This is an interesting categorization. Probably the main thing that isn't quite so clear is what gets categorized as a "PC game" and what is "arcade evolution"? I would probably call Animal Crossing a PC game, since it is a life sim. However, it has never been available on PC. On the other hand I'm not sure how I would categorize games like 3D Mario and 3D Zelda. They don't feel like arcade evolved games or PC games to me. I guess they are arcade evolved, but they are just a further iteration away from pure arcade games?
The other thing that isn't quite so clear is why Dreamcast and Gamecube are considered "Balance", while the N64 and Saturn are considered arcade evolution. I do admit that I've never owned either a N64 or Saturn though. From what I can tell N64 and Gamecube had very similar games, especially for the major releases. Does this classification have more to do with third party games? (But then again the Wii's third party library was not really strongly in the arcade evolution category.) Dreamcast actually had a whole lot of arcade games: Marvel vs. Capcom, Powerstone, Guantlet: Dark Legacy, plenty of shmups, etc....
Arcade games and PC games used to have very strong differences, but much like the definitions and borders of video game genres, it begins to blend into each other over time. That's why younger people are probably unable to tell a difference for the most part.
An arcade game had to be instantly understood to get players hooked, because otherwise people would just walk over to the next cabinet. This created a very different setting for software competition than on the PC where games could afford to have steep learning curves. A logical result of this is that arcade games needed very few buttons for their controls whereas games on a PC worked with the keyboard and had virtually no limit on the keys being used in games.
The example of Animal Crossing has similarities to Fire Emblem where you may feel inclined to assign it to the PC side because you associate the genre itself with the PC, but in both cases the games have a distinct feel to them because their approach was not to get a PC game to work on a console, but rather to adapt a PC genre by working from the premise of console game design, which means that only a few buttons cover all important functions while at the same time there's a focus on only the key ingredients instead of offering dozens of options. Another example would be the JRPG genre which is an adaptation of PC RPGs; while in a PC RPG the player had a lot of options for the character build, the stat and talent growth with level ups was significantly streamlined for JRPGs like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. In all examples in this paragraph I am refering to the very first game in each series.
3D games on console like Mario and Zelda can be called a further step away from pure arcade games. There's certainly some bloatiness and timewasting involved that isn't present in their 2D counterparts, so they aren't quite the same. I'd say that comes with the added dimension for gameplay that necessitates a bit more complexity in both controls and level design.
The classification is based on what console manufacturers went for. The Saturn and N64 should probably be a half-step between Arcade Evolution and Balance for the above mentioned reason that 3D games don't have the same purity as older arcade games in quite a few genres. Both the Dreamcast and GameCube had their manufacturers adjust to be more like PlayStation, so it would be correct to say that both major first and third party software efforts determine where a console is placed. I say "major" because you can find something of almost everything on modern consoles, but the key is where the emphasis is.
Ok, you are using a very different classification then I would use. I do not associate PC games with having a steep learning curve, per se. The principle of "easy to learn, difficult to master" is simply a principle of good game design, whether it is on the PC or console or arcade or a board game or whatever. The average PC game in the 80's and 90's did, in fact, have a steeper learning curve compared to the average arcade or console game, but that is because of another more important reason, which I'll state in a bit. I remember playing Warcraft 1 and 2, though. These games are extremely easy to learn. In reality the main campaign for these games is actually a huge tutorial, but it doesn't feel that way, because the games are so well designed including being very easy to learn and yet difficult to master.
There are plenty of pure PC games that I like and there are plenty of pure arcade games that I like, and here are the main differences I see between the two platforms. (This especially is referring to 20th century games).
Arcade: Short, intense, focus on intuitive controls, easy to die, mainly challenges the body (i.e. coordination, timing, reflexes, etc...).
PC: Long, slower paced, content heavy, focus on cutting edge graphics, mainly challenges the mind (i.e. strategy, puzzle solving, etc...).
Just going by these qualities I've stated, neither arcade nor PC gaming is inherently better than the other. However, since PC games challenged the mind, they tended to have a steeper learning curve just to make that challenge interesting. Arcade games, on the other hand, did tend to be simple, because a person needed to feel they had a meaningful experience in about 3 minutes. So, arcade game designers did tend to be better at executing the "easy to learn, difficult to master" principle.
I think that there needs to be a "PC evolved" category, just for the sake of making discussion easier. I would call NES games like The Legend of Zelda, Mega Man, Metroid, Castlevania, and Mike Tyson's Punch Out, "arcade evolved". Their basic gameplay comes from the arcade, but they are also longer, with more content, than a pure arcade game. They are mostly on the arcade side, but borrow somewhat from PC design. I would call games like Dragon Quest and Fire Emblem "PC evolved". They borrow from a PC genre, but they are also made simpler and more intuitive for the console. I would also call a game like DOOM "PC evolved". This was the first time an action game became really popular on the PC. That was a big part of it's appeal. To me it felt like a "casual action game" in the same way that Dragon Quest feels like a "casual RPG". The controls on consoles were better than keyboard and mouse. In reality though, they borrowed a few elements from arcade game design to make DOOM. However, it came to PC first, because PC could handle 3D graphics better than consoles could. The graphics focus makes it a PC game, but the action part is why I would call it "PC evolved".
Last edited by The_Liquid_Laser - on 27 March 2021