We PC gamers like to talk a lot about how PC is the superior platform for gaming. PC Master Race, right? Well, I’m here to actually be honest about it all.
I started gaming in the late 80’s, as soon as I was old enough to walk and hold a controller and figure out that pressing a button did a thing on the screen. At the time there was PC, NES, and our relatives had an Atari 7600, on which I got to play things like Tecmo Bowl and Pitfall. We never owned an NES but we did have a PC, and then we also got an SNES when it was out. The first games I ever played besides Mario and Atari titles were things like Oregon Trail, Math Blasters, Googol Math Games (1989) and Donald Duck’s Playground (1984). I moved to console games as a kid, for the most part, but always gamed on PC as well and have done so now for approaching 30 years.
I never owned a PS1 or a Dreamcast, or a Wii U, but I am as close to a multi-platform guy who doesn’t take sides as you’re going to get.
Here are the arguments I’ve seen grossly misrepresented in YouTube videos and on Reddit, as well as all over the internet, about how unquestionably superior PC gaming is.
Prices are not better. While the average time it takes for a game to reduce in price by 50% is about 6 months, this is purely semantic. This figure includes promotional sales where games are cut in half. The price doesn’t stay at 50%, it shoots back up to $59.99. Prices are also entirely dictated by publisher. Call of Duty, a 14 year old game, is still $19.99 on Steam. There are various games on Steam for full price that have long since fallen everywhere else – even on the digital marketplaces of Xbox and Playstation.
PCGamer would beg to differ, though, and made a rather extensive article with what look to be cherry picked examples.
I, too, can cherry pick examples.
GTA5 is still $59.99 on Steam. It’s also $59.99 on PSN store. It’s also $59.99 on Xbox.
It’s simply disingenuous to claim games “are” cheaper, in general, on PC when that is not the case. Anyone who says this is operating solely off of gray market prices and assumptions. But even on Kinguin and G2A, the price for GTA5 ranges from $29 to $50.
Take a look above at my Steamdb pull. Okay, sure, with sales – assuming that means at the time and not right now with current prices – I’ve only spent $4211 [over the course of 14 years]. The price of basically every console ever released, combined, while they were at their lowest price, and some games or a TV to go with them. Over 14 years that averages out to $300 a year. That’s the price of 5 new full priced games. But rather than have 70 games after those 14 years, I have 1600.
However, this doesn’t factor in all the key activations. Games bought from other sources like Green Man Gaming or Humble Bundle, or games received for free from Steam gifts, or even giveaways on sites like PC Gamer or Bundlestars. It also, obviously, doesn’t factor in amount spent on games on other DRM platforms like Origin. You could easily add at least $1000 or more to that number. Not to mention, of course, the cost of computer hardware and peripherals, so throw maybe another $4000 on top of there in just the past 10 years. While you’re at it, toss in 8 years of actively paying for a WoW subscription as well as expansion packs.
Is that cheaper than console gaming?
Let’s say you buy a console at $500 brand new. You also have to have a TV – at least to enjoy it – to play that console so we’ll say $1000 to be conservative. If you’re the type that plays every game brand new, ostensibly it would be $60 a game, maybe an average of $50 after counting cheaper stuff and digital copies. If you buy pre-owned, probably much less on average, like $20. Let’s say you have 1600 console games. So, on average, $32,000 of games plus $1500 for hardware.
I think that’s more expensive than my $9211. Even if I apply the admittedly loose figure of $14.01 per game to all of my PC games, the product is nearly $10,000 less – $22,416. Adding in the hardware, it’s still less.
As mentioned, in the past 10 years I’ve spent about $4000 on hardware – a bit more, probably closer to $5000. My previous machine was about $1200 plus one of the monitors already in this list. Let’s have a look-see at my current machine.
Sure, the upfront cost is high, but I’m still running that 7 year old computer and it can run anything up to and including Doom 2016 without issues. I would rather spend $3000 upfront for a computer that will last at least 10 years, than keep on buying a new console every time the big three decide a “generation” is over. Especially considering a console generation is now going to be something like 5 years, what with the realization that these new stationboxes were woefully underpowered in 2013.
Xbox One controllers do not work on Windows 10 – not easily, and not reliably. Period. Everything you may ever have heard or read about the subject is a complete lie or someone is sincerely omitting facts. The Xbox One controller and the Xbox One wireless adapter drivers are supposed to be built in to Windows, since Windows 8.1. They aren’t. If you connect an adapter to Windows 10 Build 1607 Version 14393.1358 (Current build), this is what happens.
The controller isn’t plug and play. Work has to be done to get it functional through the Wireless adapter accessory. Whether it will work with pre-S controllers, either, is completely hit or miss.
While the 360 controller is a better alternative in terms of actual functionality, it also has issues. Those aren’t Microsoft’s fault in that case, so instead of being mad at one company – you have to be mad at dozens. Some companies, Capcom most egregiously, flat out do not care about proper controller support. The only game I can think of off the top of my head is Dead Rising 2 but it does not support any Xbox controller properly. It may show that it does, but it doesn’t. Plenty more games suffer from the same deficiency of fucks on the developer’s behalf too, and therein lies the problem.
