“Grand Theft Auto V” — the fastest selling entertainment product in history — has sold more than 50 million copies since its release on PS3 and Xbox 360 in September 2013, thanks in part to an updated re-release on next generation consoles, PS4 and Xbox One.
This week, Rockstar Games will republish “Grand Theft Auto V.” Reviewers have already called the fifth edition the ultimate version of a game critics already hailed as a masterpiece.
Resolution is four times higher: every grain of sand is rendered on the desert floor. Draw distance is increased: players can look from a mountaintop and see the city skyline from miles away. And the frame rate is doubled: the combustive expanse of every explosion can be seamlessly observed.
However this enhanced edition is not on a brand new console, it is on the world’s oldest mainstream gaming platform: the personal computer (PC).
The PC, of course, has evolved since text adventures where the only mechanics were typing commands, such as “shoot orc with arrow” or “open mailbox,” and the only graphics were the players’ imaginations.
Since the first consoles came out, they have always competed with or, as some would say, been a step behind the PC. This is because PC owners are able to unscrew the case and replace any component from the graphics card to the cooling fan in order to squeak out every bit of processing power.
Consoles, meanwhile, cannot be modified and are updated once a generation in the console cycle. The seventh generation consoles that released “Call of Duty 2” also fronted the release of “Call of Duty Ghosts” — eight years and nine Call of Duties later.
There are reasons why the console cycle has become ever slower, even though technology is improving ever faster. First, not everyone is willing or can afford to buy a new console every year a better processor comes out.
Secondly, manufacturers don’t make profit from console gaming for years after release. Sony and Microsoft sell hardware at a loss. They make up for the lost billions many years later from the money developers pay for allowing their games to be compatible with the consoles. According to Forbes, the PS3 didn’t see a profit until 2010, four years after its release.
Though the PS4 and Xbox One were already outdated before they were announced, PC gamers pay a price to stay ahead of console gamers. In order to play the newest version of GTA V with all graphics on high, someone would need to buy an expensive 4k monitor and a desktop that costs in the thousands, though building one’s own computer can save a little money.
A PS4 or Xbox One, on the other hand, cost a quarter of the price for a premium gaming rig. Consoles also require less computing know-how and friends can play in the same room without the wiring and heavy lifting required for a LAN party.
So who is winning the fight? According to Forbes, the PC gaming market is twice the size of the console market, thanks in part to the enduring popularity of Massive Multiplayer Online games like “World of Warcraft.”
Steam, a digital game store that also allows friends to talk and recommend games, has become more popular and also gives a platform for discounted high-budget games, as well as hundreds of independent games released monthly.
The casual gamers who traditionally owned consoles are also ditching the joypad for the smartphone, as mobile gaming sales have increased significantly.
All in all, if someone wants the highest-quality gaming experience with the largest number of games to choose from, PC gaming is the way to go. Just be willing to invest more money into the experience and deal with hardware tinkering every once in a while.
On the other hand, if someone doesn’t want to endure the humility of finding out one’s computer can’t play the latest Far Cry on high settings or would rather relax on the couch, console gaming is the way to go. Just be willing to forego prettier lighting and shadows that swell and slip with the sun.
Or you could do what many video game forum commenters recommend: buy both.