Gaming PC vs. Consoles, Round 5

Gaming continues to be a hot topic and certainly one that I personally love to talk about. There is no bigger discussion topic in this area than the all-time favorite—PCs versus consoles. As we are in the midst of another new generation of consoles hitting the market, the PC gaming questions are starting to reach a fever pitch once again. This happens about every four or five years as great hardware and new titles show up from the primary console manufacturers. And as always, history repeats itself.

I will be one of the first guys in line to get the new Playstation 3 when it hits the shelves in November (unless someone can find me a place that is taking pre-orders). But let’s set the record straight…I am certainly not going to get rid of my current high-end XPS system that I spend many hours playing games on. I believe this is pretty much the case for most folks and we at Dell continue to view the consoles as complementary devices to PCs.

Certainly an argument can be made that at the launch of a new generation of console hardware we have at our disposal the latest and greatest platform for game play. One which brings new levels of realism and game play into the living room, especially as more customers purchase and connect these consoles to HDTV sets like Robert Scoble mentioned not too long ago. But as we have seen in the past, within a year, the exciting console of last year starts to show its age and the high-end game players look for new levels of processing power and graphics capabilities. The PC has the unique ability to be able to upgrade on a frequent basis to provide the highest levels of performance at any given point in time. While the new consoles are no slouch and have significant power available that won’t be tapped for quite some time, the roadmaps that we see from the key PC component suppliers show even greater levels of performance coming very soon. Of course, the argument here is that there is too much horsepower available and the software developers don’t need it but I still haven’t met a gaming developer that has asked us to slow down on our technology transitions.

Fixed-function devices will almost always have a cost advantage over a general-purpose device where a common feature is shared, in this case, gaming. The ability to get great hardware in a sub-$500 console is compelling when looking at equivalent PCs costing well over that for similar game performance. However, the PC is not just a game machine. If that is all one wishes to do then certainly grab the fixed-function console and save yourself some hard earned cash. The PC is a general purpose platform geared to handling multiple tasks, data types, connectivity points, etc. It does this very well and will do so for a long time. And as far as game play, I am not ready to give up my working broadband, high resolution display, and my simple but highly-effective mouse and keyboard.

Ultimately we are driving for PCs and consoles to work together as part of the digital home. What this could mean as far as content access, updates, game state sharing, etc. is still to be determined. Today, an Xbox 360 functions seamlessly as a Media Center extender or content display device via Windows Media Connect and provides an end point for streaming data from a PC to the living room. At E3 last year, Bill Gates showed off Live Anywhere, a service that links multiple gaming platforms together—including an Xbox 360, a Windows Vista-based PC, and mobile phones. In the future, we hope to do much more with this capability and the opportunity exists for significant enhancements.

Later on Direct2Dell, I’ll talk more about the various game genres and how we see online play developing over the next few years on both consoles and PCs.

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14 thoughts on “Gaming PC vs. Consoles, Round 5

  1. I agree. I love my 360 on my HDTV, its great for quick LAN parties, and I use the media extender feature all the time. But, I would give it up before my xps gaming rig any day. Multifunctional and upgradable is much better (plus the games are cheaper). I would rather have just a kick-A computer than a crappy pc and a console, but one of each is ideal!

  2. Previously I wrote this:
    “Can you address the issues we are still facing daily with GX270s (and
    some GX280s) with bulging capacitors? – probably 50% of our current PCs
    out of over 3000 are GX270s – currently for every single PC we have to
    phone up, spend half an hour diagnostics with dell for them to arrange
    a motherboard replacement – in each instance we (myself and the Dell
    tech) knows that the problem is resolved by a motherboard replacement –
    this fixes 100% of the GX270s we’ve had problems with, yet this is
    taking hours of productivity (per incident) away from the staff we
    support and from us as IT support technicians – surely there is a
    quicker solution to this problem?”

    Today I have two more GX270s to report to Dell… yay for me! I have not heard any update from Lionel on the matter – I’m looking forward to getting this resolved, if you can contact me directly I can put you in touch with our IT Manager and hopefully you will be able to resolve this for us.

  3. Josh: My apologies that someone did not follow up with you.  I’ll find
    someone the corporate support organization who will contact you to work with your IT manager.

  4. 1) You conveniently forgot about branding and positioning. Like you said, I would never buy a PC exclusively for gaming. So, when you brand a PC (XPS for example) as a gaming machine, you can address only a niche audience. Whereas with a gaming console, a business can tap into a huge, untapped user-base.

    2) You also forgot to mention the bane of a PC’s existence: virus. I am not very sure if consoles suffer from this predicament, but even if they do, it is as bad as it is for the PC. When a virus strikes, even my XPS is rendered impotent.

    3) In terms of ease-of-use consoles beat the PC. I mean, if I want to drown in my beanbag and play, I can on a console! I don’t have to invest in special equipment (correct me if I am wrong).

    4) Cost: While the games are costlier for consoles, I think the cost of buying a cool LCD monitor, and the gaming accessories I need to acquire, make the PC a costlier proposition. At least, that’s the perception a PC creates.

    5) Finally, your idea of PC as an all-in-one device does not sound too hot. Would I like to buy a digital video cam despite the fact that my mobile phone has a video camera? YES!

    Ask any marketing person and he’ll tell you that ‘our product does everything’ has never sold. Never. It is absolutely essential to occupy a niche space in the consumer’s mind. And this ‘all-in-one’ pitch will not help you there. It is not so much about how great the technology is. After all it is about perception and people.

