The PC is always being written off as a gaming platform. Expensive, unreliable, buggy and complicated, PCs apparently never compared well to Consoles when it came to playing games. But while the shop shelves display row after row of identical console games that are the same as the ones you already own, the PC gamer is frequently presented with something a little different, even a bit of variety. From the simple but addictive Linerider through popular on-line games such as Runescape (for the kids) and World of Warcraft (for mum and dad) to new genres, the PC gamer has more choice. Many popular PC games are modified by fans to provide even more variety and improved gameplay and again are generally free. PC games are less expensive to buy than games for consoles and on-line versions are frequently subscription free with 2 or 3 times the number of participants that you would get on-line with a console.
So, if you want to play games on a PC what should you be looking for. Well, first of all forget “integrated graphics”. This will be fine for Football Manager 2007, but no good for Half Life 2. Also, only buy a gaming laptop if you really have to. You’ll have to spend a lot of money for a laptop with a good graphics card that will drain your battery in 45 minutes and run very hot - Invest in a laptop cooler too. So think desktop, with a separate graphics card with its own memory, not shared with the system memory. Generally speaking, the more money you spend the better, preferably at least £60. Two important considerations are also noise and cooling. The graphics card will probably be the hottest component in a PC and all the hot air that it creates needs to be drawn out of the PC. You may need to install an additional cooling fan and all of those fans will generate noise. If you want to use the same card in 3 years time you’ll need to spend more than £90. Check out Tom’s hardware guide for their graphic card reviews and advice.
Think software, not hardware
If the kids haven’t made their minds up yet, remember, it’s not the hardware that’s important, it’s the software. A few years ago, most 10 year old girls knew this – when they all wanted Nintendogs© they had never heard of the PSP. They weren’t comparing handheld consoles, they just wanted the console that ran their favourite game. So choose a console based on which games you want to play.
Console History ....
Playstation – newcomer to the scene in 1994 defeats the complacent competition and conquers the market becoming a bye-word for the 1990’s – the Playstation generation.
PS2 – Marketing muscle triumphs over much improved, arguably superior, competition. Over-hyping and under-delivering, Sony still managed to make this the undisputed king of consoles.
Gamecube – Tended to be overlooked in the UK, unless you were under 12 years old.
Xbox – Microsoft’s first effort, designed in a hurry, brought on-line functionality to the console community. Shame it was so ugly but at least it had Halo.
Xbox360 – Microsoft is learning fast. Again brought to market in a hurry which hurt reliability, but the later internally modified versions improved that. They needed to!
Wii – Nintendo haven’t the resources to develop a super-console and compete directly with MicroSony so they’ve had to think laterally. The controller makes your arm sore and the novelty may wear off after a while - it did. Nintendo’s cautious attitude to production capacity meant that for a long time demand outstripped supply.
PS3 – Sony loses the plot. Out-manoeuvred and out-thought by the competition the PS3 may go down in history as the product that broke Sony, with a little help from the iPod. In hindsight, maybe it won’t, but it has cost Sony dearly.
Wii U, PS4 and Xbox One.
I’m getting bored now! It’s all about the games guys and there’s precious little evidence of any progress on that front. Never before have so many consoles been rushed to market so quickly - and they had years to think about it. The first generation of consoles to be significantly weaker than contemporary gaming PCs. In 2018 these consoles are going to be seriously under-powered ..... well that was a bad prediction! They’ve had to be upgraded already and it’s only 2016. Oh dear.
Top Tip: If Santa is thinking of delivering a new console on Christmas Day, I hope he will remember to update the console software a few days earlier. All of the latest consoles may have large downloads to complete before they’ll run properly.