It’s fair to say that despite the popularity of PC gaming, it has quite a few biases and stigmas against it. From cost to ease of use, it’s odd to think that PC gaming is the largest section of gaming in the world. Through the combination of various studies and surveys, the numbers appear to be 1.75 billion PC players to approximately 428 million console players as of 2020. As someone who has now lived on both sides, it’s not hard to see the allure of PC gaming. But, it’s also not hard to see why people would be hesitant. That brings us to the topic of today’s discussion: should PCs replace consoles in fighting game tournaments?
To give more context to his discussion, Capcom made the bold move to only use PC’s for their upcoming CapcomCup. For the last year, I’ve been almost only gaming on my PC. All the fighting games I used to play on PS4 I now play on PC and I can tell the differences. Inputs feel snappier and the times to get into an online match are quick. Not to mention how good some of the visuals get. When I do have to get back to PS4, I can do it, but it does feel off. I notice how atrocious the load times are. I can feel the input lag that I used to swear was in people’s heads. It’s different, and I suspect this is one of the reasons why some people are pushing for PCs at tournaments. Yet, making this move isn’t all upside.
While the whole “PCs costs $3000” thing is overblown, they aren’t exactly cheap. The particular build I use now cost me about $900 if you account for swapped/sold parts. Not bad, but still more expensive than a console. In an interview on the Double Tap podcast, Alex Jebailey cites that he has to secure about 300 setups. Even at $900, that’s a hell of a price tag over the consoles which are less than $600. The next thing a TO would have to consider is consistency. One of PC gaming’s strengths is the ease of customization. But, in a setting where the slightest change can affect the whole game, that customization can be counterintuitive. Now think of how many players get upset over the monitor’s refresh rates and input lag. Introducing PCs to that scenario could prove daunting. And that’s to say nothing of controller compatibility. With Steam’s UI, making sure all the settings are consistent, prepared for the odd bug or two…it can be a lot.
Consoles have a cheaper upfront cost as well as the advantage of uniformity of parts. For TOs this decreases the costs along with the risk of upset players. They’ll know the hardware and won’t have to worry about too many variables. So then, why is it that players are calling for PC? Consoles play fine, especially the Xbox Series X and the PS5. Well, almost always the consoles have worse input lag than PCs. Matter of fact, I can’t think of a time where the console game was the superior experience. Feel free to prove me wrong, but I can’t think of one. Also, some of the problems listed above are not PC exclusive; hardware and software quirks, controller issues, etc. The difference being, the PC advantages usually outweigh those problems.
I admit, the conversation is much more nuanced than what I can put into a small thinkpiece. TOs have their own perspectives and even those aren’t always on the same page. Players also have their side, even if it looks like they want PCs to become the standard. But, I don’t think every tournament is ready for that yet. Going back to the Double Tap podcast, Jebailey said some things that made sense. One of them is accessibility. Those figures I gave of console players to PC players? That figure could look completely different according to the genre of game. For fighting games, I’d say that the percentages are closer to 55/45 in favor of PC. That leaves quite a few players out of the loop of what to do with a PC.
Now, I can hear you already. “It isn’t hard. It’s as plug and play as a console,” and you’re not wrong. But consider who Jebailey is talking about. Some gamer who heard about the event in passing who has only known a console all a sudden sees this thing that doesn’t look like any console they’ve ever seen and they can be curious. They can explore. They can ask questions. But even that is time consuming. Consoles are more recognized as the easier experience. That doesn’t even address the costs involved. Also, what would be the standardized PC? There’s so many questions for TOs to answer. I hear you again, “What about Capcom Cup?” As of the time of this writing, Capcom’s net worth is 6.59 billion. They can afford a few PCs. “But what about Defend The North?” They’re sponsored by a PC manufacturer.
By the way, I’d love to see PCs be the way forward. I love playing on PC and to me it’s a better experience for all involved. But right now, not everyone can pull it off. Either you have to be rich, have certain sponsors, or meet the right conditions to make something like this widespread. One day, this will be the dream. All PC tournaments with the standard for monitors, PCs, and we can all think of this conversation as a tiny step toward progress. But for now, consoles aren’t going anywhere and that’s…okay.