You know The Wall in Game of Thrones? A metaphorical version of that immense structure is basically what used to divide the gaming libraries of PCs and consoles. Rare were the games that could climb from one side to the other. For the most part, the two video game camps were separate.
In recent console generations, that wall has been shrinking. If you look at the releases each year, it hardly exists. Sure, some console exclusives will never come to PC, and some PC games will never work with a controller. But for most major franchises, and for many independent games, getting them on every platform possible is a financial necessity.
This blurring of the lines between PCs and consoles goes beyond software, too, with entire genres and new forms of hardware crossing the divide. Here are four ways PC and console gaming are coming together.
1. The rise of indies on consoles
In the old days, independent games were strictly a PC thing. No one regulates what software you can run on your PC, so independent game developers had a low barrier of entry to making PC games. On the other side of the wall, consoles weren’t welcoming to indie developers because the tools and licenses to make console games were only available for big game developers.
That started to change once Microsoft kicked off the Xbox Live Arcade back in the early days of the Xbox 360. That program opened up new avenues for small game developers to make and distribute games on the console. Sony and Nintendo soon followed suit, and now you can find massive libraries of indie games on all of their digital storefronts.
2. Steam Machines
Steam is by far the dominant digital marketplace for PC games. So when the makers of Steam created a line of PCs that were meant to be plugged into television sets, it was a significant move in shrinking the wall between consoles and PCs.
A Steam Machine is a PC that’s designed to be used exactly like a console. They even have a Steam Controller that’s supposed to work well for games that were designed to be used with a mouse and keyboard. When you look at Steam Machines, you can practically hear the wall between PC and consoles crumbling.
3. Mods are coming to Xbox One
For decades, game mods have been a PC-only feature. Basically, gamers can mess with a game’s code in order to change the graphics, music, levels, and even the characters’ abilities. Some developers like having their games modded, while others frown up on it, but it’s a big thing for PC gamers.
Developer and publisher Bethesda has benefitted greatly from mods on its games like Fallout 3 and Skyrim, so it thinks quite highly of mods. So highly that at the E3 2015 video game conference, Bethesda announced that it will bring mods to the Xbox One version of Fallout 4.
4. Trends crossing over
Now that the wall is shrinking, the cross-pollination of hardware and software has begun. Entire genres that rose to prominence on PC are starting to come to consoles. MOBAs are making their way to Xbox One and Playstation 4, as are MMOs like Neverwinter and Final Fantasy XIV.
The same goes for hardware peripherals like virtual reality headsets. Once the PC-centric Oculus Rift was announced, it helped inspire Sony to work on its PlayStation VR headset. For its part, Microsoft is building an augmented reality headset called HoloLens and is partnering with Oculus Rift in ways that have yet to be announced.
Just about anywhere you look in the world of video games, you’ll find some evidence of PC and console gaming merging together.