Console Wars: E3 2016

June 17, 2016

Oh consoles, you are so console-y, or at least you used to be. I'm primarily a console gamer. I have a gaming laptop, but I still prefer to game on a TV, and yes I know you can hook a computer up to a TV. My laptop is hooked up to my TV, but there's more nuance to it than that. PC game UIs are typically designed to be viewed on a computer monitor and are smaller than UIs made for console games, and being legally blind that makes a difference. Also being legally blind extreme resolutions and framerates doesn't really entice me. Also being logically thinking there is no fucking point in having video running faster than 60 frames a second, the average human eye cannot perceive information much faster than 45 frames a second, so if you're in the PC master race and claim to be able to see 120 frames a second, you're a liar, or have superhuman eyesight, but I think the law of averages should prove most of you are full of yourselves. But I digress.

The thing that I like most about consoles, as compared to PC gaming is that their specs are locked. When a console comes out they pretty much have a set processing power, memory limit, framerate limit and resolution limit. Developers over the course of the console's lifetime might make a tweak here or there to squeeze a few higher numbers out, but for the most part consoles have limits. They can't be upgraded, unlike PCs. See where a game developed on a console has a set performance limit, games on PCs don't. With a PC you can always buy newer and more powerful processors, memory and graphics cards to improve the performance of gameplay. The plus side is as a PC gamer you will have a better visual experience than a console gamer, the down side is having a top of the line gaming PC is expensive. New processors and graphics cards come out every year. If you want to remain on the cutting edge you need to be constantly upgrading, but not for consoles. When a console comes out, that's it, no upgrade. The upgrade is when the next generation comes out, which is typically the better part of a decade. Now enter Project Scorpio and the PlayStation Neo.

Both Sony and Microsoft have confirmed that are making new, more powerful machines set to be released in holiday 2017, but they're not the next generation of console. They're still an Xbox One, and a PlayStation 4, they just have better hardware. They'll play the same games, and both Microsoft and Sony say that all games made in the future will still run on the original Xbox One and PlayStation 4 hardware, just at a lower performance. Here's my problem with this. They can do this, but they can only do this ONCE! They might say that the older consoles won't be left behind, but if they pull this again, upgrading the hardware, but still calling them Xbox Ones and PlayStation 4s there's no guarantee that the older consoles can play the new games, or that the newer consoles can play the old games. That and if they expect gamers to have to drop $400 every four years to play console games that's just not sustainable.

The crux of the matter is most console gamers are fine buying a $400 console every generation because they know that one machine will be able to play every game for pretty much ten years. Where as a PC bought today right might not be able to play games that come out in five years. Inversely that same PC might not be able to play games made five years ago.

To me the main selling point of a console is that they always will be able to play the games made for them. I bought Fallout 3 for the PC a two years ago during a steam sale, and I didn't play it right away. I upgraded to windows 10, then decided for some reason now's the time to play Fallout 3, but here's the thing. Fallout 3 was designed to run on a PC from 2008, not 2015. In the seven years since then Windows had upgraded twice, DirectX had upgraded twice as well, and dozens of more powerful processors and graphics cards had come out since then. Long story short, Fallout 3 did not run smoothly on Windows 10. It crashed, a lot, even for a Bethesda game. It was unplayable, and it's not really a high priority for Bethesda to make sure their games are future proof. So you know what I did? I bought a copy of Fallout 3 for the Xbox 360, because in the Xbox 360 it's still 2005 and as long as it's still working it will always play any game made for the Xbox 360. Can we be sure the same can be said for a hypothetical third iteration of the Xbox One?