Hypothetical Q: Would PC games, and PC game development, be different today if gaming consoles and associated controllers had never been created?

This is just a hypothetical question, and I am not bashing or disrespecting anyone who uses a gaming console or controller, this is more of a "What if...." kind of question, like a PC game utopia where only PCs, keyboards & mice existed for game development and for us to play the games.

Technological advances rarely progress in a straight line, but often branches out into different directions to create other parallel innovations. But looking at many of the older games I've played (going back to the 1980s) I look at all the advancements made in graphics, controls using KB&M (or KB only in some cases), UI, sound, gameplay, AI advancement, and the addition of voice acting, all before the advent of console games, and I have to wonder where our games would be today if those consoles & controllers had never existed.

In this fantasy world of PC games/development, where do you think we would be in terms of immersion in games? To me, it feels like we'd be much closer to a "virtual reality" experience, even without the addition of VR headsets. Focused game development based on the advances in PC hardware as well as the advances in the game creation code that developers use. Games & game's development have progressed radically since the 1980s, even coexisting with consoles, but it just feels like the advancements could be even more dramatic had the development been for PC only.
 
I am sure I read/saw video somewhere that showed that PC games had problems with Side scrolling in early days and it was only after seeing Mario that someone figured it out... my memory of who makes me think it was ID Software

Back in 1990, John Romero, John Carmack and Tom Hall got together and created the first side-scrolling game for PC that rivaled the adventures of a certain mustachioed plumber from the prevalent console of the day, the NES. In fact, it actually began as a clone, and later a port, of Super Mario Bros 3. Nintendo didn't quite want to enter the PC market even then, though.
Commander Keen - https://wccftech.com/commander-keen-25-years-later-still-a-great-side-scrolling-adventure/
So there is that
 
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The problem with this line of thinking is that consoles were in the mainstream of gaming before computers were. In the home, we pretty much got our start with the Magnavox Odyssey, which had built-in controls. The evolution of home gaming has always had its main drive in consoles. So I think it would have to be a completely different history from the start to entertain this idea.

And yes, I do know that there were some forms of games on computers before the Odyssey. But that was only being done in colleges, and by the elite.
 
do we need to define what a console is?

There were tv games in the 1970's but it wasn't until 1977 that you actually got anyway to play different games apart from the tennis built into machine. Atari introduced cartridges with the https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atari_2600 and the rest is history... I had a friend who had almost every game on that console. He may not have paid for all of them though.

My Tandy Colour from just 3 years later had a cartridge port, PCjr had a cart port - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IBM_PCjr

I know its hypothetical but it would also need there to be only 1 choice of PC system to use back then, and I don't know when the PC we know today became dominant. It wasn't created until Aug 1981, every PC before that had used multiple different languages. It would have taken at least 10 years for it to be the main choice worldwide. And I remember the early 80's, computers were all about business, not about gaming... it was main reason I just ignored them in the 80's.
 
do we need to define what a console is?

There were tv games in the 1970's but it wasn't until 1977 that you actually got anyway to play different games apart from the tennis built into machine. Atari introduced cartridges with the https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atari_2600 and the rest is history... I had a friend who had almost every game on that console. He may not have paid for all of them though.

My Tandy Colour from just 3 years later had a cartridge port, PCjr had a cart port - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IBM_PCjr

I know its hypothetical but it would also need there to be only 1 choice of PC system to use back then, and I don't know when the PC we know today became dominant. It wasn't created until Aug 1981, every PC before that had used multiple different languages. It would have taken at least 10 years for it to be the main choice worldwide. And I remember the early 80's, computers were all about business, not about gaming... it was main reason I just ignored them in the 80's.
Right. My C64 also had a cartridge port, although it wasn't used nearly as much as disks. It also used Atari joysticks. The ports and interface were exactly the same.
 
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If youre only talking about the amount of NPC's, polygons and graphical effects on screen as well as the size of the game world, then sure consoles have held things back, especially the last gen PS4 and XBone being so weak even at release. I dont necessarily think having those things makes better games though.
 

