Theodore R. Griffiths
With the release of Sony’s Playstation 4 and Microsofts’ Xbox One this coming November, many people have already decided to upgrade from their current consoles without even thinking about the other options in the world of video games.
Steam, a software released by Valve Corporation in 2003, has changed the landscape of computer video games, and finally made the PC a viable gaming option once again. With roughly 40 million active users, it rivals that of Xbox Live and the Playstation Network, but in a far different way.
Steam is not only a hub to play your video games online with your friends, like Xbox Live and the Playstation Network were for so many years, it is a marketplace similar to iTunes but it specializes in the sale of video games. These games are almost always $10 cheaper at launch than their console counterparts, and drop even more severely in price with daily and weekly sales.
The advent of Steam has created a much larger PC following, and now it gives gamers a legitimate third option (sorry Nintendo) when it comes to playing their video games. It also helps that the price of computer components have dropped dramatically over the last five years.
Building or buying a computer used to be an investment that would easily put you over the $1000 mark regardless of your frugality. Now it is possible to build a computer that is even more powerful than the yet-to-be released Playstation 4 and Xbox One for roughly $500. Actually, the Playstation 4 and Xbox One are running graphics cards that were barely high-end in 2008, and that leads us to the next major benefit of PC gaming: much better graphics.
My personal gaming computer, which I built for only $650 this past summer, can run The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim at maximum settings with framerates between 30 and 40. On the other end of the spectrum is the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, which can also run Skyrim, but only on low settings and constantly clocked at 30 frames per second. Those options cannot be changed, simply because consoles are far weaker than computers, whether we’re talking about the current consoles or the new breed coming out in November.
Many people may see the task of building a computer as far too advanced for their knowledge of technology, but it is honestly an incredibly simple task. Even when buying every component separately, it shouldn’t take no more than an hour to assemble the PC, mainly because everything is labeled to be idiot-proof.
Once you are done building the PC, you’ll be able to run every game at higher settings than consoles, and even if you feel your PC lagging behind, there is always the option to upgrade the graphics card or CPU, something which cannot be done on a console.
If there is one word of advice I would give to any person interested in gaming on the PC, it would be this: never, and I mean NEVER buy a branded “gaming” PC like an Alienware. They will literally charge about $1200 for the name, when the components inside cost about $600. Always build custom if you want the best possible performance for the best price.
You can currently build a nice gaming PC for $530 with a Sapphire Radeon HD 7870 graphics card, and you’ll already have a far more powerful machine than the Playstation 4 or the Xbox One, because both machines are running graphics cards that are more on par with its little brother, the HD 7850. Not only will your games look better and play smoother, but you’ll still have all the perks of an actual computer. Need to write a paper instead of playing Bioshock Infinite? Go right ahead. You didn’t just build a gaming console, you built a fully functional computer.
The advantages don’t stop at pretty games with better framerates, because they continue with Steam and the great deals you’ll get for those games. During this past Steam summer sale, I picked up the new Tomb Raider for $7.50 even though the game was still retailing for $40 on the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360.
This has happened multiple times, and I have saved at least $500 using Steam instead of buying games for their retail value at Gamestop. This means that you could even build a serious beast of a machine for $1000 and still end up saving hundreds of dollars in comparison to buying a new console and all the games for it.
I don’t see a reason to ever go back to console gaming, mainly because the PC has become a far more user-friendly option recently. It not only saves the user money, but you’ll receive a far more advanced and entertaining way of playing your games, and that is something that a console can never give you.