Opinion: Should We Forget Next-Gen Consoles – And Just Buy A PC Instead?

Hype continues to build around the next Xbox and PlayStation ahead of their expected arrival in 2013. But with PC gaming now offering unprecedented levels of variety, quality and convenience, Mark Butler argues that there may be compelling reasons to abandon consoles altogether.

This week, the delightfully angry, foul-mouthed gaming journalist Jim Sterling branded the PS3 and Xbox360 “very crap PCs”, and made a compelling argument that while there are many great things that a PC offers that a console does not, there are actually very few things that a console offers that a PC does not.

Funnily enough, recent musing of my own had been leading me down much the same sort of reasoning. And I would now go so far as to say that I have been mulling over the following, provocative question: ‘Is it actually going to be worth getting the hugely-hyped next PlayStation or Xbox next year, when you could probably get much more out of a PC instead?’

First up, let me clarify that I am not currently a ‘PC gamer’. I have played plenty of great games on the PC, and continue to do so – but this is only due to my rather ninja-like ability to smuggle myself surreptitiously into friends’ houses under the cover of darkness, before sneakily logging into their computers to play Total War or Amnesia.

"I just hope I don't crap all over their seat when I get to the water monster part..."

As it stands I own only my beloved Xbox360, and a laptop so ancient that it wheezes like a dying, morbidly obese dog when I so much as try to access Microsoft Word. Playing games on it is impossible. When I decided to give the original XCOM a blast for a bit of retro pleasure recently, the thing crashed on me about five minutes in; its tortured, garbled screen seemingly howling: “what the fuck were you thinking?”

My inability to play modern PC games, without breaking into the homes of people I know at least, has not been something I’ve worried about much until recently. After all, sinking more than 100 hours into Skyrim, enjoying the delights of Rayman Origins or lapping up the phenomenal Walking Dead is just as satisfying on a console, right?

But recent pondering of the modern wonders offered by PC gaming has left me feeling that I may well be missing out on something big, and Jim Sterling’s angry logic has given me pause to consider that today’s consoles might actually be nothing more than substandard PCs.

While I have by no means definitively decided to shun next-gen consoles in favour of a PC, I am therefore actively considering it.

Here, in order to better organise and present my thoughts, are a few key reasons why:


1) The Breadth And Quality Of PC Games

Yes, we all know that there are some tremendous console exclusives out there. But what people seem to forget is that almost every top release ends up coming to the PC at some point, and the number of must-have titles that can never find their way into a dedicated PC gamer’s hands is very small indeed.

By contrast, there are countless great games that are only available for the PC. Indeed, the very best work in entire genres is pretty much closed off to console owners – particularly in the case of strategy titles, epic RPGs, and survival-horror.

This looks amazing. And it will arrive on consoles when hell freezes over.

PC gamers can look forward to Rome 2: Total War next year, more genuinely good free-to-play MMOs and online multiplayers than you could shake a wizard’s staff at, and a whole bunch of fantastic psychological-horror titles that would simply never make it onto consoles. Whether its current cult favourite Slender, or forthcoming Amnesia follow-up A Machine For Pigs, there’s no doubt that those looking for their sophisticated horror fix are much better off with a PC than a console. I mean, what else is there on the horizon? Resident Evil 6 and Dead Space 3?

It’s also fair to say that a huge number of highly innovative, groundbreaking independent titles are available to download for PC, sometimes at dirt-cheap prices and sometimes for no money at all. While Xbox Live’s Arcade and Sony’s PlayStation Network can potentially put myriad hurdles, restrictions and complications in the way of gaming’s next genius developer, putting your game out there on the web and letting people download it for nothing, or a small fee, is what an awful lot of the new great talents are doing. And if you’re a PC gamer, you can fill your boots months before console owners have even heard of the best titles.


2) Modding

When Skyrim’s Dawnguard add-on came to Xbox360 last month as a timed-exclusive, it introduced a range of new features, including the long-demanded treat of mounted combat.

But guess what? Months earlier the game’s enthusiastic PC modding community had been hard at work introducing pretty much all of these features into the game, as well as countless more touches besides. You want to be able to transform into a dragon? Go for it. You want new quests? Hell yeah.

