I’ve gone back and forth between being a console gamer and a PC gamer a few times in my life. Most recently, I loved my Xbox 360. When the Xbox One and Playstation 4 were announced, I had to decide which one I was going to buy. After a lot of consideration, I decided not to buy either of them. They were all too limited. I’m going to build my own console. One that does everything I want.
Here are some of the things I considered along the way.
1. Buying a console locks you into a particular company’s ecosystem.
I had been playing my Xbox 360 for a while – so I had a lot of content stuck in Microsoft’s ecosystem that couldn’t be moved anywhere else. Customized avatar, game purchases, friend list, achievements, etc. I thought that all of my stuff was on Xbox, so I should stick with Xbox. When I realized that, I got a little mad. A game is a game, right? But a game for the Xbox is a separate thing from games everywhere else. Somebody playing Portal 2 on the Xbox 360 can’t play with somebody playing it for PC, because Valve was not allowed to include Steam in the game. Sony let them do it, but not Microsoft. This kind of thing happens everywhere. If I buy a new console, my achievements, purchased games, and other things can’t come with me. The only company that seems to have any interest in breaking this model is Valve. I can buy a Steam Machine, and then buy a different one, and everything comes with me. I know it’s still locked into Steam, but at least that’s a step in the right direction.
2. Some consoles have exclusive games.
I really wanted to play Beyond: Two Souls for the Playstation 3, but it didn’t come out for any other platforms. Why do companies do that? Why would you possibly want to limit the amount of people who can buy your game? Was there any chance that I was going to buy a Playstation 3 just for this one game? Who does that? I actually was considering buying a Playstation 4 to play it – until I found out that it wasn’t backwards compatible. Most of the games that come out for consoles also come out for the PC. When companies release a PC game, they don’t do an “exclusive” somewhere. It’s a much freer market.
3. PCs have emulators.
Going along with the freer market thing, a custom console or a desktop PC is the only way to play older games with emulators. There are some games that are re-released for newer consoles on their respective marketplaces, but on a PC you can play whatever old games you still have with an emulator. You can play Chrono Trigger or Final Fantasy VII on the same machine you use to play Call of Duty or Half Life 2. And it’s only a matter of time before Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 join that list.
4. PCs can play whatever media I want.
This is a big benefit. I don’t like having so many boxes on my TV. Cable box. Xbox. Chromecast. Roku. Etc.
PCs can do all of that. You can watch all of your movies, tv shows, and must. You can look through your pictures. Plex can stream from one computer to your TV, phones, and tablets. XBMC has apps to browse Facebook and watch Southpark. I can watch entire DVDs played directly from the ISO I ripped myself, complete with menus and special features. The list goes on. There are no limits. I don’t have to rent movies from any particular store or pay an extra $10 a month to watch Netflix.
So instead of buying one of the new generation consoles and trying to decide whether to be locked in to Microsoft’s or Sony’s ecosystems for the next few years, I decided to put together my own gaming machine to do everything I want a console to do.
This is my list of requirements:
- It must be fully controllable using a controller.
- It must be able to play current generation games.
- It must be able to play older generation games as if they were native.
- It must be able to play movies from my personal collection.
- It must be able to play music.
- It must be able to play Netflix.
- It must be about the size of the other consoles.
I’m confident that I can build a machine that can do everything that I want. I’m starting with Steam’s Big Picture Mode with a wireless Xbox 360 controller as a base and will continue from there.