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Top Five Reasons To Buy a New Console AND Top Five Reasons To Go With PC

fighting with text

Mal’s Computer Corner

Platform: PC, PS4, XBox One

By Malefico

With the release of the new consoles well under way and with partisans expressing strong console and PC opinions, I wanted to take just a little space to try to start a positive, thoughtful discussion of the state of video gaming today as it relates to hardware. Yep, we’re diving in to the console vs. PC debate

For those who have been reading my articles, you know that I am pretty solidly in the PC gaming camp. But I wanted to step outside myself in order to present rational reasons why a gamer should or shouldn’t spend money on the new devices.

I also hope to show that in many cases, a given platform’s strengths are also its weaknesses.

But on to the article.

Five Reasons A Next Gen Console May Be Your Solution

  1. Good hardware – Without a doubt, I underestimated the gaming chops of the new boxes. While PS4 may prove to be the stronger pure gaming machine, both are more than capable of delivering great image quality and fast action. They are both speedy, efficient machines and while you could build a gaming rig for about the same money that would do as well or better, that requires a certain commitment of time and the willingness to dive into the innards of a device and build it from the ground up. If you buy a console, all the research required to properly match components to produce a viable gaming system are done for you, and in a space- and power-efficient package.
  2. Steady supply of top games – Since console game sales still represent the lion’s share of the video game market, more big developers are making games for these platforms. With the release of two new consoles, that’s unlikely to change drastically in the near future. Granted, the “AAA” titles are usually released for PC as well, but since both consoles feature exclusive releases there are good console games that will never make it to PC until that console is long gone and somebody makes an emulator.
  3. Ease of Use – A lot of people get home after work or school and unwind by playing games. In most cases, that individual doesn’t want to be stymied by compatibility issues, weird bugs and other oddities. With a console, you should never have to worry about any of those things. If you do, the problem represents a major failure of the software development process. But console developers employ hordes of testers, so 99% of the issues have been worked out before launch. PC games, due mostly to the fact that they are written to run regardless of your OS and hardware configuration are more susceptible to various issues related to hardware and software.
  4. Performance vs. expense – If you can’t, or don’t want to build your own system a console represents good value given its performance potential. Because the core system hardware is built into the board the systems are able to run very fast, and because the software can be written specifically for the platform without having to make concessions necessary for it to be able to run with a large number of hardware configurations (as are found on PC), the new consoles squeeze every bit of performance out of the parts from which they are assembled. For a gamer who doesn’t want to build, the only PC gaming options are to go to a local builder or buy from a larger company. Either way, you’ll end up paying more than a new console.
  5. Larger online community – Since most contemporary games are designed to be enjoyed by multiple players online, console gamers can count on a large community of players with which to hang out and have fun. While this is also true with PC games, there are more console gamers out there so at any given time there should theoretically be more console gamers online playing the game you want to play, when you want to play it.

These are good, solid reasons for buying a console, and for a lot of gamers (possibly the majority), they make sense. I absolutely get that many people aren’t willing to (or just don’t have the time to) fiddle and tinker around inside and outside a computer case in order to get their game on. Hell, I make money because most don’t need or care to know exactly how a PC works, they just want it to work.

Now, let’s look at some compelling reasons why PC gaming makes sense.

Five Reasons To Go PC

  1. Flexible hardware – PC gamers want solid performance, but they also want to be able to fine-tune their hardware to get the most out of it. For that reason, PCs have an edge in this area. The upgradeable hard drive on PS4 notwithstanding (you could do the same thing on PS3), PC gamers can choose from thousands of cases, CPUs, boards, RAM, GPUs and storage options and build the system that does exactly what they want with the performance they want. And when the system gets a bit dated, they can opt to upgrade piece by piece to stay current or go with a whole new build.
  2. More and cheaper games – Where consoles have the edge in big-studio titles, PC gamers have most of those but also another world of weird and wonderful games made by smaller studios. PC gamers also have the benefit of buying their games for a lot less money (Steam sales FTW). Since I want to stick with five reasons for PC, I’ll go ahead and lump the console online subscriber fees in here. PC gamers have always played online for free, not counting the ISP fees that everyone pays.
  3. User-friendly operating systems – OS developers have made great strides, in concert with other software developers, to make gaming and other tasks easier for the end user. Especially with Windows 7, installing and gaming is pretty much plug and play. Only rarely do you run into any kind of compatibility issues, and usually Windows warns you beforehand that you are going to have problems with a specific program.
  4. Cost of ownership – If you are willing to invest a little time researching and bargain-hunting, you can put together a good gaming rig for a little bit of money. As I described in my Guerrilla Gaming article, there are thousands of desktops out there that make a decent basis for an inexpensive gaming rig. Now that laptops and tablets are the hot thing, the used desktop PCs are going cheap. With one of these and a few well-chosen aftermarket pieces, you can have your PC gaming machine and spend the money you saved building on a bunch of cool games. Since you don’t have to pay to play online, you can shift that expense back into your budget or use the funds to expand your game library.
  5. Game compatibility – PC gamers have this advantage over consoles, and it’s an important one. I don’t want to have to line up numerous boxes on my entertainment center so I can be sure I have the hardware to play the game that strikes my fancy at the moment. PC offers a solid platform with the ability to play the newest games as well as those that are heading toward their 20th birthday. Then you have the emulators to expand your library and play old console games on the same system.

