Video games, and the entire industry surrounding them, have changed a lot in the last two decades. It's almost as mind-blowing to compare it today with demo disks and FF7 to how the same people I used to dial using a rotor-phone are the people I call by asking my touch-screen device politely to give them a ring for me.
As it is now, video gaming is in a precarious position, and it's consoles that are at the most serious risk.
To be perfectly blunt and show my hand early: consoles aren't necessary anymore. We do not need them. If you're hyped up about buying the next Playstation or X-Box, stop. Don't be.
Consoles used to be the pinnacle of gaming. Their position as such has always vacillated a little, yet has been mostly true over the last few decades: they've held all the advantages. But it's telling that I used to be the smug Playstation gamer bragging about how my little console was the best, and now here I am, all but giving up on them.
I've been playing my PS3 a lot more recently, and I do like it, but it took me a long time to buy the thing to begin with and periods of extended use for me have been rare and far between. I'm only now starting to learn what the PS3 is capable of outside of gaming, and guess what? I absolutely don't care, it changes nothing. But the PS4 is starting to loom on the horizon like an ominous cloud and all I can do is roll my eyes and mutter something about being here before. Even still, I love my PS3 and I lament the fact that I haven't got the use I wish I had out of it.
There are several problems with consoles nowadays. Some of them are very simple, hardware related issues, whereas others are far deeper than that.
The first thing to remember is that consoles used to be very powerful gaming machines. Back in the day, the PS2 actually spearheaded new technologies and was innovative, leading it to be more powerful than the typical PC. Despite the PS2's high cost at the time, it was still cheaper than a gaming-grade PC.
Nowadays, PC gaming has made a significant comeback. With "Games for Windows Live" and EA's dipshittery left aside for the moment, you can buy a game, and it will work, and it will work very well. This never actually used to be the case - about 5 years ago, I bought a $1400 laptop and it couldn't play World of Warcraft. My current laptop cost that much, but it can play any game on the market today, being on par with an Alienware. Worse, you can now compare consoles directly to PCs in terms of hardware; the odd configuration of the PS2 is a thing of the past.
Consoles combat this with uniformity. A PS3 is relatively old but it still holds up its end in terms of sheer power and graphical ability. Running a HDMI cable from a 45" TV to a PS3 gets you pseudo-HD graphics and a consistent play experience (horribly designed games notwithstanding). Running it from a PC capable of maximum setting will get you an absolutely jaw-dropping experience that I doubt many people who read this will have even seen and thus cannot comprehend.
Problem is, the super-dooper gaming PC costs $6000 and the PS3 is $400. Okay. But you don't need a godlike gaming PC to beat the PS3 experience. Back when the PS3 came out, it had an advantage, being $899 or so, with a $2000+ PC being needed to surpass its technical specs and longevity.
But therein lies the problem. Nowadays, PCs are more affordable. I doubt the PS4 (possibly $899 when released) is going to be a smart choice when compared to a $1500 gaming machine. Also, many of us are/were kids when we were exposed to gaming, so we're not used to the simple fact that PC's are expandable. Believe it or not, you CAN buy a hand-held controller for your PC, you CAN increase the RAM from 8GB to 32GB, you CAN switch out the graphics card for a better model - it takes a long time for PC motherboards to become truly redundant. These are things that people actually do, and it's much cheaper than buying a new PC.
The other problem is that you don't need a PS4, you need a PC now. So you're going to need to buy both of them.
"But the PS3 and PS4 can do so much more than play GAMES, you IDIOT!" someone rages, with fanboy stars in their eyes as they ironically read my journal on a PC or laptop monitor. "You won't need a PC if you have a PS4, because it can do everythiiiing! EVERYTHING."
Device redundancy is a thing that's been upsetting me nowadays. You don't need an e-book, your tablet can do it and more. You don't need an MP3 player, your phone can do it. You don't need the PS3's media streaming capabilities, your PC can do it. While it seems fair enough to offer a cheap alternative, such as an e-reader because someone cannot afford a decent tablet, the truth is that the expensive option is capable of so much more that you're a bit of an idiot to not opt for saving up to buy it instead. We have so many devices and things that we don't need, and so much cool potential is being wasted - phones, naturally, are the number one offender. Everyone has a phone, and every phone can fucking do everything now. Usually the specialized device has a slight advantage in that area, such as e-readers with better battery life than an iPad, but it's usually not much of an advantage.
The PS3 is capable of functioning as: a photo viewer/storage device, a music player/storage (with an external output), video player/storage, internet browser, media streaming device, chat program (highly limited to the PS Network) and downloading video games.
