Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Editorial: First a little about me, Perspective on Consoles and PC

I'm not a fanboy of any console, never was and never will be as far I can tell, I'm much more a PC gamer type person. This allows me to be more objective when looking at consoles and games. I LIKE consoles, especially for their ease of use and loading times to play during quick breaks, as well as the quick people-in-the-same-room gameplay, but for the longest time I never owned a console BUT I did and have played every console.

This is predominately because of my major gripe with consoles are:

1. PRICE, and it seems one which is not changing even now. Remember how much a SNES cart was when new? £50. How much is an Xbox360 or PS3 game? New, they're all around £50. Some games which have been around a while are £40, nice to see a lower price, BUT second gripe:

2. MARKED UP PC PORTS, -a more common recent phenomena come to think of it- with the advent of Xbox360 - Some games which are direct ports of PC games are MARKED UP £10 to £40 over the exact same PC counterparts, sometimes more, this is INSANE. You're not getting any more value from these games. What's worse is some(all?) of these games play better (control method and graphically) on PC anyway, most FPS and RTS for instance.

3. Cost of the hardware. Yeah okay upgrading your PC is going to cost, but at least you can play some of the newer games on older hardware with lower settings (360 games on Xbox1 anyone?), essentially getting the game play experience. Plus for consoles you 'pay through the nose' for all additional controllers and add ons AND as mentioned above the games are going to be £20 more expensive than on PC. PC prices in my experience fall quicker than consoles any day. With the addition of mods for games you are almost getting twice the value for your game, it's like buying two games for the price of one.

4. Outdated Console Games unable to cross DIFFERENT platform makers. Which is another thing, I don't have to worry about console games crossing over to the next gen of consoles, my entire collection of PC games isn't going to be outdated and unusable on new hardware for PC. Considering the upgrade cost vs buying a new console. Yeah great, backwards compatibility on the same console maker - when it works - but that keeps me tied to one Manufacture, good for them, and the basis for all fanboidom - you have to become a fan of one to justify to your self the extreme expense you just laid out, but why the hell does it matter - Shouldn't the GAMES matter most not what it's played on. Yes you could say I'm being locked to PC hardware, maybe even Windows, but I know most games which come out for all other consoles will appear on PC and if not the PC kinda does what ever it was better anyway, it IS the cutting tech. However this argument is the entire justification for modding and I'll come to that.

5. Paying for Online Content. The PC has always had extra online content and it doesn't cost anything. Of course I'm not grumbling about consoles having online content, no that's a good thing, but you just know you're paying extra for it and you're going to get less freebies in the long run than a PC mod community can produce. Second to that PC have always (well since the internet :) had multiplayer - of course that is going to be the rage with the current consoles now.

If this sounds like I'm console bashing I don't mean it too :) I like consoles I think they're great, but then so is the price point "GREAT", and it's kinda impossible to separate the price structure of consoles from the hardware. If one machine uses more advanced or expensive components it's going to be more expensive there's no way around it.

Predominately my perspective comes from not having much money, a games console would seem a good investment even at £300 if it weren't for the games costing £50 each time. Which brings me to when I actually DID get a console, I got an Xbox a couple of years ago for £100 with 5 games second hand but brand new, I also got it modded, games were £10-20 new, and then with the advent of Xbox360 all Xbox1 games dropped to £5. Bargain indeed.

A word on modding, it has allowed me to play all manner of old consoles games and increased the value tenfold as well as other applications WE ALL KNOW this is why consoles are successful longer term. PS2 would never have sold so much if it hadn't been moddable and with that a lot of interest is generated in the product and buying it world wide - it's like free advertising. Despite what Sony say, and they know it. It's probably why the PS3 is now running on Lynx. And how many 'EXTRA' PSPs would they have sold really if it hadn't been hackable? An interesting thing about the PSP is that the security is becoming tighter, with so many firmware updates, but that is predominately because of the now future plan of PS3 and adding more features to the PSP, but also to shape HOW the PSP is modded. They need to allow more things on it in features before they let the hackers take it further. Having hackers and the public work on your product is like having a free dev team.

So having spoken about cost I'll switch to PCs. Cost is also a reason why I don't play Massively Multiplayer Online Role playing Games (MMORG) - even though I don't play single player roleplaying games, I'm sure I would love WoW and City of Heroes to try out, there's just something down in my gut which doesn't like paying monthly subscriptions fees. Perhaps it's just because I don't have the disposable income to throw away on it, also the reason why I have not signed up to Xbox live ever - although I will admit it's quite cheap and tempting now - if anyone's still playing Xbox 1 that is... Or maybe I just like the outside more than spending a gajjillion hours leveling up in roleplaying though I suppose everyone plays their preferred type of games and I'm sure I spend just as long on those than RPGs anyway. The thing is my preferred type of games are free to play online already.

To summarise I've never played a MMORG, I've never signed up for Xbox live (though I've seen it running), and guess what? I didn't start watching LOST until over a year into the show *shock*. Before it sounds like I'm left behind the times, I'll say that I don't follow trends, CURRENT trends that is. Not all of them anyway. It's perfectly feasible to sit back, observe from a distance and then pick the time you want to pick something up. It also gives you the advantage to look ahead past all the current furore and see where the Next distant thing is coming from. Besides there's just TOO much stuff out there to watch and play it all, another reason is why pay a premium for something which is not at least established with out bugs? A game hasn't really come out until the first patch, I'm not joking. Although for things like shows it's nice to be caught up in the passion of a new episode, it's also nice to catch up to the current episode with a lot of back ground. So I am both caught up in the furor of some things and distanced and reserved about others. [Potentially that means I'll get excited about things out of sync with everyone else - but that's old thinking - it's not really everyone else is it, because everyONE else gets in to everyTHING else at different times and there's always a new generation discovering something for the first time. There's also an old generation discovering things for the first time.]

If you're only looking at the current-next thing, being constantly focused on the present really, you'll never see the slightly distanced one.

A lot of current arguments are quite pointless - except for sometimes those arguments do shape things in the public mind which is the only reason companies fight the other side in PR and hype. If you hadn't argued about it probably the product or thing would have survived or failed on it's own merits alone.

However the differences between Consoles and PCs might not be so pronounced in future. There will I think always be some form of desktop computing (for a long time anyway) and gaming to go with it, but the nature of consoles is changing. And further on from that, the nature of gameing is changing too. I'll explain why in another post.

Microsoft and Sony are dragging everybody else along with their vision, WE will say what is a success but despite all your arguments and protest, they have the cash and Will to change public perception (Nintendo is riding a different kind of future), wasn't it you after all who laughed 5 years ago at the idea of Microsoft making a console?