So there are five good reasons why PC gaming might be an option you want to explore.

What it all boils down to is that each camp has their own philosophy, and neither one is “best”. Best is what works for you. Each gamer makes tradeoffs based on what is important to him/her. Of course, some gamers do console and PC – they are the ambassadors to both worlds.

If you just want to play games with no hassle, you are willing to accept that what you buy you own until the console manufacturers release another box, and you want an absolutely pain-free gaming experience with guaranteed access to major titles then console is the way to go.

If you want upgrade options, like to keep pace with the game industry as it moves forward, and like the idea of having a blend of AAA and more indie titles, then PC is the way to go.

So the things that make each option attractive to some will be anathema to others.

The careful engineering of the consoles makes the most of limited hardware and results in them running “better” than the all-around PC, while simultaneously limiting them; they will never be more capable than they are when you unbox them. The flexibility of the PC means software developers can’t develop a game that will run “perfectly” for anyone – they have to make concessions so the software will run well regardless of what brand or type of processor, board, or video card you have. But, you can always address hardware shortcomings as the need arises and based on individual preference.

With consoles you get the hassle-free gaming experience, but you’re at the mercy of the manufacturers; they get to decide when you’ll get a better system or if you’ll pay repeatedly for different releases of the same game that will run on the newest hardware. With PC, you will run into hassles from time to time and have to do research to figure out how to fix it, but you get to choose what’s right for you to a far greater extent and with few exceptions, that old game will install and run well right next to that new title you just bought.

I tried to represent what I consider to be each platform’s best features. No doubt I missed some and I am hoping that you, the reader will expand on this article to cover ground that I overlooked. No matter what “side” you are on (I’m of the opinion that gamers should stick together, but it’s human nature to draw arbitrary lines and divide…), it’s important to internalize, to understand in the deepest part of your inner being that you are neither right nor wrong, neither superior nor inferior, but simply that you embrace a perspective based on your own experiences and personal perceptions.

Keep it civil, please. Profanity, etc. will result in me editing your comment so it sounds like the dialogue from an R-rated movie edited to run on a Ted Turner channel, for example, “Why don’t you go fix yourself, you crazy slimy major fumbler…” It just sounds silly. We can all air our views in an adult fashion without using “adult” language. Remember, there may be young eyes reading.

Written by Nerd Bacon

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6 Comments

  1. Clearly I can’t speak for everyone writing here at Nerd Bacon, but I think NerdBerry and I fall into a bit of a different ilk than the “average” (although I hesitate to use that word; I guess a better one would be, “common?”) console gamer. We spend or have spent a lot of money and a lot time tracking down old stuff. For both of us, there’s a substantial degree of satisfaction from merely possessing this old stuff anyway. NerdBerry gets around to his games a bit quicker than I do, and I think it’s fair to say that I enjoy the collecTING as much as I enjoy the collecTION.

    Just the other day I nearly jumped up and down at finding Pokemon Ruby Version. I almost couldn’t get to the register quick enough to have one of the clerks open the case for me. But what did I do when I got home? Did I pop it in the nearest of my 4 GBAs? Did I tenderly lay it on my pillow as if to suggest it’d be the first thing I got to when all of my fatherly/sonly(??)/housemaker (fuck you, I gotta do it) duties? No. I put it in a tremendous pile of other games I’m equally excited to find and as soon as I got some down time I fired up Rayman Legends on the Wii U for the 8th night in a row.

    The reason I’ve prefaced my comment with all of this is to distinguish myself from gamers that view gaming as more a disposable commodity. Hell, if it wasn’t for so many people getting tired of games they’ve already played and feeling no inclination to ever play them again, I wouldn’t have nearly half of what I have now! But as a matter of course, that’s how these things go. People play the newest game, trade it in for the next newest, repeat. The same goes for consoles.

