Gaming PC vs. Consoles, Round 5

Gaming continues to be a hot topic and certainly one that I personally love to talk about. There is no bigger discussion topic in this area than the all-time favorite—PCs versus consoles. As we are in the midst of another new generation of consoles hitting the market, the PC gaming questions are starting to reach a fever pitch once again. This happens about every four or five years as great hardware and new titles show up from the primary console manufacturers. And as always, history repeats itself.

I will be one of the first guys in line to get the new Playstation 3 when it hits the shelves in November (unless someone can find me a place that is taking pre-orders). But let’s set the record straight…I am certainly not going to get rid of my current high-end XPS system that I spend many hours playing games on. I believe this is pretty much the case for most folks and we at Dell continue to view the consoles as complementary devices to PCs.

Certainly an argument can be made that at the launch of a new generation of console hardware we have at our disposal the latest and greatest platform for game play. One which brings new levels of realism and game play into the living room, especially as more customers purchase and connect these consoles to HDTV sets like Robert Scoble mentioned not too long ago. But as we have seen in the past, within a year, the exciting console of last year starts to show its age and the high-end game players look for new levels of processing power and graphics capabilities. The PC has the unique ability to be able to upgrade on a frequent basis to provide the highest levels of performance at any given point in time. While the new consoles are no slouch and have significant power available that won’t be tapped for quite some time, the roadmaps that we see from the key PC component suppliers show even greater levels of performance coming very soon. Of course, the argument here is that there is too much horsepower available and the software developers don’t need it but I still haven’t met a gaming developer that has asked us to slow down on our technology transitions.

Fixed-function devices will almost always have a cost advantage over a general-purpose device where a common feature is shared, in this case, gaming. The ability to get great hardware in a sub-$500 console is compelling when looking at equivalent PCs costing well over that for similar game performance. However, the PC is not just a game machine. If that is all one wishes to do then certainly grab the fixed-function console and save yourself some hard earned cash. The PC is a general purpose platform geared to handling multiple tasks, data types, connectivity points, etc. It does this very well and will do so for a long time. And as far as game play, I am not ready to give up my working broadband, high resolution display, and my simple but highly-effective mouse and keyboard.

Ultimately we are driving for PCs and consoles to work together as part of the digital home. What this could mean as far as content access, updates, game state sharing, etc. is still to be determined. Today, an Xbox 360 functions seamlessly as a Media Center extender or content display device via Windows Media Connect and provides an end point for streaming data from a PC to the living room. At E3 last year, Bill Gates showed off Live Anywhere, a service that links multiple gaming platforms together—including an Xbox 360, a Windows Vista-based PC, and mobile phones. In the future, we hope to do much more with this capability and the opportunity exists for significant enhancements.

Later on Direct2Dell, I’ll talk more about the various game genres and how we see online play developing over the next few years on both consoles and PCs.

About the Author: Brian Zucker