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Why the next generation of consoles might be nothing but a reason to switch to PC gaming instead

As all of my brain-spilling over the previous pages will probably tell you, I’m a man who values games as a progressive, developing medium. I’m not Jimmy FIFA or Johnny Halo. I crave new talent, new ideas, new aesthetics and new ways of seeing games as both fun and art. And the more I think about it, the more I realise that the stuff I want is available in abundance on the PC. Just check out this small (massive) selection of this year's stuff for starters. And then this one.

As much as we gamers moan about the increasing homogenisation of mainstream games, we never acknowledge that the problem is utterly exacerbated on consoles. We ignore the fact that the development freedom that we say we want is happening every day on the PC. We rightly champion the odd console release like Braid or Limbo as a mighty strike for creativity, but there's a raft of stuff in that vein happening all over the PC every day, along with more new IP than you can keep up with. We complain, but we rarely make the leap away from the systems and structures that cause the problems we lambast. 

And I’m beginning to think I might be ready to.


Above: On a console. a unique narrative experience like Dear Esther would be lauded as a once-in-a-generation avant garde masterpiece. On the PC, it's a PC game

The more I think about what keeps me predominantly a console gamer, the less reasons I come up with. I think that situation can only be worsened, not improved, by a new, more technically-demanding console generation. Console exclusives, except when platform-holders make or pay for them, are a dead concept. And the time and money required to make or acquire single-format games impressive enough to really grab the attention is probably going to mean that they’re fewer and further between in the future anyway. Next-gen it will probably cost far more to buy an exclusive, and any third-party in their right mind will be increasingly drawn to releasing for as many platforms as possible.

Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if push eventually came to shove, and those costs saw even the big publishers turn to the smaller, more audience-specific, enthusiast-targeted games I espoused the virtues of in my recent article about Double Fine’s Kickstarter success. And that sort of stuff is bound to head PC-wards. If indeed it's not targeted towards it in the first place.


Above: Sorry guys, been there, done that

So what would I really be buying a new set of consoles for? Better-looking Halo and Fable? Better-looking Uncharted? Another couple of big new first-party franchises on top of better-looking versions of all the others? A whole raft of family games from Microsoft?

Meanwhile, a PC will give me the best versions of the third-party blockbusters, and all of the medium-size and small-scale creativity I want. Games that will never hit the console market. Games that will never have to. Games that would be hampered if they tried. To rob myself of that would be like limiting my film-viewing to whatever the big multiplexes give me every month. And I’m certainly not going to do that.

Then again, I'll probably change my mind about all of this as soon as I see an HD Mario game running. We shall see, friends, we shall see.

142 comments

  • Robelicious - February 19, 2012 8:54 p.m.

    I love my PCs but I find it hard to compare the experience with my consoles. I remember growing up patching everything, tweaking this and that to get games to play, and dreading the games that would not like my video card for some reason. I recently bought a PC that I could easily upgrade for Diablo III but aside from Abobo's big adventure and buying a bunch of cheap games on Steam that sit in my owned games tab, I don't really play my PC. I like turning on my console, putting in the game, installing if it's something I am really serious about, and playing. The patching and the tweaking and the unpleasentness is all taken care of. Unless it is free, completely out of left field, or PC exclusive I simply don't have the time or money to stay on top of PC gaming.
  • Elementium - February 19, 2012 3:40 p.m.

    I think either consoles need to become more free or pcs need to become cheaper. I'm buying a pc for gaming.. Now I know it's not as much if you build your own but buying a premade pc for gaming is expensive.. The day I can buy a pc for 600$ that is already built and plays everything on ultra I'll be a happy man.
  • RedOutlive10 - February 17, 2012 7:12 p.m.

    I was thinking about the increasing prices of console hardware for the manufacturers the other day. If they already sold the PS3 and 360 at release not making any profits, can you imagine the next gen ones? I think this is the biggest reason they want this generation to last for long, they will need quite some money to make the new hardware prices lower than they should, since the big money comes from the royalties of gaming sales. It's also something quite interesting, I don't think there will be a crash or anything but maybe the focus won't be on graphics in the future but in digital stores, selling games directly from the networks and so on.
  • Gruff182 - February 17, 2012 2:22 a.m.

