It's been a question in the back of gamers heads for a long time, "Why can't games on 360 and PC play with one another?" On paper it makes total sense, both systems operate on a similar PC architecture, and Xbox Live and Games For Windows were clearly designed to work together. So what's the hold up? Voodoo President Rahul Sood has let lose a little secret about why Xbox 360 gamers and PC gamers can't compete against one another online, and it's not what you might think.
In a blog post on his site, Rahul discussed an alleged Microsoft project that "[...]was designed to allow console gamers and PC gamers to interact and battle over a connected environment." During the testing, extremely talented console gamers were pitted against "mediocre" PC gamers in what appears to be some type of shooter. The Xbox gamers used their 360 controllers and the PC gamers used the traditional mouse/keyboard combo. The results?
"The console players got destroyed every time. So much so that it would be embarrassing to the XBOX team in general had Microsoft launched this initiative."
Sood credited the outcome to the combination of the superior mouse/keyboard setup, and his belief that "You simply don't get the same level of detail or control as you do with a PC over a console."
While Sood is more than a little biased (most people who earn a living selling PCs aren't going to praise the 360), the outcome does seem to make sense. FPSes were born on the PC and were built around mouse/keyboard play. While controllers are fine for most players, the increased accuracy of the mouse/keyboard clearly makes a difference in competitive play, especially at advanced levels. There's also the reality that anyone willing to spend the money and effort to put together a gaming PC clearly cares enough about games to invest a lot of time into them.
Above: On the left, a PC gamer, on the right, a console player
While console gamers may balk at the accusation, realize that there is a silent majority of 360/PS3 owners who bought the system because it was cheap and they just want to have some fun after work or school. People are infinitely more likely to buy a $199 Xbox 360 on a whim than they are a $1500 gaming PC. They use their 360 for Netflix and Scene It!, and are genuinely looking forward to Kinectimals; in other words, they haven't hit their 5th prestige, nor will they likely ever even know what that is. And when they pick up MW2 or BFBC2 they do it for fun, they aren't interested in making the ideal weapons kit or unlocking every single gun. As a result, the console enviroment can be more forgiving to less talented players, as there is, to put it bluntly, a higher noob to pro ratio. Compare this enviroment to the nightmarishly competitive PC scene, and its clear why, in this case at least, they came out on top.
So on the whole, are PC gamers more talented than console gamers? Given the large number of casual gamers who own consoles and not PCs, probably; but the reality still boils down to an individual's skill, regardless of their system choice. A mouse and keyboard are defintely better, but unless Microsoft decides to let 360 and PC gamers duke it out in the real world, there can never be a definitive answer.
July 22, 2010