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Gaming Systems Guide

With the holidays approaching, you might find yourself looking forward to kicking back and play some video games. You might also be shopping for a gift. Which is better? A Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, Xbox One, Tablet or PC? Here are a few tips to help compare your different options.

Let start by saying that, as far as gaming goes, there are no bad systems. As long as you’re having fun, you're doing it right. Your goal here shouldn’t be to pick the most capable machine, but rather to get the one you will enjoy playing.

I've provided a few links and product trailers for your convenience. Links looking like this one lead to trusted retailers who might pay me a finder's fee if you buy something from their site. Clicking those links costs you nothing extra and helps me with TekAdvisor's upkeep.

The Lay of the Land

Let’s start by going over the different kinds of gaming systems on the market today.

  • Game Consoles

    There are three main gaming consoles on the market today: The XBox One and the PlayStation 4 both offer similar games; catering primarily to the tastes of male teenagers and young adults (with exceptions, of course). They provide the best graphics among consoles, and they share a sizeable chunk of their games catalogue with PCs.

    The Nintendo Switch is the most distinct, featuring a lot of games you won't find on any other platform. It can also be used in the living room like its competitors or as a handheld console. Among gaming consoles, it's usually the most family-friendly and is a favourite among frequent travellers.

    Game consoles are the primary focus of AAA games developers and a natural choice if you like your games flashy, with big budgets and massive advertising campaigns fueling the hype. If you want to join gaming conversations around the water cooler or the schoolyard, a console is usually the right choice.

  • Gaming PCs

    The PC offers the most varied selection of games and game genres. It's the platform of choice for Strategy, Western RPGs, Massively Multiplayer, Free-To-Play and Indie Games which you often won’t find on consoles or mobile.

    Playing on PC involves educating yourself a little; you have to know what your machine’s capable of. In return, gaming PCs can attain much better visual fidelity than consoles and offer more customization and modification options to play games the way you want.

    If checking compatibility and adjusting game settings are not for you, you will probably feel more at ease with gaming consoles.

  • Mobile Games

    Gaming on tablets and smartphones have gained and then lost popularity in recent years.

    Mobile devices are quite widespread, and games are plentiful and affordable. It's the perfect way to stay entertained during road trips, on the bus or during lunch break.

    Sadly, mobile app stores are chock-full of shoddy games full of microtransactions, gambling-like mechanics and other predatory practices to milk you out of your money. The same trend can be observed on other platforms too, of course, but on mobile' it's now challenging to find a simple game which won't require access to your personal data (including phone number and precise GPS location) even among paid apps.

    Still, thanks to its sheer convenience, gaming on mobile is the easiest way to get some entertainment anywhere (yes, even there).

Buy Gaming Systems for the Games and your Friends; not the Machine

Now that we reviewed the different options, I want to highlight one thing: it doesn’t matter which system is the strongest. You should instead focus on having access to the games and peoples you enjoy.

Multiplayer Considerations

If you’d like to play with your friends; your best bet is to get the same system they have. Identical games on different systems can't always connect to each other (even in an era where crossplay is becoming more common), so going for a different platform is quite likely to mark you as the odd one out.

If gaming, for you, is mostly a solitary activity, your independence gives you a lot more freedom in your selection.

Games and their Availability by System

Here’s a list of popular games and which platforms let you play them.

Details Concerning Name Here

×

As you see, very few games are available for every platform. As a result, your choice of games will likely help to narrow down your search.

Find the best devices to play the games you've selected above

The Length of your Game Sessions Matters

Games are more Enjoyable when you're Comfortable

Games usually offer a lot of experience for the price, in part due to how long it can take to complete one (if it can be completed at all). If we compare different forms of entertainment in "Dollars per Hour of Enjoyment," games tend to rank quite well.

But because we often play for prolonged periods of time, that also means that comfort while playing is a big deal. Breaking your neck playing hunched over a laptop or tablet could quickly sour your experience.

Here are the best gaming systems based on the length of your typical play session:

One+ Hour at a Time

Make yourself a favour and get comfortable. Best locations to play for you would be:

  • The living room, on the couch (assuming sharing the TV is not an issue)
  • A desk with a comfortable chair and a good monitor.

Recommended

15-30 Min. at a Time

If you play in shorter bursts, you will still need a surface to play comfortably. The kitchen table might do the trick in this case.

Recommended

  • Laptops
  • Tablets

1-15 Min. at a Time

Thanks to the popularity of handhelds, you could now play video games pretty much anywhere, anytime you have a free minute.

Recommended

  • Tablets
  • Smartphones

But What if I Must Have the Best Graphics?

A game's visuals are affected by two things: the hardware's graphical features and the game's visual style. Realistic visuals with dynamic lighting and complex shaders applied to detailed 3D geometry are demanding, and some game systems are better suited for this task than others. Games with the right aesthetics can still deliver a jaw-dropping experience on lesser hardware.

If the games you want are available on multiple platforms, the choice might come down to which platform delivers the best graphics.

PCs can have a huge horsepower advantage over anything else, depending greatly on the strength of its video card. Sadly, a portion of that power sometimes gets wasted when some games ship on PC without being adequately optimized.

