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PCs or Personal Computers, are general-purpose computers designed for individual use. Although most PCs are not specifically designed to play games, thousands of games have been made for PCs, many of which have been exclusive to the platform.
PC gaming is approximately as old as console gaming, with notable PC games dating back to the 1970's. Many of these games were text-based rather than graphics-based, and took the form of interactive fiction. However, for a long time, the PC gaming market was limited by the high cost and lack of functionality of PCs. Therefore, PC gaming was overshadowed by Atari and Nintendo console games up into the 1990's
The turning point for PC gaming is ambiguous, but the situation undoubtedly changed during the early 90's. Games like Wolfenstein 3D and Doom popularized the first-person shooter, a genre that has been a mainstay of PC gaming ever since. Adventure games such as Myst had extremely impressive graphics for their time, and sold many millions of units. These games benefited from the PC's versatile nature, which allowed for more advanced games to be played than on consoles.
Since the mid-90's games with 3D graphics have increasingly become the norm. Games like Starcraft, EverQuest, and Counterstrike took advantage of online play well before the Dreamcast was released, while games like Half-Life refined and revolutionized existing genres.
In the 2000's, PC games often overlapped with console games, due to the similar power of consoles and low to mid powered PC's. However, many games have never come to consoles, due to their technical limitations. Likewise, many console games have never come to the PC market.
With the advent of digital distribution since 2005 or so, PC gaming has had new life breathed into it, with many smaller games entering the market at lower prices. Today, most PC games are sold in digital rather than retail format. This makes the exact size of the industry hard to gauge.
Different genres of games tend to be popular on the PC platform compared to on consoles. In particular, the following specific genres are very popular on the PC, whereas they are minor on other platforms.
Massively-Multiplayer Online games are a genre that is almost entirely dominated by the PC. These games require a constant internet connection and revolve around playing alongside hundreds of people at once. Games in this genre are best suited for the PC due to the many control options allowed for by the keyboard and mouse, as well as the PC's traditional connectivity advantages over consoles.
First Person Shooters have appeared on consoles, and have even been very popular there, with 1997's Goldeneye being the dominant example. However, The genre in general is at home on the PC, where the mouse allows for finer aiming than a console's analog stick. Arguably, the history of modern PC gaming is defined by the latest popular FPS. Under this theory, there have been xxx ages of modern PC gaming: the Doom age, the Quake age, the early "Valve" age of Half-Life and Counterstrike, the Halo age, the second "Valve" age of Half-Life 2, Portal, and Team Fortress 2, and the current Battlefield era.
Although Role-Playing games are popular on consoles, most of these games are created by Japanese developers. Western-made RPG's are predominately on the PC.
Strategy games are another PC-centric genre, with a majority of notable Strategy games having been PC titles. Virtually every major real-time strategy game other than Nintendo's Pikmin series, for example, has been on the PC, including Blizzard's Starcraft and Warcraft games, Age of Empires, and most of the Tycoon series.
The standard cost of computer games, like that of console games, tends to be about $50 to $60. However, the different nature of the PC market means that prices are often lower. This is due in part to the popularity of digital distribution platforms such as Steam, which frequently cut prices and offer sales thanks to the low costs of upkeep.
However, the minimum price of a game is generally kept from being too low by ESRB ratings. Like with mobile devices in early 2009, digital store owners passed a requirement that games be submitted to the ESRB before being added to the storefront. This has led to many smaller games choosing to exist as browser titles or being sold through specialized websites, where regulation is much more lax.