The age-old battle wages on. PC gaming vs. console gaming. Which is better?
This is a debate that is rarely friendly, occasionally fact-based, and mostly fan-boi driven.
There’s a lot of emotion on both sides. Nobody likes it when others try and make them feel inferior, but that, unfortunately, is what ends up happening quite often when PC gamers and console gamers discuss which platform is better.
The truth is that there is really no answer to which platform is the best because each platform has different pros and cons.
And, depending on your own needs and preferences, you may be better suited for PC gaming, or for console gaming.
In my opinion, though, PC gaming does have a broader range of appeal to gamers (whether they know it or not). But PC gaming is also not perfect. And, as such, it won’t every need of every gamer.
So, in this post, I’m going to try and go over the pros and cons of each platform for any gamer who is on the fence on which direction they should head.
Let’s get started.
You Do You
First off, if you’ve come to this post looking either to argue for or against the points laid out below, just know that I am with you. Because, at the end of the day, if you prefer console gaming over PC gaming (or vice versa), you are correct in your preference.
It’s your preference. You can prefer whatever gaming platform you want.
Whatever platform you enjoy more is the platform you should spend the majority of your time on. And, that’s really the only argument that matters for anyone who has picked their platform of choice and is happy enough with it to where there’s no point in trying the other platform.
But, if you aren’t sure what platform is right for you, or you’re gaming on one platform at the moment and your curious what the other brings to the table, keep reading.
Cost of Entry
The cost of PC gaming and consoles is always one of the prime factors in the debate on which platform is better. And, typically the argument goes something like…
Console gamer: PC gaming is way too expensive to get into. You have to spend at least [x] amount of dollars to get a PC good enough to play games. And, a console costs [‘x’ minus the average cost of a console] less than that. So, PC gaming just isn’t practical for a lot of budget-oriented gamers to get into.
PC gamer: If you build a PC it only costs [some number lower than ‘x’]. And, over the long run, since PC games are less expensive than console games, and because you don’t have to spend money to upgrade to a new console every [z] number of years, but rather, only need to make upgrades to your PC when necessary (which is typically less than [some number less than ‘z’] years), then PC gaming ends up costing a similar amount or less over the same period of time.
Which one of these arguments is correct?
In my opinion, both are correct.
It’s just that both arguments are looking at two different forms of cost.
Console gamers are saying, “We don’t care about long-term cost. We want to start playing now, and consoles offer us the cheapest path to do so.”
It’s a very practical way to approach it. If your choices are A) get a console because that’s all you can afford at the moment, or B) wait until you have more money so you can get a gaming PC, nobody should fault you for going with option A, regardless of whether or not they think PC gaming is superior to console gaming.
Because, for some, being able to game now, is better than not being able to game now, regardless of how much better the experience will be later on.
So, for the cost of entry, consoles are more often than not the better option. (This statement varies depending on how close to launch the console is. The closer the console it is to its recent launch, the more expensive it is and, thus, the narrower the gap is in the cost of entry between console and PC.)
If You Also Need A Computer, You Can Double Up
The other thing that is important to note, though, is that most people need a computer. Whether that’s for school, work, or home use, most people have and need some type of computer.
So, for those of you who either need a computer or would benefit from an upgrade over your current computer, obviously, getting a gaming computer (or laptop) would solve both of your needs.
And, while consoles now have expanded capabilities (mostly the ability to stream media), they still pale in comparison to what a computer can do.
Cost Over Time
While the cost of entry is definitely a viable argument, so, too, is “cost over time.” When you add everything up that you need to start with a console and compare it to the ‘startup’ cost of a gaming PC, consoles typically cost less.
However, PC gaming does have some perks to it that, over time, help it close that entry cost gap that can be discouraging at first.
For instance, PC gaming does not require a monthly subscription to play online multiplayer games. Right now both Xbox’s and Playstation’s online subscriptions range from ~$5-$10 per month (depending on how many months you purchase up front.)
That’s not a huge amount, but this cost obviously adds up over time.
The other thing is that console games are, on average, more expensive than PC games. And, there are also a lot more sales to be had on quality PC games (games people actually want to play) than there are on quality console games.
So, if you’re someone who goes through a lot of games and who takes advantage of game sales, then the amount you’ll save by being on the PC platform will also add up over time.
