The Case for Consoles

If you’ve frequented anywhere with general video game discussion, you’ve probably seen vicious arguments on the merits of consoles and gaming PCs.  Due to personal preferences and childhood trauma involving Hi-Tech’s PC lineup, I am strongly on the console side.  I don’t hold a grudge against anyone if PC better suits their gaming preferences, but I do get very aggravated by claims that consoles no longer have any advantages remaining.  So, because I’m clearly obsessed with lists, I’m going to count down the five biggest remaining advantages that consoles have over PCs in modern gaming.  I will also give my prediction on how long these advantages will remain.  Also, I’ll be honest, I do not know enough about the price of a gaming PC to do a proper write-up on it, so I’m just skipping the price issue.

Number 5:  System Stability

While consoles aren’t the indestructible Nintendium-infused juggernauts that don’t know what a virus is that they were in the 90’s (which is a major reason this is only Number 5), consoles still have a significant advantage over PCs in this category.   While a console breaking due to physical problems is far from impossible, and the online component means online features being limited due to screw ups or hacks on the company’s end can happen, that’s still much less than PCs have to deal with.  Unless you go out of your way to hack a console yourself, you don’t have to worry about keeping your system virus free.  You don’t have to worry about overshooting the system’s capabilities and slowing it down.  If you do have a technical problem it’s easier to solve since there are far less variables in your model and it’s much less likely to be the result of something you did.  While consoles may not be as invincible as they were in the past, I still feel much more secure about my consoles running successfully and smoothly than I do with my computer.

How Long Will It Last?

As I said, console stability has declined over the generations.  Will it ever decline so much that the edge over PCs is gone?  I don’t think so, because the main reason PCs have a disadvantage in this area is because they have more functions outside of gaming.  More functions mean more opportunities for something to go wrong, for consoles to have as much risk as PC they’d have to be able to do as many things.  At that point, I don’t see what the distinction between the two would be.  So while consoles may slip on this advantage in the future, as long as they can still accurately be called consoles I don’t think it will disappear.

Number 4:  Physical Convenience

Imagine two ways of playing a game.  One is a foot from a small monitor sitting in a chair you use for work and looking things up.  Another is on a comfortable chair or couch or any other furniture/position combination you choose, a comfortable distance from a large TV.  Yes, I’m aware that you can hook PCs up to a TV, but that means you have to either move the computer back and forth between your TV and work/internet monitor, or you have to break the bank buying a laptop that can adequately play modern games.  And both of those kind of ruin the convenience aspect.  In addition to your own personal comfort, social gaming with people in the same room as you is a lot easier in the console natural habitat.  And even if you have the resources to set up a gaming PC on a TV in a comfortable room, consoles games are quite a bit more likely to have offline multiplayer modes.

How Long Will It Last?

Unlike the last entry, consoles have actually gotten better at physical convenience as the gens go by.  You can now hook them up to computer monitors if you for some reason want to, controllers are wireless, and things like Wii U’s controller mean you may not even have to be tied to an external monitor.  The bigger threat to this advantage is PCs catching up, as technology improves getting reasonably priced PCs on TVs is going to get easier, but I don’t think the gap will be closed for at least a generation.

Number 3:  Standardized Controllers and Specs

Okay, now we’re getting to the big stuff.  When you buy a console, there are a couple things you can take for granted.  You will be able to play every game released for it at full technical performance regardless of when you buy the console, and the controller included with it will work for 99% of games, with a preset control configuration.  Yes, I know you can find a few exceptions if you dig through gaming history, but they’re minor and rare.  This security and simplicity is something I greatly appreciate, even though I don’t care about graphics themselves for some reason visual distortions that aren’t supposed to be there drive me crazy.  Being able to buy a console and feel secure that you can play everything released on it is something I never want to give up.

How Long Will It Last?

As with Number 5, the very nature of consoles compared to PCs gives them an advantage in this area.  More customization means more chances for incompatibility, so as long as consoles remain something that can accurately be called consoles I think this advantage will stick around.

Number 2:  Used Games

The most serious article I’ve written for Retronaissance was about how much we need used games, so it should be no surprise that I consider consoles having them a huge advantage.  PC may have its Steam sales, but consoles have used games to reward your patience with huge savings.  It’s not just about the money though, used games are a vital factor in preserving games.  I have over 150 games for Super Nintendo, but had less than 20 when the system stopped production in North America.  Used games have been absolutely vital in my enjoyment of gaming’s history, and I think that goes for everyone who didn’t have the funds and birth date to play every console game right as it came out.  The ability to freely exchange games gives players a degree of control that not even the best digital backwards compatibility can provide.

How Long Will It Last?

As I mentioned, I wrote an impassioned plea for people not to accept the Xbox One’s original DRM system.  In what some people considered foolish optimism, I maintained that it was possible for gamers to force Microsoft to change their DRM scheme.  And it was!  Massive gamer outcry managed to protect used games, and get people to declare Sony the winner of E3 for not trying to kill them.  My point is, as long as we have physical console games, I think gamers will force publishers to let us have used games, no matter how many of them complain about it.

Number 1:  Nintendo

Before I get started, yes, this is meant to represent console exclusive games in general.  I chose Nintendo to represent this because it’s just simpler, there’s no dismissing the point by saying PCs have exclusives to (I’m not saying they don’t, but it doesn’t change that the exclusives consoles do have are a reason to play on consoles) and I don’t have to double check to make sure games I mention weren’t ported to PC at some point.  Nintendo is the ultimate line in the sand for console exclusives, a highest tier publisher with a huge amount of games and genres that they obsessively keep off competing systems (Samus and Link had a cameo removed from a third party game because they made the mistake of showing a tech demo of the characters using Playstation controller button prompts).  Mario, Zelda, Metroid, Kirby, Pokemon, Pikmin, Fire Emblem, Donkey Kong Country, Smash Bros, Punch-Out, F-Zero, Starfox, Wii ___, those are just some of the series that are console exclusive until the end of time.  As long as Nintendo makes consoles, they will justify their existence.

How Long Will It Last?

As long as Nintendo does.  No matter how many trolls and ill-informed stock holders tell Nintendo to port their games to other systems, it would clearly be suicide for Nintendo’s consoles to do so, and they know it.  Even if everything else goes to PC, even if every other console dies, I think Nintendo will hang in there as long as they possibly can.  By the time Nintendo games don’t have their own dedicated hardware, I doubt whatever we play games on will fit the modern definition of a console or PC.

As I said at the start, console vs PC really comes down to a preference.  But I feel it is necessary to articulate my thoughts in case anyone needs to defend their right to preference against anyone who would claim that PCs are objectively better.  In the future, this “war” will most likely lead to a hybrid of both platforms, and fighting will be over absurd technicalities used for the purpose of claiming one side “won” and killed the other.  You don’t have to get sucked into that, or into the current fighting, just play on whatever you prefer.

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One thought on “The Case for Consoles

  1. Pingback: Preferable Choice | Retronaissance: The Blog!

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