I’ve been player of home consoles for my entire life as a gamer. It used to be that I would steadfastly tout the superiority of my favorite consoles over the PC, even in the face of growing evidence to the contrary. I’m even still considering potentially picking up an Xbox One in order to play the likes of Halo 5 and Tomb Raider. I had an incredible time with the consoles of the past, and am very happy with PS4 now. It’s been an absolute blast. However, more and more often now I find my gaze wandering to the land of PC gaming. With everything PCs have to offer these days, I can’t help but wonder if remaining a primarily console-based gamer is the best way to continue.
Honestly, I think the biggest thing keeping me on consoles is momentum; momentum and large library of old console games. Aside from a small handful of console exclusives, there really doesn’t seem to be much reason to stay; at least not anymore. Until recently, I’d say the home consoles had a well-defined place in the gaming market. At first they might as well have been the only game in town, with machines like the SNES, Genesis, N64, and PSOne offering games that were largely head and shoulders above their counterparts on PCs at the time. Later, with the likes of the PS2 & Xbox and eventually the PS3 & Xbox 360, it wasn’t so much that the games were better, but rather that they were still cheaper options to the PC. However, with the rise of mods, indie games, and relatively cheaper hardware, it’s hard to say what exactly the place of the gaming console is anymore.
Almost everything that used to set consoles apart is gone now. Sure they’re still less immediately expensive than an average PC, but what else do they have that makes them special? They can’t claim to be more convenient anymore. Instead of letting you just pop the game in and play like before, now they’re just like on PCs. One must wait for a game to install to the machine before it can be played, and that’s without having to wait for patches to download and install on top of that. Consoles aren’t even necessarily the best option for playing from the couch anymore either. It’s already easier than ever to hook up a computer to a TV, and, come this November, those of us who play on Steam will just be able to stream their games to their TV with Valve’s new Steam Link device. Just plug it in and it’ll be just like playing any other console! Further still, the controller is no longer the sole domain of the home console either. A lot of what comes out on PC these days has a controller option, and many of them can even be played with a good ol’ Xbox 360 controller. So not only would us console gamers not have to trade our couch for a desk chair, but we’d also get to continue to use a controller just like we always have.
It also doesn’t help that console gaming has its own exclusive annoyances as well. Online play in particular is rather hard to talk about when pitting console gaming against its counterpart on PC. Aside from the Wii U, if you want online multiplayer on console then you’re going to have to pay for it. No matter if you’ve chosen PS4 or Xbox One, if you want to play your games online it’s going to cost you $50 a year. Go to PC gaming, and the ability to play online is (for the most part) free. It’s included in the price of the game! Console exclusives aside, this leaves with a class of machine that is neither the most convenient to use anymore nor the least expensive overall. It’s a class of machine that has great exclusives, but are exclusives enough to raise a platform up to equal standing with its peers? And if they are, then what about the veritable tons of mods and indie games offered by PC? If exclusives make the platform, the sheer amount on the PC place the platform head and shoulders above the competition regardless of everything else.
This may all sound like I really dislike consoles and am chomping at the bit to abandon them and move to PC, but that’s really not the case. I don’t want to leave my PS4 to collect dust, nor do I want to see consoles fade away. They’ve always been the primary vehicle of my gaming experience, and I’ll likely continue with them until they stop getting made (albeit in a lesser capacity). It’s just that I can no longer ignore how good PC gaming has become. What’s more, now that consoles are more or less low-spec computers, maybe we console gamers should ask ourselves why we don’t see more of what’s made PC gaming so great on our consoles too. Microsoft’s more recent announcements have shown that mods for console games are at least possible, so why not other features currently enjoyed by PC gaming?