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PC Gaming vs Console Gaming Pros and Cons
Apr 5, 2011PC GamingComments (0)
I've put a lot of thought into this subject over the years, and as a former console gamer now PC gamer, I think I have something to add. This will certainly come off sounding a little bit PC-biased, and it shouldn't be a surprise since I am a PC gamer. I also try to stamp out a few PC gaming myths that pro-console-gamers tend to propagate.

End User Hardware Cost

A gaming PC costs more than a console; however, most people already have a basic PC. The cost to upgrade that PC to a gaming PC, or to purchase a gaming PC in lieu of a basic PC, lessens the gap and may favor the PC. The real cost to make a gaming PC to match the console depends on how deep into the product life cycle the console is. If the console is old, it requires less money to build a comparable gaming PC. If the console is new, it may take fairly high-end (for the time) PC hardware to match it. (by old and new, I am referring to when the console was released, not how old a particular system is since it was purchased)

Let's take a look at some examples. I am going to look at OEM Dell systems, though home-built PCs are often cheaper.

This is the Dell Inspiron 560. It is a basic PC and is a good example of what you will find in any given household. Configured with a monitor, it costs roughly $460 plus shipping. As it stands, the main thing holding it back from being able to play modern 3D games is the graphics processor (lack of a discrete, powerful graphics card). In many cases, PCs like this can be upgraded with a graphics card and that is all they need. This cost usually ranges from $100-200, depending on the market for the graphics cards and how they stack up to the consoles.

Sometimes OEM PCs from Dell, HP, or Gateway lack expandability and cannot be upgraded. They must be replaced entirely in order to have a gaming PC. In these cases, the console price is more attractive.

For those that don't own a PC yet or need a new one, it may be economical to spend more for a gaming PC. Contrary to popular belief, you do not need a $1000+ Alienware PC to play games. When more demanding games come out, having the high-end PC will allow you to play them on the highest settings, but to play games with similar or better fidelity than consoles, you can usually do it with an economy-to-midrange gaming PC.

The Dell XPS 7100 when configured with monitor and HD 5670 is a decent gaming PC. It costs $760 plus shipping, which is $300 more than the basic PC. That is roughly the cost of an average console.

For those interested in building computers, a midrange gaming PC can usually be built for a hundred or two less than a comparable Dell.

Other End User Costs

Other than the base hardware cost, there are other costs associated with using the gaming system.

In debates, it is often brought up that PC gamers have to upgrade hardware regularly to play the latest games. This is a disingenuous argument, because PC games tend to offer higher-end visuals and environments than console games, and that is the primary driving factor in hardware upgrades. If PC games were limited to console-level hardware, PC gamers would never have to upgrade. As it is, they can usually choose whether they want to upgrade or not depending on how nice of graphics they want. A GeForce 7800 GT purchased at the same time as an Xbox 360 in late 2005 can still hold its own years later towards the end of the Xbox 360's life cycle.

To play online with an Xbox 360 costs money on top of normal Internet service costs. This is not a huge cost though ($40-60 per year prepaid).

Console games often cost a little more than PC games, and in some cases downloadable content (DLC) is less expensive or free on the PC. This trend seems to be fading away, but is still the case with many non-AAA titles.


All platforms have their fair share of exclusive games. I do not pretend to know what they all are, and attempting to put a value on platform-exclusive titles is difficult and will always alienate some people's preferences. For example, Playstation has Gran Turismo and PC has WoW. Neither is better than the other; they are just different. How much money a game rakes in doesn't really matter to the gamer and how much fun they have with the game.

That being said, the PC spans a larger scope of games than consoles do. Free and "casual" games on PC encompass a huge market by themselves. A market that is often not considered when talking about gaming. Then you have the vast game worlds of MMORPGs and their millions upon millions of players.

Independent developers create countless inexpensive and free titles that are PC-only. Many of these do find their way onto the console marketplaces, but the barrier to entry and restrictions are much greater there.

