State of the Gaming Union Address - PC

It's the daddy of gaming platforms, figuratively and kinda literally too

Our gaming experts all agree on one thing - 2016 is going to be one hell of a year to be a gamer. But which platform is going to have the best year? We've given our PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo and PC gaming experts a chance to make their case and explain why their device is going to be the dominant games machine of 2016. Today we're continuing with what it means to be an PC gamer in 2016.

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Every year we hear the same thing. No one buys PCs anymore, sales figures are dropping, it's all about tablets and mobile phones for gaming, give up your computer, you frickin' dinosaur.

But it's 2016, dinosaurs are still cool and so is PC gaming.

While the two console big boys are battling it out with last-gen PC hardware, jabbing each other in the eye with Lara Croft or Chun-Li collectibles, our mighty gaming rigs are sitting back with their feet on the desk sniggering away to themselves.

Rise of the Tomb Raider

Today Rise of the Tomb Raider is hitting the PC, making Lara look the best she's ever done, chewing bubblegum and kicking ass at 4K (R.I.P. Roddy), and the PC is also harvesting pretty much every other exclusive that both sides of the console divide have been holding up as reasons to pick their particular platform.

The PS4's Street Fighter V is hitting the PC this year too, as is the stunning-looking No Man's Sky.

And we're just seeing reports the Brazilian ratings board has approved the PC version of Xbox exclusive, Quantum Break, though it has since taken down the rating…

Pooter exclusives

But we've got our own exclusives too.

Star Citizen, from the creator of the awesome Wing Commander games (and director of the shoddy movie, but we won't hold that against him), will launch as a PC exclusive this year. It's restricting itself to our gaming rigs for the simple reason that its breadth, scope and ambition is too much for the pocket calculator hardware the consoles are sporting.

Star Citizen

It shows the power (and fanaticism) of the PC gamer because as a crowdfunded game it's managed to generate an astounding $107m since it was first announced. In fact, since it pushed past the $65m mark Cloud Imperium Games has run out of stretch goals.

Then XCOM 2 is starting out as a PC exclusive in February, though may find it's way out onto the Xbox eventually, and the Total War series is getting the Games Workshop Warhammer treatment at the end of April.

Total War Warhammer

And, of course, every AAA cross-platform game is going to get a release on the PC as well, so all your Dishonored 2, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Mirror's Edge: Catalyst, Mafia III and Dark Souls III fantasies are going to look their best on the PC.

Virtually real

However many exclusive games Sony manages to squeeze out for the PlayStation VR, the PC is still going to be home to the most immersive virtual reality experiences around.

With both the Oculus Rift and Valve/HTC partnership's SteamVR/Vive headsets doing their best work on the PC, this is where VR is going to get real.

Vive Pre

Of course you are meant to be able to hook up your Xbox One to the Rift, for that virtual big-screen effect, but that's hardly the visceral gaming experience we want from the new tech.

With its advanced hardware and gaming catalogue, rich with the sort of in-depth simulations to make the most of the VR headware, the PC is the platform with the best shot of delivering the serious wow-factor the gaming world is expecting from this go around with virtual reality.

Hard times

When we're talking about hardware we've got mention about the ever-evolving world of PC components, and when we're talking gaming it's all about the graphics card.

That's the super-model part which makes all your games look awesome. PC graphics cards are the reason it's the only gaming platform capable of rocking 4K visuals at 60FPS in the latest games.

While the consoles still feel all proud of themselves if they can manage to hit 1080p…

Nvidia Pascal

And 2016 is a big year for PC graphics cards because the two big hitters, Nvidia and AMD, are set to release their most powerful and efficient GPUs ever. While that does mean new hyper-expensive graphics cards for the rich and famous, it also means the trickle-down effect will push unprecedented levels of gaming performance down into the more budget oriented price points for the rest of us.

In short, everyone wins.

Not so niche

But the PC gaming platform is just so damned niche. There are only a few hardcore, so-called 'elite gamers' still clinging to their expensive desktop machines. Or so we're always being told.

Because of the relentless advancement of PC tech powerful gaming rigs have never been cheaper. You can build a 1080p gaming rig that will make a mockery of the consoles for chump change right now.

And, while sales of beige box desktops (or laptops just one step up from typewriters) have indeed tanked, sales figures around PC gaming show it is more than thriving. It is the biggest gaming revenue generator around.

Game downloads now account for more sales than physical boxed copies, and if you thought mobile gaming was top dog in terms of helping itself to huge chunks of cash from gamers' wallets you might be surprised - it's playing second fiddle to the amount of money PC sales generate.

According to a recent report by SuperData Research the mobile sector earned $25.1bn last year. If that seems a staggering amount the pool of money picked up by downloadable PC games is at a punch-you-to-the-floor-and-stomp-on-your-face level; PC games generated $32bn last year.

League of Legends

Over on the consoles downloads are still a tiny percentage. In fact the PC's League of Legends alone made more money than Call of Duty (Advanced Warfare and Black Ops II), FIFA (15 and 16), Grand Theft Auto V, Destiny, Fallout 4 and Star Wars: Battlefront combined. Across both main consoles.

This trend is likely to continue as Steam keeps grinding away at people's wallets, with ever more tempting deals and bundles, and PC gamers are more than happy to let it.

PC gaming then is a hulking behemoth, with a bigger back catalogue of games than any platform ever created, more exclusive titles than either current-gen console, more users and makes even more money.

This is the power platform people, and 2016 is our year.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Components Editor

Dave (Twitter) is the components editor for TechRadar and has been professionally testing, tweaking, overclocking and b0rking all kinds of computer-related gubbins since 2006. Dave is also an avid gamer, with a love of Football Manager that borders on the obsessive. Dave is also the deputy editor of TechRadar's older sibling, PC Format.