    I guess what I’m getting at is that the purity of the game playing experience isn’t THE ONLY thing that attracts me to it. There is a need in me to archive it, catalog it, organize it, as if to preserve a priceless collection of artifacts.

    In some ways, I guess that’s why PC gaming has never immensely appealed to me. I like nice graphics and great soundtracks as much as the next guy, but as far as what makes a great game, well, it has to do with some magical intersection of experience, perspective, mood, and environment. Would I have ever fallen in love with Guitar Hero the way I did had my first experiences not been with a biker 10+ years older than me (that sounds SO wrong) knocking back Blue Moons while bitching about how awful classic rock is? Probably not. But I can still bust out a plastic guitar to this very day and give it every ounce of my energy. PC games remind me of lonely nights in the dorms with a godawful stomach ache from fear of the communal restrooms.

    There’s also a simpler side to me that “just wants shit to work” which touches on a couple of points you made. I do prefer to switch on a console and be ready to go in a few seconds. In fact, I’m getting increasingly pissed off at all the interface I have deal with on newer systems just to jump on some damn Goombas.

    A PC, under my ownership at least, is always doing a number of other things and gaming always seems to get in the way, or either whatever else the computer does gets in the way of the game. The relatively minor but endlessly irritating compatibility issues you mention drive me nuts.

    However I will say that after reading through many of your articles, my thoughts have wandered in that direction. Suddenly it’s starting to click with me that PC gaming doesn’t a) have to be a big mystery reserved for the elite, or b) need to be a semi-functional nightmare that causes more problems than it’s worth. Although I’m not quite there YET, I would say that I’ve been inspired to an extent to give some of this a shot. Much of your work has made me feel like “dude, I could totally pull this off” and the idea of a dedicated gaming PC as opposed to my main computer doubling as both PC and PC gaming machine is much clearer to me.

    If it weren’t for all the Xbox Ones and PS4s and Wii Us (yes Wii U is important!) flying around right now, I might just be out there trying to scrounge up some of the pieces to the puzzle already.

     
    • Hey man, thanks for the thoughtful comment.

      I think you’re definitely right, PC gaming is more of a “lone wolf” pursuit in that you will probably never meet the folks you play with online. That time has come and gone. I remember old-school LAN parties, before games supported online play where you had to bundle up your rig and cart it off to somebody’s house or a rented space in a hotel or auditorium and hook up to another tower to battle it out. It was inconvenient but fun… There was that face-to-face social element that’s missing in PC gaming and so many other things now.
      It’s unfortunate more PC gamers don’t collect old titles. I think to a greater extent than console folks PC enthusiasts tend to forget their old games. I have a bunch of older titles in boxes in a drawer that I keep around in case I want to fire up a fondly remembered game. I hold onto them because they’re not worth anything on the open market or at least their value doesn’t exceed my desire to keep them just in case.
      But as far as building PCs I can say without exaggeration that with some time and effort I could train a chimp to swap PC components. Problem diagnosis is one thing but actually building a system is a piece of cake. All the parts are designed to be infinitely interchangeable and all the fasteners are the same from system to system, excepting the big boys’ towers that often have Torx fittings and other things to discourage the casual user from repairing their own system.
      I can say from my experience repairing XBox 360 and PS3 that they are far more difficult to disassemble and put back together. They have an ungodly amount of screws in them (PS3 is worse than 360). When you have four screws to hold in a one ounce wifi card, enough said but I still have fun with doing the work.
      The basic fact is that PC gaming as I know it will die if hobbyists like me don’t find some way to convince more console folks that it’s worth a try. Both AMD and Intel have hinted that moving forward they will be using SoC (system on a chip much like the consoles do) and that will eliminate all the cool variations we can currently configure to build a system that’s uniquely ours.
      Companies like valve are pushing it that way too, even though I think their intentions are good. At some point I expect they will figure out that when they sell to console gamers, they are entering a market for folks who don’t care to upgrade the system and Steam Machines will start to be stamped out and sealed up just like the consoles.
      And then there are the PC elitists always crowing about how their $3000 rig is SOOO much better than a console. Well no ships applesauce (see, the profanity just loses its verve), a Ferrari will whomp on a Hyundai for the same reason. Folks like that accomplish nothing and are digging their own graves with their pompous attitudes. Unfortunately they are digging mine too and it ticks me off.

       
      • On one hand, I think it’s obvious that console manufacturers and developers have taken a lot of what works from PC gaming and implemented it in their own ways. PCs were quick to adopt CDs as the new media norm while game companies were still tinkering with the issue. “Online gaming” in it’s earliest form predates the early efforts of Sega’s Dreamcast by more than a decade and now it’s considered a standard of console gaming.