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And yes, I do know that there were some forms of games on computers before the Odyssey. But that was only being done in colleges, and by the elite.
Yep, using dumb terminals to play a game on a mainframe. In other words, cloud gaming!
I dont necessarily think having those things makes better games though.
Definitely not, but it did provide us with more gamers. A *LOT* more gamers! Consoles have the gift of simplicity - just plug it in, put in the game that says it's for your console, and it works. PCs are more flexible, but they take some dedication to figure out.

I'm pretty sure that, without consoles, the gaming industry would be far, far smaller today. Mobile phones would be bringing them to the masses, but they would be a new idea.
 
Games wouldn't have come that far along. You would have taken away too much incentive for people to make games. PCs were not mainstream until the early- 90s. Gaming was mainstream before that, atleast for the kids and teens. We wouldn't even have arcades.
 
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i have been a gamer since 1982 and all the machines that were around that time reached a point where the chip sets could no longer cope with what games writers were trying to do . In simple terms they had the ideas but not the equipment to do it.

2D games would slow down when colour clash occurred and it was even worse when writers started doing 3d , one of the things they tried was to put an almost invisible 1 pixel border round the edge of everything that moved in an attempt to stop colour clash/slow down but it did not work.

I think that if consoles had never been invented the games industry could have died , in the early days of consoles the public just wanted something/anything to keep their gaming interests going without just having to go to an arcade with a bucket of coins.
 
2D games would slow down when colour clash occurred and it was even worse when writers started doing 3d , one of the things they tried was to put an almost invisible 1 pixel border round the edge of everything that moved in an attempt to stop colour clash/slow down but it did not work.
Up until recently, game developers were in the habit of trying to push the limits beyond what was capable, and their games always ran like crap unless you had the best possible hardware. They were trying to be "cutting edge" and future proof their games, and they didn't realize it just made their games look like crap and put them in a bad light. They didn't consider that by the time hardware would be capable of running their game, the game would be old news, and nobody would care anymore.

I think that probably started in earnest with Crysis. I know it happened a lot before that, too, but I think Crysis made it popular. All the game companies saw the publicity they got for being the big game that people could brag about being able to run.

My opinion has always been that it's best for a game company to make a game that runs great on current hardware, and it's going to make them look a lot better than trying to do something that can't be pulled off.
 
Definitely not, but it did provide us with more gamers. A *LOT* more gamers! Consoles have the gift of simplicity - just plug it in, put in the game that says it's for your console, and it works. PCs are more flexible, but they take some dedication to figure out.

I'm pretty sure that, without consoles, the gaming industry would be far, far smaller today. Mobile phones would be bringing them to the masses, but they would be a new idea.
Sure, I've owned both computers/PC's and consoles at various times in my life, both have their place.

One thing that comes to mind, I started a thread recently looking at the Dead Space remake minimum specs and how its a significant jump over whats been required before now. The guess was this is linked to it being a new generation console game. If games were made for only the highest end PC's then only people who could afford to buy a new high end PC every other year would be able to play the latest games.

As it is until quite recently a high end rig from 2012 would still have played most of the newest releases at 1080p. Do we actually have the last weak console generation to partially thank for the boom in PC gaming in the last 10 years or so, after everyone thought it was dead around the late 00's? Games have been quite playable or even better to play on PC's that cost almost the same as last gen consoles for a long time.
 
We wouldn't even have arcades.
For video games, maybe, but Pinball machines had been around for years. https://www.thoughtco.com/history-of-pinball-1992320
So while Pong was inspired by a ping pong game on the Odyssey, arcades themselves were likely around before video games. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_arcade_video_game_history
Most arcades had a mix of video games, and other machines.
My life would have been reduced without arcade machines...

I fail to believe no one would have thought of Tennis on a PC if Pong hadn't existed.

I think that probably started in earnest with Crysis. I know it happened a lot before that, too, but I think Crysis made it popular.
it was a mistake, they thought Pentium 6 CPU would be running at 10ghz by time game came out. If other companies saw it as a good thing to do, it was just a coincidence. Eventually they worked out better to release games people can play on release. Then consoles dumbed it down further.
 
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For video games, maybe, but Pinball machines had been around for years. https://www.thoughtco.com/history-of-pinball-1992320
So while Pong was inspired by a ping pong game on the Odyssey, arcades themselves were likely around before video games. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_arcade_video_game_history
Most arcades had a mix of video games, and other machines.
My life would have been reduced without arcade machines...

