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Later this year, both Microsoft and Sony are set to release their latest game consoles. This is surely something that fans of either company are looking forward too, but this is different. Gaming has changed since the two companies released the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
It used to be that you bought a console, you played games, and that was it. Now, consoles see the same type of half-step upgrades we see from phones, PCs, and other hardware. Does this mean you might be better off buying a PC for your gaming needs?
Consoles Are Getting More Like PCs
We’ve seen add-ons that made consoles more powerful before, but the PlayStation 4 Pro and Xbox One X are the first half-step upgrades we’ve seen come to consoles. Even back in the days of the Sega 32x, you could either play a game or not. With the introdocution of upgraded consoles, you could buy a game that would technically run on your day-one console, just not partcularly well.
With the next-generation Xbox, Microsoft didn’t even get to launch day before confirming it would have multiple models. The Xbox One Series X is only one version of the new Xbox. Whether the company has plans for a console beyond this or simply aims for the Xbox to be somewhat like Windows 10, with constant upgrades, remains to be seen. What we do know is that buying games is going to get more confusing.
Sony hasn’t said whether it will follow the same strategy with the PlayStation 5, but considering it did with the PlayStation 4, it seems likely. Especially if the company needs to do so to keep up with third-party games.
…But Consoles Aren’t Enough Like PCs
The problem is, consoles are still closed systems. If you want more power, you need to buy a new console. Yes, in the last generation we saw hard drive upgrades become available, but I wouldn’t even count on that in the upcoming consoles.
Both Sony and Microsoft have been making a big deal of the super-fast SSDs used in their new consoles. While hard drives have been cheap for a long time, that’s a more recent development with SSDs. We also don’t know if the consoles are using SSDs with easy drop-in replacements.
Even if you can upgrade the SSD in the new consoles, that’s likely the only part you’ll be able to upgrade. You certainly won’t be able to pop in a new CPU or graphics card in order to play the latest games. If a future version of the Xbox plays games that the Xbox Series X struggles with, it’s either buy a new console or put up with a low framerate.
PCs Can Do More Than Just Play Games
Upgradability is one of the major reasons to opt for a PC over a console. Yes, there’s a larger up-front investment in a PC, but if you need to buy two consoles in the next five years just to play games at their best, the price difference begins to shrink.
Of course, you can do more with a PC than just play games. This makes it a little easier to spend money on a PC than on a few consoles, especially if you have to justify the expense to your significant other.
The major stumbling point of PC gaming used to be the controls. Now with Microsoft treating the PC as a priority platform for gaming, that’s a significantly smaller issue. Since the Xbox 360, PC games have treated the Xbox controller as the standard, which means anything with that controller works too.
One Major Reason to Buy the Upcoming Consoles
Of course, there are plenty of reasons to look forward to the upcoming consoles. One might be of particular interest if you’ve been playing consoles for a long time, though: backward compatiblity.
Rumors have been circling for some time that unlike the PS4, Sony will be heavily focusing on backward compatiblity with the PS5. If those rumors are true, the upcoming console will be able to play your old games all the way back to the original PlayStation. Combine that with the backward compatibility that Microsoft has focused on with the Xbox for some time, and two machines might be able to play a significant chunk of your game library.
That said, PCs are largely backward compatible too, which means there’s a clear choice for when you want to dig out and play your old copy of Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun.