There was a good, long time where PC gaming was a niche unto itself. For several years it was declared a dead platform by all but the most die-hard of fans. When Half-Life 2 came out it was heralded as the second coming of PC gaming, and to a certain degree it was since it brought with it the Steam distribution platform. Still PC gaming was, and still often is, seen as the step-child of the gaming world, a branch of the tree that doesn’t fit in with the rest. People just don’t look to PC as a major gaming platform, a view that’s rapidly changing.
This console generation is kind of a bust. We’re three years in and each console has maybe a small handful of stand-out exclusives. Xbox One has the Halo franchise, along with a loyal fan base in the sports game scene. PS4 meanwhile has games like Bloodborne and Uncharted, as well as a healthy dose of niche titles and “Japanese” games. Nintendo is sticking to their age old tradition of isolationism, and the WiiU has managed to secure a few noteworthy titles like Splatoon or Mario Maker. It’s just that it still feels like we’re in the launch window, waiting for that true system seller to sweep us off our feet, still waiting for that one game to come along and make us go “Wow! I need this console!”
There’s nothing really wrong with these consoles, as entertainment units they serve their function. Both the Xbox One and the PS4 feature great media control tools and blu-ray players built in. All three consoles can access Netflix, Hulu, Youtube, and other streaming services. Never mind the convenience of a console, allowing anyone to just sit down and play it. But there’s a big problem, and that problem is the PC.
The fact is, modern PC gaming is lightyears ahead of consoles, in some cases literally. A properly handled PC port will always look and run better then its console counter-part, as we just saw with The Witcher 3, Fallout 4, and Just Cause 3, among others. Yes, there have been bungled PC ports, with the absolutely disastrous releases of Batman: Arkham Knight just the latest in a long line of bad ports, a list including major releases like GTA 4, Dark Souls, and the original port of Resident Evil 4. The list of games that run better on PC, however, is much larger, and it’s growing larger with each passing release.
A mid-range PC is more powerful then any of the consoles. Deny this all you want, but that’s the truth, and the results don’t lie. For the price of a console, TV, and a small library of games you can build a PC capable of gaming and much more. There’s an old joke that PC is only good for Facebook and spreadsheets, and there’s a lot of truth to that. Anyone looking to get into video or image editing should consider PC. Anyone looking to get into streaming should look into PC, heck even Nvidia graphics cards now come packaged with streaming software.
The common complaint is “I don’t know how to build a computer” but even that is getting tossed out. The amount of knowledge you need to build a PC is almost equal to the amount of knowledge you need to build Lego. Take it slow, read the instructions, double check any cabling, and maybe use one of the dozens of tutorials online. If you really don’t want to bother, there’s services that offer to build PCs for you, or always the option of a pre-built machine, like a Steam machine or something from the major manufacturers. There’s also the option of gaming laptops, once a joke but they’ve improved substantially in the last few years.
There’s always the argument of cost associated with PC gaming. PC parts can cost a lot, with most mid-range graphics cards alone in the $200-$400 range. A half decent machine usually costs $900-$1200, depending on what you choose to put in it, and if you need peripherals like a monitor. A lower-end machine can be done for about $500-600, and a really budget machine for emulators or older games can go as low as $200, or even lower.
Can you buy and set up a console for cheaper? Not by much. The WiiU is $300, and the Xbox One and PS4 are both $350 just for the console. Add a TV and that’s at least another $200 putting you in direct competition with a PC more then capable of running most games at a decent rate. Never mind the constant sales on PC from several different retailers means you’ll likely never pay full price for a game. There are people that only purchase games during Steam’s winter and summer sales, and don’t spend a dime during the rest of the year. There’s free games, including a few actually worth playing, and healthy communities for older games, some over 15 years old.
There has never been a better time to shift to PC gaming, and people are starting to realize that. The normally very console-centric Japan is moving more and more towards PC, with games like Dragon’s Dogma, Final Fantasy XIII, and just announced the Danganronpa series from Spike Chunsoft, who has also promised to bring more of their games to PC.
PC gaming can be scary. There’s a lot that can go wrong with a computer at any second for no reason whatsoever. Its community is both welcoming and hateful, some of the best people in gaming and a lot of terrible elitists. But the good far outweighs the bad, and it’s easy to forget any issues when you’re running a 20 year old game modded to hell and running on a private multiplayer server. PC games are looking better and better, while consoles have been stagnating for years. PC games are constantly hitting higher framerates and lower load times, while consoles are doing no better then they were a generation ago.
PC gaming was there in the beginning, in the birth and infancy of gaming, and it’s time we start giving it a little more attention. It is a cold, hate-filled world, but it’s one that will embrace you if you’re willing to let it.