Hey, did you hear? We’re heading into a new generation of video game consoles. If you haven’t already made up your mind about which one is best for you, well Uncle Mike is here to help you out.
Let’s break it down: There’s Nintendo’s Wii U, which is the Wii with a new controller and….well, that’s about it actually. There’s also Sony’s Playstation 4 which promises to let customers play used games, although there seems to be some important fine print missing from it all (namely, how they will deal with third party publishers that insist on online passes and DRM). Finally, there’s Microsoft’s XBox One, which is meant to be operating with a cloud-based system with an always-online….oh wait, never mind. They chickened out at the first sign of trouble and are destined to be the console that tries to be everything to everyone, pleasing no one.
You don’t need to go far to find somebody who swears up and down about their console of choice’s superiority, and it’s really great to see that kind of dedication. The thing is however, if you really want a next-gen experience then the PC is an excellent option for someone who is truly interested in the richness of what games have to offer. Here are some reasons why instead of saving up for a new console you should be getting ready to buy/build/upgrade your computer.
The PC is an Open Platform
Okay, say you buy a game like Left 4 Dead 2 on console. It has a few scenarios and occasionally updates with new content that you can buy. On PC, there are literally hundreds of fan-created maps for this game, and they are all completely free. For that one game, you could legitimately play it for years and never see all the content that’s out there just waiting to be discovered. Another example is something like Skyrim, where you can download a bunch of shader and graphics mods that make it look better than anything you’ve ever played…or you could switch out the dragons for ponies if that’s your thing. The possibilities are endless.
DRM is No Big Deal
One of the things about all the recent complaining about online passes, activation codes, and always-online requirements from the console crowd is that these are things we sorted out years ago with PC. Sure, there have been some notable cases of screwups with games like SimCity or Diablo III, but that’s more attributable to faults on the publisher/developer end than on DRM itself.
Yes, Steam is DRM that pretty much requires you to always be online. It is however what I would call ‘good DRM’ in that it makes it easy to buy and play games while also helping to combat piracy. Most importantly, it works really well. Seriously, when was the last time you heard somebody having a legitimate problem with Steam? It got hacked a couple of years ago, but not only did Gabe Newell address it head on and let customers know (unlike Sony who left customers hanging for weeks before finally admitting that it happened), they upgraded their security settings and haven’t had a problem since. Even the low-end systems are not too bad. People crap all over EA’s Origin (and I’ll admit I’m not really a fan), but it works just fine.
For those who want to completely eschew DRM, well you have GOG. That site’s games are all completely DRM-free, and there are a bunch of newer titles of all types there as well as classics. Oh yeah, speaking of older games, the PC is backwards compatible too. Sometimes it’s a little bit of work to get an old game to run, but there are a ton of resources to help you get them going. Nowadays, playing something from years ago ain’t no thing at all.
You’ll Never Look at Sales the Same Way Again
Real Talk: Yes, a gaming PC is a financial investment. It’s going to likely cost you somewhere in the neighborhood of $1200 for one that can run the latest games on Ultra settings. Many of you are citing that as a reason to choose consoles, however one thing to consider is that while your console of choice will only end up costing you $400-500 off the top, you will need to pay for the online component (and I assume you are because why the hell else would you be buying a new console?). That’s going to cost you, let’s say, $10 per month. Average that out over the life of a console cycle and it ends up costing you a lot more than the initial investment.
With that as well, consider that Steam, Green Man Gaming, Amazon, etc. regularly have sales where games are ridiculously marked down and the overall cost suddenly doesn’t seem like that much of a gulf. On the other hand, many console fans are celebrating having retained the right to pay $60 for a new game, take it to Gamestop, get $10 for it, and buy a used game for $50. Wow; what a victory for the little guy.
Games Look Better – So Much Better
Graphics aren’t everything and I’ll be the first to admit it. That being said, if you’re playing AAA games, why wouldn’t you want the version that is the best looking and has the silkiest frame rate? Titles like Max Payne 3 or Sleeping Dogs are prime examples of how games on PC not only look better out of the box, but will continue to with graphic card and mod support. The next generation systems that people are drooling about? Those AT BEST have specs comparable to mid-range gaming PCs right now. Give it five years, and those hot new consoles will be like the Sega CD compared to where PC technology is.
Exclusives Are Largely a Thing of the Past
The promise of console-specific exclusives is another popular justification people make for supporting one over another, but they are becoming rarer with each passing year. Just about anything worth playing on consoles will end up on PC at some point nowadays. Yes, there are some exclusives on each system; I’ll admit, one of my all-time favorite series’ is Metroid and it bums me out that I can’t play those games on PC. Then again, Nintendo needs to prove to me that it is still interested in and/or capable of producing a Metroid game that is worth playing after the abomination of Other M.
As for the other systems, there are exclusives but frankly nothing that isn’t pretty much already happening on PC and being done at least as well. For a game like Uncharted, there’s Tomb Raider which is (let’s face it) basically the same sort of thing. For Destiny or Halo, you have Tribes: Ascend, Blacklight: Retribution, and Planetside 2 which are all free. There are also an endless number of indie platformers and MetroidVanias to enjoy, and most of them are dirt cheap.
Look, I recognize that people can be hypersensitive about their video game consoles, and that my frankness may offend some of you who have already picked a horse to back in this whole console war thing. That’s not (entirely) my intention; I’m here to help you. What I’m really hoping for is that you will consider the potential of the PC as a gaming platform and recognize that the ‘next gen’ is already here. It’s been here for years, and it’s waiting for you to jump on board.
We’ve got pretty much all the same games here and the communities are way more positive and welcoming (League of Legends notwithstanding) to newcomers. That’s just the mainstream stuff too; there is an endless amount of quality indie development happening on PC without their developers having to jump through the arbitrary hoops of getting published on a console and without having to charge a pile of money for their product (which effectively limits its chances for mass exposure). Don’t get sucked in by the hype and false promises of this ‘new generation’. Jump on over to the PC where the future is already here.