The one problem with this factor, though, is that if you are only playing a couple of different games, the difference in the cost of games on each platform won’t affect you as much.
So, it’s important that in the battle of PC vs. console, we don’t generalize the “Cost Over Time” argument. But, rather, you should look at it on a case-by-case basis. Because, if someone is primarily going to be playing Halo, then you can’t tell them that if they switch to PC gaming, they’ll save more money on the games they buy. They’re only really playing one game.
And that is why, if you are debating about which platform to go with, you don’t just add up the pros and cons of each platform and go with whichever one has more advantages. You need to evaluate each pro and con by how it would affect you.
Performance & Upgrade Paths
The most significant advantage for PC gaming is the fact that it has a higher potential for better performance and graphics than console gaming does. And, mainly, that comes down to the ability to push games at 4K (and beyond) and higher framerates (through the potential of higher refresh rates).
With consoles, you’re also capped at a lower framerate/refresh rate due to the restrictions of your TV and your console’s hardware. Even budget gaming computers can be paired with an affordable 1080P 60Hz monitor to push games at 60 FPS.
Yes, some still argue that the human eye cannot see more than 30 FPS per second and so anything higher is wasted. But, anyone who has gone from playing a game at 30 FPS to 60 FPS or higher will tell you that there is definitely a difference. Games feel smoother (and more lifelike) at higher framerates and can be just as beneficial to your in-game experience as playing at a higher resolution can.
The ability to upgrade your computer is also a huge advantage that PCs have over consoles. Unlike consoles, who are subject to a “turnover” period (when new consoles are released, and old ones become obsolete), PCs can be upgraded as necessary.
So, if your XBox One X gets left behind with the introduction of the next-gen XBox 2020, you’ll either have to go out and purchase the latest edition console, or you’ll have to stick with the now-outdated XBox One X.
With a PC, there is no “turnover” period in which your PC just stops working with next-generation games. It might reach a point to where it isn’t running newer games well. But, in that case, all you may need is an upgrade to your graphics card.
Of course, depending on how outdated your PC is, it may be time for a complete rebuild.
But, because you can upgrade different components at different times, you don’t need to drop ~$400-$500 (the cost of a new console at release) every time you need to upgrade to be able to handle the latest games.
And, you can prolong the need to do complete rebuilds for a long time if you keep upgrading on a somewhat consistent basis.
Of course, though, the more you upgrade your PC, the more it will add to your “Cost Over Time.” And, that will lessed (or eliminate) the advantage that PC gaming has in “Cost Over Time.”
If we consider this category based on the sheer number of games available, then obviously PC wins hands down. With Steam, indie developers have never had an easier time publishing their games. And, this has led to an explosion in the number of games available on the PC platform.
And, if you’re into indie games, the PC platform is your best option.
However, the indie gaming scene isn’t enormous, and a significant portion of gamers typically stick to the known titles. And, when we consider that fact, the reality is that the PC doesn’t hold as substantial of an advantage over consoles when it comes to the number of “popular” games available.
So, if you are someone who will likely stick to playing popular titles, then you won’t necessarily be forced to choose one platform over the other. Unless, of course, the game(s) you like to play is exclusive to one platform.
On the other hand, if you want to play sports games, like Madden, MLB the Show, PGA Tour, etc. you’re really out of luck as a PC-only owner.
In fact, for me, this is one of the largest negatives against the PC as a gaming platform. Aside from FIFA and NBA2K (and some other lesser-known sports titles), the PC is really not an option for gamers who mainly play sports games. And, the lack of sports titles on PC is the only reason why I do own a console.
Older Games and Console Emulation
The other thing to consider with PC gaming is that all PC’s are backward compatible with older games. That means that if you want to reminisce and play an older game, you can do so.
For instance, sometimes I still go back and play a game from my childhood, Ultima Online. The game was released in the late 90s but has such a loyal following that you can still find the game in its original state (more or less) on servers run by third parties.
The other thing PC gaming offers is old school gaming emulation. Do you want to stock your library with every NES and SNES game ever made? On the PC, it’s as simple as downloading the games and an emulator to play them.
Consoles, unfortunately, do not offer that sort of accessibility to some of those gems of the past.
