Why PC gam­ing is bet­ter than con­soles

Hay­den Ding­man re­veals why the PlayS­ta­tion 4 Pro and Xbox Scorpio drive the point home

Tech Advisor - - Contents -

This may come as a sur­prise to you, but we here at PC Ad­vi­sor are big fans of PC gam­ing. Shocking, we know. And so please, all you con­sole lovers, fac­tor in what­ever amount of bias you’d like to the fol­low­ing state­ment:

PC gam­ing is the most af­ford­able it’s ever been, and for a lot of peo­ple it’s also the best value, for a mul­ti­tude of rea­sons. The an­nounce­ment of Sony’s PlayS­ta­tion 4 Pro just drove that point home. Here’s why.

Price

First let’s talk about the ele­phant in the room: how much you’ll need to spend. That’s nor­mally where the PC’s fallen be­hind in the past, com­pared to con­soles. “Yes, I could spend thou­sands of dol­lars on a PC or £250 to £400 on a con­sole.”

PC gam­ing is still more ex­pen­sive, at least up front. That hasn’t changed. If you can build a gam­ing PC for £300, you’re ei­ther a wizard or ex­tremely good at snag­ging dis­count parts and wait­ing for sales. More power to you. But the PC isn’t that much more ex­pen­sive at this point. Head to PCPartPicker (uk.pcpartpicker. com) and you’ll find plenty of en­try-level builds in the £400 range and some high-end builds in the £650 to £700 range.

Prices have come down a lot – video card prices es­pe­cially. AMD’s Po­laris GPUs are an es­pe­cially great bar­gain for those look­ing to game on the cheap. A Radeon RX 480 will cost you only £199, which is in­cred­i­ble. Max

out graph­ics at 1080p res­o­lu­tion and you’ll still hit 60-plus frames per sec­ond in ba­si­cally ev­ery mod­ern game. For un­der £200.

Now, find­ing an RX 480 at its rec­om­mended list price is tricky, but the point is that com­pa­nies want PC gam­ing to be ac­ces­si­ble. They want en­thu­si­asts buy­ing GPUs. Com­pe­ti­tion has made the PC more af­ford­able than ever be­fore.

Spend­ing £200 will get you a graph­ics card that ,on pa­per at least, is bet­ter than what you’ll see in the PS4 Pro. Grab the rest of your parts and you’re all set, es­pe­cially if you al­ready have a key­board, mouse, and mon­i­tor handy, as many peo­ple do.

Hell, you can go lower than that if you’re only look­ing to match the per­for­mance of the orig­i­nal PS4 and Xbox One. A £120 graph­ics card like the GeForce GTX 950 or Radeon RX 460 paired with AMD’s af­ford­able FX-6350 (£109) will get you over that low bar.

But wait, there’s more

“Okay, PC gam­ing is more af­ford­able than ever be­fore, but it’s still ex­pen­sive com­pared to con­soles. I don’t see how you can also say it’s the best value for most gamers.” We’re get­ting to that part, fic­tional rhetor­i­cal de­vice.

Bet­ter up­grade path

This is the big change, and the in­spi­ra­tion for this ar­ti­cle. A lot of peo­ple are go­ing to be frus­trated come Novem­ber. A few years ago they bought a PlayS­ta­tion 4— – at the time the most pow­er­ful con­sole ever made. And they ex­pected it to last them for years.

We can talk all we want about ex­pec­ta­tions around con­soles, about why peo­ple are will­ing to spend over £600 on a phone ev­ery two years but ex­pect a £300 con­sole to last them for 10. But we’re not talk­ing about that here. We don’t re­ally care – this is PC Ad­vi­sor, af­ter all. Be­sides, it’s a tan­gen­tial ar­gu­ment.

