The question: “What console should I buy?” raises its head fairly often and I tend to get put into the hot seat for my opinion. Depending on who is present at the time, when this question comes up it would often spark healthy debate as both of the major consoles have pros & cons.
There used to be a time when I could argue the case for both sides of the debate and would have fun in doing so depending on my audience (Because it is great fun to poke & troll “fanbois” ok?)
This is what a fanboi usually looks like (don’t let your eyes fool you, it may LOOK like Grant Hinds in his Apple suit but I don’t actually believe that it is him:
And this is how the debate usually goes:
If you are looking for the answer to the question yourself, well, my honest answer is simply this: Neither! If you want to play games you should be playing on a PC! Here is why..
From a pure retail perspective, it might actually look like a good time to buy a console right now; prices are at an all-time low, huge library of discounted games available, loads of different peripheral’s available on the market not to mention some pretty cool bundled offers.
I give credit where it is due and I cannot overlook the fact that most of the growth in gaming we have been experiencing over the last few years is largely due to these little boxes because of the ease of use and plug-and-play nature drastically reducing the entry barriers for the not-so-technically inclined.
The life cycle of the current generation of consoles have been around for way to long and are WAY past their sell-by date. In the gaming industry consoles are typically replaced with a newer model within 5 or less years. The current generation is in its 7th year already. This long cycle has hurt the industry not only because the hardware inside is antiquated by comparative entry level PC hardware available today (check some of the images and videos below) but also because it prohibits innovation.
Don’t just take my word for it, this is what Ubisoft CEO & co-founder Yves Guillemot had to say when speaking to Polygon:
"Many publishers and developers use the transition to a new console as an opportunity to "reinvent" themselves. Transitions are the best times to make all of our creators take more risks and do different things," he said. "When a console is out for a long time ... you don't take as much risks on totally new IPs because even if they are good, they don't sell as well."
But, but, but, but isn’t PC gaming dead?
The phrase: “PC gaming is dead” has been flaunted around like a buzz word the last couple of years, do a simple google search and read some of the rants and raging debates about it.
In January, everybody’s favourite digital delivery service Steam hit a record of 5 million users logged in concurrently. This past weekend saw that number rise to a cool 6 million concurrent users which strengthens the GPU powerhouse NVidia’s expectations for the rise of PC gaming like a phoenix from the ashes.
6 Million Steam Users
The truth is that PC gaming was never in that much trouble, mostly due to the nature of PC exclusive games like StarCraft 2 and World of Warcraft which lend well to the keyboard and mouse play style. Blizzard, the publishers of both of those titles boast numbers of over 10 million active users in Wow alone. Combine those numbers and the steam numbers and do a little basic extrapolation from that and I don’t even have to include the numbers of the competitive first person shooter communities to get the message across that:
I want to go into detail about the old hardware in the consoles and explain just how powerful gaming PC's are today, but instead of writing a thesis, I will leave these few self-explanatory videos and images below for you to peruse at your leisure.
Old but good (Just like Bosbevok):
Here are some pretty cool graphics comparisons which make for interesting viewing:
Assassins Creed III
The often forgotten advantage of the PC player
Let me tell you about the one often over-looked advantage PC gaming has over the consoles specifically for us down here in South Africa. The reality is that our local console communities are at a major disadvantage. The lack of support from publishers & distributors with regards to local dedicated servers / peer to peer net-code and international matchmaking & lobby systems go a big way in detracting from the online experience. In online gaming where it doesn't mean a thing unless you have the ping, local truly is lekker!
While we try really hard to get these servers hosted like we did for Gears of War, and will continue to do so, the fact is that in this day and age, the support for the PC player, specifically around online, multiplayer and competitive aspects is simply way superior.
There are many more avenues this trip down a contentious rabbit-hole could take, for the sake of brevity; I am not even going to scratch the surface of subjects like modifications (software, drivers and game clients as well as hardware), upgrades, pricing nor controls, peripherals & accessories or exclusive titles.
Ok ok, as I write this I realise I have only begun to scratch the surface of this topic and its going to turn into a TL:DR (Too long, Didn’t read) Yes, I know that YOU know what TL:DR means, but your mom doesn’t and I am forcing myself to stop scribbling before I go an another insane rambling rant. So for the sake of keeping this brief I will amend my answer slightly to the original question of “What console should I buy?”
My final answer is still: Neither, if you want to get into gaming you should either attempt to try your hand at PC gaming, or you should wait for the next (imminent) generation of consoles.
Let me leave you with this fantastic infographic by Ignite Game Technologies for those who only came here for the pictures: