Forget the gaming PC, buy a console

The PC offers the best gaming experience possible ... as long as your PC is powerful enough and the game actually runs.

I'm a huge fan of gaming on the PC. Massive. There's nothing that I like better than to run a game on a big, powerful PC and turn all the settings and dials up to 11. The PC offers the best gaming experience possible ... as long as your PC is powerful enough and the game actually runs.

And there's the problem.

Games are expensive. Big AAA titles such as Battlefield 3, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 or the upcoming Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim will set you back around $60 for the PC game. That's a lot of money for a game. It's an awful lot of money to put down for a game that might not run on your current PC. Think games are expensive. They're cheap compared to the business of upgrading PCs in order to run the latest games! The only way you can be guaranteed that your PC will run a new title is to make sure that it's packed with a high-end multi-core CPU, one (or preferably more) powerful GPUs, and lots of fast storage space. Even then, there's no guarantee that the game will run (over the years I've had shocking problems with newly-released games), but if it runs, it should run really, really well.

Want to know how you can be guaranteed that your game will run without any problems? Buy a games console! Seriously.

The latest generation games consoles (I'm speaking here about the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3) have offered gamers incredible value for money. At launch back in November of 2005 the Xbox 360 cost $399. A year later the the PS3 hit the shelves, and the cheapest model was $499. Might seems like a lot of money at the time, but consider that this initial investment in the console would (assuming that the console's not blown up in that time) still play all the games being released today. You can play Battlefield 3 on it. You will be able to play Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 on it. You will be able to play Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

If you'd spent bought a PC for a few hundred bucks back in 2005/2006, I can assure you that by now it would be junk when it came to gaming today. There will undoubtedly be a refresh of the consoles in the next couple of years, so someone buying one now is not getting as good a deal as someone who bought one back in 2005 or 2006. But when you think that you can pick up an Xbox 360 starting at $200 or a PS3 for $250, I challenge you to find a PC for that price that will give you as good a gaming experience.

Note: Yes, I'm well aware that the PC's input devices are far superior to the gamepads on the consoles. For example, a mouse is far more efficient in a first-person shooter than the best handheld pad. No arguments from me there. Consoles are a compromise.

Now, you can argue that the current lineup of consoles have hit their upper limit with respect to graphics power, and I won't disagree with you. This year's titles don't look any better than last year's did. But I tend to feel that story and gameplay are more important than graphics. Sure, graphics play a part, but look at the reviews of Battlefield 3. Beautiful game, but utterly boring. It's almost as if the developers forgot they were making a game and started making a film.

Convenience, price and longevity trumps power and graphics for many users, which is why game developers focus more on consoles than they do on the PC experience. It's the reason why PC games feel more and more 'consolified' with save points and menus that can't be driven with a mouse. PC gamers (and by extension, Mac gamers) are now second-class citizens. Sure, publishers like your money just as much if you buy the PC version, but they're wary that rather than pay for the game, you'll grab a bootleg copy. PC and graphics card makers also still love PC gamers, because it's a way of selling high-end (and by extension, high-priced) hardware. But the overalls stagnation in both the CPU and GPU sectors should give you a clue as to how little forward momentum there is in these markets as of late.

Just as digital downloads will over the next decade or so (Why? Because you can't resell a digital download!), I expect consoles to become the default games platform and for PCs to just be the place where people fill their time with FarmVille and 'games' like that.

This makes me sad.

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