Gaming in Australia – Welcome to the New Hollywood
Video games are big. Really big. Bigger-than-Hollywood big, in fact. Home video game devices – “consoles” – have been with us since the mid-1970s, but throughout all those years they’ve never seen the level of popularity we see today. An industry that many wrote off as done and dusted back in the early ‘80s has become a global entertainment behemoth. For example, Sony recently announced they had sold a staggering half a billion PlayStation game consoles worldwide since the brand was launched. Nearly 80 million of those are PlayStation 4 consoles that have been bought since 2013.
95 million people play Grand Theft Auto V while 144 million bought Minecraft. And a big reason for those massive numbers is the ease of access that game consoles (and yes, PCs as well as mobile devices like phones and tablets) bring to video games. Of course, millions of people still play games on their desktop or laptop computers (that number’s actually still rising) but it’s the dedicated consoles that are completely untouchable when it comes to sheer volume of players. And with good reason – they’re basically “plug and play”. Buy the game, it just works (unexpected bugs aside, anyway!)
And it’s in the latest generation of gaming devices that two massive industries have risen to prominence. Streaming gameplay footage via dedicated services like Twitch is now a phenomenon, with popular streamers pulling in audiences in the hundreds of thousands. Streaming is no longer a PC-only pastime, with the current consoles having streaming support built right in. And then there’s eSports – competitive, organised tournament-based gaming that can be worth millions.
So if you’re looking to get into video games for the first time – or upgrade to one of the current generation of devices so you can play the current blockbuster titles and maybe even get into streaming – which platform should you be throwing your money at? It is, after all, a decision not to be taken lightly, thanks to the concept of “exclusives” – games that are only available for a particular console. Unless you’re up for spending a ton of money to buy multiple consoles, the sort of games you prefer to play can matter a lot.
In the current console world, we’re really dealing with three choices these days – and for two of this “big three” you’ve got another choice to make once you’ve picked your platform.
Of course, you don’t have to go down the console route at all if you don’t want to – your home PC or Mac might be ready and waiting to act as your gaming device as well, offering its own benefits and exclusives.
The previous “generation” of consoles – Sony’s PlayStation 3, Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Nintendo’s Wii and Wii U – are still in millions of homes, but we’re not including them here. Aside from the fact that they’re no longer manufactured, you’ll also have a hard time finding games for them outside of eBay, and new blockbuster games haven’t been made for them for years.
So, here are the current options, all of which are very much great choices for your home video gaming needs. Which one is right for you, well, that’s going to depend on what games you want to play (as well as what console most of your friends have, if you’re planning on playing online!)
Sony PlayStation 4
Currently the “winner” of this console generation with the most devices sold by far, the PS4 is a superb device that’s got a very clear “games first” philosophy behind its crisp, clean and silky-smooth on-screen interface. Available in both a regular version as well as the beefed-up PS4 Pro, with the latter supporting gaming in 4K. A key advantage of the PS4 platform is the huge amount of high quality “exclusives” that Sony has locked down – games you can’t play anywhere else. Prices range from around $399 for the standard model (depending on hard disk size), up to about $550 for the PS4 Pro.
Microsoft Xbox One
Coming out of the starting gate a little underpowered in comparison to the PS4, Microsoft’s Xbox One has been tweaked and refined to the point where it’s an excellent gaming system which is smaller, quieter and more integrated than Sony’s offering. Many Xbox One games offer cross-platform play with other devices, and Microsoft’s own titles come with a copy for Windows 10 at no extra cost. Also available in a super-boosted jet-black version called the Xbox One X, indisputably the most powerful console of this generation. Prices range from about $299 for the standard Xbox One to $649 for the Xbox One X.
Winning itself lots of fans for its sheer adaptability, the Switch is essentially a handheld portable game console with a superb screen – but which can be placed in a “dock” connected to your home TV for big-screen gaming, with the clever little device even able to switch between handheld and home console while a game is in progress. Along with the expected range of excellent Nintendo-only games featuring Super Mario, Zelda and the rest, the Switch has become popular with other companies who’ve discovered even their big-console games can work on it. Yes, you can play Skyrim on the train if you’ve got a Switch! Pricing starts at around $398 for the kit including the dock and “Joy-con” controllers.
People have been playing games on personal computers since way back when they were first sold. These days, a modern PC can be a formidable gaming platform, easily able to run rings around any of the dedicated consoles when it comes to speed, graphical quality and range of titles. Some of the biggest games in history are, in fact, only available on PC, such as World of Warcraft (still going strong in its 15th year!) Games for PC (and to a lesser extent, Mac) are available from a huge range of sources, from gargantuan PC gaming shop and social platform Steam to hundreds of independent retailers and, of course, the big chain stores. If there’s a downside, it’s that taking up PC gaming can end up being expensive – the sky’s the limit when it comes to how fast and powerful you can make your “rig” if you’ve got the cash to throw at it!
Best Hardware Deals for Streaming TV
Whether it’s streaming or playing online, you’ll find yourself interacting with a range of popular websites and services. For one thing, all three consoles require a subscription to their own online service in order to play games with your friends (details about those services are on each individual console’s page). But it’s the rapidly-growing world of streaming that most peoples’ attention is turned to, and whether you want to watch others’ streams or prefer to fire up a game and broadcast it to the world, you’re going to need one of these vital services.
The original video game streaming site, Twitch has been around for many years, slowly but surely gaining in popularity to the point where it counts its users in the millions. Ultimately Twitch was purchased by Amazon, who’ve allowed it to keep running without any interference – aside, that is, from Twitch Prime, a side-benefit that comes with an Amazon Prime subscription and gives you a whole bunch of bonuses on Twitch (including tons of free games!)