After that, the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 deliver comparable performances, depending on how proficient the developers are at exploiting each platforms' quirks. Further down the ladder is the Nintendo Switch and, at the very bottom, we find tablets and smartphones.

How about cost-effectiveness?

With so many of games launching simultaneously on PS4, Xbox and PCs, you might think that a 500$ console is a better deal than a 1000$ PC. It’s not that simple.

Gaming Expenses Calculator

If you have to budget your expenses carefully, the following calculator will help determine how much different gaming systems will cost you. The table below reflects what I would consider typical use for each of the consoles involved, but feel free to adapt the values to match your gaming habits.

Hardware Cost Game Purchases How frugal are you? Total Cost
(including game purchases)
Nintendo Switch C$155/y. C$475/y.
Xbox One X C$590/y. C$910/y.
Xbox One S C$380/y. C$700/y.
PS4 Pro C$500/y. C$820/y.
PS4 Slim C$280/y. C$600/y.
Desktop Gaming PC
($1400 now, with $200 in upgrades in 4 years)
C$229/y. C$469/y.
Gaming Laptop C$350/y. C$590/y.
iPad C$117/y. C$135/y.

Confused about these numbers? Here's an overview of the forces affecting gaming expenses.

Hardware Lifespan

Consoles hardware development evolves in huge leaps every 4-6 years instead of progressing gradually. A game developed for one generation can only run on consoles from that generation. Meanwhile, PCs evolve continuously and can run games much newer than them, sometimes by reducing visual fidelity.

In other words; consoles become obsolete nearly as soon as a new generation comes out while a brand-new PC tends to remain compatible for a (relatively) fixed duration.

So, we can expect the Switch to stick around up until 2021-2023, but I wouldn't be surprised to hear about a new PlayStation or Xbox generation in 2019. On the other hand, a PC bought today, with a few upgrades in the future, could last you up to 2025 and beyond.

The cost of Games

One significant expense you should consider is the cost of the games themselves, and there are many things you can do to save.

Many Mobile Games are sometimes Free, but there's a Catch

Mobile games often come with strings attached; especially when they're free. To pay the bills, the developers will need to resort to other financing strategies, and those bring in additional considerations.

Ads are pretty straightforward, but it does involve a certain amount of tracking. For instance, it's commonplace for ad-supported apps to require your GPS position to serve you targetted ads; they will also feed data to big advertisers. So you could end up in a situation where the sites you've visited on your PC end up affecting the ads seen by your kids when you hand them your phone so they can play during a road trip and vice versa.

Many games (even singleplayer titles) will require an online connection to work, which could end up costing you actual money, especially if you're not on wifi. A few studies revealed that free apps often ended up costing more to their users than paid alternatives.

Mobile games often as money from their players to unlock nice things and sometimes even will stop the action when the fun is at its peak and make the player decide between paying or waiting for a while before it'll let you continue. This practice can be excessively costly for people with self-control issues, including kids.

Games often Cost Less on PC, Especially if you can Wait for Steam Sales

If we compare games available on PS4, XBox One and PC, they usually cost the same regardless of the platform at first. With a little patience, however, prices tend to drop faster and lower on PC thanks to digital distribution platforms such as:

Games which are PC exclusive, also often launch at a lower price point than console-exclusive titles. As a result, a gaming PC can end up paying for its extra cost depending on your game consumption. Especially considering how short-lived the last console generation was.

It's also good to mention that no premium membership is required to play with your friends over the internet on PC while some consoles charge a monthly fee for that option.

Consoles Games can be Rented, Sometimes

Console games might cost more in most situations, but there is one option console gamers have over their PC and Mobile brethren: rental.

It's becoming harder and harder to find brick-and-mortar video/game rental stores, but there are online options.

For instance, I was a Gameaccess.ca customer for years; with a monthly subscription, you get a certain number of games you can have at once, and when you're done with one, you send it back in a pre-paid envelope. It was an excellent way for me to try out games I might not have risked buying otherwise.

There are limitations, however, since you can only rent games which got a physical release and which do not require an account with the game's developers. So, it's possible to rent games like God of War, Forza or Breath of the Wild; but games like Hyper Light Drifter or Fortnite cannot.

Made your decision?

Ready to buy?

Hopefully, this article helped you figure out what to get. Now, if you wonder where to get it from or which model to get, here are a few suggestions:

Shopping for a PC

If you decided to go for a gaming PC, you have a bit more shopping to do, but thankfully, that's one of my specialties:

for the Gamer for the Serious Gamer for the Hardcore Gamer
Stationary Computers Computers for the Gamer Computers for the Serious Gamer Computers for the Hardcore Gamer
Laptops Laptops for the Gamer Laptops for the Serious Gamer

Shopping for a Tablet

Shopping for a tablet could also take a bit of extra research. No worries; that's something else I can help you with:

Tablets for the Mobile Gamer.

Shopping for a Console

Know which console to pick? They're usually easy to find at your local toys and electronics store, but I do have them ranked by value:

Best Bang for the Buck on Consoles

Good luck, and Happy Holidays!
Guillaume

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