Gaming these days can be a touchy topic with some folks… There are those on the camp of “You game on the right machine (PC) or you get the #%*$ out!” and “Consoles are made to game, so less potential for stress and headaches!” I admit that in my younger days, console was the way to go. Buy the machine, buy software and (if needed) extra peripherals… Bam, finisimo! Sadly, my family feared the very idea of me building my own computer. Fact is, I built my first one when I was 17! All because they feared I was inept as a kid and failed to let me explore the vector! I digress… When I did build my first computer… It was a beauty by 2000’s standards. AMD Athlon XP Thunderbird, 1GB of RAM, and a 32mb DDR RAM ATi Radeon VE. The fun part was I got to see the schism in quality of a game from a PC version versus a console.
The game was Epic Mega Games/GT Interactive’s hit from 1999: Unreal Tournament. The console of choice was the Sega Dreamcast, which I owned the mouse and keyboard for. The controls were 1-for-1 identical to the PC version. Display for the Dreamcast was 32 inch tube TV from Sony circa 1996. My PC was using an Envision 15 inch CRT monitor. My PC was able to completely max out the graphic settings at the time which was impressive! Think of it similar to someone being able to run Crysis at a decent frame rate. The Dreamcast version was littered in imperfections and the frame rate was not nearly as smooth. This event solidified my judgment that even sticks today that PC games should definitely be played in their native platform. Reason, to extract every drop of performance and beauty of a game to the furthest extent.
However, if there has been one thing that consoles have shown me… It is that on occasion they do have unique games and some of them have won critical fame to boot. Also, consoles have a special place in my heart as the few times in my life I have had get-togethers at my home… They can be easy to get “non-gamers” into a fun casual game. In my past, games like Chu-Chu Rocket, Mario Party, and even Wario Ware have given the gift of laughter as well as screams of agony from a friend just hindering you from sweet victory. Their fire-and-forget nature makes it easy to get into a game with minimal fuss… Just buy the game software, be it disc or digital download and you are on your way. The only problem is… With the new era of game consoles, I dare say they are close to emulating their PC peers.
Remember how I made mention of some of the award winning games on consoles? Issue nowadays is that some publishers have gone multiple platforms. You have former Japanese-console-only companies making games for PC as well as PC-only companies expanding to include console gamers in the mix. But as transliteration of these games go, they are not without flaws. Console-to-PC ports usually suffer awkward control schemes and some games will even recommend a controller such as a xbox 360/Gaming for Windows certified controller for best enjoyment. Case in point, Konami/Climax’s respin of Rocket Knight and the disclaimer screen with a message along the lines of “A controller is highly recommended for enjoyment”. For console ports of PC games, sometimes whole features just get ripped out or things have to be changed with respect to console limitations. A great example would be Dragon Age where the character interface was much more versatile and there is even a bird’s eye view of the battlefield available for PC players that was not found on the console renditions.
With the advent of internet multiplayer for consoles recently, consoles have almost become something like lower scale gaming PC. However for consoles, multiplayer mainly is done via peer-to-peer hosting and it is rare to see dedicated servers for console games. Games like MAG and Battlefield: Bad Company 2 are some of the rare exceptions that actually use dedicated servers to IMPROVE multiplayer experiences. However, the peer-to-peer experiences for console folks makes it easy for people to quickly join games and randomly make friends. On top of that, all consoles do have some sort of downloadable digital distribution service for games on demand for those who would rather buy digital copies of games. The digital offerings is very much similar to services like Steam for PC, but much like Steam not all games for the platform are offered as digital copies.
When it comes to libraries, PC has a clear advantage for me… Steam does a “Midweek Madness” deal and also a “Weekend Deal” for their games. Then with things like their annual Thanksgiving and Christmas sales… Games sometimes end up as low as $1. For the console world… If it’s an award winning game, expect to fight the first few weeks to get the game. Even more so if you were an “idiot” to forget to pre-order a AAA (or in lay terms, “blockbuster”) game, expect to be either on a waiting list from an online store or scouring a 25 mile radius for brick-and-mortar store. The worst part even more so is if a console game is a limited release title and you missed out getting the jump on it… Expect to pay a fortune for some games with that regard. There are some cases where you have publishers who feel sympathy for gamers. Some may expand publishing which leads to a renewed desire to “flood” the market with more copies to allow everyone to get their hands on it. Class example would be Demon’s Souls for PS3. Initially, the game was a limited production title when it was released. Problem was, when you had gaming publications and websites giving tons of good press… Naturally, interest goes up. If supplies are low and demand is high, the value of a game is inflated. When Atlus decided to make the game more accessible, naturally people preying on the foolishness of others saw their profit lines fall. Of course, gamers had more accessibility to games because of Atlus feeling nice enough to open up publishing again.
Also a sad thing that is seen in the PS3 and xbox 360 realm is the $10 “console tax” on top of the “standard” price of a brand new title for a new grand total of $60. This is despairing when you put it in comparison with the PC version release. A great example of this would be the 2 new soon-to-be-released racing games Blur and Split/Second. As you can see on Amazon’s page for Blur and Split/Second, the PS3 and xbox 360 releases are $59.99 while the PC release is $39.99. If your one of the few who is gaming agnostic, you begin to wonder why there’s a difference of $20. The console blind will pay without question if the game is a “must have” from the testimony of their friends. Bargain hunters will prey on a price drop for a console version… PC folks usually have a huge jump on the advantage of price. Even more when you consider Steam… A pre-order on Steam usually nets you 10% off and on some cases the prices drop hard. Great example is Left 4 Dead 2. About 1 month before the game came out, Valve posted that there would be a pre-order on Steam for PC users with the incentive of 10% off ($44.99)… Then around April, the price has already been slashed to $29.99 for the PC version while the xbox 360 version is sitting at $39.99. The price drop was more to honor the downloadable campaign “The Passing” which was FREE for PC players on Steam and 560 Microsoft Points (equivalent to $7.00) on the xbox 360 version.
To close out… I will say that currently I own/share a PS2, PS3, a PSP, GameCube, DS Lite, xbox 360 and PC. There is a Wii in the works, but that consideration. I love both realms and I want to say that the “true” gamer for the next decade will be an agnostic one. They will not be the one’s prejudiced to consoles or PC’s. Some games are simply limited to a certain platform because a publisher may fear that a certain platform’s demographic may not buy in on a game. There are also cases where some games do not translate well to other platforms either. I leave on this note: Try every game, you never know if a game is truly good unless you do.