PC's can emulate older consoles, including (currently) Playstation 2, Xbox, Wii, and all platforms prior to those. While emulation does not allow PC players to emulate the current console generation, it does allow PC players to play any and all games made for all previous consoles, while consoles can generally only play older games from their company. Emulators also generally allow more robust saving capabilities than consoles do. Keep in mind that while emulators are free, the games themselves cannot be downloaded for free, legally.

Many big name games are created for console and then ported over to PC, generally resulting in glitchy behavior on PC. Because of this, you could make the general statement that most cross-platform games are buggier on PC. This isn't an inherent disadvantage for PC gamers, but due to the current marketplace for games that is how things have developed.

Cross-platform games that are ported directly over to PC will still generally offer higher resolution, higher resolution textures, and higher frame rates. Many console games are designed around 30 frames per second, but can achieve 60 frames per second on a PC for much smoother gameplay.

Game Development

It is easier for large developers to create games for consoles. This is due in most part to the standard operating environment and hardware of consoles. It requires less testing, and less post-release patching, to create a console game, and that console game will run the same as on the developer's test systems. Console games also promise to give a consistent experience for the life of the console, since console performance and compatibility generally doesn't change during the product life cycle.

Despite consoles being an easier-to-develop-for platform in most cases, the PC platform offers some advantages for developers. Complex menu systems, often found in RPGs and RTSs, can be created with ease and in greater detail on the PC. PC controls have more accuracy, meaning developers can exclude the use of auto-aim and other "snap-to" features. Developers can count on having more disc space and memory to work with on a PC, and can create larger and more visually-impressive environments.

Accessibility and Ease of Use

A big advantage of consoles is their ease of use. There are simply fewer things to choose from or change, meaning it is more difficult to mess something up. Due to their centralized community (Xbox Live for example), it makes it easier to connect with friends and join the same game as them. Games are designed for the controller, so the control interface is generally more consistent and recognizable for players.

An advantage of PCs is the ability to enter games faster, usually. Since PCs generally remain on for other purposes, clicking a shortcut to the game can put a PC user into the game faster. PC users also oftentimes have the ability to remove startup and intro movies from a game, expediting how fast they can get into the gameplay.

PCs are generally more complex, and due to the decentralized nature of communities, it takes more time and energy to connect with people. This can be daunting for many gamers.

Modding and End User Content Creation

PC squarely wins in this area. While some console games such as Halo give the user the ability to create a level based on prefab assets, there is simply no comparison to the amount of control and modification a PC user has over a game. For example, many games are created using PC tools that are distributed with the PC version of a game (Crysis 1 for example).

Keyboard/Mouse vs Controller

Ah the archetypal argument of PC and console gamers. A keyboard and mouse provides far better accuracy and control over a mouse cursor or cross-hair than a controller or motion-capture device ever will. However, current keyboards lack the analog control of some controller buttons and joysticks. This means that different degrees of movement speed cannot be obtained using only the WASD keys, which can using a joystick. Joysticks are also better for racing games.

PC gamers can easily purchase controllers and console gamers can easily purchase a keyboard and mouse. However, not all console games play well with a keyboard and mouse, meaning ultimately the PC gamer has more options. Thanks to input emulation devices, PC gamers can also use a controller in games that do not support controllers.

Configuration and Options

PC games generally have more options to configure how you control the game and how it looks. A major advantage for PC gamers is the ability to, in many games, control the field of view and specific graphical options (such as motion blur, which many people dislike). I also mentioned above that PC gamers can often disable intro movies and splash screens. This is sometimes as easy as renaming the files in a "Movies" folder. Most popular games will have a mod tool created for them early on that will give an easy-to-use GUI environment for messing with all sorts of options for a game.

PC games usually allow players complete freedom to map keys and mouse buttons to any control in the game. For games that don't, PC players can use emulation software to map keys to different keys. PC gamers can also use macro programs to create rapid clicks and other functionality regardless of the game. 3rd-party applications are becoming more prominent on consoles, but they are still a far cry from a PC.
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