And, while most gamers are mainly sticking to the latest titles, if you are someone who enjoys some retro gaming and you’re on the fence about which platform to choose, console emulation might just be the perk that will sway you to the PC.
The one other thing that I love about console gaming is that it is more conducive to kicking back and relaxing while playing your favorite games.
Now, this can be offset a bit on the PC if you have the right setup (the right PC chair, desk, keyboard, mouse, etc.), or if you set up your living room to accommodate PC gaming. But, ultimately, it’s just easier to sink into your couch, chair, or bed, and get comfortable with a console game than it is with a PC game.
PC has made an effort with Steam boxes and Steam controllers, but the obvious disadvantage here is that PC games are made to be played with a keyboard and mouse. And, if you’re playing a competitive game with a controller and everyone else is using a keyboard and mouse, you’re going to be at a disadvantage.
Also, that’s not to say that console gaming is purely a “kick back and relax” type of platform. Obviously, games can be just as heated on a console as they can on a PC.
It’s just that if you want to kick back, relax, and game, it’s going to be easier to do so on a console.
The eSports & Twitch Scene
In my opinion, in the rise of the next decade, we’re going to see professional gamers start to become popular on the mainstream level. There are already really popular gamers who have achieved celebrity-like status.
However, with the rise of both eSports and Twitch, gamers have never had more of a spotlight shone on them than they do now. And, with that comes a lot of opportunities for pro gamers and entertaining gaming personalities to carve out a space for themselves.
The problem, though, is that both the eSports and Twitch scenes are currently geared more towards PC play than console play. This is mainly because most of the games that dominate the eSports world and Twitch are games that either play better on PC or that are only available on PC (League of Legends, Overwatch, CS:GO, Dota 2, Fortnite, PUBG, etc.)
In the instance of League of Legends and Dota 2—which are a couple of the most established eSports games— they aren’t even available on a console. And, of the other popular eSports games out there that are available on consoles, they tend also to be games that are better-suited for the PC. And, the problem here is that there is a disadvantage playing these games with a controller over playing them with a keyboard and mouse.
As such, these games become more popular as an eSports title on the PC side rather than the console side.
Of course, consoles do have Call of Duty and the Halo series that help keep them relevant in both eSports and on Twitch. But, for the most part, the platform of the future (at least as it currently projects) for eSports and Twitch streaming appears to be the PC.
So, if you are someone who has high hopes to either be a pro gamer or a full-time streamer, your odds will likely be increased by playing on the PC.
One of the more popular and enjoyable trends that have emerged from PC gaming is the ability for users to modify games to enhance them in some way or another.
Consoles are starting to catch-up on the modding scene, but they’re still not at the level of modding that goes on on PC games.
One of my favorite mods is for Mount and Blade Warband. It’s the Clash of Kings mod, which essentially turns Mount and Blade into A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones.)
As someone who loves the ASOIAF universe, this mod (and there are others like it as well) is a dream come true.
You don’t really get that level of modification on the consoles.
In any case, though, if you’re someone who likes the idea of playing games with mods, or with actually modding them yourselves, the PC will give you a better platform to do that on.
Which Platform is Right for You?
While I think that, overall, PC as a gaming platform offers more pros and fewer cons than consoles do, that in no way means that consoles aren’t a viable platform to game on.
Instead, what that means is that, based on different use-cases, PC gaming has more appeal to a broader range of gamers than consoles do.
Consoles are still great. Obviously, consoles have a cheaper cost of entry. And, console-exclusive games help pull in specific gamers. Also, consoles are the only viable platform for gamers who like to play sports titles.
Consoles are also a better option if you are looking for more of a kick-back and relax type of gaming style.
However, the PC offers superior potential in performance and visuals, more games (although, if you’re not into indie games, the difference isn’t as bad), cheaper games, and is the better platform for eSports and Twitch.
The PC is also not subject to a “turnover” period. And, that means that there isn’t a new generation of PCs that will come out every 4-5 years that will render your old PC obsolete. Yes, upgrades are necessary, but you typically don’t have to upgrade your entire system to even have the ability to play the latest games.
So, with all that being said, for me, PC is the better platform on the whole. However, for you and your personal preferences, a console might be the better option for you. And, a lot of us will likely require both a PC and a console to meet all of our gaming needs.