        I probably don’t know enough from a technical standpoint to make anything except sweeping generalizations, but it’s clear that console makers need and want the power of the PC in their newest machines. With this however, I fear it won’t be long until weird errors start popping up on cutting edge systems that render them useless. When I see all these loading and installation screens on my new consoles, I always get that little twinge of anxiety when I think about it freezing or having to kill the power manually.

        The ability to continually upgrade one’s machine as advances are made is admittedly alluring on the surface. Even for someone like me who isn’t as hung up on performance as some gamers I like the idea of staying up to date via gradual increments rather than a sizable investment every 5 to 10 years that grows more and more obsolete from the day it’s purchased. However, most people just aren’t *that* interested and the easiest route will almost always win as long as the price point makes sense.

        As for the other side of the argument, there’s a large part of me that enjoys having these little boxes of plastic, metal, and rubber that represent a slice of time. It doesn’t quite mean as much as it did 15 years ago, but there is a certain charm to holding something like the Sega Saturn in your hands and pondering on its commercial life.

        These are more reasons why I can’t be counted on to give an opinion indicative of most gamers. It’s about more than the games. It’s the history, the failed gadgets, the hidden gems, all of that stuff. Gaming to me is a study as much as it is a hobby.

         
  2. Hey Shadow,

    Yeah I can definitely see that. I like keyboard/mouse because it’s what I’m used to, but I can relate to someone being new to gaming feeling more comfortable with an ergonomic controller vs. trying to remember a bunch of keys.

    Awesome, keep those comments coming y’all.

     
  3. Shadow Links says:

    Lets have a nice clean flame war, now begin!

    All joking aside, something I find to be an advantage of consoles, which could fall under ease of use, is the ease for someone who is not a gamer to pick up and play games. It could be somewhat my bias against the ease of keyboards, but people tend to figure out a wiimote easier. The other factor which has been a boon is that i can sit side by side with a person on a couch and play with them. Games are almost always better with another person. Theoretically you could do both of these with a PC, but then again its the ease of a console that appeals to me and probably others.

    I will note that recently I have gotten into PC games, and i do see the appeal of tinkering with the hardware, as i have already done. I have hooked it up to my TV and connected a controller, just for some reason i dont quite get the same feel as a console game. I suppose time will tell.

     
  4. IMPORTANT ALERT – Every word after this represents one nerd’s opinion on the console vs. PC debate. It is no way intended to be a factual analysis of the issue, simply the reasons I choose to go PC.
    I’m a tinkerer. From the days of my youth I’ve worked on cars, motorcycles and computers. I’ve also taken apart and fixed all the major defects that occur in MS and Sony console products. It’s why I recently started a garden and am thinking about putting a solar array on the house to disconnect myself from the power company.
    I think this is the basic reason I like PCs. PC gaming is like having two hobbies in one. You have your games, but also you have the hardware aspect, which is to me sometimes more fun. Whenever I choose I can make my system faster, add more storage or memory, throw everything into a cool new case… Just do whatever I want, simply because I want to.
    I like to think of it as the difference between taking a cruise to the Bahamas versus hiking through the Amazon. The cruise offers a lot of fun activities, but the environment is structured – you don’t get to decide to spend another day at a certain port unless you feel like booking different passage back home. Conversely, the hike is less polished – you may be sleeping peacefully under the stars until a spider the size of a small dog drops onto your face – but you are assured of seeing more wondrous things and having a unique experience beyond what you can experience on a more mainstream vacation. Luckily, I’ve never seen Theraphosa blondi anywhere near me…
    Also, the whole game compatibility thing really bothers me. It hurts me personally when console folks have to shelve their older titles or connect their console collection to a TV in order to enjoy the game they want, when they want even though I am not going through that myself. I am vicariously diminished by the hoops console manufacturers put their customers through. I’m pissed off for console gamers in this respect.
    Not that we PC gamers don’t go through similar woes. Microsoft’s OS tyranny has reached critical mass a few times during their history, and I’ve gone through my share of righteous indignation at some of their practices. But it has gotten better and increasingly we have options. I’m still excited for the release of SteamOS, and I hope that software platform is some day able to seriously compete with Windows with respect to a larger user base. Linux is freedom, pure and simple. It’s free, it works well, and it’s potential to grow and evolve is only limited by the imagination of those dedicated and talented enough to manipulate it.
    So, hardware and software freedom, a cool hobby, The Road Less Traveled…

     

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