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Console Vs. PC Gaming


June 3, 2005 04:00 PM PST

videoCard.gifSlashdot linked to an article on on whether PC gaming will be killed by consoles. Sure you could post your comments on one of those two sites, but we're more rational.

I've previously posted my issues with console gaming, and these focused most on the games and platforms themselves. But something else bothers me about console gaming, and I had to think for a second about what it is. I actually have a fear of what will happen if PC gaming does die. I hope I can explain it so that even if you love consoles, you can see why it might not be great for them to take over PC gaming.

The issue that worries me most about console gaming is control. There are some positive aspects to this - hardware is compatible, games are a certain standard, there's a common online service. But I feel these are outweighed by the many negatives that always come with too much control:

To sum it up... the main reason I don't like the trend of console gaming is the massive concentration of power it gives to a few large players. Each vendor wants to become like your cell phone provider, and that will be an absolute nightmare (the subject for another post).

As for commentary for the article, which talks a lot about how it's really expensive to be a PC gamer. You have to ask yourself if Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo are really trying to make gaming cheaper for you. They're not. They're trying to lock you (and game developers) into their system so they can make more money. I'll leave you with a few more points:

Comments (11)
Paul, June 4, 2005 12:17 PM:

Well, monopolies are never a good thing for any market ;)

But independant gamers are already getting locked out of the PC market: games are so insanely expensive to make now, that no little shop can put out a blockbuster like valve and id did in the 90s. Having said that, DirectX / OpenGL are always available for the independants, nothing is stopping them from making games on the PC... they just don't get to make something on the scale of Half-Life 2. Or maybe they do, using the HL2 SDK.

I actually like that the console vendors have more control. Online play was terrible before Xbox live. Trying to find a server that had low enough ping times for everyone (and that didn't have griefers and cheaters) was tedious, there was no built-ing voice communication. I'm more than happy to pay for the online walled garden, when it comes to gaming.

I'm pretty much done with PC gaming. I may pick up the occasional Bioware / Blizzard / Lionhead release, but I'm not building another game machine. Here is my issue:

Bought a $600 video card. Built a smokin game PC. Installed 17 CDs worth of games, everything seems to work great except Doom 3 and HL2 lock up my machine. Download a driver update. Now my DVD player won't playback. Revert driver, God knows what my registry looks like now. Troll gaming forums, hoping to find someine in my situation that has found a solution. Mess with random BIOS settings ("disable AGP fast write"). HL2 doesn't seem to crash after that change, but I'm too demoralized to test thoroughly. Looks like there is a patch for HL2 "sound stuttering". Apply. Repeat.

That and Xbox live are the reasons why I'm now a console boy, I just don't have the energy to be a PC person anymore.

As for price, I think that even PC games have been trending upwards. Remember all the angst we had over paying $55 for Wolfenstein, but we eventually caved in? I can understand the increases: the technology isn't cheap. Most games now include motion capture, huge amounts of artwork, realistic physics engines, plus developer tools for making mods. The price of games is generally where the console makers profit, since the hardware is sold at a loss. I think that this is a good thing for me, since increases in price will prevent me from buying so many games that I never get around to playing!

J, June 5, 2005 01:29 PM:

Independent gamers aren't really locked out of the PC market. If anything, Internet distribution eases the entry for them, compared to having to be published years ago. Similar to independent music artists. Many of the flash based games are independent, as are most of the good mods to Doom and HL. I agree that the production value of games has gone up a lot, but we'll see more gamers building on top of these great tools and engines on the PC.

A great example is the cell phone game market. You would think that these crappy games are ripe for independent developers. The problem is, that the carriers control the channel, so a lot of the larger mobile gaming companies (Mobliss, PopCap) have tight distribution deals. And good luck downloading and installing games on your phone directly from the Internet.

$600 for a video card was probably too much - let's face it. The thing is that even though the new consoles have the equivalent to 2 6800's, they've obviously figured out how to do this cheaper (they're not subsidizing it that much). This means that the card prices will come down on the PC as well. Also, the big difference in a $150 and a $400 gforce these days isn't about quality but resolution. They support the same quality at lower resolutions. Most consoles are hooked to 320x240 TV resolutions!