I fail to believe no one would have thought of Tennis on a PC if Pong hadn't existed.


it was a mistake, they thought Pentium 6 CPU would be running at 10ghz by time game came out. If other companies saw it as a good thing to do, it was just a coincidence. Eventually they worked out better to release games people can play on release. Then consoles dumbed it down further.
I should have written video games in arcades. I am aware of mechanical games in arcades.

I am not saying we wouldn't have games on PCs, but I refuse to believe that the games would be at the level they are today if not for consoles. PCs were expensive back in the day.
 
I am not disagreeing with you about the consoles influence on PC gaming. Arcades influenced consoles by making them try to match the graphics of arcades. It took consoles a long time to match some games
I turned away from PC in 1983 as PC were just business machines back then... i remember as I was going to take a course on them but nothing sparked my interest. The future wasn't very clear back then to me, and it wasn't until 1995ish that PC were at a stage they were worth looking at again. I played consoles for most of the time until 1999, mostly Nintendo ones.
 
I am not disagreeing with you about the consoles influence on PC gaming. Arcades influenced consoles by making them try to match the graphics of arcades. It took consoles a long time to match some games
I turned away from PC in 1983 as PC were just business machines back then... i remember as I was going to take a course on them but nothing sparked my interest. The future wasn't very clear back then to me, and it wasn't until 1995ish that PC were at a stage they were worth looking at again. I played consoles for most of the time until 1999, mostly Nintendo ones.
Yeah, I agree. I recall they were called home video game systems at the time.
I think the Dreamcast was the first console to match arcade machines.
 
If we make it a pure fantasy of what they could do with the tech it would be really interesting to see. I do wish there were companies trying to make games like Crysis was, really to the bleeding edge in scope just to really see what the tech can do without constraints, even if I could only watch it on Youtube for a couple of years.

The Modern warfare 2 engine looks incredible, first time for a while I saw a game and thought it really looked like a generational shift forwards.
 
I'm going to take a moment to discuss this question as if consoles haven't always been the driving factor, and as if it were possible for this question to work out as intended.

Back in my Commodore games, we still had fanboy wars then, like now. The only difference was that we wrote letters to the editor of our magazine, had to wait a month for someone to reply, then had to wait another month for them to see our reply back. That's how we used to fight and argue about things. Lol. Now we can fight back and forth within seconds.

But we C64 people used to ridicule NES gamers and tell them our computer was better than their console, and they fought back... Nowadays as I can look at the complete specs and capabilities of both, I think I was probably wrong. The C64 definitely had a better sound processor, but I think the NES was more capable in everything else.

The reason I bring this up is because consoles were always more capable than their computer counterparts for many years. I remember when I got back into PC gaming in the mid to late 90s, and 3D accelerator cards were just coming out. I got the S3 Virge and played the original Tomb Raider with a patch that added things like antialiasing and mipmapping. It was amazing, but it still wasn't as good as the N64's graphics. But then I ended up getting a Voodoo Rush card, which came with Turok the Dinosaur Hunter, and I was blown away. For the first time ever, I was playing games on a PC that were just as good as the N64.

I believe that's probably around the time that computers began to outpace consoles in gaming. We were finally starting to get hardware that was more powerful than consoles, and that has continued ever since then. The problem is that consoles have always been the mainstream, so as a result, game devs have always made their games for consoles, and they do a quick and dirty PC port to throw us a bone. I mean after all, they did have to program their games on a computer, right? The least they can do is pay their homage with a crappy port. Haha.

But the problem is that since consoles are so much less capable than what PCs can do, the game devs design their games around those lower capabilities, and PC gamers never, or rarely get to see their PC hardware pushed to the limits. Our ports are always gimped.

If you could take the history of consoles out of the equation, and game devs only ever really focused on PC hardware, just imagine where gaming could be right now! But that's not where the money is, so it will never happen.

I do not agree that they should have stuck with perfecting keyboard and mouse controls, though. I think that's the opposite of the progression that I was talking about in the last paragraph. We should be controlling games with our hands, speech, and mind by now. Haha.
 