The dif­fer­ence, this time, is that con­soles are now us­ing a faux-PC up­grade strat­egy. If the re­cent PlayS­ta­tion event is any in­di­ca­tion, we can now ex­pect con­soles to trans­fer into ‘plat­forms’ – tiers of hard­ware, with more pow­er­ful boxes re­leased ev­ery three to four years. It’s not just Sony do­ing this. Mi­crosoft has its own Project Scorpio up­grade planned for the Xbox One in Q4 2017.

Con­soles are bad at up­grades, though – in that you can’t ac­tu­ally up­grade them. It’s a mis­nomer. You don’t crack open the PlayS­ta­tion 4, shove a new GPU in it, then fire it back up. You throw your old sys­tem on eBay and buy a new one.

The PC is ad­mit­tedly more ex­pen­sive up front, but your up­grade path later is markedly eas­ier. If you’re a bud­get gamer, you can prob­a­bly run the same pro­ces­sor for up to six years, and the same graph­ics card for fourto five years. Case? RAM? Power sup­ply? Fans? Hard drives? All sur­pris­ingly cheap stuff you’ll carry in per­pe­tu­ity, build to build, re­plac­ing only when ab­so­lutely nec­es­sary.

You could eas­ily stick to a bud­get build with as-needed up­grades and be to­tally fine for a long, long time, es­pe­cially if your goal is only to stay ahead of con­soles. Stag­ger them and you’ll end up spend­ing the same or less than if you bought a new con­sole ev­ery three- or four years.

Again, we’re not sure whether we’ll see an­other it­er­a­tion of the PS4/Xbox One in a few years. Maybe this is a one-time thing. We doubt it, though.

Con­sole ex­clu­sives are over

Tonight we could pop open Steam and play Street Fighter V. We could also play Dead

Ris­ing 3, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Ax­iom Verge, Ta­los Prin­ci­ple, Killing Floor 2, Dark­est Dun­geon, No Man’s Sky, Down­well, SOMA, Every­body’s Gone to the Rap­ture, Tran­sis­tor, Grow Home, Hot­line Mi­ami 2, N++, Vol­ume, and so many oth­ers.

All of those games are ex­clu­sive to ei­ther the Xbox One or the PlayS­ta­tion 4. Or rather, they’re mar­keted as ‘Con­sole Ex­clu­sive’ for those sys­tems mean­ing they also came to the PC. Both Mi­crosoft and Sony seem to con­sider the PC neu­tral ter­ri­tory.

Sony is more cau­tious, keep­ing its first­per­son ti­tles all to it­self. You won’t find Un­charted 4 on the PC yet. But there’s signs that might change, given that Sony re­cently re­leased PlayS­ta­tion Now – its sub­scrip­tion­based game stream­ing ser­vice – on the PC.

Mi­crosoft has gone fur­ther and whole­sale em­braced its in­volve­ment in both the Xbox and Win­dows 10, cre­at­ing the Xbox Play Any­where pro­gram. Nearly ev­ery ‘Xbox Ex­clu­sive’ is com­ing to Win­dows 10 day-and­date nowa­days, in­clud­ing Gears of War 4, ReCore, Quan­tum Break, Forza Hori­zon 3, and more. The only Xbox se­ries we haven’t heard plans for yet is Halo.

Buy­ing a PC rarely means miss­ing out on con­sole games these days. Of course, you won’t be able to play hand­ful of first-party ti­tles on Sony’s end, but every­thing else makes it over – and of­ten in bet­ter con­di­tion than the con­sole ver­sions.

PC ex­clu­sives aren’t

Maybe you have that friend who as­serts, ve­he­mently, “The PC has no ex­clu­sives.” We’ve all run into that per­son be­fore – if not in per­son, at least on fo­rums.

It’s a weird ar­gu­ment, and one that be­lies an ig­no­rance about the PC as a plat­form. Maybe it’s short­hand for “The PC has no ex­clu­sives [that I want to play],” but there are far more PC-only games these days than con­sole-only.