Problem is, it's god-awful at all of those things. For twice the price, a PC will be able to do every single function of a Playstation 3 better; for twice the PS4 launch price, you'll be able to piece together a true monster, and again, you won't NEED to spend that much anyway.
Finally, quick, you have to do your taxes, or write a school report, or you want to write a novel. Homework, ack! You need to do some graphical manipulation in Photoshop! You have to work on a project at home in MS Visual Studio! Oh noes, your console is useless.
As a standalone media device, the PS3 and the PS4 is/will be a great device. I probably WILL buy one eventually. They truly shine as small form-factor home-theater devices, under a cabinet near your TV, where you snuggle up on the couch and can switch between a movie, a game and some music. It has its place. And console vs PC gaming will always be a matter of personal preference. Hell, you could always do your gaming on a PS4/Xbox and keep a tiny little mintBox* (10% profits go to Linux Mint!) or something around for computer stuff. But a better, all-in-one solution is to double up your savings and splurge on a powerful gaming PC, which can do everything, and do it well.
And speaking of device redundancy, as Yahtzee has pointed out, if backward compatibility is not a 100% attainable goal and will definitely be in your system, stop developing the system. There is no excuse for abandoning previous generations' rich and diverse gaming libraries - and it IS just an excuse, stop your filthy lies, Sony! Gee, amusing how I can't play my old games any more, but you can get an additional sale out of me when I download it for this new console. (Gotta love emulators.)
Software for PCs is usually easier to work with when it comes to getting them to work on newer systems - even if a project is total "abandonware" at this point. Freespace 2 is THE best space shooter/sim ever made, and it's now open-source, vastly improved, and available for $10, and it works on most operating systems, and did I mention it was now vastly improved? Meanwhile, if I want 40 Winks on my PS3, I'm pretty much fucked. You can get it to work on a PC; without vendor and developer support, you can forget it on a console unless backwards compatibility is a given.
Severing us from that pre-existing library and using money-grubbing tactics to allow us to use them again, or worse, screwing with things like gamer profiles and the like, is simply not acceptable. But gaming companies now openly say things like "shut up, peon, deal with it!" No, ass-douche, I won't deal with it. You're getting NONE of my money now.
And speaking of that, as invasive as DRM and always-on bullshit is for PC gamers, oh man, it's absurd for consoles. Even though the better companies do their best to make it as unobtrusive as possible, such as Steam or X-Box Live, it has no place with consoles, which are meant to BE offline, cheap entertainment solutions.
A huge swathe of mankind doesn't even HAVE a persistent internet connection, let alone a good one. Many people who use consoles are, I hate to say it, young people who just want a game that works - the idea of having to call up Microsoft (risking that the customer service reps will be dicks and not take them seriously because of their age) to get a game working or undo a gamer profile snag, is absurd. This is placing a barrier between the gamer and their games, which a console is supposed to completely eliminate, and it's worse for younger gamers because they may need a parent's "assistance" is setting things up (X-Box Live requires constant payments). This just does not work.
Same goes for the "service model" of gaming - morons saw WoW get away with it, due to being a constantly updated game with genuine service costs and so on, so forth, and think they can make me pay a subscription fee for a fighting game now? It's desperate cash-milking, and is going to limit accessibility for gamers.
Updates are a great thing, they can fix bugs that games rolled out with, but they're not supposed to be a crutch or replacement for beta testing. So now we have lying developers and piss-poor games that suck for months, and the response is, again, "deal with it" while we can't play our single player games because the multiplayer servers weren't properly tested.
These are all awkward hindrances that are supposed to be limited to PCs. They don't work on consoles. But the sheer greed of the gaming industry knows no bounds now; it's a huge, corporate affair instead of the small, quirky studio projects of yesteryear. Again, as a result, consoles are going to be losing ground with serious gamers due to their shortcomings and will likely persist only with gamers too dumb to know better.
Yes, I just called console gamers "too dumb to know better." But I know that's not true. It's just that we're being betrayed by the industry bigshots, and it's getting worse every year. The thing is, consoles used to be distinct from PCs, and in some ways superior. Now they're just not. They use very similar hardware, they require installations, they require online connections, they are plagued with subscriptions and fees and DRM, they get BSODs, they attempt to have the same functionality but they just suck at it...
Ah well. See you later, guys. Former Console Lover Kichi, signing out.
---- * Fit-PC is an Israeli company. I understand this convinces some people to not buy from them. Don't take my endorsement of this product as an endorsement for Israel, or this apology as an endorsement for Islamic terrorists or whatever. You would think this obvious. Apparently it is not.