Your computer has to have a base video card to function (let's say $50), so your average gamer is adding $50-$100 to the cost of their machine for gaming. And saving the $50 yearly live charge, more limited game ecosystem, and the more expensive games.

I didn't have your same problems with HL2 (although crappy Steam is aptly named...) XBox also crashes, scratches DVDs, and was plagued by Live disconnects for a good while.

PC game prices have gone up BECAUSE of higher console game prices. Agreed that some games have huge production value and will cost more, but in general the upward trend is because of consoles and less piracy. Also, console game prices hold their value more vs. PC prices in my informal tracking.

"I'm more than happy to pay for the online walled garden, when it comes to gaming." I hope you don't regret saying this. I have way to much distrust in absolute control to belive this.

Finally, I totally agree that PC online services and voice comms suck. And I have no idea why they do so much. Gamespy tries to do player and game tracking, but I don't know why it wasn't more heavily adopted by game developers. And PC microphones/headsets are totally cheap enough to be bundled with a game. This doesn't seem like a console issue, just more of a complacency issue with PC developers.

Oh, the reason you don't worry about ping times in Live is that they don't show them and do massive interpolation and weapons spray to conteract it. PC's still handle the lag and sharp online gameplay better.

Sniffy, June 6, 2005 12:59 PM:

Technically, most consoles do only support 320 by 240, since most consoles consist of Playstation 1, and Super NES. However, the native resolution for all modern consoles, going back to the beloved Dreamcast, is 640 x 480. This is then converted to NTSC which is something close to 712 x 502 lines (interlaced).

John, June 6, 2005 07:52 PM:

I got lucky with my AMD64 gaming rig. I swapped by DOA Abit for an ASUS MB and I haven't had a single lockup through HL2 and Doom3. But I guess I just got lucky. Most of my gaming is done on Xbox Live now though. I pay for the "walled garden" for the same reason J pays for Tivo, it just works. Xbox Live today is very stable and works well. Xbox crashes happen, but once every few months for me. For me online play with friends is the ticket. Being able to find my friends across games, easily host or join games and voice communications is the value add I get for my $3.00 a month. The PC doesn't come close. My biggest grip has been resolution, and that is soon to be fixed.

Maybe what we should be doing is using the Xbox to sync up and talk while playing on the PC. Hmmm.

Jgg, June 17, 2005 02:06 PM:

Pc gaming is very expensive compared to consoles. Consoles are more simply to work, but I LOVE PC GAMING. I love overclock's, I love upgrades... And the pc can do much more than play games. the pc is an Universal platform and the consoles doesn't come close. The PC gaming WILL NEVER go away. Now you tell me that this next generation of consoles are much more powerfull than any pc. I agree. But is a question of time.
Consoles: simplicity, price, (and now power)
PC: power, evolution, universal, and much more.

John, June 18, 2005 01:22 AM:

Yes I agree it is only a matter of time. The PC always manages to catch up and surpase the console. When Xbox came out the Nvidia graphics were ahead of the PC for a little more than a year at best. The PC caught up quick and zoomed past. Current consoles are only running 640 x 480. I'm running HL2 on my PC at 1600x1200 with far more graphics coolness than today's consoles can deliver at any resolution. But that power comes at a price (and we are not just talking about money).

J, June 18, 2005 09:11 AM:

Right... PC makers and makers of PC related hardware are all very interested in keeping PC gaming going. Games are the primary reason to upgrade PCs every couple of years, besides the obvious bloat in software that also pushes machine requirements up. I suppose illegal media downloads also drive a lot of the hard disk, CD/DVD burner and bandwidth sales too. No one needs a 300GB drive (or a 30GB iPod) to store songs purchased from iTunes.

Seanbear, August 9, 2005 06:23 AM:

Why should I spend 4000 on a gaming pc when I could spend 300 and build on for surfing/email and spend another 400 or 500 on a console and some goodies?

Lets not forget hardware upgrades every 18 months, I've had my console for 5 years. How much would it have cost me to keep a pc gamer current?

John, August 9, 2005 10:15 AM:

Very good points.

J, August 9, 2005 03:20 PM:

Except that it's more like $800 for a nice machine, not $4K.

Paul, August 9, 2005 09:53 PM:

That's true: I went a bit nuts last summer and built an entirely new top-end rig for less than $2k, and that includes an over-the-top video card which cost $600.

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