While it’s obviously more of a video upload site, and most definitely not restricted to all things gaming, YouTube has launched a game streaming product in recent years and there’s still plenty of people who use it. Like Twitch, it’s free to use but supported by advertising unless you opt to pay for the subscription version, YouTube Premium. There’s plentiful gaming-related content to be found on YouTube, which makes it a great resource. But for streaming, Twitch is still the king.
Here’s where you’ll find what we think are the essential games to go out and grab on each platform – the stuff that defines modern gaming. From epic Hollywood-style adventure with the Uncharted and Tomb Raider games to the all-out competitive warfare of bona fide phenomenon Fortnite, we’ll point you in the right direction to make sure the games you pick up for your console are ones that’ll keep you involved and entertained for many, many hours.
The Vital Accessories
Need another game controller so you can play co-op with a friend sitting on the couch? Wanting to track down a good camera for your new double life as an up and coming streamer? Or are you tired of plugging your controller into a USB cable to charge it and want something faster and easier? Is the short battery life of the Switch in handheld mode something you want to fix? What actually are the key accessories for your console, and which ones are worth buying?
Best Gaming and eSports Broadband Plans
If you’re an avid online gamer, then you should know that having a reliable broadband connection can make all the difference in having a seamless good time playing with your mates. Just imagine, you spend hours and hours of exploring virtual worlds like that of Final Fantasy XIV or nailing a solid session of Call of Duty, and all it takes is having a wonky connection to ruin it all. This is why it pays to give a little extra attention to the broadband services you’re signing up for to make sure that you get what you pay for.
Looking for broadband plans suitable for gaming and eSports pretty much boils down to the amount and the speed of data from a reliable network. Remember that the NBN is setup to have several speed tiers, and the speed tier you’ll need is definitely higher than what you would normally need for light online browsing or occasional TV streaming. The good balance of speed and affordability is around the NBN50 mark, giving you 50Mbps download and 20Mbps upload with unlimited data. Of course, you also have the option of going much faster than that if you want have a fully non-interrupted session.
Check out our round-up of the top 5 broadband plans that are perfect for gaming and eSports. This list features plans with higher speed tiers, with each offer having their own range of freebies and inclusions.
Aussie Broadband – Power User
There’s a reason why this plan is called ‘Power User’. Running at NBN100 with a typical evening speed of 90Mbps, this plan gives you the capability to “power” through your gaming marathon with the best speeds from this highly acclaimed broadband provider in Australia. Aussie Broadband prides themselves in not having “peak slowdowns,” so you won’t have to worry about playing at any given time of the day – or night.
Telstra – Unlimited Bundle
If it’s reliable network you’re after, then might as well go for Telstra Broadband with their unlimited bundle that connects you to one of the fastest networks in Australia. This plan gives you unlimited data on the NBN50 speed tier and comes with a free Smart Modem, which serves as an automatic 4G backup on Telstra’s network in case of sudden power outages. How’s that for playing your games even through blackouts?
Southern Phone – Unlimited Turbo
Southern Phone is another provider that has established themselves to be highly dependable when it comes to connection speed and quality. With their unlimited NBN turbo plan, you get 50/20 speeds with a typical speed quoted at 46Mbps. What makes this offer a sweet deal compared to other providers offering the same speed, is its affordability. So if you’re looking for a sweet deal for unlimited data and reliable speed, then Southern Phone is the way to go.
Belong – Standard Plus
Another affordable deal would be Belong’s Standard Plus plan. Also giving you a speed of 50/20Mbps but for a much lower price point, this plan keeps it simple and no fuss. Good news is, on a 12-month contract, you even get a free Wi-Fi modem and zero standard activation fees – not to mention, you also get free mobile credit on top of that as well!
Mate – Soul Mates
Now if what you need is a super-charged connection, then Mate Communicate’s Soul Mates plan would be great pick at NBN100 speed tier, with typical evening speeds of 80Mbps. For less than a hundred dollars, you get a sweet deal that comes with zero setup fees, uncapped unlimited data, and no plan change fees, which allows you to change it up at no extra additional cost.
Want to know more? Compare these plans and costs on the table below:
Best Broadband Plans for Gaming & eSports
- Up to 40Mbps Standard Plus Evening
- Unlimited Data
- NBN 50™ Fixed Line
- Up to 40Mbps Standard Plus Evening
- Unlimited Data
- NBN 50™ Fixed Line
Can you still buy the previous generation of consoles and games?
With most of the key games from the last generation either showing up as “remastered” versions on the new consoles or directly on Xbox One via “backwards compatibility”, there’s no real need to chase up the old PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360. If you want one, though, you’ll have to settle for second-hand, since they’re no longer manufactured.
Do I Need to Connect My Console to Broadband?
Games you buy on disc will work fine on any console even if it’s not connected to the Internet. However, by not doing so you miss out not only on updates to the games to fix problems and bugs discovered after release, but you also miss out on vital updates for the console itself, which often come with new features. You can download console updates to a USB stick and update your console that way, but the only way to update the actual games is to be online.
Can I Watch Video on My Console?
Yes – in fact, both the PS4 and Xbox One make excellent machines for streaming Netflix, Stan, Amazon Prime Video, Twitch and more. There are optional “TV style” remote controls available for both consoles to make your video viewing experience easier. The Xbox One can also play UHD (4K) Blu-ray discs, making it one of the best-value UHD players out there. As for the Switch, it’s just for games right now – though Netflix is rumoured to be coming!