Controller support on PC is a sprawling beast governed entirely by caveats and it’s certainly enough to drive console gamers away. It’s enough to drive me away and so I don’t use my controller, ever, unless it’s a hack and slash game, a driving game, or I am couch gaming – which is usually not what I do. Some games have hard-coded controller support, like King of Fighters 98 and 2000, or Guilty Gear X2. It is literally not possible to change the buttons coded in the game, regardless of where else you may change them. Dead Rising 2 is the same way. Assuming the controllers did even work, the buttons cannot be changed. Final Fantasy 7 has two different menus – one from the always-online DRM launcher (Fact) and one inside the game. One will let you change buttons, one will not, and they cause button conflicts – some of them like square or circle will stay hardcoded. Above all, the primary problem is that most games just don’t have native controller support at all; of the 1292 games in my library, 427 of them have full or partial controller support.
There have been many programs over the course of time that sought to recitfy this problem. Pinnacle Game Profiler allowed you to make custom game profiles for any game – whether it had support or not. Xpadder operates in much the same way and xinput is still the basis for most controller support. The most recent third party program is Controller Companion, which behaves more or less identically to PGP, and has the added benefit of Steam workshop support where people have uploaded tons of game specific profiles. All of these are essentially invalidated now, because Steam has native Xbox and PlayStation controller support, down to the point that you can make totally customized configurations for every game in your library. Whether it works or not is a different question.
Example: if you turn on Xbox controller support, the Xbox One controller will stop working correctly. You won’t be able to use the right stick, at all, which makes a game unplayable because right stick is the camera control for all third person games. A whole lot of games do this – like Mad Max, Spec Ops the Line, basically anything with native support will break. It apparently needs more work.
It’s hard to overstate – mods are awesome. They can extend the life of a game well beyond what anyone, including the developer, ever could have hoped. Doom, Unreal, Quake, Duke Nukem, Shadow Warrior, Half-Life and Half-Life 2, Thief, System Shock 2 and Deus Ex remain relevant today, not just because of their obvious positions in the genetic makeup of modern game design, but because of their extreme aptitude for mod support. You could arguably say Doom is the root of all game modding and even the most learned game historian will have trouble disputing that statement.
In fact, a fairly large number of games – both right now and historically – owe their very existence to modding. Half-Life itself was made on a modded version of the Quake 2 engine called goldsrc. Counter-Strike, Counter-Strike Source, Counter-Strike Global Offensive, Day of Defeat, Day of Defeat Source, Insurgency, Day of Infamy, DOTA2, League of Legends, Garry’s Mod, DayZ, Natural Selection 2, Team Fortress Classic, Team Fortress 2, Red Orchestra, Killing Floor, Stanley Parable, Alien Swarm, Dear Esther, Black Mesa, and Chivalry: Medieval Warfare are just a few of the examples of games that started their lives as mods before becoming full-fledged retail games.
Others would not exist or have succeeded if a mod didn’t happen first and prove popular. The best examples are DOTA 2 and Battlefield 2. While I may have already mentioned DOTA 2, it wouldn’t have ever happened if the DOTA custom map for Warcraft 3 hadn’t proved insanely popular in the Battle.net community. As for Battlefield 2, a slightly (incredibly good) mod for Battlefield 1942 called Desert Combat is what led to the explosion of the Battlefield series and the source from which DICE directly lifted Battlefield 2’s ideas. Although, to be fair, Desert Combat is still way better gameplay-wise than any of the Battlefields afterwards.
Having said all that, there’s an unfortunate truth that no one appears wont to admit when they boast about how cool PC is. Mods only exist for handfuls of games, and modding flourishes for even less.
The most popular modding site today is Nexus, which offers not only a hub for almost all moddable games, but a centralized mod manager for the most popular titles that provides user friendly installation and uninstallation. It supports only 24 games, though. Every single one of which is an RPG except for X Rebirth, War Thunder and World of Tanks. Before Nexus, even today, ModDB was and is probably the next biggest site, and FileFront before that – but it was just a file host.
Other games have their own niche communities and sites like GameBanana (previously FPSBanana), or forums, or sites like nudepatch.net, old sites for the Sims where you could download all kinds of community made objects, etc. Even with all those individual modding communities combined, there are still only close to 100 or so PC games that really support modding on a substantial level.
For the literal thousands and thousands of other games, there are no mods. There is nothing. If you want a mod, you better figure out how to do it yourself – if it’s even possible – otherwise you’ll be waiting until you forget, or die. Thus, there are too many great games on PC with no modding community, no signs of life, whatsoever. Dead Space trilogy is a prime example. At one point there was one person working on making some high quality new textures for Isaac’s engineering suit, but he faded into nothingness and abandoned work on the project, without passing it on to someone else.
So honestly, modding is more of a thing of the past – a legend – than anything else right now. Besides Bethesda games, Witcher 3, GTA5, and Half-Life games, or the Insurgency/DoI community, maybe Total War, there’s not a whole lot going on.
Join me next time and we’ll dive in to some more abstract, less tangible arguments used as reasons why PC gaming is better.