  5. Suman: Thanks for the feedback… wanted to address the points you raise.

    1) The XPS 700 is branded partly as a gaming box, but also as an enthusiast system as well.  Many customers do buy the XPS 700 for gaming, but there are others that buy it for things like video editing/ encoding, or prosumer photo editing kind of things as well.

    2) Viruses are a concen for any PC user, correct. Most of our high-end customers are on top of this though, and run anti-vurs, anti-spam, firewall applications, etc.  We also provide support options for customers who aren’t experts in this area.

    3) Consoles have an ease of use advantage… no argument there.  Still it’s much easier than it used to be, and new enhancements coming in  Windows Vista will bring more improvements on this front to PC gaming

    4) True… you can’t buy a great gaming PC for $500 bucks. Still, for a bit more you can build a decent gaming PC that can be used for many other things.

    5) In reality, a great gaming PC with a fast processor, a high-end graphics card, lots of memory and a huge hard drives will be good video editing, high-end photo editing, personal video recording, etc.

  6. This guy Brian really knows his stuff.  I say “if he is sold on the PC for gaming,” go with Dell’s hotest PC.  We need him to write more articles.

  7. Heeeyy..

    Good luck upgrading that console, or even created user-based mods for such games as Oblivion, the GTA series, etc.

    Oh, and viruses? Come now. Take care of your PC correctly and you won’t have that problem now, will you?

  8. No problem Lionel, good to be back… had some problems with my computer but they are resolved now…

  9. One problem faced by both Dell and the consumer customer is lack of education about what makes a computer a “gaming system.” A hypothetical situation is a family purchasing a low-end to midrange PC with only an integrated graphics chip sharing its memory with the motherboard. The system is opened up, turned on and running in the living room, and the kids then ask the parents if they can go to the store and buy games (ie, Star Wars Knights Of The Old Republic, Doom 3, Halo 2, Quake 4, Final Fantasy Online, etc.) and the system’s graphics subsystem is not up to snuff to handle those games. But because no one in the family is educated enough about computer tech, they do not know that until they buy the games, try to install them, and start calling our tech/sales support asking what is going wrong with their new system. With Xbox/Xbox 360, PS2, and GameCube, you simply buy the console, buy the game version for that console, insert the CD, press power and start playing. Our XPS Gen2, XPS 600, and XPS 700 systems are designed to do decent to excellent gaming out of the box, and compared to the consoles can match or even beat them in sheer graphics quality, user customization, and gameplay setting capabilities. This is the advantage of high-end graphics workstation/gaming PCs. Most “real gamers” have a combination of both a high-end PC and at least one of the Xbox or PS2 consoles, giving a good mix of options for gameplay experience. Both PCs and gaming consoles have their advantages and disadvantages over each other. High-end PC that meet game requirements are extremely flexible, users can customize keyboard/mouse/gamepad buttons to perform very specific functions and combine commands and create macros for really specific functions in the game. On the other hand, the consoles insure ease of use right out of the box, are less prone to viruses, and even young children and other family members can quickly learn the consoles’ controller functions.

  10. Jesse: I tend to agree with just about all of your comments.  From a customer standpoint, I think it’s fair to say that if you think there’s a possibility that the machine may be used for 3D games, just make sure you don’t buy a desktop that only supports integrated video.  Currently, all of our desktops support a PCI Express graphics card.

    With Windows Vista around the corner, that’s another good reason for customers to purchase machines with dedicated graphics cards. Much more Vista-related information will be coming to the blog soon.

  11. PC versus Consoles, the ever burning question, the answer is PC. Why? Because PC Gaming is the future. The PC as the main stream gaming platform is the future because of the decreasing cost of computer components, the increasing performance of the PC as a whole, the ease of use of the Windows OS, and the superior experience and quality that games designed for the PC have to offer. Consoles had their day in the sun, which was sometime in the 80’s and early 90’s, but within the next 10-15 years the console will be dead as the 8-Track.

  12. I think that both PCs and Consoles will continue to play it out in the gaming industry. The problem that many people have with PC gaming is that most consumers do not understand the role that sound and graphics cards play in gaming. The hardware requirements for Bejeweled (however it is spelled) is pretty low. On the other hand, Final Fantasy Online, World Of Warcraft, Halo 2, and Call Of Duty 3 have some very heavy-duty hardware requirements that a $300-$1000 PC will not have. But, these games are available on either or both the XBox360 and PS3. I have seen people’s systems that have truthfully not had any hardware failures, but they have massive software issues on their PC because they tried to buy these games, and the integrated Intel GMA chip is not designed to handle those kinds of graphics. I would see on their desktop, icons related to several attempts to install drivers for both nVidia and ATI Radeon cards (when their system has only an integrated Intel GMA chip). For people like myself, Joel (who made the previous comment) and other PC enthusiast/dedicated PC gamers, we know what kind of minimum hardware needs to be in a system to make it play games well. Your average computer consumer does not. A console does not require a consumer to know what a graphics card is in order to run a particular game. You buy the console, you buy games made for that console, you go home, insert the game disc and start playing. I personally use XBox360 for my shooters and role-playing games, I use my Dell Dimension with its ATI Radeon card and SoundBlaster Audigy to play my RTS games and simulator games. I also use the Dell to act as a networked drive and media server for my XBox360.

  13. hi.. im just wondering if dell has brought the xps gaming system here in the philippines..  I’m an avid fan of your gaming system, im a gamer in my own rights but i can’t really afford your system. But i really want to have one someday. I just hope i could see your gaming system here in the philippines and have contests about winning it, so that i could have a chance in getting such magnificent system..thank you

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