Thursday, April 25, 2013

Console vs. PC

It’s a debate that has existed since the first consoles entered the gaming arena and continues raging on to this day. People are torn when it comes to gaming between their experiences on consoles and their experiences on a PC. Only God knows if it’s even possible to determine a true victor, but just in case, we’ll give it a try.

The current generation of consoles includes the Xbox 360, PS3, and the Wii though these certainly are not the only entries ever made into the console hall of fame. We all look back fondly on our times well wasted playing the NES, the 64, and for the quick enough among us the Dreamcast. Still to make a fair comparison it’s best to focus on the latest and greatest that’s being offered.

Interestingly the distinction between consoles and PCs has grown less and less with each passing generation to the point at which they will ultimately do most of the same things for you. This trend however has always been consoles becoming more like PCs rather than the other way around. Still consoles do have a few advantages that make them a contender to be reckoned with.
1. Cost – It’s a fair point to make that a console, even with the next generation’s $400+ price tags are much cheaper than the starting price of a high quality gaming PC making them more easily obtainable for those of us who find ourselves without thousands of extra dollars just lying around.
2. Simplicity – While there are some settings on a console that can take a little know how to get just right ultimately consoles prove to be more user friendly than their PC counterparts. Playing a game is as easy as putting it in and grabbing your controller. Occasionally you’ll have the odd update increasing the number of buttons to press before playing from 2 to a staggering 3, but it’s still considerably simpler than some update processes that go along with PC gaming. Similarly controls for consoles are streamlined making them extremely intuitive vs. a PC game. Searching for a particular action involves at most testing 12 buttons where as a PC game is going to have you desperately combing through the manual looking for a key map if you decided to skip the tutorial.
3. Mainstream Dibs – When it comes to getting the first crack at the latest mainstream games, console has it hands down. There are a number of titles that are console only and many more that only release the game to PC much later.

A gaming PC is a machine built with the specific intention to use it primarily for gaming. Still that doesn’t make these machines poor choices for other tasks, but rather they’re quite capable of handling almost any computing task. Still as we’re talking specifically about gaming we’ll set aside the versatility factor for purposes of our comparison.
1. Game Cost – While it’s true the machine itself will cost you more upfront the difference is made up in the price you pay for games. A title released new on both console and PC at the same time will typically cost up to $10 less than it will for the console version. Still that’s just the beginning. Wait a little while and the same game could be on sale through Steam or another online game vender for half the price. If you’re willing to wait even longer, that game will likely eventually come up on rotation for a ridiculously good price commonly costing only 10% of the original title while used copies of the console version are going for only $10 less than the new copies of the game at your local GameStop.
2. Longevity – It’s a simple fact that eventually things will break down, wear out, or become obsolete and need replacing. For a console, unless you get the extended service plan from Target (my 360’s still under warrantee) this fact is going to mean you have to fork up another several hundred dollars for a new one. At most you’re looking at 5 years of relevant life for your console before it’s time to get the next generation. For a PC that’s good to start and well cared for its initial components save for maybe the hard drives (which are pretty cheap) can easily last and remain competitive in the world of gaming for a decade or more. Even if you don’t have the money to replace old components with newer versions, you can still squeeze just a little extra performance out of your processors, memory, and graphics cards by overclocking them; something you can do with programs downloaded for free. It may wear them out faster, but with your PC getting ready to become a teenager, you’ll probably have saved up enough to replace the system with something twice as good.
3. Indie Dibs – While consoles may have the market cornered on the first crack at mainstream games, PCs get all the love when it comes to Indie games, and there’re a lot of them out there, many of which never even arrive on a console. Many of my all-time favorite games have been independent PC only games that have remained that way to this day. While Indie games can be hit or miss, I’ve found that given a careful look at the reviews you end up with a lot more hits and the misses, don’t hurt your wallet quite as badly.
4. Modding – While with some very sketchy tweaks it’s possible to do modding on consoles (the old Xbox mod chips come to mind), you run the risk of damaging your hardware in the process and are less a part of a community than a person who’s frequently accused of cheating in first person shooters. While mods can be even more hit and miss than indie games, there are some games that have literally been made into masterpieces and cult classics (so much as a game can be) through modding; Empire at War and Star Trek Armada II being notable examples.

While both platforms have their merits I must ultimately submit my vote for the PC as the ultimate victor. As the two become more and more similar it may soon be difficult to even make the distinction between a console and a PC. Regardless of which emerges triumphant I’ll find myself on the winning side as both have their place in my N3rd C0rn3r.