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If we make it a pure fantasy of what they could do with the tech it would be really interesting to see. I do wish there were companies trying to make games like Crysis was, really to the bleeding edge in scope just to really see what the tech can do without constraints
If you could take the history of consoles out of the equation, and game devs only ever really focused on PC hardware, just imagine where gaming could be right now! But that's not where the money is, so it will never happen.
This is what I was thinking when I posted the question, though admittedly I didn't define my intention very well. Also, in my ignorance, I failed to consider that some gaming consoles existed before gaming on a PC became relevant. I've only played video games on a PC (outside of some of those video arcades back in my college days), so the early gaming consoles never entered my mind.

So as @Kaamos_Llama stated, it was more of a fantasy thought, thinking about what PC games would be today if they were solely developed for the PC without being simultaneously developed for consoles (XBox & Playstation). To me, it seems that if developers focused solely on the PC, using all the advances in hardware, software, game engine, and AI advances, that our games would be much more realistic in the experiences they provided. It's all hypothetical.

Because as @WoodenSaucer stated, it's never going to happen. Game developers and/or producers have to make a profit, so they have to sell as many "units" as possible, so that means that games are usually developed for both PCs & consoles to reach as many players as possible. Games cost millions of dollars to develop now, and there are many people/organizations that want to take their bite out of the profits.

I do not agree that they should have stuck with perfecting keyboard and mouse controls, though. I think that's the opposite of the progression that I was talking about in the last paragraph. We should be controlling games with our hands, speech, and mind by now. Haha.
I probably should have kept that part out of my original question, as we'd still have seen different controllers evolve (though only for PC) alongside KB&M advancement. Voice and mind controls through a neural interface would be awesome. Sit down in front of your PC and "jack-in" to access your current game.
 
it's never going to happen
It very likely will happen. Consoles have been upgrading to become more like PCs for the last 2-3 generations, to the point where now they're in effect specialized PCs. It's very like Apple, which dumped their own hardware to become a specialized PC back in 2005—and are of course now changing again.

This means it's a lot easier to write software for both platforms, because the hardware has become quite similar. Gone are the days of consoles being made by the sellers, now they use components from AMD and Nvidia etc, and are assembled by the likes of Foxconn—which also makes the iPhone.

I don't know if the hardware will become similar enough so that a software layer can be written to talk to it, irrespective of what the components are. Windows already performs this function for PCs, with drivers written by hardware manufacturers—software makers don't have to concern themselves with PC hardware these days, just write for Windows.

We're already along the road with Xbox. It's always been based on Windows, but latest gens are much closer to consumer PC Windows so that now there's a lot of crossover between the two. I expect next gen of Xbox will ask the consumer 'Do you want a specialized PC for gaming, or a general-purpose PC?'

Microsoft have figured out what they previously figured out in the 80s—the money is in the software, not the hardware. Sony can't afford to present game devs with a choice of 'PC+Xbox or PlayStation' or they'll quickly become second fiddle. Since Xbox and PlayStation hardware already sells at a loss, there's no room for a price war to keep market share.

So yeah, next decade latest is when I see one version of games written for devices, with software layers doing the heavy lifting of translating between game instructions and individual hardware parts.
 
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So as @Kaamos_Llama stated, it was more of a fantasy thought, thinking about what PC games would be today if they were solely developed for the PC without being simultaneously developed for consoles (XBox & Playstation). To me, it seems that if developers focused solely on the PC, using all the advances in hardware, software, game engine, and AI advances, that our games would be much more realistic in the experiences they provided. It's all hypothetical.

Because as @WoodenSaucer stated, it's never going to happen. Game developers and/or producers have to make a profit, so they have to sell as many "units" as possible, so that means that games are usually developed for both PCs & consoles to reach as many players as possible. Games cost millions of dollars to develop now, and there are many people/organizations that want to take their bite out of the profits.
I think modern consoles are often more powerful than the power of the average PC used for gaming, so even if consoles didn't exist developers would still have to develop for older hardware. So I doubt games would be significantly more realistic. In fact, they might even be worse because consoles are sold at a loss so they are more powerful than a PC of the same cost, which increases the power of the average gaming system if you assume people wouldn't just spend more money on gaming PCs if consoles didn't exist.
 
