While you read this, try to remember that you are a consumer of goods and not a member of a blue or green team okay? Giant corporations like Microsoft and Sony are not your friends, and they market themselves to make you feel defensive when people like me criticize what they do. Don’t. They do not care about you, just your money. And I’m here to explain with one, and just one, simple reason why all Modern Consoles are absolute trash compared to PCs. And even compared to mobile phones...
I recently purchased a console to hop on the Red Dead Redemption 2 train. I don’t regret this decision and it is admittedly nice to have a backup machine to game on in certain situations. Like if my computer is rendering something, if there's just a bad pc port, or if a new game comes along that would decimate my GTX 970. In those cases I'll admit it’s nice to have an alternative to play SOME games on. (Don’t worry I’ll get back to that rather large ‘some’ in a second here)
But despite my surprising enjoyment of my recent console purchasing experience, there's one thing Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft all do with their respective platforms that is unforgivable to me.
The Legitimate Benefits of Console Gaming
I’m not here to talk down about every aspect of consoles though. I am aware they do have some drawing features and usage applications that are clearly desired by a lot of people.
Most significant is the easy and cheap initial investment when purchasing said console. The majority of people don’t like (or have the time) to research gaming specs, and consoles are far easier to buy and set up without any prior gaming or technical knowledge. Which is why they are perfect for more casual gamers. And because of that, the casual market isn’t going to care or will at least have a hard time noticing performance differences between games. They just know that every new game (well most) work on their system at release. Which is admittedly a pretty big advantage.
I still think the biggest advantage they have for my taste is how easy it is to share your games between friends. Though the horrid practice of exclusivity kind of outweighs this, and Steam has made it very easy to let guests or friends have access to games on your account.
Regardless, all of these advantages don't outweigh one HUGE issue that makes consoles embarrassingly bad in my opinion. Switch, PlayStation, and Xbox are all guilty of it. As I mentioned earlier, this one reason even makes Mobile gaming better in comparison.
The Sole Reason Consoles are Trash
I don’t even need to consider the myriad of other reasons why I’m still not a fan of consoles. The following reason is so bad it doesn't even matter how closed source they are, the fact that they get outdated by PC hardware a year after they come out, the lack of mouse and keyboard support, how they drive the extremely anti-consumer practice of hardware based exclusivity, the absurdly install sizes even when you purchase a physical disc, the limited backwards compatibility, the poor performance from most games, or even their very narrow software functionality.
No those are all things I can get over. Kind of.
What I can never get over, is that my own internet is behind a paywall.
Gated Multiplayer - AKA the reason I'm writing this
For those who are unaware, or simply forgot about this significant issue: All major Console manufacturers require a Monthly fee in order to play multiplayer titles, access online features of games that have them, and even basic voip options.
These are all obviously things that you don’t need to spend one penny on while gaming on PC platforms, or even mobile phones...
Not having the ability to be able to access these extremely basic online functions, in 2018 no less, is the sole reason why consoles are terrible. I will never give a giant corporation (who isn’t my isp) one cent to have access to the internet I already pay for. And trying to extort money out of me for such extremely simple functions in the modern day is laughably pathetic in my eyes.
Common Defenses of Gated Internet Access
I’ve yet to hear or read any convincing arguments as to why they do this. And most of the time I just see deflective excuses that don’t hold water when you give some time to consider the history, implementation, and predatory marketing practice that this “service” has been obfuscated behind in recent years.
The closest thing to a sensible argument would be the belief that the access to online functionality is a service that simply costs enough money for Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo that they financially need to pass the costs on to their combined (and estimated) 150 million online users. Aside from the fact that somehow Steam and everyone else can provide all of these online services to over half that many people for free, this explanation simply doesn’t explain then why the PS2 and PS3 online features were free, and the PS4 ones are not. I’ll talk more about this in the history section, but they’re not even the latest of the big console corporations to change their requirements to access online multiplayer games.
People also seem to excuse this extortion practice simply due to a lack of understanding about how networking in gaming functions. Typically, a developer or publisher separate from the console manufacturer are the ones providing dedicated servers that run the net code for multiplayer modes and titles. Aside from a few select first party games, MS and Sony do not control the servers or net-code that allow us to game with each other. In fact most console games these days use P2P multiplayer, which selects a users machine to act as the server host for everyone else which results in terrible tick rates. And yet, PC and mobile games now have far more dedicated servers provided for free by the developers and/or their publishers. Not Sony, Nintendo, or Microsoft. They only host Voip functions (something extremely cheap and free everywhere else) and some servers for a handful of first party titles.
And EVEN if they did. Even if every game you ever played on their platforms ran exclusively on Dedicated Servers that where paid for and provided by them, it should still be free. Because you already paid them for the console. They are making more than enough off of your purchase for the hardware to pay for a few dedicated servers and then some. Put aside even how much they charge the developers of your favorite multiplayer games for their overpriced development kits that they need to put their games on these consoles. The fact that every aspect of any game that requires an internet connection is gated by us gamers paying the console manufacturer extra, is a joke.
If you hop onto any PC, you can install Steam for free along with Dota, Team Fortress, and now even CS:GO and play for free on all of Valve’s Dedicated Servers. Servers they pay for and run for those first party titles. All without paying them a single cent to use all of those systems.
Unlike consoles, you didn't have to buy any of Valve's hardware. Unlike consoles, You didn't have sign up for a separate service you don't want and/or need to use their servers to play with your friends. And Unlike consoles, Valve, EA, Ubisoft, Epic, and small services like GameRanger provide these for free. Allowing you to game with friends without even buying their hardware.