"Me? I just want to play as Santa."

The simple truth is that modding on the PC allows gamers to enjoy great games for much longer than they otherwise would, with the ability to add reams of new content and features into their favourite titles to broaden, enhance and even improve them.

And full-conversion mods based on existing titles are frequently used to produce phenomenal stand-alone experiences that become great games in their own right – many of which are available for free. You only have to look at the fantastic Half-Life mod Cry Of Fear, or the open-world zombie phenomenon that is Day-Z, to see how cool this all is.


3) Steam

Y’know, I quite like Xbox Live Arcade. There are plenty of entertaining games on it to download and enjoy, with both fun indie titles and old classics available at the touch of a button.

But Steam kind of shits all over it. It really does.

This guy would be President Of The World now, if it wasn't for the lack of Half-Life 3.

Firstly, the sheer volume and variety of terrific experiences old and new available on Valve’s downloading platform is something to behold. And as well as boasting many of the exciting independent creations and strategy/RPG/horror must-haves that consoles simply cannot offer, this also includes recent high-profile releases that are only available as boxed copies to console gamers, but can be purchased and stored digitally without breaking a sweat here.

Secondly, games are frequently available at astonishingly low prices during one of Steam’s famous sales, allowing users to stock up on tons of quality titles for jaw-droppingly small amounts. While Xbox Live and PlayStation Network do offer sales and deals of their own, there really is no comparison in terms of value.

Of course, it has been argued, quite reasonably, that Steam is a form of always online DRM that requires people to be logged in and online to play. But as Jim Sterling pointed out, the real measure of this service is that it’s so damn brilliant hardly anyone cares. It’s an absolute boon to gamers – yet something that console owners miss out on.


4) Console Advantages Have Vanished

In the good old days of console gaming, non-PC gamers could feel smug in the knowledge that they did not have to worry about endless, time-consuming updates, and the infuriating hassle of putting up with bug-ridden games released in what some would label an ‘unfinished state’, followed by numerous patches weeks later to try and fix these issues.


Of course, nowadays that’s exactly what console gamers have to put up with too. And there are other reasons to suspect that previous advantages may be slipping away.

Always-on DRM is something that has, as yet, been largely limited to the PC gaming sphere – much to their frustration. And yet, with EA’s online passes picking up momentum, and with the talk of DRM being much more of a prominent feature for next gen consoles, you can’t help but assume that these tactics are as likely to be posing problems for owners of the next PlayStation and Xbox as they are the PC community, meaning that yet another tick in the console column finds itself inevitably scrubbed out of the equation.

On a more basic level, the ability to use control pads for PCs, and hook up your computer to a large flatscreen TV in your living room, means that you can pretty much enjoy the best aspects of the console experience on them anyway. In short, it’s hard to see any clear advantages of consoles anymore.


Some Final Thoughts

Let’s be honest: in an ideal world, gaming enthusiasts would own a PC and every current console on the market, in order to sample every great experience out there at the time.

But we don’t live in an ideal world. Money for most is tight, and tough decisions have to be made. For my part, when looking ahead to 2013 and the next gen consoles, I’m hugely excited at the prospect of what Sony and Microsoft’s next consoles may offer – and the Wii U of course will be calling in long before then.

But thinking about it long and hard, and considering the funds I will have at my disposal when making my decision, I genuinely do think that the world of PC gaming may be beckoning after all…


4 Responses to “Opinion: Should We Forget Next-Gen Consoles – And Just Buy A PC Instead?”
  1. MartinB105 says:

    One of the biggest reasons I switched from PC gaming to PS3 is the exclusives.

    This article glosses over the exclusives that appear only on the consoles – something that I can kind of understand coming from a 360 owner after the recent disappointing E3 showings from Microsoft.

    But for some of us – all of our favourite franchises are console exclusive. There’s Uncharted, inFamous, LittleBigPlanet, God of War, Heavy Rain, Killzone, Resistance, Wipeout and Journey, just off the top of my head.