Sit down in front of your PC and "jack-in" to access your current game.
Haha. We need a jack in the back of our heads, like on the Matrix.

We're already along the road with Xbox. It's always been based on Windows, but latest gens are much closer to consumer PC Windows so that now there's a lot of crossover between the two. I expect next gen of Xbox will ask the consumer 'Do you want a specialized PC for gaming, or a general-purpose PC?'
Before the Xbox Series came out, there were rumors that it would have a "Windows Mode." Unfortunately that didn't happen. But can you imagine how insane that would be to be able to play your Steam and Epic games on an Xbox. The draw there is the price. My PC has a Ryzen 3600 and an old GTX 1080 that was great at one time. But my under $500 Xbox Series X is significantly more powerful than my PC.
 
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I talk alot of crap about Sony and MS, and im no big fan of consoles, that said, I suspect video game consoles are the reason we sitll have PC video games today.

Else the video game pirates would have stolen all the profit, and no one would be making video games at all.

Support the developers that make quality!
 
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Technological advances rarely progress in a straight line, but often branches out into different directions to create other parallel innovations. But looking at many of the older games I've played (going back to the 1980s) I look at all the advancements made in graphics, controls using KB&M (or KB only in some cases), UI, sound, gameplay, AI advancement, and the addition of voice acting, all before the advent of console games, and I have to wonder where our games would be today if those consoles & controllers had never existed.
They would still be a niche medium, probably even more expensive than it is right now with nowhere near the diversity, availability and choice we have now.

PCs pushed consoles to get better, then consoles got better. Gaming became mainstream on the back of consoles and PCs got a nice payback from it and benefited in the long run.

Big markets produce big innovation.

The argument that consoles became stripped down PCs is fair but mostly besides the point. Are they in every living room? Yes, they are.

In this fantasy world of PC games/development, where do you think we would be in terms of immersion in games?
Pretty much at the same place given current tech (local execution) and speed/availability of internet connections (game streaming)


In this fantasy world of PC games/development, where do you think we would be in terms of immersion in games? To me, it feels like we'd be much closer to a "virtual reality" experience, even without the addition of VR headsets.
Define a VR experience without the addition of VR headset.

A room entirely made out of screens? Not a consumer level product.
Bio implants? Theoretically possible, but I don't see nVidia licensing neurosurgeons to install their products. Also not consumer level product at this point.

VR headsets are the most practical thing we can do on every level for now, ironically enough complete with console style controllers, which will evolve to track each finger and probably either start looking like Power Gloves (yep, another evolved console product) or some wrist mounted camera that film your fingers.

At this point I'm pretty sure wrist cameras would be cheaper to make. That's not thanks to consoles though.....that's because of phones.

Focused game development based on the advances in PC hardware as well as the advances in the game creation code that developers use. Games & game's development have progressed radically since the 1980s, even coexisting with consoles, but it just feels like the advancements could be even more dramatic had the development been for PC only.
Advancement in raw power or speed/efficiency of runtime code?

Anyone can make raw power but at what price? Who's going to buy it? What size market are you looking for? Is it reasonable to spend 3 years developing a masterpiece of a game that 20 people can play?

Wolfenstein 3D made your 286 look like a Power PC.
Doom made your 486 look like straight up teh futurrzzz. I played Doom for the first time on a 386 actually. Low details, decrease screen size, get me those 12 fps and I'm dimming the lights and having a grand old time.

That was all because of optimization and fast code. It's brain power, not silicon power.

Maybe without consoles there would be ultra specialized, ultra optimized gaming PCs that are actually cheaper than corporate workstations? The PC market would've branched out in very different and extremely specialized directions but then you would face fragmented development and probably compatibility issues because in order for those hypothetical gaming PCs to even boot you would need specific types of components.

Would Power point run on a gaming PC? Ultra specialized hardware needs ultra specialized code to run on it.


All this to say, I firmly believe consoles actually contributed to PCs advancement by democratizing gaming to the masses, creating a huge market with huge revenues, and the ripples of those dividends helped the PC become what it is gaming wise.

Console games ported to PCs with varying levels of fidelity is the price to pay for having access to these games in the first place.

No consoles = less gamers = smaller market = smaller everything = either bigger prices or crappier hardware and so on.
 
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