    Good read Hooters. As per usual, a bunch of the disussion comes down to price assumptions which are mostly wrong. Also, no one ever seems to account for the price of the actual games. I play the better version of the same game for ATLEAST £10 less at launch. Add that up over the year.
  • TR4rulez - February 17, 2012 1:13 a.m.

    I have had this feeling that the video game industry was heading for another crash since CoD4 Modern Warfare. Ever since then it has been point blank, about everything covered in this article. Its sucks its disgusting that a medium so many of us love and treasure is coming to this. It was always a buisnes and yet now after 20 some years since the NES revived the industry this is the first generation where the bottom line has been so blatantly made known that it is the first priority. I have a PC and I am quitsure that is where I will be, as well.
  • fortheroflz - February 16, 2012 6:26 p.m.

    i am switching over to pc gameing anyways, tired of spending 60 bucks a game and 30 bucks for live every 3 months. if anyone can help me find or tell me how to make a very good ameing computer that isn't 1000s of dollors, thatwould be apressiated
  • coltsfanca - February 20, 2012 9:33 a.m.

    PC Games are also 60 bucks a pop, Online play on the Playstation 3 is free, and too bad...a good PC for gaming usually costs about $1,000 minimum unless you get a great deal, upgrade an old computer, or buy a used one. And I'm not trying to troll...but learn to spell.
  • mentalityljs - February 16, 2012 5:37 p.m.

    Well said David, well said. My PS3 stays in the livingroom for Netflix and gets about as much game play as a benchwarmer, my PC does all the rest, just short of making me food. If you're a console gamer and have a newish/decent PC, I suggest joining the Steam comminity (ie buying Left 4 Dead 2) and see if you don't get more involved than XBL or PSN. With PC, you literally have everything at your fingertips, plus no yearly GOLD or PLUS subscriptions!!!
  • matthew-baker - February 16, 2012 11:02 a.m.

    www.hardware-revolution.com I was able to build a computer valued at around $2,000 for about $1,100 after tax and everything. I play every game I have with maxed settings--Skyrim, Arkham City (no dx11 initially due to bugs), rift, tor, fallout new Vegas, and the list would go on if I could remember other titles I have.
  • Megazell - February 16, 2012 4:52 p.m.

    With the right rebates, deals and coupons lined up you can get a killer rig for away under $500 + have it bundled with games. It's all about timing and whether or not you want to build the rig yourself or get it pre-made.
  • purple_omlet - February 16, 2012 4:42 a.m.

    I love console gaming. I have always loved it. Since my NES, I can't put the controllers down. That being said, I am not excited for the next generation. Microsoft is going to fuck us over, and that's become very apparent from how they've already started. Nintendo has moved into the casual market and doesn't look like it's going to move from there any time soon. I don't care for Sony and I don't know what they have planned. I also don't really like PC gaming. The PC gaming community is full of snobs that have their heads up their asses. Elitist jerks that I don't want to play with. Plus I'm shit with a mouse. It seems that for people like me, there is only going back to old video games because the future of gaming looks so bleak.
  • Andy_117 - February 16, 2012 6:33 a.m.

    "The PC gaming community is full of snobs that have their heads up their asses. Elitist jerks." Unfortunately, I think you'll find that they are the vocal minority in this case. The silent majority are very much just normal people who play games on PC. The elitist jerks aren't worth your time, but with servers on PC, it's easy enough to find a group of people you'll enjoy playing with anyway. It seems a bit of a misconception that PC gamers are "elitist". Most of them own a good mid-spec PC and at least two consoles because, that's the thing, they're not "PC gamers". They're just "gamers". They like playing games. And being shit with a mouse is no excuse either. Plug in that Xbox pad to your PC and you're good to go! There we go, I just dispelled the two problems that made you not play on PC. You may call me Jesus. ...or not. Actually, I'd rather you not.
  • purple_omlet - February 18, 2012 2:38 p.m.

