For at least a decade or two it’s been accepted that gaming consoles are the way to go when it comes to having the best games at the easiest convenience. They’re simple to set up, and they have a fairly large collection to buy from at your local store. But with the most previous console generation coming to a close, and the next one being led by the recent launch of the Wii U, I’ve started to think of this to become less true. With companies like Sony and Microsoft trying to be on the cutting edge and do everything at once with their consoles, it’s started to show that attempting to make gaming consoles be a device for every type of media isn’t necessarily the way to go.
Let’s set the clock back to 1985 with the release of the Nintendo Entertainment System. It’s a console that’s deemed a classic with the many franchises that originated from this simple device. You had Mario, Zelda, Metroid, Donkey Kong, and the list would go on for ages. What made this such a great device though was the simplicity of it. All you had to do was turn on the TV, slap a cartridge into the slot, and get started on a game of Super Mario Bros. There were no menus, downloads, installs, or advertisements to wade through just to get to your game. Of course these were such simple games that they didn’t require any updates since they didn’t have so many glitches, and were actually done the day they were shipped out to stores.
Go forward to the Super Nintendo era, and not much has changed. Still just the simple cartridge, no menu, no updates, and quick pick up and play factor. The thing is that at this time PC gaming wasn’t as easy to use due to Ms Dos. This was a way of playing games during the 80’s, and it mostly involved the use of commands in order to set up saves and actually play the game. It was one of those things that you just had to know how to use, or else not use it at all. During this time, computers were really only for the hobbyist, a person who knew how to set up and run computers from the massive amounts of time that they spent using them.
It wasn’t until the 90’s when computers started becoming more user friendly, as well as the addition of the internet to the general public, that the PC would be a more common gaming platform. Many games like Doom, Half-Life, Unreal Tournament, and Deus Ex were just some of the many classics that were generated during this time. These not only revolutionized the era of First Person Shooters, but the entire gaming market as it was. As far as games though, consoles still were ushering in many hits of their own, and for the most part were still more accessible. It was still much more convenient to just play with the consoles that had simple to use cartridges, as well as the disks of the Playstation 1. Some may say that the 90’s were clearly better on the part of the PC, but if a woman was going to buy her children video games, she was going to buy them a simple to set up console to play games on due to the current portrayal of games as a pastime for kids. It was obviously easier than having to buy a PC games several installation disks, wait for it to install and then pray to Microsoft that it would actually run on your computer.
What I’m ultimately trying to get at with these terrifying views on the times before Facebook and I Phones is that PC gaming is actually much more convenient than playing games on consoles. At this point in time it’s less of a chore to play games on the computer that everybody owns already, and many games are free as well. With Steam there’s an easy way to download and manage all of your games without having to wade a pile of disks. This convenience toppled with the cheap deals and sales that happen quite frequently, Steam is ultimately a lot more useful than the Playstation Store and the Xbox Live Arcade could ever be. All I’m saying is that anyone who actually thinks that PC gaming is dead is probably in denial that their precious Xbox Live isn’t the best form of game distribution on the market.
Also, how long does it take to get started on a game on a console like the PS3 or Xbox 360? Well after digging through your pile of game cases for the one game you haven’t touched in 6 months, cycling through all of the advertisements and unused menus, and then updating only to find yourself at the loading screens, this can take anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes. What is the point of having a console if it takes just as long if not longer to play than on a PC? Steam makes things easy to manage and makes many games from 10 to 20 years ago available to download as well. Even if you download games on your consoles, they take up a ton of space and many aren’t available at launch. It took over a year before Skyrim saw a digital release on consoles. As well as convenience to buy games, computers have the internet browsers as an asset for games. If your’e stuck on a puzzle in World of Goo, than all you have to do is alt tab out to a browser and you have a walk through in front of you in seconds. On consoles you usually have to either dig out your phones or go to a computer to find a walk through.
It’s not that I don’t like having a gaming console, but it seems like if you just put that console money towards a decent computer you can have a more enjoyable and convenient experience. For every argument that used to be available as a defense for consoles existence, has become irrelevant in recent years. You can hook up a PC tower or laptop to any TV that was made in the last 5 years, you can get controllers to use for a PC, and the majority of games available are on your PC that you already own. The only real losses are the big IP’s that are found exclusively with companies like Nintendo or Sony, but the best of those franchises (Mario in particular) have been treated rather poorly by their respective companies in recent years. Unless Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo get their act together they won’t last long in the console market.
What they need to do of course is to make people have a reason to want a console over other devices. It seems like Sony and Microsoft are attempting to be like tablets and phones and provides all media on their devices, but they’ve built their consoles as an exclusive gaming platform. This is a complete failure because the Xbox 360 and Ps3 were built to play games only and shoehorning in music and movie platforms that are more expensive and less convenient are just backfiring as you can get easier music platforms on your portable devices and Netflix directly on your TV. It seems like unless they can provide all of these things on one device that was built around it, as well as using platforms that are somehow more convenient than things like ITunes, than they’re going to end up completely obsolete. Obviously this sounds like an impossible feat because it is. That pretty much just sums up that consoles will only last a generation or two.
Of course if you’ve been paying attention you’ll notice that they won’t last long in the console market. It’s the console market that is running into the ground, not the gaming market as a whole. Devices like laptops and tablets can actually run console experiences like Dead Space, and even Sega was smart enough to make some of their Sonic games available on mobile devices. It’s the way we enjoy our console games that will change, not the games themselves. We will have our Halos and Mario’s on every mobile device in existence and some will get controllers for these devices, which have already been made. The real truth is that you’ll be playing Gears of War on your iPad at a local coffee shop rather than at home chained to the unmovable console that can’t be removed from its current location. It’s all a convenience thing since we live in a day and age that we are upset unless we can get any book at any time on a glorified piece of paper without moving from our recliner. Once developers realize that the market is just making a shift, and not tanking entirely, they’ll hop on the bandwagon like everyone else.