The new consoles from Microsoft and Sony are available at a store near you, and there are finally some games worth playing on them. As anxious gamers stress over which one to buy, it might be worth stopping and considering for a moment that the correct answer might be neither. Right now is the best time in years to direct the money you'd otherwise spend on an Xbox One or PlayStation 4 towards becoming a PC gamer. This doesn't have to be a crazy PC gamer master race thing – there are legitimate reasons you might want to do this.
These consoles aren't that great
When you look at the Xbox and PlayStation this cycle, they have a lot more in common than they did in the last generation. Both are based on similar x86 AMD APUs, essentially making them small, self-contained PCs. This is good for developers who want to put games on both consoles, but it also makes it easier to get those games running on a PC. You could be looking at fewer exclusive titles, thus fewer reasons to keep a console around.
So let's say you spend £350 to £380 odd on what is essentially a moderately powerful, non-upgradeable PC. You're going to be covered for a long time, right? After all, that last console cycle was almost a decade.
Not so fast – Sony and various big name developers have hinted at a shorter console cycle this time around. The last one was possibly just a fluke brought on by world economic conditions and drawn-out hardware development. At least with a PC you can replace components to keep it ticking along and playing the newest games for as long as you want.
It seems as though raw power wasn't the goal of either console maker this time around, and instead Microsoft is doubling down on Kinect integration and Sony has both the Move and the upcoming Project Morpheus VR headset. This is the direction consoles are moving in whether you like it or not.
Developers are going to be encouraged to take advantage of these peripherals, so maybe the big flagship games will simply assume you want this kind of experience. Maybe VR makes you vomit, for example, but games you might otherwise play could someday be optimised specifically for Morpheus.
PCs offer much more
Buying or building a gaming PC is no longer a guaranteed investment of £800 to £1000 or even more. For not much more than the cost of an Xbox One, you can have a solid gaming PC capable of playing most new games at 1080p and 60fps. Building a PC is a rewarding experience, but Steam Machines could also be a good option. If you want to spend a little more on a better video card, you don't have to stop at 1080p. There are plenty of 1440p and even 4K screens out there, and you can use a PC to play games at these crazy resolutions.
By comparison, you're lucky to get a true 1080p game on the new consoles. Many titles still render at lower resolutions and upscale to 1080p. For example, one of the most anticipated games of 2014 is Titanfall. It's out on PC and Xbox One, but the Xbox only runs Titanfall at 792p. On a PC, you will soon be able to crank it all the way up to 4K, assuming your hardware can handle it.
That's one of the coolest things about PC gaming. You can spend a little and get a system that's on par with, or slightly better than a console experience. Alternatively, you can go all out and blow a ton of cash on video cards to rig up multiple GeForce GTX Titans in SLI on a 4K monitor – it's entirely your call.
The up-front cost of a good gaming PC might be somewhat higher than an Xbox One or PS4, but you can quickly make up the difference on games. Top-tier titles on consoles tip over the £40 mark, perhaps closer to £50, and it takes a fairly long time for them to drop. On the PC side things are cheaper – you can now get Titanfall for £30, for example, compared to £42 on the Xbox One – and prices are often lower than this, with the likes of frequent sales on Amazon and Steam (the latter does some major price slashing in particular). Not to mention that there's a huge catalogue of very inexpensive PC games that might have come out a year or two ago, but still look amazing with modern hardware. You can also play online without paying a monthly subscription fee.
Then there are tons of indie games for cheap or free, like the recent Pirate Bay Bundle.
Managing your gaming experience on a PC doesn't even need to be a hassle anymore. Steam makes gaming pretty straightforward on Windows, but there's also SteamOS. This option will soon make Windows on a pure gaming rig optional, and maybe a little more simple.
You don't have to look down your nose at those who decide to throw in with one console or the other – this is about what's best for your enjoyment of gaming. It may very well be that you'll have more fun for less money becoming a PC gamer. As a non-gaming bonus, PCs are good for lots of other things like poking around on the web, watching videos, and there are even rumours you can use them for getting work done.