What are some of the reasons to buy a next-gen console? Every article discussing the pros of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One listed the same items: smoother dashboards (otherwise known as operating systems), cable TV integration, tablet functionality, additional social media sharing options, motion controls, faster mandatory installations (all PS4 and Xbox One games require installation to be played), and an improved online experience. Basically, consoles are becoming PCs. The needle has been moving this direction for a long time. Previous console generations saw this to a limited degree, but they lacked the hardware to imitate the capabilities of PCs.
Nintendo's approach to console development has centered around unique controllers instead of powerful hardware. This sets it apart, but not always in a good way.
The controllers for Nintendo consoles are great for their first party games, but provide a horrible experience for anything else. Imagine playing Madden, Call of Duty, or Street Fighter with a WiiU GamePad or a Wii Nunchuk. Pointless, right? Nintendo finally caved in this generation and offered the Wii U Pro controller, something that finally resembles a usable gaming instrument. Nintendo deserves credit for actually attempting to be innovative, but they alienated many gamers along the way.
Many people have shied away from PC gaming in the past because the only way to play was with a keyboard/mouse setup, or with a poorly made USB controller. Those days are over. There are now many options to play games on PC that only require plugging the chosen option into the open USB slot, including console controllers. How's that for simple?
I recall trying to play Unreal Tournament in 1999 on a Compaq desktop. I hadn't known what minimum system requirements were, but I learned that day. I could play UT99 as long as I turned the resolution way down and turned all graphical settings to low. Internet play was an option, but trying to keep up with the online warriors on a dial-up connection was frustrating.
Technology has improved greatly since then. Embarrassing photos reach the people you don't want to see them at lighting speeds, and many desktops only need a cheap upgrade to the power supply and graphics card to run games as well as a PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360. Recommended system requirements (the hardware required for a game to be visually impressive while still running smoothly) for AAA titles are not stiff for the average Joe or Jane. Quad core processors and 4 GB of RAM are standard in most desktops sold today. It's not expensive or difficult to put together a desktop that gives great performance. Let's compare the set-up costs for a PlayStation 4 and for a desktop found on Tiger Direct with a quad-core processor, 6 GB RAM, and a 1 TB hard drive.
PlayStation 4 costs
- Console: $400
- Extra controller: $60
- Online: $50 for one year of PlayStation Plus
- Number of games purchased for $100: Maybe 3 if each are bought used
- Total: $610
- HP Pro 405 A4-5000: $450
- GeForce GTX 750 video card: $120
- Ultra LSP Series V2 450-Watt Power Supply: $30
- 360 USB Controller: $30
- Online: Free
- Number of games purchased for $100: See Reason #5
- Total: $730
Performance-wise, the desktop above would be capable of running nearly any title with all graphic settings maxed out at a 1920x1200 resolution at around 30 frames per second. That's much better than the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, and not far below the PS4 and Xbox One. An experienced PC builder with a $700 budget could build a desktop that exceeds the performance of the PS4 and Xbox One.
Also, 1080p resolution is laughable on PC, yet PS4 and Xbox One struggle to reach this resolution even for AAA titles, including an inability to sustain even 30 frames per second. To demonstrate why this is silly, here's a screenshot of my benchmark results from my 5-year-old PC with a low-level video card with all graphical settings maxed out on the latest edition of Street Fighter 4.
Bragging about the number of frames per second is deceptive. FPS is just a number that notes how smoothly the hardware runs the graphics engine. The fact that console developers are aiming for 30 frames-per-second is telling. Next-gen games have to look demonstrably better than PS3 or 360 games or else consumers will question the merit of purchasing a next-gen console. The problem is that Sony and Microsoft are adding more weight than the console hardware can carry until developers get more experience programming for the specific hardware. For consumers, the inconsistent visual performance of next-gen consoles is a legitimate concern, one that shows a nasty consequence of Sony and Microsoft rushing their products to the market.
