It’s 2020, and everybody (and their mom) plays video games. That’s #facts and #statistics and #other important scientific things. But! It gets more complicated, because humans are like that, and no discussion on the internet about video games is complete without an extra bonus discussion about what exactly we’re using to play those video games – whether it’s PC, console, or even mobile devices.
What’s what, what’s why, and what’s how? Let’s talk about it before fridges and microwaves mess things up even more.
First, PCs. Most middle-class homes probably include at least one PC – a laptop, maybe, or a pre-fab box, or even a custom computer built with user-selected components. PCs are versatile devices, supporting multiple applications and uses from email and basic admin to work, productivity, and video games, and can be upgraded with new components as necessary.
Consoles are different. Although support for things like internet browsing and applications like YouTube is now featured on most current-gen consoles, these are mostly designed for playing games and not much else, and can’t be upgraded with new components.
But hold up.
… CURRENT-GEN CONSOLES?
Okay, so you remember that it’s “more complicated”? It’s evenmore complicated than that.
AND EVEN-EVEN MORE-MORE COMPLICATED
Subsequent to the 2013 debut, new versions of the Xbox One and PS4 have also been introduced, constituting an unprecedented mid-current-gen. The Xbox One Series X and PS4 Pro feature hardware improvements to boost performance, with price increases to go with them. Functionally, these are more or less the same as the original consoles, but with some extra so-wow.
At publish time, we’re in the eighth console generation. Or, more specifically, at the end of the eighth console generation. For those of you keeping count, that’s Microsoft’s Xbox One, Sony’s PlayStation 4, and Nintendo’s Switch consoles. Until 2017 or so, Nintendo’s Wii U was also one of these, but it’s since been discontinued. Forget about the Wii U, everybody else has, hashtag zing. Same with Sony’s PS Vita. What’s a PS Vita?
Preceding this, the seventh console generation included Microsoft’s Xbox 360, Sony’s PlayStation 3 and PSP, and Nintendo’s DS and Wii consoles.
This holiday season, Microsoft and Sony are launching their next-gen consoles, the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5. Nintendo hasn’t confirmed its plans, so we can assume that the Switch is going to slide into the next-gen too. Hello, ninth console generation.
CHOOSING BETWEEN MICROSOFT, SONY, AND NINTENDO CONSOLES
It’s up to you. One significant factor in this decision, perhaps, is exclusives – these are games that are available on one console, but not the others. The Halo series, for example, is exclusive to Microsoft consoles. God of War is a PlayStation franchise. Mario Bros. and Pokémon games, Nintendo.
POKÉMON IS ALSO ON MOBILE
Uh. We’ll get back to that.
MORE ABOUT CHOOSING BETWEEN CONSOLES
The other significant factor in this decision is services.
All three current-gen consoles require a subscription to play multiplayer games online – for Xbox, PlayStation, and Switch, that’s Xbox Live, PS Plus, and Online Play respectively.
On Xbox and PlayStation, this subscription also includes some free games each month. Access to these free games is maintained while the subscription is paid up.
Xbox also has a Game Pass subscription service, which is sort of like Netflix-but-with-games and includes a catalogue of games that can be accessed and played while the subscription is paid up. A combo Xbox Live / Game Pass subscription is also available, and so is a Game Pass for PC subscription. It’s the same as Game Pass for Xbox, but on PC.
CHOOSING BETWEEN PC AND CONSOLES
Much like choosing between consoles, this is up to you, but both PC and consoles have pros and cons.
PC users don’t have to pay a subscription service to play multiplayer games online, so that’s a big plus. And, hypothetically, a PC can out-perform a console, simply in terms of hardware specifications and capabilities. But meanwhile, in reality, a PC that’s able to play games with everything dialled up to max is also expensive, and over three to five years, will require additional upgrades to keep up at that level.
Conversely, in terms of the same hardware specifications and capabilities, a console has a fixed configuration – and games that look impressive now won’t look so impressive in three to five years. Not necessarily, I mean, because one of the idiosyncrasies about a fixed configuration is that, without having to compensate for the constantly fluctuating tech of the PC market, developers can improve game performance over a console generation. So, a game launched on Xbox One or PS4 in 2020 can look much more impressive than a game launched on the same console even one or two years previously. Buuuuut a game launched on Xbox One or PS4 in 2020 is going to look the most impressive on a high-end PC at the same time.
SOME OTHER IMPORTANT THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND
On average, PC games are cheaper than console games (but that gap is ever decreasing).
Because most PC games use one-time codes to activate them, there’s almost zero secondhand market. Console games are not limited like this, and a lot of vendors sell secondhand console games.
PCs, consoles, and games require occasional updates, delivered through online services. For PC users, this can sometimes also mean updating Windows and other system software like graphics card and audio drivers, or resolving conflicts between them. For this reason, gaming on PC can involve some tech-nerd know-how.
SO, WHAT WAS THAT ABOUT POKÉMON AND MOBILE?
Mobile is mobile. It’s also different. With only one or ten exceptions (Fortnite and PUBG are two, so two or ten exceptions), mobile versions of games are not the same as PC and console versions of games. Instead, most mobile games are exclusive to mobile, and cater to a more diverse market. Think of mobile games as supplementary to PC and console games – it’s what you play when you’re in a queue or on the toilet or when Eskom shuts off the power and it’s not like you’ve got options.
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