Tiny Tech Tinkering Titillates

I might have been a bit over tired when I came up with that headline but I’m leaving it, by gum!

So a while back I bought a 2 TB SSD for the Playstation 5. Why? I have no idea. Because I’m dumb. I don’t need that much space but it was on sale. This was back last summer. Anyway I bought it, and swapped out the 1 TB that I already had in there. That 1 TB SSD has been sitting on my desk ever since.

My gaming desktop, in the meantime, has a .5 TB SSD and a 1 TB HDD. Whether it is because games just expect an SSD these days, or if the PS5 and Xbox Series X have spoiled me, loading times for games I was running off that 1 TB platter drive just seemed dreadful. Obvious solution, repurpose the 1 TB SSD that I’d pulled out of the PS5.

It could have been as simple as opening the case, plugging the drive into an available m.2 slot and be off and running. But it wasn’t that simple. My motherboard didn’t have a 2nd m.2 slot. Turns out you can get a PCI card that provides an m.2 slot so I ordered one. It came and I opened the case again and… hey wait a minute, I don’t have a PCI slot either. Well, not one that I recognized. Apparently motherboard design has changed in the maybe 15 years since I last cut my knuckles on the guts of a PC.

It turns out I had a “single lane” PCI slot, but I’d purchased a “4 lane” PCI card. Fortunately it was like $13. Back to Amazon I went and found a single lane adapter card (this one was like $8). That worked. Mounted the SSD on the card, stuck the card in, turned the system on and…. nothing.

OK let’s check the BIOS. Restarted the machine, held down DEL. No BIOS. Tried again holding F2. No BIOS. F1? Nope. F10? Nope. How the hell do I get into the BIOS? New learning opportunity. You can access it via Windows when all else fails, by using Advanced Startup in the System->Recovery options.

Finally got into the BIOS and yup, the drive is showing in the BIOS so what could be wrong… oh wait, it’s formatted for the PS5. Duh. On to the Disk Management app. This at least still looks the same as it used to look, once I remembered that it existed. Took a few minutes to format it, create a partition and assign a drive letter and voila! Now I have 1.5 TB total SSD space.

But here’s the dangerous bit… doing all this was, dare I say it? Fun. And kind of satisfying. And now I kind of want to do more. I’ve been seriously considering building a PC. I figure part of the frustration of working on a PC is that while you’re working on it, you don’t have a PC, right? But if I build a SECOND PC it should remove all that stress and frustration and it could be fun. I mean there was a time in my life where I really enjoyed tinkering in the guts of a PC. It’d be really nice to learn about all the new tech and stuff.

Really the only drawback is that everything tech-related is so damned expensive these days. Like I guess I could build a really cheap gaming PC just to build it but then what? Stick it in the closet? So I’d really want to build an upgrade to what I have (an i7-9700F @ 3.00GHz and an RTX 2070 SUPER GPU) which I’m assuming wouldn’t be cheap.

So I probably won’t do anything other than live vicariously through watching YouTube PC build videos. Maybe when I hit those lottery numbers…

Why the heck does everything have to cost money!?

Playstation 5 & Xbox Series X for PC gamers

Most of my social media friends are primarily PC gamers so I thought I’d write a post helping them to decide if/when they should buy a Playstation 5 [PS5] or an Xbox Series X [XSX]. But before we get into that, lets talk a little bit about the console business model.

Both Sony and Microsoft sell their consoles (particularly near launch) at a loss. The idea is to get you in the door, then they make their money off of you via software and subscription sales. As a general rule of thumb when you buy a game on one of their platforms they get 30% of the sale price, and of course 100% for first party titles. Keep that in mind as we discuss each machine.

Now let’s talk about exclusives. True exclusives are becoming increasingly rare these days. Don’t be fooled when a company says “console exclusive” or “timed exclusive.” The former means the game WILL be on PC (just not on the other console), the latter means it’ll be on PC you’ll just have to wait a while.

Playstation 5

Let’s talk PS5 first. Sony is a ‘traditional’ console seller in that their console is their platform. They want to sell a bunch of PS5s to build market share. This is why they have such high quality exclusives. Sony is willing to devote a ton of resources into exclusives because these are used as the ‘bait’ to get you into the Playstation ecosystem.

