PC gaming and console wars

Last week I wrote about some of my favorite board games to try out. This week the E3, one of the most important entertainment expos, is happening in Los Angeles. At the event more information about the new generation of consoles has been released. As an avid gamer, I’m following the events of the week closely. This prompted me to look back at my gaming “career” and have a brief look at what the future holds.

I started playing video games at a young age, starting with sports games such as FIFA 01 and NHL 01 before moving on to strategy and roleplaying games. My cousins had a huge impact on the development of my gaming habits as they showed me classics like Command & Conquer or Starcraft. When I moved to Germany as a 13-year old, happiness arrived in form of an internet flatrate. Finally able to surf the internet and play games 24/7, I took full advantage. My favorite game was Gothic 2, an open-world roleplaying game with a fascinating story about dragons. As I’ve mentioned before, the game is the reason I started writing, later becoming a moderator of the official Gothic RPG forum. After Gothic 2 had run its course, I turned to strategy games and MMOs, playing and watching a lot of Warcraft 3: The Frozen Throne, still the best game ever for me. Following the competitive scene and the world of e-sports closely, I worked on a few gaming websites and managed my own little team. Later, I even wrote my senior thesis in High School about e-sports. Of course, being a fan of all things Blizzard, I also spent hundred of hours playing their immersive MMORPG World of Warcraft. The beautiful, vast world with interesting characters and hilarious easter eggs is definitely  a great achievement, even if I feel the game has gotten very repetitive. Unfortunately, I never was a very skilled player, either lacking the necessary reflexes or drive to improve myself. In college, I got a macbook and that put my PC gaming on hold.

As a child, I never had a console and instead played Nintendo 64 at my friend’s house, being thoroughly overmatched at Goldeneye and Mario Kart. However, the N64 controller is still the pinnacle of video game controllers. Again, it was in Germany where I got my first console: the original Xbox. I don’t really remember which games I played it. Only Knights of the Old Republic comes to mind. Upon earning my first paycheck after high school, I upgraded to the Xbox 360 to play GTA IV and one of the NBA 2k games. It stopped working due to the infamous ring of death but helped my flatmates and me survive kill a lot of time.

We then decided to get a Playstation 3, the console I still own today. I’m very happy with it, as my group of friends routinely spend the month of September playing hours of FIFA and practicing the newest tricks. The Blu-Ray DVD player is a welcome addition. Being able to play games on the couch instead of crouched in front of a computer screen is another plus for consoles.

Unfortunately, a lot of the great features which make consoles fantastic additions to any living room are only accessible in the United States. The newly announced Xbox One looks great, but most of the features are aimed at the American market only. I doubt Swiss customers will be able to use the interesting fantasy football app andit isn’t clear if the console will be able to connect with the set-up boxes here. Netflix and Hulu are still not available here, making both the Xbox One and Playstations streaming capability less useful. The price of 629 CHF is high, but considering people spend that kind of money for modern smartphones probably appropriate. Another concern for consumers is the supposed inability to trade used games and the need to be online once a day. I don’t really mind the always online mantra games producers have nowadays, because I’m connected most, if not all of the time. But for gamers wanting to take their console on a getaway, it’s going to be a no-go.

The Playstation capitalized on these features by Microsoft, insisting they would have no online obligation and no restrictions on used games. The prize will also be 100$ lower than the asking price of Microsoft, giving Sony an early advantage. How long the two companies can hold off a price war remains to be seen. However, the PS does not include movement controllers like the One’s Kinect. The Kinect on the other hand is supposed to be on all the time and be able to look into your living room. With the PRISM scandal dominating airwaves at the moment, such a feature could come under increased scrutiny from the public and regulators alike. The Playstation also boasts the connection with the PS Vita as one of the main features. Since I don’t own a Vita, it is fairly useless for me. It’s still unclear what the new touchpad on the controller will be able to do besides improving navigation on the television.

I haven’t played many indie games over the years, but looking at the reactions on the internet, it seems as if Sony cares and Microsoft doesn’t care about them. The rapidly growing market shouldn’t be underestimated. The ability to self-publish gives games designer the means to bring their creations to a wider public. Like with books, a new dawn might arrive for creators as it has for independent, business-minded authors.

In the end, it will come down to which features the two consoles will be able to offer in Switzerland and at which price they will offered. PC gaming can only profit from better consoles. The lowest common denominator is higher for multi-platform games is bound to improve. Personally, I’m not sure if and which of the new consoles I’ll be getting as the living room capabilities of the Xbox One have a lot of potential, but some their other features are just not consumer-friendly. The Playstation seems to be a safer bet, but there it depends on the quality of games offered. Most likely, I’ll be returning to PC gaming.

Which console are you looking forward to and what are your favorite games? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

As always, please share this post with your friends and follow on the right hand side!

See you on Friday with chapter 7 of “An elusive hero”.

Sincerely yours,