PC Gaming has a problem…
For pretty much all my life, I’ve been a PC gamer first and foremost. I didn’t have a NES or a Nintendo 64. I had an original Playstation that I barely played, but that was it. The rest of the way I was a PC gamer. I grew up on Doom and Wolfenstein 3D, not Mario and Sonic. All of my friends did, too. While other kids were talking about Zappers and how the Playstation used CEE DEEZ we were discussing who would get the fastest processor once our dads saved up enough money. My old man even made sure I had my own computer whenever he upgraded his – and I was the proud owner of my very own 486DX which was progressively upgraded. I never had distinct computers – they all ended up a patchwork of upgrades from parts which we’d select ourselves, and we’d build them ourselves. When they broke, we fixed them. You think I was impressed by your N64’s brightly coloured, poorly textured polygons? Get out of my way, you filthy peasant – once I install this new $500 GPU and figure out the weird driver issues, I’ll be playing Unreal Tournament at a resolution you could only dream of!
And for much of PC gaming that’s basically how it was for me. I only really started to have high end hardware from about 2006 onwards, and even then there were plenty of times when it would go out of date within 6 months. I remember an eternal upgrade cycle with each year bringing new GPUs, new shader models, faster CPUs and the demand for even more RAM. Your 12 month old rig wouldn’t perform very well on the newest games and probably was incapable of some graphical effects because of Shader Model 3 or something else being introduced. Your only option? Upgrade. I remember countless hours playtesting with the various graphical settings until I found something that ran at an acceptable framerate and looked the best that I could get it. And then sometimes it’d crash and shit the bed.
Then something happened – the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3 were released. Up until these two consoles, the realms of PC gaming and console gaming were very clearly separated. “Cross platform” games weren’t as common and where they did exist they were actual ports done after the ‘lead platform’ release. But that changed with the 360 and PS3, and we started to see simultaneous releases. And this is where it all started to change. The upgrade cycle broke as developers worked predominately on console games and ported them to the PC. Hardware started to last for longer. Your 12 month old rig could go for 2 years and still play just as well as it did back in the day. The demand for faster GPUs, CPUs and even more RAM abated.
My current rig is an i7 4770, GTX970, and 6GB of RAM on a midrange ASUS motherboard. The most recent component was the GTX970 and I can’t even remember when I bought that. I can’t even remember when I bought the current i7 I have, but it was a while ago now. Do I need to upgrade? Nope! Far from it! And I’m actively not upgrading – because I bought a PS4. What led to this pathway?
Reasons Why I Prefer Console Gaming
3: The initial buy-in is actually cheaper. There’s a lot of nonsense thrown around about “cheap totally capable PC gaming rigs” but they all compromise to the point that they’re not worth owning. They are the new breed of “12 month upgrade” boxes. They match consoles and then get outpaced quickly. If you build a PC gaming rig, you’re going all in. My PS4 as a bundle is equivalent to my GPU and part of my CPU when they were new. At the time of writing there’s a PS4 bundle deal with a 1TB PS4 and 5 games for $570. A GTX1060 is about $480 on its own – and a GTX970 like mine is still about $350. The cost of the console bundle is only a bit more than a decent GPU, and it’s a complete box. Add on a capable CPU, a decent motherboard (because trash motherboards aren’t worth shit) and adequate RAM (4GB won’t cut it these days) and you’re well over the price – and you still need a case, peripherals, and probably a monitor, too! And you still need software. At least in Australia the “cheap, capable gaming PC” is largely a myth. They’re all horrible in their own, unique ways.
2: There’s nothing to maintain. My PS4 sits under the TV and has three cables – power, HDMI, and a micro USB cable for charging, and that’s it. It does its own automatic system updates, even waking itself up from sleep to do so. Games update on their own. If I buy a game online, it’ll automatically download itself. All of this while the system is in sleep mode. Steam can’t manage that – if I want Steam to do anything, the PC has to be on and not in a sleep state. Even then I’ve had Steam steadfastly decide to schedule downloads by default at weird hours and occasionally fail to download anything at all. Also no driver updates, no Windows updates, no software incompatibility, and nothing else to worry about. It looks after itself. Granted, the problems with drivers and software issues have fallen dramatically since the 90s/early 2000s, but there are still compatibility issues that NVIDIA have to work to fix with constant driver updates.
1: It just works. Consoles have become the target platform for AAA games, and increasingly for a large number of indie titles. PC versions tend to be ports of varying quality. Some are flawless. Some have crippled UIs or control schemes. Some of the worst have performance issues, especially on release. When Doom (2016) rolled around, I bought it on PS4. By midnight I was playing it – absolutely zero hurdles. It launched and I was playing. On the PC, some people had problems with the game crashing to desktop, failing to load, or otherwise not working as expected. Same with Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. On PS4 I was just playing. On PC? There are complaints of some higher end systems suffering crap frame rates even on low settings, along with random framerate drops and stuttering. If it runs like balls on my PS4, it does the same thing on everyone else’s. It’s something that PC gamers dream of.
Reasons Why I Miss PC Gaming
Well, sort of – I still have my gaming PC and I’m not getting rid of it, but I only use it for PC exclusive titles.
3: Loading times. You know what my best upgrade to my rig was? Removing mechanical HDDs and moving to SSDs. It was expensive at the time, but the difference in made was massive. Not in terms of framerate, but in terms of loading times (and by extension, Windows’ performance). Waiting for things to load on the PS4 is painful and even shoving an SSD into the PS4 doesn’t help much because it uses the older SATA2 standard. Doom loads in seconds on my PC, it takes forever on my PS4.
2: Mouse and keyboard. The mouse is a superior aiming device and if you disagree you are wrong. The limited range of motion offered by thumbsticks cannot compete against the freedom and accuracy of the mouse. Any capable mouse player will destroy even the most proficient thumbstick gamer. For FPS games the mouse is king. There is no substitute. And the Steam Controller is still significantly inferior to a mouse.
1: It’s cheaper over time. I can get PC games for well under half the cost of a PS4 game. PC games are just straight up cheaper, and it’s easier to find a bargain. To get a cheap PS4 game I’d have to import it and wait well over a week to play it (there are no cheap keys after all, not like cheap Steam keys). On the PC? Find the cheapest Steam key retailer, slap the code into Steam, and start the download (Steam permitting). While the initial investment into the PC itself is expensive, the games themselves are much cheaper. Does this average out over time? Well, that depends on your hardware and how long it’ll last – if the current console generation goes on for about 5 years, then yeah it probably does end up being cheaper as time goes by. But if you’re stuck in an upgrade cycle it doesn’t.
So does this mean I’m giving away my PC gaming? Hell no – there’s still loads of great titles on PC, and I’d never be without a gaming PC. But I don’t have the time or inclination to diagnose issues with multiplatform games anymore. I don’t want to screw around with ini files and constant driver updates and rollbacks to sort out glitches, crashes, or the infuriating dumps to desktop. I’m also getting sick of Steam, but that’s another story. I’m not done with PC gaming but if I’m going to be playing a cross platform release, I’d rather play it on a PS4. The end result is good enough (I can’t game at 4k anyway, even if I had a 4k monitor) and it’s much more stable and reliable. It’s sad that it’s come to this, but times have changed. Hopefully developers stop releasing shitty PC ports though.