PC's New Golden Age
PC Gamer US Edition|April 2022
There's never been a better time to be a PC gamer - and the future is bright
By Wes Fenlon

RISE OF THE MACHINES

The world of PC GAMING is more alive than ever— with plenty to look forward to. By Wes Fenlon

In September 2011, I moved 2,500 miles from one coast of the United States to the other, leaving behind friends and family for a city where I knew almost no one. For some of those relationships the move meant a huge change: I went from seeing friends weekly to just once or twice a year. But for others it was an easy transition, because we already spent most of our social time playing games together online. open. We later had trysts with Battlefield 3, Terraria, Smite and Dungeon Defenders, all games we could pay just enough attention to, to keep our main focus on why we were ultimately playing together: To chat about day-to-day life on our homespun Mumble server.

We never lost touch or stopped playing games, but it became harder and harder to line up our schedules, especially with two time zones in between us. Then 2020 hit, and for the first time in almost a decade my PC gaming group was essentially my entire social life again. It’s been a hard two years in so many ways, but our Discord server has been a daily comfort—a place to vent, cope, and pass the time with videogames. The pandemic has certainly taken a toll on PC gaming, delaying countless games and smashing hardware supply chains to pieces. But it’s also reinforced for me what an incredible place PC gaming is in now compared to ten years ago.

THE NUCLEUS

Sony and Microsoft might still be slugging it out for a spot in the entertainment center, but both have admitted the PC is too big to ignore. The long era of console exclusives is ending, with virtually everything now arriving on PC—and usually in finer form. We can play Halo on Steam without being tortured by Games For Windows Live, and Sony’s crown jewels like God of War are getting PC ports with luxurious ultrawide and DLSS support for added shine.

Nowhere but the bizarre melting pot that is the PC could games like Among Us or Project Zomboid lurk for years before suddenly surging in popularity. The PC is now the nucleus of gaming culture, ground zero for new trends, home to Discord and Twitch and every esport outside of the fighting game community (maybe with Street Fighter VI they’ll find the allure of 240Hz monitors irresistible). And the future looks brighter still.

2022 is poised to give us the Steam Deck, an affordable entry point to PC gaming that has the potential to open up our hobby to millions more people. We’re still grappling with those hardware shortages, but they haven’t slowed down PC tech’s current hot streak, with Intel pushing a groundbreaking new desktop architecture, AMD killing it on performance with each new generation, and Nvidia pairing its graphics cards with irresistible software features like AI supersampling. Even if you can’t get your hands on new gear, the most exciting innovations in the PC space right now are helping games run better on the hardware you’ve already got.

A LIVE AND KICKING

Remember when PC gaming died? We don’t either, but people sure liked to say it was happening

2012

Mistranslations for the Modern Gamer writes: “The most recent blow is the announcement that Diablo 3 will be released on consoles… What Diablo’s console debut means is that its developer, Blizzard, has left PC exclusivity, and that, internet, is a monumental blow.” Nah, it wasn’t.

2015

Wired writes: “No, Really, the PC Is Dying and It’s Not Coming Back,” after fewer PCs are predicted to ship that year, and Apple sells loads of iPhones. Hundreds of millions of PCs continued to sell every year, and sales even increased year-over-year in 2019. Turns out people like both computers and phones.

2019

Marketwatch writes: “PC gaming is in a decline,” arguing that PC games aren’t good anymore, unlike old Amiga games that “had only one goal: To entertain”. And yet PC gaming is more diverse today than ever. The best part of this argument was the final line, “Hang in there. Cyberpunk 2077 is just around the corner.” Yikes.

PLAY THE HITS

When I think back to what kinds of games I could play on PC in 2011, 2022 feels like an outright fantasy. Elden Ring, quite possibly the biggest game of the year, launches on PC day one, while a decade ago Japanese PC ports were rare, late and usually terrible to boot. For years console players lamented how 3D platformers had died off in the third-person shooter era, but there are a wealth of them on PC, like last year’s beloved Psychonauts 2 and even a reverse-engineered PC port of Super Mario 64 (seriously, is there anything diehard PC modders can’t do?).

For most of the last decade it also felt like the quintessential PC genre—real-time strategy—was on life support, but 2022 bodes well there too. We ended last year with Age of Empires IV and now wait impatiently for Company of Heroes 3, which feels like the kind of one-two punch that could wake up everyone who’s slept on the RTS for far too long.

Hell, even STALKER is getting a sequel we never thought we’d see this year (it was supposed to be out in April, but slipped to a hopefully final December 8). 2022 is going to be a tsunami of a year, with waves of pent-up games delayed in 2020 and 2021 finally making it out. It’s going to be a marathon from Elden Ring in February to Starfield in November, assuming Bethesda sticks to its release date. And if Team Cherry hasn’t finished Hollow Knight: Silksong by the end of 2022 I’m moving to Australia and standing outside their window with a boombox until they let me play it.