Tangent: I’m not a developer so this might be nonsense, but I suspect that true Playstation exclusives look as good as they do because the developers can take advantage of every hardware-specific feature and trick there is. They’re not worried about “how will we do this on Xbox or PC” so they can squeeze every drop of power out of their single target hardware.

Once you buy that PS5 to play an exclusive, Sony hopes you’ll buy other games, plus peripherals and maybe a Playstation+ subscription. The only other Playstation revenue stream they have is their streaming service Playstation Now, but so far Sony has used this mostly to put their back-catalog to use. They really want to force you to buy a Playstation in order for you to play their newest, hottest titles.

So when should you but a PS5? When there are enough exclusives to justify the hardware cost; so 2022 maybe? The truth is you probably won’t use your PS5 very much; all your friends are on PC and if you’re a dedicated PC gamer your rig is probably more powerful than the PS5 is, or at the very least it will be when you upgrade in a couple of years. Most of my die-hard PC gamer friends report that their consoles mostly collect dust after an initial burst of enthusiasm.

Xbox Series X

Now let’s talk about Microsoft. Microsoft diverges from Sony in a huge way in that the Xbox hardware platform is not their only revenue stream. They have this side project called Windows as well. Microsoft’s focus is on selling you software and subscriptions, and they’re leaning harder and harder into subscriptions at this point.

Because of this, XSX exclusives aren’t always as flashy as PS5 exclusives. In fact there are virtually no true XSX exclusives; Microsoft is making a concerted effort to offer all its games on Windows as well as Xbox.

Recently Xbox Game Pass has become a huge focus. It works on Xbox hardware and on Windows machines. Microsoft is happy to sell you an XSX, sure, but what it REALLY wants to sell you is a Game Pass subscription and it doesn’t care where you play the games. Could be on Xbox, could be on PC, could be via Xcloud.

In fact one could argue that they’d prefer you play on PC. Consider that when you buy an XSX, Microsoft loses money. When you buy a new gaming PC that comes with a Windows license, Microsoft earns money. [Granted a lot of PC gamers just carry their Windows license with them, but every time an Alienware, OriginPC or a gaming PC from Best Buy is sold, Microsoft makes money on that Windows license.]

Of course when you play on Windows, Microsoft doesn’t make anything from you when you buy a game from Steam, Origin, Epic or any other store, and no one that I know chooses to buy from the Windows Store unless they can’t avoid it. But again, this is where Game Pass comes in and why Microsoft is leaning so hard into it. Game Pass is their on-going revenue stream from PC gamers.

So when should you, the PC gamer, buy an Xbox Series X? Never. XSX is for those of us who don’t want/can’t afford a gaming PC. But as long as PC gaming is your jam, there’s very little reason for you to buy an XSX.

Snarky Summary

Hopefully this post will be of some help and will stop some of the complaints from PC gamers about how little incentive there is for them to buy a new console. These consoles are not generally meant for you. You’re wealthy enough that you can buy a $1500-$3000 gaming PC and then a few hundred dollars more every couple of years to keep it up to snuff. Be content with that, and understand that consoles are meant for a different market. Let console gamers enjoy their once-a-decade $400-500 new devices in peace. Don’t be the guy driving around in a Ferrari complaining that Chevrolet is giving you no reason to buy their new Aveo model.

New Playstation hardware revs

While the Great BlogWAR of Aught-8 was raging, the Leipzeig Game Conference was ignored here at Dragonchasers. Shame on me.

A couple Playstation-related hardware announcements cropped up. First is the PSP-3000, another rev of the familiar PSP, this one with a built-in microphone (for Skype or voice chat in games) and a screen that is supposed to have double the refresh rate of the old screen, a “color gamut” twice as wide (honestly not sure exactly what that means but I figure it boils down to twice as many potential colors) and 5 times the contrast ratio. Also the Home button is gone, replaced my a Playstation button.

An incremental improvement, for sure, but still welcomed.

Also, a new PS3 bundle. 160 gig PS2, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, DualShock Controller and a coupon for PSN game Pain, all for $500. Uncharted is pretty f’ing great, so its a nice pack-in choice. The downside is that, from everything I’ve read, this new 160 gig PS3 has no Backwards Compatibility. So presumably the MGS4 80 gig bundle now on store shelves is your last chance to get limited BC.