    Thank you Jesus.
  • nathstyles - February 16, 2012 3:56 a.m.

    This couldn't be more timely for me - between Skyrim, Humble Bundles and a bit of Civ I have been glued to my PC for gaming for months now. The last game I played on console was Arkham City and that really is the only calibre of game that seems to be able to distract me at the moment. While we can all see console gaming isn't in a crisis (well apart from creatively perhaps)it will be interesting to see if there is a more widespread decline in interest amongst the gamers that do enjoy a wider range of experiences. The problem is that people like us aren't really the core of the market any more, or at least we certainly aren't seen as such. Gaming has always been a business - the problem is in the COD era it is big business and look where that has taken mainstream Hollywood's creativity.
  • Shinn - February 15, 2012 9:12 p.m.

    The only time my 360 sees use is when I want to play something with my girlfriend, for finish an exclusive storyline I've been emotionally invested in for years. The only advantage a console has, as far as I'm concerned, is its social ability. I can play Halo with my girlfriend next to me, I can throw in Gears when a mate comes over. But we are seeing games which get this simple advantage wrong more and more often. Having a co-op mode that isn't local as well as lan or xbox live is pointless. My girlfriend does not have her own 360, my friends at different universities will not be heading home to pick up their 360's before they visit me. It's getting ridiculous, a console these days is just a disproportionately expensive pc dedicated to running games poorly.
  • xarab4lyfex - February 15, 2012 9:08 p.m.

    While PC gaming is more advanced and becoming better than console gaming, it's just so damn expensive. Not everyone has a thousand dollars to spend on a gaming pc. I'd rather just pick up an xbox or a ps3 for $400 which is much cheaper. So what the games aren't as pretty. I think the idea of graphics are a little overrated anyway. I don't wanna spend hundreds of dollars every year just to upgrade my pc, just so I can actually play them/look prettier. Plus that would just totally erase going over a friends house and playing some games with them, even though it's a dying breed, is still not cool. Plus, while the pc does have unique exclusives, I'd still prefer the exclusives on the consoles/mobile consoles like uncharted, gears, resident evil, pokemon, Okami and other stuff. Plus I doubt we'll ever see any Mario or Zelda game on anything other than a nintendo console and I doubt I can without those games.
  • aaron-pan - February 15, 2012 9:55 p.m.

    For about $500ish you can get a decent video card to go with your computer to run all the current games decently. Not only that but the PC can be hooked up to your TV and also be used for anything else you want like surfing the internet, watching movies, or what have you. People forget that theres a lot of games that are blockbusters being ported to the PC, and therefore PC games have been hindered by the consoles themselves in terms of graphics despite still being better. Right now it is cheaper than EVER to get a gaming rig.
  • xarab4lyfex - February 15, 2012 11:12 p.m.

    Yea and that's why I've contemplated switching to pc gaming. And if this was a few years ago I might have done it. But now im in college, on a college budget, so yea =/. I don't have time to deal with a pc and downloading and steam. Even if it's easy and considerably cheaper, it'll never be simpler than just buying a game, putting it in the tray and start playing on a console.
  • DukeNukeThem - February 16, 2012 1:17 a.m.

    To buy a gaming PC here in the UK it costs about £1500-£2000, thats about $2500-$3000. It may be cheaper than ever but still way out of my price range.
  • Jcookie11 - February 16, 2012 2:23 a.m.

    I've always thought this too, but i looked into it a bit further and you can get a really decent P,C if you're willing to put some time in, to build it yourself. If you build it yourself you can cut out the crap that some PC makers include such as unnecessarily flashy cases. it makes the whole thing a lot cheaper; you can get a normally £800 PC for about £250. its also surprisingly easily to put it all together, as i'm sure you know, there are loads of videos on the internet and guides to help you.

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