Glorious Pc Masterrace – Glorious No More?

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PC vs Consoles. The debate which you are very well likely to encounter in every second conglomeration of gamers. The debate which has been one-sided for more than a decade, but the tables seems to have turned now, for better or worse. PC was indeed regarded as the superior platform for quite a while due to pretty obvious reasons. PCs were the undoubted choice over consoles due to the sheer versatility they offered. You can always upgrade a part of your build if you feel like your hardware is failing to keep up to the latest games. Moreover, the lucrative sales on Steam where people can lay their hands on artistic gems for quite a meager amount, played an ample role in entitling the platform as the “Master Race”. The fact that PCs definitely has the upper hand if we consider things apart from gaming still holds true, but, for people whose foremost objective is to play only games hassle free, then the current scenario will definitely make it difficult to make a choice. Well, to be honest, PCs definitely have some attributes which consoles won’t be able to ever deliver, but, they look good only in a “pc vs console” debate, and when it comes to the scenario of gaming, especially now, the actual case seems to be completely different.

  • Hardware costs

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PC is better than consoles. Why? It provides the ability to play at native 4k. Players can also play games at the highest frame rates they want, but what it takes to achieve those frame rates? Some decent hardware. And by decent I mean, hardware costing atleast four times the cost of a console. No doubt, you get the ability to mod your PCs to your will, add attractive RGB lighting, water coolers and what not, but the actual fact is these things aren’t cheap, and  not for the average casual gamer, or to be precise, it’s for enthusiasts. The recent upsurge in the price of cryptocurrencies has led to massive increase in the amount of GPUs being sold for mining leading to massive shortage of stock, and consequently there has been a steep rise in the prices of GPU and sometimes even it’s availability. If we look at the prices of the GPUs which can potentially provide better performance than a console then we find that there has been a steep rise in the price, and, that is because of the recent rise in the utilization of gpus for mining.

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Coming to another factor that influences better performance on PCs, is, memory modules or RAMs. There has been a massive increase in RAM prices since the beginning of 2017, and they are still rising. To quote Digital Trends: “The reason for the increase in RAM prices is similar to the reason it affects SSD prices — issues such as power outages affecting DRAM manufacturer Samsung have decreased RAM supply at the same time that demand continues to go up. Servers and mobile RAM are the primary drivers of the increased demand, particularly as Android smartphones continue to increase the amount of installed memory.” If we look at the prices of RAMs over the past year, we will be able to deduce that the RAM prices are up by almost four folds. The same holds true for SSD prices. Images below show the trends in RAM/SSD prices over the past year.

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That was all about the price of a PC which will deliver more performance than a PS4. If we compare the prices of a PC which is able to deliver similar or slightly better performance than a console, or “console killers” as they are called, we will see that the net price is far more than a console. We tried to build a budget PC, using extremely low-end hardware and to no surprise, the price was much more than console, that too, excluding peripherals and software.

The total cost of this build was 720$ USD (46000 INR), and that excludes the monitor (100$/7000 INR) and other peripherals (100$/7,000 INR); that brings the price to 920$ (60000 INR), and if you add software and stuff, it will easily touch the 1000$ (65000 INR) mark. A PS4 costs around 30000 INR (468$) with which you get three games and an extra controller; that’s less than half of the price of a PC. Well I won’t be highlighting the obvious perks of owning a PC here, but then, if we compare the prices incurred in owning both the platforms, we will find that consoles definitely have the upper hand.

  • Exclusives – The Double Edged Sword

Exclusives are the main reason people tend to buy a console. PS4 exclusives never fail to amaze us, and with a plethora of highly anticipated and promising PS4 exclusives releasing in 2018, the fact is further consolidated. To name a few, Persona 5, Horizon Zero Dawn, and Bloodborne, are astounding pieces of art and arguably some of the best games the video gaming industry has ever seen, and unfortunately they are not on PC. Though, the fact that PC also has some amazing exclusives cannot be denied. CSGO, Dota, LoL, WoW are some of the exclusives which are played by millions on PC even after years of their release, and, form a major part of eSports. But unfortunately, the frequency of release of good exclusives on PC has gone down a lot lately. The reason why developers are pushing  exclusives on consoles, is, one of the reasons why some people resort to PC gaming and that leads to the third point of my article, i.e., piracy.

  • Piracy and How It Affected PC Gaming

Piracy has been on for quite some time now and never tends to cease. Whenever there is a new protection technology in the market, someone or the other find a way to bypass it. And that is the reason why people have resorted to consoles. Let’s not consider that baseless fact that piracy increases sales fact, and rather focus on stats. Going by the sales of the two leading developers in video game industry, we see that console sales account for a majority of their sales.

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Piracy is indeed affecting video game sales, and the developers have started incorporating anti piracy technologies in their games to ensure that it is not cracked easily. Well implementation of anti-theft technologies like Denuvo is fine, but they have their drawbacks. First, is the potential increase in price of the games. Well, this fact is a bit wayward to some extent, but the very common fact that anti-piracy technologies cost a hefty sum cannot be denied, and hence this might have led to the increase in the prices of video games, but, there is again no concrete proof regarding the same as many non-Denuvo titles also sell for the mean 60$ price. Secondly, we have certain optimization issues leading birth due to these anti piracy softwares. Well, again there is no concrete proof regarding this, but going by Voksi’s statement,the person who had earlier bypassed Denuvo’s anti tamper tech, the multi layered anti piracy protection in Assassins’ Creed Origins has led to the game using the full CPU on the beefiest of the rigs. To quote Voksi, “While I was playing, I put memory breakpoint on both VMProtect sections in the exe to see if it’s called while I’m playing. Once the breakpoint was enabled, I immediately landed on vmp0, called from game’s code. Which means it called every time this particular game code is executed, which game code is responsible for player movement, meaning it’s called non-stop.” In simpler words, “Basically, Ubisoft have implemented VMProtect on top of Denuvo, tanking the game’s performance by 30-40%, demanding that people have a more expensive CPU to play the game properly, only because of the DRM. It’s anti-consumer and a disgusting move,” to quote Voksi again. A Ubisoft spokesperson denied the same by saying that “the anti-tamper solutions implemented in the Windows PC version of Assassin’s Creed Origins have no perceptible effect on game performance”. That brings a sort of a question mark over Voksi’s claim, but the fact that the game suffers severe performance issues on PC cant be denied. Moreover, if we compare it to the PS4 version of the game, the PS4 version delivers far more stable FPS than PC.