    I don’t think these exclusive should be overlooked so easily. Yes, PC has exclusives too, but it really comes down to what kind of gaming experience one is looking for. Personally, I’m not into RTS or epic RPG’s at all, so that rules out a large chunk of the PC exclusives mentioned. I’ll admit I do like Amnesia though.

    If PC gaming one day comes to Linux in a big way, I might consider getting back into it, but for now I’m mostly just limited to the Humble Indie Bundles – and my PC is over four years old.

  2. Asgaro says:

    Good article.

    I have been a PC gamer all my life, but 3 years ago I bought my first ever console. A PS3 Slim.
    I bought it to play the wonderful exclusives and also for Read Dead Redemption (all Rockstar titles are also on PC, except this one… )
    But now I’m back into PC gaming. My PS3 is collecting dust, and knowing this, I will probably never buy a PS4.
    PC gaming is just so more convenient. The days of fixing your own bugs are gone. Steam is the holy grail of PC gaming. Steam has everything: a community, a LOT of cheap titles, stats tracking, achievements, every game has its own forum section, automatic patching system.

    On top of that, I need my PC regularly for school so I wouldn’t be able to live with an old PC that runs like crap.
    I like to start a game and afterwards discuss it or look up some info about it. Since im already on the PC, this is very easy.
    On consoles I would have to have a laptop besides me (which I don’t have).

    Another thing: controllers suck. No offense, but anyone saying otherwise hasn’t tried a shooter with a mouse.
    Can you imagine using your computer with a controller? I need the accuracy.
    On consoles it’s a lot of spray and pray. I have seen enough console gameplay on Youtube to see it’s a general issue.

    And the price? I bought my gaming PC in September 2007. And since then, I only had to upgrade ONE part. My graphics card. People saying PC gaming is too expensive, don’t know anything about it or the know PC nerds who only want to play their games on the UBER highest settings uber fluid.

    I’m not like that. I don’t need my games to run on super high. The fact ALL PC games run already on 1080p resolution is enough. I do play most games on medium or high, thats true. But I only upgrade any hardware part of I can’t run most recent games not decently anymore.

    Also, mods: Now that im into that and start looking for it specifically, I notice how many mods there are actually. As soon as I buy a game, I first check whether there are any mods and/or tweaks to be found so I play with the best experience right from the start.

  3. nightsurge says:

    This makes no sense.

    What is the alternative to consoles? Buy a new PC every 2-3 years? Build one yourself and upgrade it every 1-2 years?

    The majority of PC users (those that just want to play games, not build or maintain super gaming stations with quad video cards, 32GB Ram them, RAID SSD’s, etc) try to buy a PC to last them 5 years, then buy a new one. You know what this sounds like to me? The console generation. Granted this generation is pushing 7+ years now, but that itself is out of the norm.

    If a console becomes a hybrid PC/console to any greater extent, it actually BEATS the PC as far as a gaming platform because the cost of entry/upkeep is much lower. And for most people just wanting to upgrade once every 5 years, that fits in perfectly again with the console life cycle. Buying a $300-400 console every 5 years sure beats buying a $700-800 (MINIMUM) PC to get the similar gaming experience. Even then, a $700-800 PC would likely require upgrading at least once to make it the full 5 years, where as consoles require no upgrades and the games continue to improve throughout the lifespan.

    To the person above me. I am guessing you spent AT LEAST $700 on your PC when purchased in 2007, and since then you probably upgraded your graphics card around the cost of $200 or more. $900 or more to play games in a shorter time frame (2007-2013 vs 2005-2013) still looks like consoles have the price advantage and will for quite some time.

  4. DrunkDocHoliday says:

    OK, Here it is:

    Asargo is saying that he buys his PC / makes his PC in 2007. ok. lets say its mid range, 5-700 $. he has upgraded it one time for like 200 $ in the span of 5 years. but what about the next time he has to upgrade a part? say, add another 4 gb of ram? only about 100 bucks.

    console: buy it for 4-600 $. games are expensive as hell too. within 4-5 years, buy a new console, another 4-600 $. thats already more money spent whithin that same timeframe than Asargo spent in about 8 years buying his pc / making his pc and upgrading it 2 times!

    just saying.

Leave A Comment