PC games like League of Legends and DOTA 2 have become a dominating force in the world of eSports, helping it explode in popularity and land a time slot on ESPN. What makes this so surprising is that PC games were late to the eSports party. Console games like Halo were the original pioneers. Console gamers would set up huge tournament LAN parties with hundreds or thousands of players coming to tourneys. Those days have dried up like water in the desert, leaving a PC oasis for eSports fans.
What's been hard for people to figure out is why the console competitive scene dried up. They don't seem to realize that console games, especially shooters, were always doomed to fall to the PC scene. Today I want to break down a few reasons why that was inevitable.
Whether you agree with the title "PC Master Race" or not, there is no denying that PC as a gaming platform has a lot to offer. It allows developers to create games bigger than anything on consoles and manage them more easily.
That means when a competitive community starts to grow around a game, developers have better tools to foster it. Consoles don't give them the option to grow the game in a consistent way with updates and expansions the way PC can offer. So their competitive scenes struggle to keep up.
Halo is a great example of the huge changes that happen between one console title and the next. Developers will usually tweak or toss out old mechanics and throw in new ones on top of a visual overhaul. Those tweaks can cause a major upset in the competitive community like the switch to armor abilities between Halo 3 and Halo: Reach.
The idea behind such changes is to attract new players while giving current fans something new. It can be great way to sell a new title, but a bad way to keep competitive players coming back for more.
All the while, PC games introduce big changes slower and tweak small things that don't work on the fly. Console games can be updated too, of course, but how often will console developers throw out a brand new mechanic to serve the competitive community?
It doesn't matter if a console developer is trying to hone in on the competitive scene or capture average gamers for multiplayer, they all tend to face the same issue - a sudden drop in population. Usually games like Call of Duty or Battlefield only keep a large online population for a few months before gamers move on to a new title, often never return.
Once that population is gone, the chance to create a competitive community around it are also sunk. Console games simply lack the staying power that PC-based titles like League of Legends or CS:GO have to keep a constant population going. Adding in small amounts of new content to keep attracting new players and bringing back old ones helps keeps these titles fresh without changing too much.
PC's greatest strength in the competitive scene is that all of its players are combined on a single platform. The power of each player's machine will vary, and a special setup may even give some players an advantage, but they are all playing together. The biggest level of separation between PC gamers is servers, and they can easily get around that.
Console gamers are split up by the system they play on, and the competitive community takes a major hit because of it. Pro players are forced to work on whatever system happens to be the standard for the game they play. Then they worry that their league will suddenly switch consoles. Competitive Call of Duty's recent switch from the Xbox One to PS4 is a great example of the problems that can cause.
Console games offer immense worlds, unforgettable stories, and so much more but what they can't offer us is a competitive scene that is in it for the long haul. Console developers simply don't have the tools or sandbox they need to create a consistent scene for competitive play. PC games will continue leading the charge pushing eSports to all new heights.