put onto a controller, they will never be as accurate as my mouse, and no matter how many buttons are ergonomically placed around my hand on a controller, there will never be 102 of them. While games like Half life and Halo are comparable games like Command and Conquer or Total Annihilation or Supreme Commander wont take to the console market very well because of their need for extensive minute control to be provided to the player.

A second is something that may be unexpected, speed. If you play a game like Unreal Tournament 3 on the PC and compare it to the PS3 and or 360 you will find a shocking change in sensitivity, response and yes even the very speed that the player has. This is undoubtedly related to the change in input devices but you will be hard pressed to find someone who can play both well.

Long story short, PC’s are never going to disappear, and for that matter… consoles wont either. Just keep your god damned hands off of my PC and ill keep my hands the hell away from your console. Don’t expect us to play nicely together, and dont expect me to care about your tears when the barrier between PC and Console finally comes down and i take pwnage of you.