With the new generation of consoles getting very close to release, I thought I would give my insights on a seemingly never-ending debate: Console versus PC. Being lucky enough to own both a PC gaming system and an Xbox 360, I can give my experience in terms of the benefits and drawbacks of each.
1) The cost
For me, the PC has in the past proven to be the more cost effective option. Let me explain: Around the time the XBOX 360 came out, I did an upgrade on my PC. This included a new motherboard, new processor, new graphics card, new memory, and a new monitor. All of this combined cost more or less the same as my friend’s Xbox 360, which he bought with some games, two controllers, and rechargeable battery kits. After we made these initial “investments”, however, he was spending a lot more on his games than I did. On release, console games are a good 75% more expensive compared to the PC versions. Overall then, I was spending less on gaming through the PC route.
I need to qualify the above statement by admitting that one of the benefits I had was the knowledge to do an upgrade myself and a supplier that sold the parts well below retail value, which is why I could build a fairly hard-core gaming system at a reasonable price. If you want to buy a brand new PC complete with peripherals from a retailer it can get very expensive very quickly, especially if you are looking at high end gaming systems.
2) Ease of use
For me, there is no doubt that consoles are easier to use. With the exception of a handful of games, consoles usually do not require an install before you can play a game. It is great to know that you can buy a console game without looking at the system specs, simply pop it in and start playing. This works because console games are specifically designed for the system that the developers know you will be using. With PCs it is a bit more complicated because every PC has different hardware in it. This means that after the install, you will probably be tweaking the game settings a bit to make sure that it is running just right. In some cases, the game might not work at all, leaving you to update software, tweak system settings etc. until you can (hopefully) get the game to work.
If you have the patience to deal with this and you are somewhat techno savvy this should not be a problem. Otherwise, you might be better off with the console.
3) The games
This is where it gets really difficult to separate the two. Most console games are available on PC, but there are a few that you will need the console for. One of the reasons I bought my Xbox 360 was to play games like Forza Motorsport (an Xbox exclusive) and Red Dead Redemption (which is available on PS3 and the 360, but never came to PC). However, having only a console means that you miss out on some PC exclusives as well. Some indie titles that I like in particular are not available on console.
Backwards compatibility is probably one of the biggest advantages for PC gaming, especially since we already know that some of the new consoles (like the Xbox One) won’t be able to play your old 360 games. The PC has virtually endless backwards compatibility, and with software like Dosbox, you can even play those old classics.
As versatile as consoles are these days, they still aren’t quite as practical and necessary as owning a PC. If you are reading this, chances are I don’t need to explain why you need a PC. That said, you don’t necessarily need an all-out gaming system, as a reasonably cheap netbook should take care of everything that you can’t do with a console.
On the plus side for the consoles, a lot of console games still offer split-screen multiplayer, something which is almost completely absent on PC games these days. One could argue that online multiplayer addresses this issue, but in my mind it is really not quite the same. When a friend comes over, there is nothing quite like sitting on the couch with a couple of beers to play through the latest Splinter Cell or Army of Two.
With consoles usually taking a while before a new system is released, PCs tend to have more advanced hardware. This means that a few years after the console is released PC games will probably have the better deal in terms of graphics. That is a double edged sword, however, since it also means that you need a more serious gaming system to keep up with the ever increasing system requirements.
Personally I have never cared that much about graphics, or at least not nearly as much as I do about gameplay. On that basis, graphics and performance doesn’t really factor into my decision on which platform to use. Also, the Xbox 360 has been around for quite some time now, and the graphics of new titles are great as far as I’m concerned.
It wouldn’t be fair to say that one of these platforms is “better” than the other, simply because they are tailored to slightly different audiences and do not really offer the same thing. It depends on what your specific requirements are. If all you want to do is gaming and nothing else, it probably makes sense to buy a console. On the other hand, if you are looking for a more versatile system, the PC might be a better option. There are many things to consider and before forking out the cash to buy a new system you really have to consider what you want to do with it, and whether it will allow you to do all those things.
I do enjoy both PC and console gaming, which is why I have both systems. Gun to my head, I would probably choose the PC over the console, since I need it anyway. Also, in my experience PC gaming has been the cheaper option despite the potentially expensive hardware investments. Judging by the price of the soon-to-be-released Xbox One and PlayStation 4, I will likely get more bang for my buck by going for a PC upgrade. Only time will tell though, and chances are I’ll get one of the new consoles eventually anyway.
Let me know what your thoughts are in the comments section. Are you a PC or console gamer, or both?