'PC vs console' is a debate that will never die and ultimately, that’s because there’s no right or wrong answer – it’s subjective and generally should be based on the types of games you like or the type of gaming experience you’re looking for. Although the debate itself has raged on for decades, the reasons for picking console or PC change every couple of years depending on the technology and services available at the time.
New generations of consoles are frequently launched every now and then, we take a look at the real impact of the console upgrade cycle in a recent blog post.
That said, it's not going to stop us from pitting the two in a head-to-head to see which one makes more sense in todays' gaming landscape.
One of the biggest factors that will contribute to your decision between a PC and a console will be the selection of games available. While there are plenty of games that are available on both console and PC, there are usually a few subtle differences between each version. We also need to factor in the ridiculous library of PC games that span several decades, in addition to all of the free games and indie titles that are exclusive to PC.
There's absolutely no denying that most of the big-name games are designed for consoles in mind. In the past, you were subjecting yourself to a sub-par experience on PC if you bought a game that was released as a multiplatform. Whether it was a horrible port, low-quality textures or a lack of PC-exclusive options (such as advanced graphics options or dedicated multiplayer servers) you were likely getting an experience that didn’t take advantage of the PC’s full power.
But that's somewhat changed as of late.
Now that developers have the tools to effortlessly port their game from one platform to another, there are surprisingly few differences in terms of graphical quality, with the PC leading thanks to more advanced options such as Ray Tracing (on the handful of games that support it) and support for higher refresh rates and resolutions. Of course, you're going to need a suitable computer and monitor to get that experience, but there's no doubt that multiplatform games today are still superior on PC.
Sony has been killing it lately with PS4 exclusives. Whether it's Japanese RPGs like Persona 5, cult classics such as Bloodborne or long-running series such as Uncharted, the PS4 has a serious line-up of exclusives that make it an excellent choice if you’re into those games. Xbox, on the other hand, hasn’t really had a good showing of exclusives. Though they have some console exclusives, those games are available on PC as well, so it doesn’t technically count.
But then you look at the PC with its virtually endless library of exclusive games and the consoles pale by comparison: you have the entire library of old titles from decades ago, you have exclusive MMORPGs, the entire VR line-up on Steam and big-name eSports titles such as League of Legends. It’s really no competition when it comes to platform exclusives if we look at it objectively.
But what if we looked at it subjectively? A point could definitely be made for PS4 beating the PC when it comes to exclusives, especially given how good some of those PS4-only titles are. Need we mention The Last of Us? The Xbox though? Not so much.
Let’s not forget that Nintendo seems to be operating in its own little bubble too, releasing exclusive after exclusive without caring about what Sony or Microsoft are up to. Breath of the Wild, Smash Ultimate, Mario Odyssey and Fire Emblem are just a few of the Switch exclusives available right now with many more coming early 2020 such as Animal Crossing. When it comes down to exclusives, everyone’s a winner here. Well, everyone except Xbox. Sorry, Xbox…
This is a little difficult to compare given the age of digital downloads. Some people prefer that they can simply download a game, load it up and play it. Others enjoy having a physical copy of a game to keep, and we would be inclined to agree if it wasn’t for mandatory day-one updates on console games. Whilst having something physical is nice, it’s wholly unfulfilling to purchase a box game these days because so little care is put into it. There’s rarely ever a manual and it just contains a CD with (most likely) outdated game data that needs to be patched to play it anyway.
When it comes to buying digital games, PC is superior in virtually every way. Storefronts like Steam are infinitely easier to browse, you have multiple choices since you’re not locked to a platform-specific store, and there are even services like GOG which let you download DRM-free copies of games.
Pricing is an important consideration especially if you're on a budget, so let's break it down and talk about each individual component.
When it comes to the platform itself, consoles usually get the upper hand here. You're not going to get an excellent gaming PC for the price of a modern console unless you buy something second hand. No matter how you try to arrange components, you’re not going to get that console-like gaming experience for under £400 unless you really cut some corners and consider buying used parts.
If we throw used PC parts into the ring, then the PC might come out ahead – just barely. But what stops you from getting a used console as well? Nothing. While the price of the platform isn’t the only price consideration, it is the biggest chunk of money that you need to spend and there’s a clear winner here, even if you consider the ‘upgraded’ consoles like the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X.
Consoles typically have an advantage here because they can plug into virtually any TV and get a decent gaming experience. You can bump up the TV quality for less latency and higher resolution (if you have a PS4 Pro or Xbox One X, at least) and you don’t need to pay ludicrous amounts for a decent TV today.