But just by nature of playing on a console you have already given them money to buy their device. So they have absolutely no excuse to gate these features.
The other excuse people seemingly love to apply is, “But you get free games and discounts.” Nothing makes me sigh heavier than seeing people actually say this as a defense.
No one cares if PS Plus, Switch Online, and XBL are good deals or not. We care that we are forced to use them. Putting aside for now the obvious marketing trick being used here, let’s finally look a bit more into the history shall we?
A History of Charging You for Your Own Internet
Microsoft was the first to not only launch a console that featured networking nearly right out of the box, they were also are the first to launch with a fee for this service. It cost the same then as it does now, $50 a year or $5 a month, and only had the basic networking, VOIP, and friends list features.
The Service was launched in 2002, to coincide with the launch of Halo 2. Which is most likely the reason so many people didn't even give a thought to paying a separate company extra for their internet. That game had so much Hype around it gamers would literally pay for the privilege to experience it's multiplayer. And they did.
What's interesting is that while clearly there had been many PC games at this point that did not charge extra to access multiplayer, 2002 is also the same year TeamSpeak launched. This is 6 years after Blizzard launched Battle.net with friends lists, VOIP, and fairly impressive implantation into their games for the time. TeamSpeak however, along with Ventrillo's launch in 2001, were very popular free VOIP options you could use to chat with friends. With Skype launching in 2003.
On the other hand, only three years after the launch of XBL, the service had grown to over 2 Million people who used it monthly. And that same year MS reached that many users on XBL, the Xbox 360 was launched.
During this time Sony was playing catch up and releasing a newer version of the PS2 that had networking functionality, but even these were much more limited. It was however, free.
And that stance of not charging users for connectivity carried into the next generation when the PS3 launched with all the same features as Xbox Live, but for free. It was one of the few big competitive advantages Sony had for that system.
They would get another, and separate advantage in 2010, when Sony launched PS Plus. A service that provided a free game title for its subscribers as well as discounts for purchasing games through their store. Anyone with half a brain can figure out they are luring in people with free stuff, so they would spend more money on their stores with the discount.
This was of course separate from the networking and VoIP capabilities of the PS3, that where all still free. At least until 2013...
2013 is when people lost their memory. This year Sony now required you to be a PS Plus member to access your internet, and MS added the Games with Gold feature to any and all XBL subs (giving you two free games a month but that's not the point). Suddenly both major console manufacturers offered the same thing if you wanted to play online or chat with friends. Or rather be extorted under the same banner of false benefits.
The Banner of FALSE BENEFITS
If you want VOIP, multiplayer access, or any and all online features in the games you buy, you would now need these “services” that obfuscate their cryptic nature under the guise of Free Games and discounts in their stores. (So you can give them even more money)
So now a laymen, no matter what console they get go through a thought process akin too, "Huh, I need some weird service to play online. Well I don't have to do that on my phone. Oh but it gives me free games, and discounts! Okay."
I know in my heart of hearts, gamers are more savvy to marketing tricks such as this. So why do so many of us kneel to this extortion? Because we know we don't have a choice. And it's easier to tell yourself that the new perks are worth it, rather than face the truth that you are being extorted with no choice in the matter. Plus all your friends already have it, what's holding you back? You also just spent hundreds of dollars on this little box, what's an extra fifty dollars to use your internet? It doesn't take a a lot to notice the sunk cost you've invested here and yeah, it's hard to turn your back on it.
Just take a look at the rapid increase in PS PLUS members since it became a requirement for online games. (Also shown above) If you look at how that's a jump from about 10% of PS3 Owners, to a terrifying 42% of PS4 Owners, it's pretty clear that forcing us to pay extra for something that should and could easily be free is a quick way to make about $130 Million extra a month. (Calculated with 7.9 mill x $5.00 subtracted from the current 34.2 mill x $5.00) Tell me again how they need to charge for f******* voice chat or P2P gaming...
I believe Sony getting away with this casual and devastating change had a lot to do with all the good-will they established for themselves before the launch of the PS4, all while MS was shooting themselves in the foot with the initial policies of the Xbox One.
I actually got a fairly short end of the stick within all this history. My big time sink into a lot of online games was between 2005-2010 on the Xbox 360. Where Some years I could get the $50 a year deal, and other times would need to pay the $5 a month. All with no external benefits, just the ability to use my internet. I also picked up a PS3 around 2010 and enjoyed playing a few games online for free, and even picked up a PS Plus membership in 2011. Which I canceled the moment I found it would be mandatory on the PS4. I had no issue with the service itself. I have a great issue however, with being forced to subscribe to something just so I can access internet I already pay for.
All told MS extorted about $300 out of me with this practice, which admittedly is why this article more than likely comes off with quite a bit of bias against Xbox Live, PS Plus, and now Switch Online. But also due to this sum I gave MS, I will never be forced to pay one more cent for internet access by a company separate from my ISP.
The fact that you can play Fortnite for free on your PC, or even your phone, but not any modern console means the console versions are inferior. Even to mobile.
Unfortunately, we lost the war on this issue five years ago. The lack of outrage, and now (again estimated) 150 million users across these consoles being abused for money by these services has established consumer content. With everyone buried deep into their sunk costs of it all at this point. And now that all three major manufacturers have adopted this system, I would imagine the price for it will go up in years to come. If they can convince as many people as they have to not only give in to these services, but also get consumers to defend them and their marketing gimmicks, there’s no reason they couldn’t charge up to $20 a month. And console gamers won’t have a choice but to give in.
But even if it stays as is, being forced to pay extra after already paying these corporations for their hardware, means consoles will always be complete garbage.