The en­tire strat­egy genre, for one. With the ex­cep­tion of Halo Wars and a hand­ful of less-suc­cess­ful oth­ers, both turn-based and real-time strat­egy games are mostly found on the PC—and there are a ton. It’s not all plod­ding strat­egy games ei­ther. There are hun­dreds of games each year that make a name for them­selves on PCs and never make it onto con­soles. These span gen­res, from shooters such as Unreal Tour­na­ment and Quake Cham­pi­ons, to RPGs, in­clud­ing Tyranny, Mount and Blade II.

Back­wards com­pat­i­bil­ity

An­other point worth stress­ing is that once you own a game on the PC you own it for­ever. (Un­less you’re one of those peo­ple who’s preter­nat­u­rally para­noid that Valve’s Steam will fold and take your games down, too. In which case there’s al­ways GOG.com.)

The PC’s gam­ing her­itage stretches back some­thing like 40 years at this point. Thanks to the en­thu­si­asm of the PC com­mu­nity, most of that 40 years is im­me­di­ately ac­ces­si­ble to you. Text ad­ven­tures? The In­ter­ac­tive Fic­tion Data­base has you cov­ered. DOS? Thanks, DOSBox. The more com­pli­cated en­vi­ron­ments of 15- or 20 years ago? Again, there’s GOG. com, plus (if the game you’re look­ing for is pop­u­lar) prob­a­bly dozens of mods to im­prove the ex­pe­ri­ence. And we won’t even men­tion the PC’s more legally-grey con­sole em­u­la­tors. Not in this ar­ti­cle, at least.

Buy a PC, and all that history is open to you. Steam re­cently added a bunch of clas­sic Sierra games: every­thing from Gabriel Knight to Phan­tas­mago­ria to Cae­sar III. Some of the best the 1990s had to of­fer, still ac­ces­si­ble to to­day’s play­ers.

Sure, it can be tricky. In­stalling mods can be a has­sle, or in­tim­i­dat­ing if you have no idea what you’re do­ing. But we’ll put in the work if it means hav­ing the abil­ity to re­play Planescape: Tor­ment on our cur­rent hard­ware in­stead of scroung­ing up a PC from 1999 or re­ly­ing on some pub­lisher to fund a re­mas­ter. PlayS­ta­tion 4 own­ers can only play PlayS­ta­tion 3 games if they pay £12.99 per month for PlayS­ta­tion Now.

Sales and free-to-play games

“Okay, but I don’t like clas­sic games and/or I played all those games be­fore.” Well good news. It’s also cheaper to be a PC gamer when it comes to new ti­tles. Our prices fall faster, go lower, and stay that way.

The vaunted Steam Sales comes to mind first, but it’s far from the only sale in town. GOG.com, Ama­zon, Green Man Gam­ing, Gamers­gate, Hum­ble – all of them reg­u­larly run sales. You can eas­ily amass a huge li­brary of games on the cheap, more than mak­ing up for the cost of your hard­ware.

It’s not un­usual to see pre­orders for big games go for 10- or even 20 per­cent off on Steam, and by six months post-re­lease many big games will fall to £10- £15 dur­ing a sale. Or lower. Great in­die games of­ten go for un­der £7.50 or even £5 on sale if you’re pa­tient. Con­soles? Even on sale, most many AAA games seem to bot­tom out around £20 for years on end.

And then there’s free-to-play. Of­ten a dirty word, the fact is that some of the world’s big­gest (and most-loved) games are free. Maybe you’ve heard of Dota 2 and League of Leg­ends? Team Fortress 2? Path of Ex­ile? Evolve? You can spend hun­dreds (or thou­sands) of hours play­ing some of the PC’s best games and never spend an­other penny.

