The release of a new generation of consoles in 2012 and 2013 revitalized an age-old debate between gamers who play primarily on consoles and their counterparts in the PC world. TechRadar's James Rivington even went so far as to announce that "console gaming is dead" in August 2014. This platform rivalry is based on a number of factors, ranging from cost to game library to ease of use. In some areas, consoles perform well, while PC gaming has advantages in other areas.
Purchasing a console -- even with extra controllers and other accessories -- is usually less expensive than purchasing a gaming PC. A high-end gaming PC can cost three times as much as a typical console, if not more. However, in some ways this is an unfair comparison. Although top-of-the-line gaming PCs do cost more than consoles, they also outperform them in almost every respect, offering better graphics while also being able to perform a wide range of other functions. It's possible to build gaming PCs that equal console performance for competitive prices.
Although consoles may be less expensive at startup than PCs, they start to lose some of their advantages over the long run. Console online services such as Xbox Live can have ongoing subscription costs. Games, especially older games, are also typically much less expensive on the PC platform thanks to online retailers such as Steam, Good Old Games or the Humble Bundle.
Ease of Use
Although it's possible to build a PC that can compete with a console for the same budget -- and to build one that performs much better for a relatively small increase -- it's undeniably a lot more difficult than just walking into a store and coming out with a console in a box. Consoles provide a simpler, more focused gaming experience. Compatibility is also not an issue for console gamers, who never have to worry if a game they buy will run on their system -- in theory, anyway. However, building a gaming PC is not as difficult as it looks; there are plenty of online guides to help beginners. And hardware compatibility issues, once the plague of PC gamers, are now much rarer and more easily fixed.
One area in which PC gaming has a clear advantage is the available game library. Bringing a console game to market is much more difficult, meaning that PCs have a much larger selection of independent games available. Similarly, digital distribution means that older PC games are easy to find -- and run well on less-expensive computers -- while older console games can actually increase in price as they become harder to find. In fact, playing older console games on PC emulators is probably easier than finding the old hardware necessary to play them on their original systems.
Competition between consoles -- and difficulties in getting games onto them -- means that some games appear only on one system. For example, die-hard Mario fans know they're only going to find the games they want on Nintendo consoles. Some console games can also suffer in their PC incarnations. However, on sheer numbers alone, the number of games available to PC gamers but not to their console counterparts is much larger than the number of console exclusives.
Doing It Yourself
One area where PCs really shine compared to consoles is in the availability of modifications -- or "mods" -- for games. Games such as "Skyrim" have large communities devoted to producing mods, some of which enhance gameplay, while others are practically games in their own right. If adding new features to games, or even creating your own, sounds like fun, the PC is the clear winner.
The Couch Question
Designed to work with home televisions, consoles tend to dominate living rooms, while gaming PCs are found elsewhere. There's actually no reason not to connect a PC to a television and use it with a gamepad; doing so is very straightforward. But the fact remains that most gamers don't. As a result, console culture has a reputation for being a more social, shared experience, while the social aspect of PC gaming happens mainly online. On the other hand, keeping PC gamers out of the living room might be an advantage from the point of view of housemates or family members who would just like to watch a movie.
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