The stacked calendar we’re looking at now at the year’s beginning is still an incomplete picture, admittedly, with little indication of what will blow up, what will fizzle, and what isn’t even a blip on our radar. It’s hard to keep perspective on how sprawling PC gaming is now: Back in 2011, roughly 300 games came out on Steam in the whole year. In 2021, there were around 12,000. A pile that big is bound to contain a few big and exciting surprises.

BETTING’S OPEN

BioWare has been playing coy about its next Mass Effect and Dragon Age, but it seems certain both are coming. The long-awaited BioShock successor will likely come up for air this year. Rockstar, meanwhile, is almost surely working on Grand Theft Auto VI, and 2023 will mark a decade since the release of GTA V. I’d put $10 down in a Miami casino that Vice City’s coming back next year.

Those multimillion dollar productions live side-by-side on Steam with indie games, and today’s indie development scene is so absurdly flush with talent that even a quiet week for games hides something tantalizing. What are our favorite indie teams working on right now? Zachtronics bends our brains with a new puzzle game virtually every year. Our 2018 Game of the Year Into the Breach, from indie developer Subset Games, is now four years old, while Supergiant Games’ acclaimed Hades will turn two before 2022 is over. The next year or so seems like the time for both to unveil something new.

And with Sony now gung-ho about PC ports and Sega slowly coaxing its RPG studio Atlus into embracing the PC, we may even cross some more names off the list of holy grail ports. If we all do our Hail Marys before bed every night, dare we hope for a Bloodborne or Persona 5-shaped miracle? If I were truly honest I’d tell you that the port I want to see most is a remaster of Capcom’s God Hand, but some dreams are just too outrageous to commit to print.

LET’S JAM

I hope 2022 sees Covid-19 wane and gives me the chance to step away from my PC more, but for now I’m content playing through Gloomhaven with the same friends I rolled into League with. Our reflexes and schedules couldn’t survive in a MOBA these days, but the digital version of a phenomenal board game? That we can handle.

THE LINE - UP

It’s set to be a fantastic year for releases—here’s just a few of the heaviest hitters

Company of Heroes 3

RELEASE: 2022

2022 is the year the RTS returns from the grave, as genre veterans Relic Entertainment bring back the iconic WWII series. We’ve been hands-on a couple of times now, and it’s blown us away each time. It’s a good year to be a strategy gamer.

Starfield

RELEASE: Nov 11, 2022

It’s been a decade since Skyrim and seven years since Fallout 4. In other words, it’s been a long wait for a new Bethesda open world, but 2022 is finally the year—and with its intergalactic setting, it looks like the developer’s most ambitious project yet.

Marvel’s Midnight Suns

RELEASE: 2022

You know it’s going to be a good year for PC gaming when there’s a big new release on the way from the XCOM team. Midnight Suns may be taking the strategy in a very different direction, but its superheroic skirmishes look no less compelling than the alien assassination we’re used to.

Warhammer 40,000: Darktide

RELEASE: 2022

After years of lovingly supporting the excellent Vermintide 2, Fatshark is gearing up to launch its grand follow-up. Bigger, bolder, and bloodier, with a shift in setting to the grim sci-fi of Warhammer 40k, it promises to make this a year a great one for co-op action.

Stray

RELEASE: Spring 2022

The debut game from two ex-Ubisoft veterans promises a unique experience where you play as a cat in a sci-fi world.

Total War: Warhammer III

RELEASE: Feb 17, 2022

It’s almost time for the biggest entry yet in one of the best strategy series of all time. Find out more on p28.

STALKER 2

RELEASE: Dec 8, 2022

For a long time it looked like we’d never get a new STALKER—but this year we’re getting a sequel in time for Christmas.

Homeworld 3

RELEASE: Winter 2022

Nearly two decades after Homeworld 2, Blackbird Interactive is bringing us back to a galaxy of spaceship strategy.

Baldur’s Gate III

RELEASE: TBC

Larian’s fantastic take on the series is already out in Early Access, and we’re hoping this is the year it goes 1.0.

Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League

RELEASE: 2022

The creators of the Batman: Arkham games are back in the superhero saddle.

Kerbal Space Program 2

RELEASE: 2022

Getting to the moon first time round was hard enough—now they want us to build entire colonies in space!

Crusader Kings III: Royal Court

RELEASE: Feb 8, 2022

This first big expansion will be the perfect excuse to return to CK III.

PC IN YOUR PALMS

The STEAM DECK could totally change how we play in 2022.

By Wes Fenlon

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine