Here in the PC & TA offices, we’re unashamedly fans of the humble PC – you may have guessed by that whole “PC” part in our name. But when it comes to gaming, we suffer a slight split in opinions. On one side is our esteemed Labs Editor John Gillooly, a dyed in the wool PC gamer. On the other side is me – someone who’s always enjoyed PC gaming, but who has over the last few years, come across to the joy of consoles.
For me personally, it’s simply a matter of relaxation – after a day of sitting at a computer, I prefer to do my gaming on a comfy couch with a cat on my lap and a drink nearby. Using a console also means I don’t need to worry about new drivers or outdated hardware. (Although Mr Gillooly might suggest that’s only because my console hardware is already seriously out of date).
But independent of all this, there are 5 very good reasons why 2011 is a great year for consoles:
1. The Entertainment Hub
This one’s pretty simple and no surprise to anyone who’s even been near an Xbox or a PS3 in the past two years, but they do more than play games. A lot more. And it’s constantly growing. While the PS3’s initial draw card was its capacity to play Blu-rays (in a time when a Blu-ray player would set you back $500+) it also now features ABC’s iView and Channel 7 catch up TV service along with the VidZone music video player. The Xbox360 which has always functioned a network media player now has access to (admittedly bandwidth blowing) Foxtel content and HD movies on demand. And this is only the beginning, with more deals in the works all the time. The big advantage here, of course, is that your console is already plugged into your TV – unlike most PCs.
2. PC and consoles combine
This one has been a long time coming – why can’t console gamers and PC gamers multi-play together. The truth is, in competitive gameplay, PC gamers tend to win, with finer control systems and, yes, gruntier hardware. But what about co-operative gameplay? Enter Valve and Portal 2 which has announced that PC and PS3 users will be able to co-op play together. It’s a small step, but a very important one. Following on from this, how long before we get a well designed MMO with an interface that allows for people to use a console controller, letting PC and console gamers to finally play together on quests and story-driven gaming arcs?
3. Console exclusives
Like it or lump it, there are still a host of games that are coming out exclusive to a console. Uncharted 3, InFamous 2, The Last Guardian, LA Noire – these are just a couple of the big names. And trust us – they are big names. Uncharted is one of the best loved action series in gaming today, while LA Noire (made by the Australian-based Team Bondi dev team) created a new technology that is allowing for an unprecedented level of facial motion capture.
4. PSN and XBLA
If you’re looking for fresh gaming with an unusual twist, then both Sony’s and Microsoft’s gaming networks are the place to be. From the PlayStation Network, we got Flower – a game where you control the wind as it blows a single flower petal. On Xbox Live Arcade, you could find both the breath-takingly dark Limbo and the insanely fun Diablo clone, DeathSpank. These are just three noteable examples – there are many, many more. Smaller independent gaming studios are able to offer up content to an enormous audience (69 million registered users for PSN, 30 million for Xbox Live) without the costs of physical manufacturing and delivery. This has created an environment where game development is actually a viable business for people working outside of the EA, THQ, 2K style companies – and not just in the handheld casual space.
Keyboard and mouse. That’s pretty much what the PC has been using for the past 30 or so years. Oh, we’ve experimented with voice recognition and other exciting interface technologies, but very little has replaced the dynamic duo of keyboard and mouse. Not so with consoles, where human-machine interfaces have been on the cutting edge for some time now. The Move with the PlayStation combines the best elements of the Wii with better sensitivity, great graphics and overall a great sense of control. (And if you don’t believe me, try the Move edition of Heavy Rain). Xbox has Kinect, of course, and while it’s been met with a mixed reaction, most of that can be attributed to the lack of any truly essential games for it. Microsoft cleverly included the capacity for Kinect to work as an interface for the non-gaming elements of the Xbox – and while it’s not perfect, it’s a fascinating look at what non-physical controls might actually do when the technology is just right.
So, in conclusion, am I suggesting that the PC is dead as a gaming device? Of course not – it’s always going to have the better graphics, the faster speeds and be the favourite of the FPS and MMO gamers. What I’m suggesting is that the seventh gen gaming consoles have shown a truly impressive capacity to adapt and grow, given that the technology is around 5-6 years old.
By becoming a full integrated entertainment hub, consoles have proven their worth above and beyond standard gaming uses – all while becoming more and more affordable. If you don’t have one already, then 2011 is definitely the year you should get a gaming console.
Own a console? Add your opinion below.