When it comes to PC monitors, you can pay around £100 for a very good gaming monitor but it will be locked at 1080p 60hz. This means that you'll get an experience that's equivalent to a base console, but that’s not the best it can do. If your PC can support it, you can purchase a monitor that has a higher refresh rate for an even smoother gaming experience. It will cost a lot more money in total, but it’s a fantastic experience if you can afford it. Essential? No, but still a good thing to keep in mind if you want the best of the best.
When it comes to comparing the price, buying the entry-level displays is going to be very similar. When you increase the quality of the display to account for a more powerful platform (4K for console or over 60hz for PC) you’re still going to pay around the same price for a better experience. While PC gaming has a higher ceiling when it comes to quality, there’s really no clear winner in terms of price to performance.
Console gamers typically only need a controller when it comes to peripherals. PC gamers will need to buy a mouse, keyboard and perhaps even a mousepad. Prices here are generally going to fluctuate a lot and it’s difficult to compare seeing as there’s no ‘official’ set of peripherals for PC unlike the official controllers for consoles.
So instead of trying to compare something of equal quality or relevance, let’s just look at the cheapest.
You can pick up a cheap but usable mouse and keyboard for a very low price. Even if you bumped it up to a mechanical keyboard, you could still pick up a keyboard and mouse bundle for under the price of an officially first-party controller for a console. Third-party console controllers are usually a lot more affordable, but their reliability is questionable and, unlike even cheap mechanical keyboards, are more likely to fail and ruin your game experience. For a PC, you need only replace what's broken instead of the entire controller.
When it comes to purchasing games, the PC is far ahead in terms of availability and sales.
For consoles, it really depends on the console you’re talking about. For the Switch, games are expensive and rarely go on sale regardless of how old they are. However, PS4 and Xbox games go on sale often and you can pick up physical copies for much cheaper prices. Consoles also have the advantage of buying pre-owned games for a lower price than retail for even more savings.
Despite the pre-owned game advantage, the PC has ridiculously low prices thanks to infamous Steam sales and third-party websites that always seem to have voucher codes available. There are also services like Humble Bundle that sell a selection of games for a ludicrously low price.
Sooner or later, you might run into an issue where your PC or console fails… perhaps because it’s met an unfortunate fate against a wall… (it happens to the best of us). Assuming it’s not totally bust, it’s going to need repairs.
For the PC, you can easily try to fix something yourself on a software level or even replace hardware if you’re tech-savvy and understand the inner workings of a computer. If you’re a console gamer, then you’re going to need some very specific knowledge on how to repair something if you want to do it yourself. Otherwise, you’re probably going to have to send it back to the manufacturer and wait for them to fix it.
For consoles, your entire console has warranty and the whole thing will be replaced. For PC, you should have a warranty for individual parts if you built it yourself, but the whole thing will be insured if you bought it from a builder. Based on the flexibility and control you have over the repair process, PC is a clear winner in this category.
The community is always going to be relevant when it comes to comparing PC and console, especially considering how dominant multiplayer gaming has become.
One of the biggest drawbacks of using console will always be multiplayer. More specifically, trying to communicate between players is extremely hard on console given how finicky platform-based voice communications are, and often how poor the quality is. You also don’t have the option to type to your allies since you’re using a controller. Finding groups to play with or looking for challenging opponents will also likely require you to use a computer, either to search a forum or use Discord, and in a best-case scenario, you might be able to have a laptop or phone next to you whilst you play in order to use a more reliable voice chat service to communicate with friends.
When it comes to PC, you rarely have to worry about any of this. You can seamlessly play your game and communicate with your allies through text or voice with zero problems. You can quickly switch from a ‘playing’ hand position to typing, and you can easily communicate with players on Discord or other chat programs.
Modding is essentially changing or adding things to a game. It’s typically done by the community and offered to free for everyone to download and use. This is extremely popular with Bethesda’s games like Fallout and Elder Scrolls on PC (and in recent years, some of these mods have even been ported to consoles). People add all kinds of unique items and characters into the games, with some mods overhauling the game completely to create an entirely different experience. On console, this just isn’t possible because it requires modifying the game files and on the whole the closest thing to this on console is DLC.
Consoles are eventually going to catch up. It’s a slow process, but it’s clear that technical prowess will soon become less of a factor when it comes to comparing PC and console – the PC won in that department years ago. Instead, the choice of games and platform-exclusive features are going to be more of a decider. We can’t see consoles overtaking the PC anytime soon in the future of gaming, and it’s probably going to stay that way for a long time.
What do you think about the PC vs console debate? Something we've not covered which plays a big part in the discussion? Let us know in the comments, we'd love to hear your thoughts.
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