Back To Console Gaming

Super Mario 3D World for the Wii U just became the first physical console game I bought in… a year maybe? I don’t even know honestly. Playing it and starting a new Demon’s Souls character over the weekend, I thought my return to consoles for a while would be this big contrast against what I’ve been doing on PC for so long but now I’m not so sure. The convergence of PC and console functionality has been prevalent for years now and I guess I can finally say it’s a real thing in my experience.

I thought going back to my Wii U and PS3 for a little while would be some kind of shocking rediscovery of the quickness and accessibility of starting up console games. On PC you have to take a minute to turn the computer on, probably log into Steam, get the drivers for a controller sorted out, and if you’re first acquiring a game you have to install it. On a console, or at least the two consoles I’m still using, you just put the disc in.

On PC though I’ve worked things out to a point where starting up a game isn’t even slower most of the time. First of all, like probably most people I just leave my PC on most days, maybe in sleep mode at times, and I stay logged into Steam. On top of that, getting the Steam controller to connect to a PC and stay connected for me is a lot easier than a wireess Xbox controller. Keeping an Xbox controller synced each time you turn it on is a crapshoot but the Steam controller basically feels like a console controller — I just press the power button on and off. The result is that I can really just grab the Steam controller to bring my computer out of sleep mode and click on a game in my Steam menu.

I have to admit though that the Wii U’s quick start function really works. It’s just about a fast as doing the above, even from a cold boot. I guess that’s at least one thing Nintendo got right. A lot of first party Wii U games don’t even have patches to download, and of course there’s no install procedure. It’s starting up PS3 games that can be a problem. People have probably complained about the “checking trophies” and “checking downloadable content” messages that have to come up for PS3 games for a long time, but I’ve only just now contrasted that with PC games that don’t do those things at all. Do PS4 and Xbox One games have to check achievements and DLC every time you boot them?

The real difference I’ve noticed though between how I perceived console games maybe 10 years ago and how I perceive them now is that the experience of having to put a disc in a machine every time I want to play a game has become alien to me.

I’ve actually reached a point where whatever Wii U or PS3 game I’m currently playing, I’ll just leave inside the disc drive. I still like the idea of having  boxes and discs. I like the look of all the game boxes I have on my self. I just don’t like having to deal with them when actually playing the games. I like the PC situation where I can buy a disc but just leave it on the shelf after the initial installation. I still have the boxes of old and recent PC games for this reason. This is basically what Microsoft originally wanted to do for the Xbox One but it tried it in a terrible way. I’m actually thinking about paying another $20 just to have a digital version of Demon’s Souls while keeping the disc and box.

I still don’t really want to go all-digital with consoles though. With console games your ownership of the physical disc is the only bit of freedom you have with the product since you can’t control how or on what you install the game. More importantly, console manufacturers have yet to maintain any kind of relevance for any platform beyond a few years. I still think iOS has nailed the right balance between digital distribution, accessibility, and maintaining a relevant platform for a long period of time.


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