Don’t think consoles have changed the requirements of PC games? Have a look for yourself

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For better or worse, new cross-platform titles like Assassin's Creed: Unity put aging PC hardware to the test

The controversy surrounding my article about how consoles have increased system requirements in PC games exceeded anything I could have predicted. My claim was simple; if you have a system that’s getting on in years, such as one with a dual-core processor and/or a video card with 2GB of VRAM or less, some of the newest cross-platform games will challenge your rig. PC gamers are no longer guaranteed the flawless experience they’ve become accustomed to with previous cross-platform ports.

This assertion is indisputably supported by the facts. While I could write a separate benchmark post, there’s really no need, as other reputable sites have already tested these games more extensively than I could.

Sites that back up my claims include:

And so on.

Of these high-profile holiday blockbusters only Advanced Warfare runs alright on older systems, though it too chokes on mid-range mobile GPUs that are a couple generations old. The others demand recent hardware. Anandtech found that even the AMD Radeon R9 280 barely hits 30FPS at medium detail and 1080p resolution in Assassin’s Creed: Unity while found Dragon Age: Inquisition won’t exceed 30FPS at 1080p and high detail on anything less than a GTX 770M paired with an Intel mobile quad.

The end of the last console generation created an environment where even low-end hardware could handle any port at 30FPS and 720p resolution (the maximum typical of the last-gen consoles). Playing at 1080p was usually no sweat, even at maximum or near-maximum detail. That era is over. Going forward, PC gamers will need more powerful hardware to obtain the performance they’re accustomed to seeing. This situation will likely continue for several years.

These findings are not the same as declaring PCs are less powerful or can’t handle games, a statement many commenters put in my mouth. It’s clear that a powerful computer is faster than any console. But, as highlighted by the Steam hardware survey, not everyone can afford a powerful computer. For those on a budget the change in typical system requirements is meaningful.

And this is not an unusual turn of events. The same trend occurred with the release of the Xbox 360/PS3. It’s more relevant now, though, because cross-platform releases have become the rule rather than an exception. While some might contend the change has nothing to do with consoles, that’s a hard claim to take seriously given the sudden leap has occurred just after the release of new console hardware, and the lack of any innovation on the PC side that would spur such advancement.