Except when it's not
I saw some comments today on Facebook that troubled me and got me thinking about gaming and gaming experiences. This post is not a PC vs Console fire-starter post. This is supposed to be an eye-opening, never-thought-about-it-that-way post. PC gamers, I apologize in advance if I offend you or your principles in anyway, because I probably will.
The comments started when my close friend, whom I have never met, TJ posted this article on Facebook. The article's title is The End of Gaming Consoles and the Rise of Mobile and PC Gaming
The article, like most baiting articles, is full of bullshit. It derides the PS4 for only having 1.84 TFLOPS of processing power in its GPU and for being incapable of 4k output. For those that may not know, a TFLOPS is Trillions of FLoating-point Operations Per Second. More TFLOPS equals more operations can be done by the GPU in the same amount of time (mostly). A high-quality PC video card can push up to 5 TFLOPS, possibly more.
Now, TFLOPS are not a perfect measure of gaming performance, but since this author brought it up, we'll use it as a quick comparison tool.
First, I should point out that the above article is from Digital Storm Online. They want to sell you high-end gaming PCs. Right off the bat we have a conflict of interest. They don't want you to want a next-gen console, but this is the article my buddy posted, and I am sure there are others that tout the same arguments.
Digital Storm Online sells gaming PCs. One of those gaming PCs is the Vanquish.
"Digital Storm VANQUISH: a gaming pc that's nearly the same price as building it yourself, delivering maximum detail, speed, and power for immersive game play without breaking the bank. Featuring the Intel Core i5 processor."
They also state that they offer "No Compromises". That's pretty reassuring.
So I looked at the video card in the Vanquish, keeping in mind that there are "no compromises". The lower-end of these high-end gaming PCs (with no compromises) features the NVIDIA GTX 650, which is a respectable video card for gaming PC. So, I looked it up. The NVIDIA GTX 650 is only capable of 0.8 TFLOPS. That's weird, didn't that article I just read talk about how weak the next-gen consoles' processors are? Hold on, lemme check.
"…but it gives us a rough idea just how weak these supposed “next-gen” consoles really are."
Wow, 1.84 TFLOPS is unacceptable for a next-gen console, but they'll sell me a computer with a card that is less then half as capable and call it "delivering maximum detail, speed, and power for immersive game play" and "No Compromises".
As far as the rest of the article, I am not going to pick it apart. It is full of bullshit arguments about the fall of the console. Read it yourself and make your own judgement. I want to talk about some of the comments I saw after this on Facebook and some ridiculous ideas that some people have.
After TJ posted this article, I saw some great (not really great) comments. Let's have a look.
"Case and point: COD:Ghosts was built for the console platform then ported to PC. The graphics quality is terrible, and overall the experience sucks. It was a game built for old technology, and on new, more capable technology, it shows."
I address this below, but really, we're saying that newer technology is incapable of running older technology? Is this like when I took Lemmings from my old Intel 8086 XT and installed in on my new 286 SX and all the lemming were moving about 40x faster and the game was unplayable?
"actually, for $1k you will get a PC that outperforms a console in every way"
This is likely true. But as I discuss below, performance is not everything. Not even close.
"The cheapest NVida[sic] or AMD card on the market will perform 10x better than any console graphics card. It's not a matter of opinion, it's fact and the industry benchmarks support it."
As I just pointed out above, this is not true.
"PC's are superior in every way"
This is what the bulk of my post is about, as this statement is utterly wrong and bordering on childish.
"Also, I save hundreds of monies (literally) on games thanks to the Steam sales and indie bundles."
"I'm playing Bioshock Infinite right now. I picked it up for $10 recently."
"And when I do pay retail, I'm generally disappointed."
I address these comments below.
[about purchasing a next-gen console] "…in a year you'll change your mind. I promise, even if you don't believe me now"
"My PC is about as old as the XBox 360… I'm still using a 560 GTX… I am positive my PC is more powerful than the PS4 and XBO. Likely, combined. Neither of them will even come close to running 4k games. Unless, of course, you don't mind running 4k at 30fps. But I guarantee you don't. The XBO won't even run native 1080P, it's 720p scaled up. So ya, if you don't mind playing at crappy resolutions and limited functionality, then consoles are fine."
Really? Your 10-year-old, 0.07 TFLOP GPU can out-perform a next-gen console? Not according to the article *you* posted. And it can play 4K games? ;)
Oh, and the Xbox one is capable of native 1080p @ 60fps. COD:Ghosts and Battlefield 4 are only pushing 720p, so the Xbox One needs to scale up for 1080p displays.
"Why gaming consoles suck. And why your experience sucks if you play them. And why you're wasting your cash if you buy a next-gen console"
So this is what it is really all about. No, not you defining my experience, I mean The Experience itself. Isn't that what everyone wants? A great gaming experience? The best gaming experience your money can buy? So let's talk about The Experience and see what that means and why "PC's are superior in every way", except when they're not.