Point of view

Get mo­tion-sick? Gam­ing on the PC al­lows you to change your field of view, or FOV, po­ten­tially mit­i­gat­ing that is­sue. Per­son­ally, we run all our PC games at an FOV around 100 de­grees. Con­soles, be­ing played on a screen far­ther away, are usu­ally around 60 de­grees. That’s not an is­sue in it­self. The big­ger prob­lem is that con­sole games are typ­i­cally locked to a cer­tain FOV, mean­ing if it’s mak­ing you sick you can’t change it. (Dis­abling mo­tion blur also falls in this cat­e­gory.)

Played a game and hated it? Steam, Ori­gin, GOG.com, and many other re­tail­ers now al­low you to re­fund any game you pur­chase, as long as you meet cer­tain pa­ram­e­ters. Not only does it let you get your money back when de­vel­op­ers don’t de­liver on a game, but it also lets you test whether it runs on your ma­chine – thereby re­mov­ing much of the guess­work from PC gam­ing.

And don’t get us started about the idea of pay­ing for on­line mul­ti­player.

Con­trol flex­i­bil­ity

We could also talk at length about the mouse and key­board, but we won’t. Suf­fice it to say: it’s more pre­cise, more ap­proach­able (for new gamers), and more re­spon­sive than a con­troller.

But there are so many con­sole games on PCs nowa­days, it’s only nat­u­ral you want to play some of them with the orig­i­nal con­trol scheme. Dark Souls comes to mind, as does As­sas­sin’s Creed. These games just play bet­ter on a gamepad. Luck­ily, it’s eas­ier than ever to con­nect an Xbox One con­troller or a DualShock 4 to your PC, ei­ther wired or (in the case of the Xbox One S and DS4) with Blue­tooth. And most games sup­port con­trollers on the PC these days, es­pe­cially the big multi-plat­form re­leases.

You prob­a­bly need a PC any­way

And here’s where we end. The be-all-end-all ar­gu­ment. It’s easy to dis­cuss the price of a gam­ing PC in a vac­uum. There are good rea­sons to do so: Maybe you pre­fer lap­tops for your day-to-day com­put­ing. Maybe you get all your work done on a tablet. But for many peo­ple, a desk­top com­puter is still a ne­ces­sity (or at least a pref­er­ence). Peo­ple do­ing photo or film or au­dio work, or work­ing on games of their own, or typ­ing for long hours ev­ery day need a PC. Oth­ers sim­ply like sit­ting at a desk and hav­ing a large screen and a meaty key­board.

In other words, there are ways to sub­sidise the cost of a gam­ing PC in your own head. “Well, I need a desk­top PC any­way to use Able­ton and Word and Pre­miere, so why not tack on £200 for a Radeon RX 480 and make it a gam­ing ma­chine at the same time?”

A con­sole? That’s a one-use ma­chine: es­pe­cially in the age of the £30 Chrome­cast. There are so many ways to get Net­flix, HBO Go, and the like onto your TV, you don’t re­ally need a con­sole to do those things any­more.

Ver­dict

PC gam­ing still has is­sues it needs to over­come. Stream­ing to Twitch is overly con­vo­luted for the layper­son. Pre­pare to spend a bit of time on Google or Steam fo­rums if a game breaks. Up­dat­ing graph­ics driv­ers? A has­sle for sure. Even the sheer act of build­ing a PC can be stress­ful, at first. It’s not for ev­ery­one. Not yet.

But PC gam­ing is a lot more ac­ces­si­ble than it was in the past. There are prac­ti­cally in­fi­nite re­sources on the in­ter­net for any ques­tion you might en­counter, for any er­ror code a game might spit back at you. Driver up­dates are done with the push of a but­ton now and take far less time than any con­sole firmware up­date.

The PC is in a good spot – prob­a­bly the best it’s ever been, and get­ting bet­ter all the time. If you watched Sony’s PlayS­ta­tion 4 Pro an­nounce­ment with dis­ap­point­ment, or be­muse­ment, maybe it’s time to think about mov­ing to a more open plat­form.

We’d be more than happy to have you.

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