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PC vs. Console

The camps dividing the great chasm between console and PC gamers have never been this far apart.  With the console market looking to expand to $8 billion in the next four years, and the PC market looking to decline to a measly $1 billion, one would naturally ask if PC gaming will survive against the frenzy of console development. 

Even though billions are at stake in this matter, the fact is that PC gaming will always exist because computers will always be around.  The only reason this is even being discussed is because console gaming is enjoying new heights of popularity and a market penetration that is deeper than the entire movie industry in America.

Hardcore computer game enthusiasts have historically looked down on console systems for their static inflexibility, weaker system specifications, simple interface, and horrible television screen resolution.  Only in the last four years have console systems managed reached a comparable level of graphics and performance.  Despite this, console systems will always be the weaker performers simply because it’s the computer industry that drives the components within a console gaming system.  Once a developer begins working on a new generation of console, it’s unlikely that they’ll change their plans four years down the road to reflect new developments in computer technology.  As such, consoles will always trail behind by at least a few years in terms of performance.

That won’t stop people from buying them, and hence it will never stop developers from pouring in millions of dollars in development for what could return ten times that amount.  The main reason why people like console games is because they’re economical.  Once you buy the system, it will be used as the primary base for all games related to the developer and its franchises and licensees for the next four years.  You don’t need to undertake any costly upgrades, nor do you have to fool around with making sure your console is in tiptop condition.  It’s this static aspect of a console that is both the greatest feature of a console and its greatest drawback.

PC games, on the other hand, will always enjoy superior graphics and sound quality.  The biggest difference here is the use of a computer screen that sports resolutions well beyond that of a normal television set.  With the advent of HDTV and the next generation of console systems promising connectivity to computer screens as well, this advantage will soon be nullified.

So what makes PC games good?  For one thing, it’s a sort of niche community that hard-core game enthusiasts truly love and respect.  There’s always ample dialogue between developers and fans via countless online forums that the developers frequent.  There’s also the interface.  A mouse and keyboard provide far better control (considering a controller only has about eight buttons) when it comes to certain genres like the First-Person Shooter (FPS).  PCs are truly on the opposite end of the spectrum because specs and requirements are always changing.  You’ll have to continuously upgrade your system components throughout the years and likely have to overhaul the whole thing within four.  In this respect, it’s a good thing because you’ll always be on the forefront of new developments and no game is truly a copycat of another.  However, costly upgrades, compatibility issues, and a whole slew of other complicated factors mean that PC gaming is more suited for the technologically adept.  If you just want to go to Wal-Mart, buy a game, pop it into your system, and start playing, consoles are your best bet.  If you enjoy the challenge of installation, tweaking, and generally customizing you gaming experience, PC games offer far better flexibility.

It’s really the customizability of PC games that sets them apart.  Changing your controls, views, and options on the fly is a standard for all PC games.  Console programming is regarded by PC enthusiasts as rudimentary, cookie cutter, and extremely limited.

There’s truth to that of course.  PC games often promise many more hours of gameplay compared to a normal console game.  Most PC developers strive to provide a complete game experience and will strive to correct problems encountered after the release with patches that users can download.  Console games are ’as is’ and will never change once released, so if there are annoying problems with difficulty, bugs, or annoying bells and whistles that can’t be turned off, you’re up the creek without a paddle.  Console gaming can also be seen as repetitive and restricted due to pressure from distributors to produce a cash cow quickly.  It’s a rarity these days to see a console game that has undergone thorough play testing and quality assurance.

Still, the console genre has managed to overcome these obvious obstacles with some cunning and smarts.  Massively popular series like Grand Theft Auto broke all traditional concepts of what console gaming should be like.  Their next title in the series, GTA: San Andreas, promises to simulate the State of California and allow users to roam around in an open electronic playground.

I suppose I’ve been rambling a bit here, but this is a rather sticky problem that has many factors that balance out each other.  I guess the bottom line is that console games are doing far better than their PC counterparts in terms of sales.  I, for one, am an ardent fan of the PC game simply because many of them never make it to console, whereas the most popular console games usually receive a PC port at some point.  There’s also multiplayer online gaming, but we’ll get to that in a later article.  Suffice to say that whether you believe in PCs or consoles, there’s enough in each to keep you occupied for a long, long time.