Assassins Creed Origins is not the only game to be affected by piracy. We had earlier seen PC ports of games being delayed, a very good example being GTA 5, all for the sole reason, piracy. It’s pretty obvious that the developers delayed the PC port of the game, to make sure that they make the most revenue from the console releases. It is for this reason, that developers have just started making more exclusives, as it would more easily help them in reaching their target revenue instead of releasing on PC, and adding anti tamper tech to make sure it’s not pirated. Moreover, many pc ports were really not of the finest quality, mostly because of the developers tend to cut costs, even outsource their games to 3rd parties knowing that the rampant piracy in the PC gaming platform will hurt their sales considerably. The whole Arkham Knight debacle is such a strong example.

  • Longevity & Optimization

It is a very commonly stated fact that consoles are a one time investment to some extent, while PCs do require regular upgrades. Well, instead of believing in the much bloated facts, lets focus on stats ( sorry for the unintentional alliteration). The PS4 was released in the extreme latter half of 2013. A GPU which will be able to deliver similar FPS as compared to the PS4, and released during the same period is the 750ti. Here is the performance of the 750ti, paired with a i5 2500, in ACO.

The game averages in the lower 20s at 1080p, and experiences drops below 20 and infrequent stuttering. To be precise it is barely playable. On the other hand, the PS4 runs the game at native 1080p at 30 fps most of the times. There are are some drops in highly populated areas and in cutscenes. But comparing it to the Pc of comparable graphical capabilities, we see that the console (Ps4 here) has the upper hand. Thus, the PS4 is still able to run the latest titles fairly while the PCs of the same gen suffer.

Consoles definitely clock down the framerate and resolution to 30 fps and 1080p or 900p respectively, but, they do provide stable fps in “most” games. 30 fps is looked down upon, and considered a major drawback for console gamers, but then again if we consider the costs of building a PC which can achieve constant 60 fps, we might end up incurring more cost than a console. Consoles also regarded as graphically inferior to PC. Well, to be honest, the difference is hardly noticeable unless one is using a 2000$ rig. The video below further consolidates this point. the PC version of the game definitely has better textures, more detailed shadows and better anti aliasing, but unless one looks eagerly to spot out  the differences, they will hardly find one.

  • Game Prices/Availability

Another reason why PC gaming is regarded superior to console gaming is the cheaper prices of games on steam, and, the regular sales where games are offered at dirt cheap prices. Well, in a regular steam sale, you can get games for as low as 1$. Consoles on the other hand, do get discounted games, but the price is still considerably high. But the very fact that is forgotten by many is that physical copies are more widely available on PS4. Now physical copies do have their own disadvantages too, but their advantages overweigh their disadvantages. The foremost advantage is the ability to resell the physical disks after playing the game. Many of us do end up buying games which we don’t even play and regret afterwards, thanks to the lucrative deals on steam, but this can be avoided on consoles due to the availability of physical copies which can be readily be sold again at a decent price. Moreover, the dramatic increase in size of video games, has made owning digital copies more demanding, as one will have to likely wait a day or two to play the game if they have a below average internet connection. While physical copies can be played directly ( I am ignoring the game updates/patches here) and can be reinstalled conveniently and more readily as compared to digital copies.

  • Multiplayer and eSports

One of the foremost advantages of PC gaming is the ability to use online features of a game at no cost. On the other hand, consoles do charge a monthly sum for allowing players to access online features of the game, but, there are certain perks too, which are associated with those subscriptions. PS Plus for example, provides two new games every month, and, massive discounts on existing games for its subscribers. Although these additional benefits can sound extremely lucrative, PC gaming does have an upper hand if multiplayer aspects are concerned, due to the availability of online features at no cost and since a majority of the eSports games are only available on PC.

Conclusion

With gpu and ram prices increasing every time someone sneezes, and the rumors that Nvidia’s upcoming Volta gpus will be 20% more effective in mining than GTX 1080 Ti doesn’t look too good for the pc market or someone who is trying to build their first ever gaming pc. There has been constant reassurances that the prices will subsidize, but you are better off to waiting for Half Life 3 rather than waiting for the prices to drop. Not everyone can opt for a 2000 $ PC, especially the average gamer who wants to experience all the perks of PC gaming and the only defence the entitled elitist seems to have is that PCMR is for the one’s who are willing to shell out reasonable money to benefit from the master platform and things become full circle. Does the enhanced experience truly justify the massively overpriced hardware costs? or are you willing to pay twice or thrice as much to gain the benefits of pc gaming, the ones mentioned above?  With problems like piracy and inflated hardware costs not seeming to resolve in the near future, there is no denying that consoles seem like the best bang for buck choice for people who just wants to play their games without spending an outrageous amount of money.

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