Console wars! One of gaming’s oldest and bloodiest traditions. There’s nothing quite like ruining friendships over which hunk of plastic should be deemed superior. Of course, a PC with enough time or money invested into it is always going to trump any console in terms of pure power, but that’s not to say consoles don’t have their pros as well. Or at least they used to.
It helps to know your gaming history, of course. Every generation of consoles has involved giant companies trying to convince kids which doodad to whine at their parents about, and up until recently there was a fair difference between the competitors: the PS2 was underpowered compared to the Xbox, but had a dizzying array of games for the whole family. Whereas now, the consoles themselves are barely distinguishable outside of their dwindling supply of exclusive titles and hardware gimmicks, and the term “exclusive” has lost all meaning now that we see timed “exclusives” and “exclusive” day-one DLC. Even a console’s ease of use, which has for a long time been its biggest appeal to many, is being undermined by the need to sign up to services, download endless patches and install games. Modern consoles have been referred to as “crap PCs” by figures like Jim Sterling (Video Game Critic and Commentator), and it’s not hard to see why.
The console model also supports some bad industry habits, such as the ever-skyrocketing budgets of games and subsequent blandness; the most clichéd topic of a console war is graphics, and in order to show off the latest pretty visuals, a developer is going to need the financial backing of a publisher, who usually expects a say in the project they’ve pumped millions into. These ludicrous budgets are also partially why exclusives are getting fewer and farther between, since the only hope of getting that investment back is to release on as many platforms as possible. Just look at Nintendo, struggling to secure third-party exclusives because nobody bought a Wii-U.
So are consoles utter nonsense? No. But what they are, quite arguably, is an outmoded platform for a medium that’s come a long way since the Magnavox Odyssey. Is streaming the answer? Maybe in some distant future where everybody is surgically attached into an iPad at birth, but until then, the place to find the most interesting games is the thriving PC indie scene, and PCs currently represent the closest we can get to the pipe-dream of format-neutral gaming. Backwards compatibility, modding, ludicrous sales and raw technical oomph are what await anyone disillusioned by the old guard of gaming, the console.
Header Image Rights; Sergey Galyonki