Online play is free —I guess that's always the first thing to mention. There are games in the MMORPG genre that require a subscription to play online, such as World of Warcraft. Other kinds of PC games that require additional money to play online after purchasing the game are hard to come across. Exceptions exists in the vast depths of the internet, but it's a rare occurrence. Also, online connections always work best for PC gaming. Explaining why would bore you to death, so just trust me or Google the indisputable facts on this one.
Playing games online for PC has been a thing since the mid-'90s, so those multiplayer communities had a chance to flourish long before console developers acknowledged the potential of the internet. That's why it was weird to watch Nintendo fanboys get so excited about the announcement of Mario Maker for Wii U when PC mods have been around for many popular games for the past 20 years. (Per usual business operations, Nintendo is going to wait to allow gamers to use Mario Maker on Super Mario World, Super Mario 64, etc., so they can milk gamers for more money down the road.)
Warning: The following video is very entertaining, but contains NSFW language.
Not all mods are meant to send you into a rage-induced coma, but it's a fun twist that allows gamers to experience Super Mario World in an entirely new way. Mods come in all shapes and sizes, such as alternate skins, new campaigns, and entirely new gameplay. If you can imagine something, it either exists or is a few months from becoming a reality. So sayeth the internet!
Until recently, most console video game publishers have tried to shut down any alteration of their intellectual properties. PC companies have been open to the mod community since the beginning, even providing the source code to the public with mods. For example, Valve's official page for Source SDK reads as follows: "Valve is dedicated to providing the best tools and resources for the modding community. The Source engine and SDK give you all the tools you need to produce brilliant game creations." This is a world that console gamers do not even know exists, despite the fact that no one is hiding the information.
|Yes, Gangnam Style in Skyrim. Long live mods!|
Halo: The Master Chief Collection was announced during this year's E3. The collection contains Halo 1-4 with shiny new graphics (Microsoft is promising 60 frames per second...) and other bells and whistles that someone, somewhere, is excited about. In other words, buy this game that you already own but can't play on our new console because we don't allow backward compatibility. Sony is doing the same thing. Nintendo has been re-releasing games since Snoop Dogg was still cool. (Keep in mind, that's a partial list which doesn't include every instance where the same game is repackaged multiple times.) Re-releasing games is not evil, but selling them for the same price as a standard new title is ridiculous.
Back in the dark ages known as the 1990s, PCs did have legitimate compatibility problems across different operating systems and hardware, but digital distribution models have eliminated this problem.
The open secret that PC gamers have tried to share with the world is now at hand: Games are way, way, way cheaper on PC, by way of several incredible discounts such as Steam Holiday Sales and Humble Bundles.
Like art, the glory of Steam Holiday Sales is hard to explain. You have to experience the moment to understand its allure. Here's a short list of some of the deals I took advantage of:
I also pre-ordered Sonic Generations for $29.99 on a week without a Steam sale. Earlier, we allotted ourselves a budget of $100 to buy video games. If we tallied up all of my purchases listed here from Steam, we're still left with $25.78. What should we do with the remaining funds? How about checking out the latest Humble Bundle?
Humble Bundles are deals that allow gamers to purchase a bunch of DRM-free games (Steam keys are often available) at whatever price they choose. The money used to purchase the bundle is split between the game developers, a chosen charity for the bundle, and a Humble Tip that's given to the great people who make these bundles possible. The minimum payment for a Humble Bundle is $1. The maximum is up to the buyer. If the buyer purchases the games for a price above the median, they are allowed access to additional games that are revealed at a later date, and occasionally soundtracks are thrown in for good measure. The median never goes above $8. Is this gamer heaven? Yes, yes it is.
In short, you are looking at purchasing no less than 15 games with the remaining $25.78. Assuming we spend $8 on three Humble Bundles, the $100 budget purchases 23 PC games. The same budget bought three used PlayStation 4 games. Gamers save way more money in the long run by spending a little more money upfront on a PC, because the games are far more affordable. No further elaboration is necessary.
Is this assessment of PC gaming versus console gaming fair? Please give your thoughts in the comments, and let Fanboys Anonymous know who you side with!
As always, thanks for reading.