For me, gaming is a fantastic experience. I enjoy gaming, greatly, but it does not need to be the be-all-end-all visual and audible experience. For me, gaming is about the story, about the gameplay, about the escape, about the social experience, and other less-tangible parts of the overall experience. Gaming is a thing that I do for fun, relaxation, and release. It is not about the frame rates or resolution or perfect audio.
For me, console gaming is the superior experience, and almost everyday. The consoles have the games I want, they look and play great (in my opinion), they are comfortable, easy-to-use, and affordable. In short, they give me what I want and that makes them superior, for me.
I will get the next-gen consoles. And I will likely enjoy them, greatly. I do not need 4k games running at 300fps to enjoy gaming. Chances are, I would not care enough about the difference to give a shit. I play games on my phone and enjoy them too, and my phone will probably not have TFLOP performance or 4K graphics anytime soon, if ever.
One year after I purchase the next-gen consoles I will not likely regret it. I will be probably be very happy with them.
Not a real gamerThis is the battle cry of the douche gamer. Be it about PC vs console, console vs. console, women gamers, casual gamers, old skool vs. new skool, or whatever. If these words have ever left your mouth about another person who enjoys gaming, albeit in a different way than you enjoy gaming, then you are a douche. Shut the fuck up.
PCs are better, at some things
I will freely admit that PCs have better graphics and performance, not to the level as quoted above, but in general when comparing generation to generation. I will also admit that if you are using the PC as your regular do-other-stuff computer and/or as an media center that you will potentially get a better value as well, but that is not the case for all of us.
I will NOT admit though that "PC's are superior in every way" as many PC enthusiasts like to spout. For them to be superior in every way, they must be superior in every way, and they are not. Not for everyone.
PricePCs are not superior in price for those that do not want to spend what they cost for the hardware. If I bought a PC for gaming it would only be for gaming. I am a Mac user*, so having an extra Windows machine around for gaming would be far more expensive than a console for me.
They can be superior in price for games, but not always. On average PC games are cheaper, but new releases tend to be the same price on all platforms, so that is not a great argument. If you only play older games, then PCs can save you money, but old console games are pretty cheap too. So still, poor argument. Additionally, the possibly cheaper cost of PC games could be a detriment to the PC gamers, I discuss this more below.
But wait. I always hear PC enthusiasts say that you can build a capable PC gaming rig for under $1,000. That is true. Hell, according to "No Compromises" up above you can get a decent gaming rig from them for $700. That's still $300 more than a PS4 and that includes a video card that the article's author says is "weak", actually, well below what he says is "weak". The card he recommends retails for between $999 and $1200, JUST for the video card. If you want to build a gaming PC with that, it's going to set you back a few Gs.
Ease of UseConsoles are superior in ease-of-use. I'm sorry, you can only argue that point with comments about "idiots" and that PCs are "not that hard", but the fact is, PCs are more difficult to use than consoles. They are more prone to having issues with some games, they are more likely to get viruses. They are more likely to need upgrades when the next big game comes out. Consoles are plug-n-play. They almost never need upgrades (hard drive is the only thing I can think of).
I have built PCs before. The first PC I built was a Pentium 90 with 4MB of RAM. The most recent was an Intel Quad Core with 8GB. I am familiar with the woes of PC maintenance and any argument that PCs are anything close to trouble-free will immediately be shot down with a quick-scope, Call of Duty, over-powered sniper rifle. I have spent my share of nights sitting UNDER my desk instead of in front of it trying to figure out why my god damn graphics card isn't pushing pixels.
You tell the average gamer to upgrade their graphics card drivers and they will look at you like the dog did that time you tried to explain to him why PC gaming is better. The fact is, the average user is not at good at computers as you. You are a power user. You like to tweak, you like to make it work better, faster, stronger. You like your PC for a reason, that doesn't mean I have to.
ControlsIt could be argued that mouse/keyboard control is superior to handheld controllers like the XBox and PCs have. Yes, they give you better control in some games for accuracy, and some games require more buttons and options than a hand-held controller can offer. If these things matter to you, then the mouse/keyboard option is better. But for me, the handheld controller is superior.
The handheld controller gives me what I need. A simple interface that I can use while reclined on the couch. I spend all day hunched over a computer desk, and I have enough keyboard commands to learn with my programming IDEs. I don't want to spend my gaming time at a desk learning new keyboard commands. The hand-held controller is easy, it gives me what I want.
At this point PC enthusiasts are screaming at their monitors that "You can use an XBox controller with your PC games you shithead!!! God! No wonder you are a console gamer".
