As a games writer, I try to cover my bases. It’s why I hopped on next-gen pre-orders as soon as possible and secured my consoles, and it’s why I’ve rounded things out with my Nintendo Switch and PC, along with an Oculus Quest for good measure/Beatsaber. Plus, you know, a phone. And I’ve noticed something interesting about my next-gen consoles ever since I put them each through their paces shortly after launch, and that’s that I don’t play them very much. Despite having both the Xbox Series X and and PS5, I mostly still play my games on PC and Switch.
First off there’s the PC, which handles all my multiplatform needs. Most major, non-exclusive games come out on PC, Xbox and PlayStation, and for me PC is the most straightforward place to play them. Games here are flexible and moddable, I’ll be able to take them to a new machine with no issue, I can play them with either controller or mouse and keyboard, etc. There was a time when PC ports got short shrift compared to their console equivalents, but this is rarely the case anymore. And as we saw with Cyberpunk 2077, PC can frequently come out on top, so long as you’ve got the right hardware. And then there are entire genres that basically only come out on PC, from city-builders to RTS.
And then there’s the Switch, which distinguishes itself both through exclusive games and the fact that it can do things that no other console can, i.e., play in handheld mode. PC is where I play my “big” games, but Switch is where I play I small ones, where I curled up with Hades for a solid month, or where I revisited Hollow Knight midway through the pandemic. There’s something about handheld mode that just feels mesmerizing for a certain sort of game, and it’s where I gravitate for all sorts of indie titles.
It’s also where I play my games with my daughter, because no other platform has Super Mario Odyssey or Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Which is, essentially, why the Switch worms its way into my gaming life in a way that those consoles don’t: it brings something to the table that the PC just doesn’t.
Beyond that, my other platforms are also defined by the experiences that I just can’t get elsewhere: BeatSaber on Oculus, Pokemon GO on mobile.
This will, naturally, change when PS5 exclusives get rolling. I won’t be playing Horizon: Forbidden West on PC, because it won’t be on PC at launch. And that right there is the core of Sony’s software strategy, one that allows the company to position itself as a sort of HBO of the console world, a premium place where you can play many of the most lavish single-player titles on the market. If I were to round out my gaming world with just one next-gen console, it would definitely be the PS5.
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There is no equivalent for Xbox, because I can play all those exclusive games on my PC anyways. This doesn’t bother Microsoft, because a PC player can still generate revenue through Game Pass.
It’s a little snapshot of gaming in the earliest days of the Xbox Series X/PS5 generation. Those two machines are largely fighting over the same territory, which is also occupied by PC, and the PC wins that battle in my case. The Switch, however, manages to float above the fray with some genuinely unique propositions that I can’t get anywhere else. It bodes well for the little machine going forward, in this strange way that it manages to not compete even with those other platforms that we might consider its competition.