Legendary Game Designer No Longer Sees PC as Leading Platform for Games

John Carmack: PC Is Not the Leading Platform for Games Anymore

by Anton Shilov
10/13/2011 | 08:24 PM

Even though personal computers forever changed the video game industry back in the early nineties, they are not the leading platforms for games anymore, according to John Carmack, a legendary game designer whose Doom and Wolfenstein revolutionized the industry. Game consoles are much more popular devices used for video gaming and therefore id Software's latest Rage title was tailored for Microsoft Xbox 360 and Sony PlayStation 3.


"We do not see the PC as the leading platform for games. That statement will enrage some people, but it is hard to characterize it otherwise; both console [Rage] versions will have larger audiences than the PC version," said John Carmack, the lead programmer at id Software, in an interview with IndustryGamers web-site.

The recently released highly-anticipated Rage video game has major issues with quality on personal computers. id Software said that the problems were conditioned by driver issues of ATI Catalyst and Nvidia ForceWare and would be resolved shortly. The main reason for the issues is that the latest title by id was designed with PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 video game consoles in mind, whereas the PC version is essentially a port with high-quality graphics.

A scene from id Software's Rage video-game

Although modern game consoles are based on the custom ATI Radeon or Nvidia GeForce graphics processors, they use different application programming interfaces and are generally different from typical PCs. As a result, in case programmers use low-level architectural peculiarities of PS3 or X360, they have to redesign their engines for personal computers.

According to Mr. Carmack, since game consoles are more popular among gamers than PCs, it makes sense to develop video games for them and then to personal computers while adding graphics features.

"You can choose to design a game around the specs of a high-end PC and make console versions that fail to hit the design point, or design around the specs of the consoles and have a high-end PC provide incremental quality improvements. We chose the latter. A high end PC is nearly 10 times as powerful as a console, and we could unquestionably provide a better experience if we chose that as our design point and we were able to expend the same amount of resources on it. Nowadays most of the quality of a game comes from the development effort put into it, not the technology it runs on. A game built with a tenth the resources on a platform 10 times as powerful would be an inferior product in almost all cases," added Mr. Carmack.

id Software and John Carmack are not the first game designers who choose to develop video games for game consoles and then port them to PC platform. The trend started in the middle of the previous decade as result of dropping sales of video games for PCs. For a long time Mr. Carmack defended the PC gaming since the platform was much more flexible and feature-rich compared to consoles, which allowed him to perform unique things. However, with the arrival of the current-generation of consoles he changed his opinion.