Wednesday, May 10, 2006

And They Say PC Gamers Get Ripped Off?

Well, E3 started today. The Superbowl of the video gaming world.

I want to talk about the Wii, Nintendo’s new console.

Now, believe it or not, I’m not here just to make fun of the name. Yes, Nintendo, it does sound like ‘we’ and the two ‘ii’s in the logo do look like two people standing next to each other…but did no one think to let them in on the fact that ‘wii’ (pronounced ‘wee’) is another name for piss?

That’s going to be fun when it hits the stores:

“Can I have a Wii please?”
“Can’t you read the signs, buddy? No public restrooms!”

Nope, I want to talk about the financial side.

At last years E3 the console gamers started gloating that the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3 marked the end of PC gaming. “We can play games that look just as good as the PC, but for cheaper!” they cried.

I hated to be the one to remind them that they said the same about the PS2 and the original Xbox.

You see, PC’s do require a higher initial investment (although with the price points for the new consoles being so high, it’s getting to where a good PC and a new console are the same price), the PC’s upgradeability makes it a better investment.

When Half Life 2 came out, console players gloated that many people needed to buy a $600 graphics card to run it.

Yes, that’s a lot of money, but console players needed to buy a whole new console to play the next-gen games…and what was the price? Around $600 dollars!

You see, you buy a new console, you use it for 4 or 5 years, and then it becomes totally obsolete. You buy a new PC, then for about $100 a year, you can keep it current, if not cutting edge.

For example, less than a year on, I put an ATI X1300 in my machine, and runs Half Life 2 like butter. It’ll play all the newest, latest games as well, and in a year, I might spend another $100, if I need it.

In other words, consoles catch up to PC’s, claim ‘victory’, but then forget that PC’s are improving all the time. There’s no such thing as a PC cycle. For example, the latest thing is the Physics Accelerator card, due out in a few months. Basically a card that takes a huge load off your processor, improves games performance like crazy, meaning better games can be created.

If you bought an Xbox 360, you’ll be waiting another 5 or 6 years until the new Xbox comes out to take advantage of the hardware.

In simplest terms, if you spend about the price of a next gen console on a PC, you’ll get a good starting point, and then for about $100 to a year, your PC will stay on or near the cutting edge. Or, you can buy a new console, be stuck with what you’ve got for 6 years, then end up paying about $1000 dollars for the Playstation 4

However, my main point is the console gamers’ idea that PC gamers get ripped off because they constantly have to upgrade. If we want to, we can leave our PC as it is, let it get obsolete like a console, then spend the cost of the newest console to replace it.

The truth is, we don’t have to upgrade…but we can wait 6 months, and the $600 upgrade drops in price dramatically…and the PC we  already have can run the game anyway…maybe not blisteringly fast, but good enough.

I don’t want to keep harping on about it, but my graphics card was over $500 6 months ago. I got it for $150. In another 6 months, the same card will probably sell for about $60.

Which brings me back to the Wii. The rip off of the century.

Following Microsoft’s example with the 360, they’re offering a 2 tiered console. $499 for the version with a 20 gig hard drive, and $599 for the version with the 80 gig hard drive.

Here’s what I mean by a rip off. You’re going to pay an extra $100 for a measly extra 60 gigs of storage space.

I did a little research. Through Circuit City, I can buy an 80 gig hard drive for sixty bucks. That’s right, What Nintendo are charging $100 for, I can get that, with an extra 20 gigs on top, for just over half price.

However, if you’re an intelligent PC owner, you’d go over the, and there you can buy a whopping 250 gig hard drive, for $89.99.

$100 for an extra 60 gigs on the Wii console. $89.99 with get you a hard drive with over four times the space for the PC.

Now, here’s the thing, with the PC, you get the choice. Nintendo can charge whatever they want because they’re the only vendor you can buy from.

Here’s the deal. If console manufacturers wanted to break even on the newest consoles, they’d have to sell them for double the price. Most consoles take a loss in the first few years of the console cycle, because they charge $600 for a console that probably costs over a grand per unit to make. The idea is that they make the cash back through the sales of the games.

So they do something like this. They know that most console gamers don’t want ‘second best’, so they make a cheap upgrade (If you can get a 250gig hard drive retail, imagine what the wholesale price is), and charge a ridiculous amount for it, and hope that console gamers won’t notice.

In other words, to minimize the loss they’re going to make, they charge you $100 for an upgrade that cost them about $20.

Now, I’ll admit that the cost of a new, top of the range gaming PC can cost much more than a new console, but if you’re like me, you simply find the PC you want, get the specs, and build it yourself, and end up paying about half the retail cost of the machine you copied.

However, when you buy a games console, you get just that, something you can play games on. Most consoles now have basic, cut-down internet access, but they simply can’t match a PC.

With my PC I can surf the web, send email, write this blog, edit and print pictures, download and burn music, design a house…pretty much anything.

Now, console gamers may point out that the newest consoles can do a lot of that, and the consoles in future will be able to do as much as a PC, but that proves my point even more.

As games consoles improve, they’re simply becoming more and more like PCs. Eventually, they’ll be almost indistinguishable, and the only difference will be that with a ‘console PC’, you’ll be stuck paying through the nose for proprietary hardware.


Kato said...

I think you're confusing your consoles, my friend. Those prices are for Sony's Playstation 3, not for the Wii. Your points are still valid, just different product.

I think Sony is going to have a hard time in the U.S. with its steep price unless it really markets the system as a "mulitmedia center" (i.e. home entertainment system with blu-ray DVD) instead of just a gaming rig. Parents aren't gonna want to spend $600 unless they think it can do more than play games.

Nintendo, on the other hand, make pick up some of the market that it has lost over the years to Sony and Microsoft. If it can come in cheap and really impress people with its launch titles and new whiz-bang controller, they may actually shut up people like me who say they are crazy. It would help if they moved away from the kiddie image they've built up over the past few years, but that's just my opinion.

Paulius said...

You're correct. Thanks to the sheer number of plugs and ads on the E3 coverage from G4, I got a little confused.

My main point, however, was the extra $100 for the 80 gig harddrive version.

When you can buy a 250 gig drive for $80, $100 for an extra 60 gigs of storage space is ludicrous.

As for Nintendo, these days they seem far too interested in gimmicks, rather than creating a good, fast console. The nunchuck controller looks great, but that's one of those things that will only be successful if it works perfectly. Otherwise it'll be a repeat of the old Nintendo 'power glove', that just didn't work properlly.

MC Etcher said...


serendipity said...

Wow - that's quite a rant. I'm glad i don't play computer games