1. The best year for real-time strategy games
Real-time strategy is still a PC-only genre - and for RTS fans, 2010 promises to be one of the best years ever. This year, desktop generals can look forward to an especially exciting lineup of sequels for some of the biggest and best RTS series of all time. Expect StarCraft II, Command & Conquer 4, and Supreme Commander 2 to remind Wii remote wagglers and button mashers that the PC is still the best (and only) place to play “real” strategy games.
Above: Experts anticipate that StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty will sell approximately ten bajillion copies and make your penis bigger
But 2010 won’t just be about sequels. RUSE is slated to release this year; it’s a promising and original RTS that emphasizes elements of subterfuge and trickery (aka lying). Also, Warhammer fans shouldn’t forget about Chaos Rising, the upcoming expansion for Dawn of War 2, which will add the dreaded Chaos Marines as a playable faction.
2. MMOs will steal all your gold and health
If you’ve been questing till three in the morning for eight days straight, you know that you’ve been playing a good MMO - and that worries me, because I’ve got stuff to do, and 2010 will see the release of tons of MMOs that’ll monopolize my life.
Above: PCs continue to dominate the MMO scene
World of Warcraft: Cataclysm is number one on my threat list. The third expansion for World of Warcraft will add the usual amenities, like a higher level cap with new dungeons and new playable races. But it’ll also bring about the destruction of the world of World of Warcraft, as we know it, reshaping the kingdoms of Azeroth forever. But 2010 also promises brand new MMOs for my two favorite sci-fi universes with Star Trek Online and Star Wars: The Old Republic. It’s also the year in which we’ll see Guild Wars 2, the first proper sequel to the fantastic PvP-centric fantasy MMO.
3. Steam will continue to offer better deals than XBLA and PSN
Valve Corporation’s digital distribution service has come a long way since it launched - and will likely continue to offer better deals on games than Xbox LIVE and the PlayStation Network Store. Browse through Steam’s store and you’ll always find sweet sales for both new releases and classic titles. Valve’s willingness to play with traditional pricing structures has led to better deals for gamers and an increase in sales for developers and publishers. Everyone’s a winner - everyone, except for PC-less console gamers, of course.
Above: What you won’t find on Steam are clothes for your avatar or overpriced downloadable titles
Right now, Steam’s pre-order deal for BioShock 2, priced at $49.99, is 10 dollars cheaper than GameStop’s $59.99 pre-order price - and also comes with a copy of the original BioShock, which can be gifted to a friend if you already have it. Don’t bother looking for any BioShock 2 deals on XBLA or the PSN Store. Even if you could buy it, your puny console hard drives probably wouldn’t have enough space to store it anyway.
4. Games will still look and play better on the PC
It’s true. Games almost always look and play better on a PC. Think Batman: Arkham Asylum looked good on your HDTV? Try playing it with all the visual settings cranked up. With a nice monitor and a decent rig, games like Mass Effect and Fallout 3 look way better than their console counterparts. With sharper textures, more anti-aliasing, longer draw distances, higher frame rates, and the option to customize all your visual settings for the optimal performance, games will continue to look crisper and smoother in motion on the PC.
On top of that, online play always was and will continue to be better on PC versions. You shouldn’t have to pay for an Xbox LIVE membership just to play a round of Left 4 Dead 2 with your friends - and you won’t if you continue to play multiplayer shooters on the PC, the platform that gave birth to the genre in the first place.
Above: Plug in a USB controller and enjoy console-centric titles, like Arkham Asylum, with better graphics
Of course, the caveat is that a gaming rig is more expensive than a console. But you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars for a solid gaming experience. Check out this guide, which explains how to build an awesome gaming PC for $647 from our friends at Maximum PC.
5. All the games that matter will wind up on the PC
The 360 can have Halo: Reach. PC gamers understand that if you’re not using a mouse and keyboard, you’re not playing a real shooter. This truism has been common knowledge since Wolfenstein 3D and the days of DOS. With Brink and Rage to look forward to, another romp with Master Chief won’t be missed.
Go ahead and enjoy watching anime stereotypes swing oversized swords in Final Fantasy XIII, too. PC gamers have lots to keep them busy with Mass Effect 2 and PC-exclusive MMOs, like WoW: Cataclysm and Star Wars: The Old Republic.
Yes, PC gamers have the best of both worlds to look forward to in 2010. With platform exclusives, like StarCraft II, and the best versions of multi-platform releases, like Mass Effect 2, there’s really no reason to be playing games on anything other than a PC this year.
WINNER: XBOX 360
Obviously, if we’re talking in terms of pure sales (which, again, we’re not), the Wii and DS would most likely be the hands-down winners. But be honest: how many of you actually care about Wii games not made by Nintendo, or use a DS as your primary game machine? Meanwhile, gaming PCs are a market unto themselves, and while they’ll likely get most of 2010’s most-anticipated games – eventually – it’s also possible they’ll be even more marginalized by console-centric publishers (*coughActivisioncough*) than they were in 2009. So really, this boils down to a contest between the PS3 and the 360 – and when you look at everything we know about each console at this point, and the pure user experience that each one offers, we’re going to have to hand a pre-emptive victory to the 360.
Yes, the PS3 is swiftly closing the gap, but it’s the 360 that created that gap in the first place. Achievements are still more understandable than Trophies. You’re still more likely to find exclusive DLC for big-ticket games on the 360, or at least on the 360 first. The online service doesn’t feel like an unwieldy patchwork, firmware updates are infrequent and short, and Microsoft’s planned Game Room already looks more interesting than Sony’s sterile, microtransaction-filled Home. And Project Natal, skeptical as we’d like to be, looks like it could be genuinely revolutionary... if it’s handled right.
Above: One possible way it could be handled right
Sony’s set to make a strong showing, and it’s going to be a knock-down, drag-out fight of a year for sure – more so than it’s ever been. But based on what we know going in, our money’s on the 360 maintaining its stranglehold.
Jan 22, 2010
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