Moving to PC as My Fighting Game Platform of Choice?

Playing fighting games on PC wasn’t really an avenue I put much thought into pursuing. Up until recently, I didn’t have PC hardware capable of running video games at all. Even if I did, the PC has played second fiddle to home consoles as the tournament standard ever since the fall of the arcades. Home consoles were easier to set up while providing players with a standardized battleground. Consoles don’t have issues with game performance varying from one PC to the next or having to worry about driver support for every possible controller option. As someone who took fighting games seriously and competed at IRL tournaments, I was going to take the tournament standard every time.

Things are…different now. I haven’t competed in an IRL tournament in a few years. Even if I wanted to, the entire fighting game tournament scene is in flux due to the ongoing pandemic. Also, I finally have a PC capable of running fighting games. If I were to ever give fighting games on PC a chance, it would be right now.

I’m discovering very quickly what some of the key benefits are for switching to PC. One of my biggest gripes with fighting games on consoles has been the lack of fightstick support across console generations. Good ones cost hundreds of dollars and both Sony and Microsoft prevented you from using the old ones on their new consoles. The only fighting game I played on PS4 that supported my PS3 fightstick was Street Fighter V. Even so, the feature failed me at my first Street Fighter V tournament when none of the consoles there could recognize my controller, forcing me to borrow other people’s controllers for the entire event. I went out and begrudgingly bought a PS4 fightstick to avoid that dilemma going forward, even though there’s no real reason why my PS3 fightstick couldn’t have done the trick.

Sony is thankfully reversing their stance with the PS5, as they’ve cleared official arcade fightsticks and other specialty controllers from the PS4 generation to be forward compatible. But if I move to PC, I don’t have to worry about major controller schisms like that ever again.

To be fair, fightstick support on PC is hit-and-miss. None of my Mad Catz fightsticks work on PC. Not even those built for the Xbox 360 or Xbox One. Drivers to support those controllers died with Mad Catz years ago and Microsoft fell through on a promise to provide fightstick drivers of their own.

Thankfully for me, my HORI HRAP 4 works great on PC. I’m covered for as long as Steam continues to exist and for the lifetime of my current controllers. Since both have easily swappable parts, switching to PC means I may never need to but another fightstick again.

Speaking of having something forever, my library of fighting games will have a more permanent home on PC. My old games won’t get trapped on old hardware. And with Steam having every major fighting game at this point – many of which are regularly on sale – it’s not overly expensive to build the catalogue back up.

PC ports aren’t second-class adaptations of their arcade or console counterparts, either. If you’ve got the hardware for it, you can crank the settings to max and get visuals that look better than anything on a console. Also, there’s been a lot of talk about input delay on PC vs. console in recent years. For at least two major titles – Street Fighter V and Dragon Ball FighterZ – input delay is generally lower than their console counterparts. Having played a bit of both, the lower delay did feel nice, even if that might throw off my timing if I ever play in an IRL tournament again running off of a console.

At this juncture, most of the fighting game audience is still playing on consoles. But that part is being somewhat mitigated too thanks to some games supporting cross-platform play. Street Fighter V benefits from it, even if its version of rollback netcode is lacking. Should the trend of cross-platform play continue with newer releases, the smaller player base on PC shouldn’t be as much of an issue going forward.

Even though I’m fortunate enough to have a PlayStation 5, which will likely become the tournament standard for fighting games going forward, I’m not sure if I’ll follow suit. For the sake of better graphics, lower input delay, and lifetime support of my games and controllers, I’m warming up to the PC being my go-to fighting game platform. If I need to acclimate to console input timings for a specific game I want to play in a tournament, I can cross that bridge when I get there.

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