The new consoles from Microsoft and Sony are available at a store near you, and there are finally some games worth playing on them. As anxious gamers stress over which one to buy, it might be worth stopping and considering for a moment that the correct answer might be neither. Right now is the best time in years to direct the money you’d otherwise spend on an Xbox One or PlayStation 4 toward becoming a PC gamer.
consoles aren’t that great
When you look at the Xbox and PlayStation this cycle, they have a lot more in common than they did in the last generation. Both are based on similar x86 AMD APUs, essentially making them small, self-contained PCs. This is good for developers who want to put games on both consoles, but it also makes it easier to get those games running on a PC. You could be looking at fewer exclusive titles, thus fewer reasons to keep a console around.
It seems as though raw power wasn’t the goal of either console maker this time around, instead Microsoft is doubling down on Kinect integration and Sony has both the Move and the upcoming Project Morpheus VR headset. This is the direction consoles are moving in whether you like it or not. Developers are going to be encouraged to take advantage of these peripherals, so maybe the big flagship games will simply assume you want this kind of experience. Maybe VR makes you vomit, for example, but games you might otherwise play could someday be optimized specifically for Morpheus.
Buying or building a gaming PC is no longer a guaranteed $1000-2000 investment. For a few hundred — barely more than the Xbox One — you can have a solid gaming PC capable of playing most new games at 1080p and 60fps. Building a PC is a rewarding experience, but Steam Machines are also a good option. If you want to spend a little more on a better video card, you don’t have to stop at 1080p. There are plenty of 1440p and even 4K screens out there, and you can use a PC to play games at these crazy resolutions.
By comparison, you’re lucky to get a true 1080p game on the new consoles. Many titles still render at lower resolutions and upscale to 1080p. For example, one of the most anticipated games of 2014 is Titanfall. It’s out on PC and Xbox One, but the Xbox only runs Titanfall at 792p. On a PC, you will soon be able to crank it all the way up to 4K, assuming your hardware can handle it.
Managing your gaming experience on a PC doesn’t even need to be a hassle anymore. Steam makes gaming pretty straightforward on Windows, but there’s also Steam OS. This option will soon make Windows on a pure gaming rig optional, and maybe a little more simple.