Please, see my comment above about the superior ease-of-use for consoles. If you want to use an XBox controller with your PC games you need to worry about drivers, button mapping, troubleshooting, game support, etc. You don't need to worry about that with the console, it just works (see, I'm a Mac user).My pal James informs me (in the comments below) that if you use the XBox Controller Receiver for PC (about $20) that it also "just works". That's awesome. You do still also have the added expense of purchasing the controller [and receiver], just another argument that PC gaming can be more expensive.
QualitySome argue that Console games are dragging down the bar on game quality. They cite the example that the PC port of Call of Duty: Ghosts sucks balls. I'm sure there are other examples, but to me this says two things:
- If developers are giving priority to consoles, then it would seem that consoles are not going anywhere.
- If developers are giving priority to consoles then, in the future, console games will be a better (superior) experience compared to PC games. Note the example of COD:Ghosts
But a few examples do not make a fact. If developers spend less time and give fewer resources to a project when developing a PC game, that is the developer's fault, not the fault of the consoles. The existence of consoles is not the cause of these problems. If you are going to blame anyone, blame the market. Blame the consumer for wanting something you don't.
Brief aside about the cost of gamesOr perhaps blame yourselves. My point above about PC games being, on average, cheaper probably has to do with what PC gamers are willing to spend on PC games. You pay less, companies profit less. As seen in several comments from Facebook, PC gamers, in general, are not willing to spend much on games (possibly because they spent so much on hardware). They are like the Linux users of the gaming world. They want it fast, they want it cheap, they want it powerful, and it doesn't matter if it is hard to use.
Now, here is the problem. Fewer PC gamers willing to pay closer-to-full-price for games does not equal profits for game developers. Activision probably sold more pre-orders for Call of Duty: Ghosts than it will in total sales on the PC side. I don't blame the developer for not spending the time and resources on what is likely a not-very-profitable sector. I guess PC gamers should be happy that they ported the game at all.
PC gamers, I hope nothing happens to your platform of choice. I know it is near and dear to you. But you are going to have to figure something out that makes PC games more profitable for the developers, or they will start leaving you in the cold. You're get crappy ports or no ports at all. Don't be cheap, buy new releases, don't buy all your games for the year, once-per-year, when Steam has their annual, or semi-annual, super-sales. Give your money to the publishers if you want their attention.
SalesI can't find numbers on COD: Ghosts right off. But I found some for other, comparable games.
For Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, PC sales accounted for less than 3% of the total sales. They sold more copies for the Wii than they did for the PC.
For Battlefield 4 PC sales are at about 11%. Whereas PS3 and Xbox account for around 90% of sales. And many are waiting for next-gen consoles to purchase Battlefield 4, so by this time next month I will not be surprised to see that 11% become less than 5%.
So PC games are certainly not superior in sales.
As a media centerYes, the PC can be used as a media center. So can the XBox 360. And the XBox One will be even better at it. In my brief experience with Windows Media Center I found that is sucks. Sucks pretty bad. The Xbox makes it much easier and does what I need it to. I am looking forward to seeing how the XBox One works.
The PS3 sucks as a media center. I am not hopefully for the PS4 to be any better.
SocialFor me, gaming is sometimes, a social experience. The social experience on the XBox, for me, is superior, because that is where my friends are. I have two friends on PSN, two friends on Steam, and about 26 on XBL. And I am happy with (most of) those friends, so please don't suggest getting different friends. If you would like to be my friend, I am "twelverobots" in all three places.
Even when playing single-player games, there is a social experience to be had with those that also play those games. As more platforms get more titles, this divide is becoming much less, but with exclusive titles, it still exists.
ConclusionPC gaming is not superior in every way. For some people, like myself, it is not superior in *any* ways. But for others, PC gaming will be superior in most, if not all, ways. We all have different needs and desires. For some the experience is about graphics, for others it is about story, for others it is about the social interaction with others. But to suggest that either PCs or Consoles are superior in every way is just plain ridiculous, short-sighted, narrow-minded, and wrong.
So, please, STFU and game on, on your platform of choice and don't deride others for using theirs. And don't listen to the hype that consoles are going to go the way of the phone modem and the Apple Newton, because they are not. Consoles are not going anywhere, and what evidence there is suggests that their popularity is growing, and that is what will determine their staying power, not performance.
* Yes, I am a Mac user. Go ahead, get it out of your system, leave a comment below. But before you leave that comment, know that I am a computing power user. I am not the typical, hipster I-use-a-mac-becuase-they-are-cool user. I am not some old codger whose hipster kids bought him a Mac because they heard Windows 8 was not cool. I don't even like Apple. I use a Mac because, for me, it is a superior computing experience for which I am willing to pay a premium. BY trade I am a computer programmer and any one that wants to have a go about me not being a real computer user can fuck all the way off. I have nothing against Windows, I prefer the Mac for what I do.