I’ve had quite a few strong opinions in the realm of gaming over the years, and have made some drastic changes to those opinions in that time as well. I posted about not liking PC gaming all that much, only to later back down once I built my own PC. While I still feel like I made some cogent points when talking about the pros and cons of gaming on PC versus consoles, those points obviously may not resonate with everyone (people are apparently different from each other, or some stupid crap like that).
So while I could take the approach that others often take when having this kind of discussion by letting personal bias get in the way, I want to ease the minds of you, dear reader; hypothetical gamer teetering on scales of PC and console gaming. Which should you pick?
The short answer? Just be a mindless consumer like me and buy everything; wallet/purse/bank account be damned. Thanks for reading!
Sarcasm aside, there’s a considerable chance that you don’t want to do that for a number of reasons. Buying multiple platforms for the sake of not needing to make a decision is costly and wasteful. So instead I want to apply some of my limited capacity for critical thinking to solve what is indeed a first-world problem.
Let me preface this all with the acknowledgement that buying or building a PC, or getting a console lately is a bit of a crap-shoot, so let’s just make the assumption that you can actually find something that isn’t going to cost you an arm, a leg, and your first-born.
What’s Your Preference?
Back in the day, it used to be part of the decision-making process of choosing consoles or PC to consider if you favor a gamepad or a mouse and keyboard combo. Nowadays, many PC games support a game controller whether it’s a PlayStation, Xbox, or even third party monstrosity. The inverse can be said for a number of console games that support a mouse and keyboard as well. Obviously, comfort still comes into play, so perhaps I should start with that.
My stance has changed a lot on comfort while gaming at a desk when I shelled out to get what I consider to be a comfy desk chair. Deciding how you want to park your ass for a few hours while you get steamrolled in an FPS by a kid half your age is paramount. If you’re the type that wants to lay back in a recliner or on the sofa while you game, then a console is definitely something to consider. Yes, you can still game on a PC by hooking it up to your TV with a controller in hand, using something akin to Steam’s Big Picture mode, but you still need to get to Steam when booting up the computer. So unless you either leave your PC on 24/7 with Steam running constantly, or you want to invest in some rather expensive wireless couch-friendly peripherals, a console is significantly easier to game on a TV with.
If you’d prefer, or simply don’t mind sitting at a desk/table, then PC gaming is totally a viable option. Hell, with many gaming monitors, you could even hook up a console to it to consolidate your gaming space. One thing that gives gaming on a monitor (as opposed to using a TV) a bit of an edge is that you have such a wide breadth of options to choose from that aim to the gaming crowd; something common across many parts of PC gaming. TVs can definitely support a wide swath of gamery features, but there are often major sacrifices you have to make to game on the big screen. For instance, unless you’re willing to drop over a grand on a TV, you’re not going to see anything like variable refresh rate (VRR), vertical sync (V-Sync) features, or even high refresh rates; for the time being at least.
One of the few TVs that’s actually decent for gaming comes from LG: the C1. However, those TVs start at around 1500 USD for the smallest model. Anything less than that and you start making compromises. However, on the PC gaming side of things, many of those gaming features are basically standard features, and you don’t even need to worrying about things like OLED burn-in or having to rush to the bathroom when you’re trying to set it up (I can’t confirm this will be the case for you, but fair warning). To be fair, those cheaper monitors are going to be much smaller than a 48″ TV as well, but you’re likely also going to be sitting much closer to compensate.
That brings me to a potential decision making point for you…
Choices… So Many Choices, And Complexities
If there is one thing about PC gaming versus consoles, it’s the vast number of choices you can make when customizing your PC. The CPU, graphics card, storage, case, aesthetics, and even the motherboard or power supply to connect everything… With a console, you basically just choose the box you want, plug it in, and wait ten and half hours for all the updates to download.
If you want to game on PC, it’s best to take into consideration what you actually want to do, and the experience you want to have. What games do you want to play? Competitive shooters? Better get a good, 1080p, high refresh rate monitor and decent CPU to push frames. You want to play those swanky AAA titles in 4K? Better swing for the fences on a high-end GPU. Want a fancy, no compromises monster PC? Better prepare to spend upwards of 2000-3000 USD. With a console like the PS5 or Xbox Series X, you can reasonably expect to not only get to game at 4K at reasonable FPS numbers, but also not be at the mercy of someone who was able to outspend you on hardware since the playing field is relatively even.
That’s all leaving out the subject of system requirements, where you need to begin considering what compromises you’re willing to make. Say what you will about being a console peasant, but at least someone gaming on an Xbox or PlayStation knows that their game will work on their system without making upgrades of any kind; an Xbox game will work on an Xbox Series S/X, and a PlayStation 5 game with work on a PS5. With a PC, unless you have just built a PC within the last few years, you need to keep an eye on system requirements to find out if what you have will be enough to give you the experience you want; or in the case of playing in VR, that your experience will be good enough to not make you want to blow chunks when you turn around. No, you won’t need to have an RTX 3090 to be able to play most modern games, as even a GTX 1070 would be more than enough for playing most of the latest titles at Medium/High settings. However, anything less than that is going to be grounds for making significant compromises.
Hell, lately there was even an issue with the new processors from Intel, where people using their new processors wouldn’t be able to play certain games because of the way that those games were designed. AMD faced similar issues with performance degradation in Windows 11, which was something Microsoft had to fix. I’m not saying that consoles don’t have their own issues, but part of the benefit of their uniform design and specifications, there are far less variables to consider when troubleshooting issues, and you generally don’t need to worry about things like OS upgrades, BIOS updates, upgrading components (other than storage), driver updates, or weird incompatibilities.
Basically what I’m saying is that if you just want to plug something in and start playing without needing to worry about playing Tech Support Simulator, then a console might be a good option for you.
But What Was The Cost?
Piggy-backing off of the last bit, if you want to be able to play games at their highest fidelity possible, you can do that best on PC, but it comes at a hefty cost. Even assuming you were able to buy the latest and greatest PC parts today at their MSRP, you’d be looking at spending 1200-1500 USD on just the CPU and GPU alone, and you still need the following items:
- Computer Case
- CPU cooler
- Power Supply
And unless you want to bottleneck your expensive GPU and CPU with cheap parts, you’ll want to invest in parts that don’t suck, which involves research. Don’t get me wrong though, because I love spec’ing out computers, but it’s not for everyone, which is why some folks just buy computers off the shelf.
Still, there’s something comforting about knowing you can drop about 500 USD (again, assuming you can do this at MSRP) on a console and plug it into a TV you probably already have. Additionally, a console comes out of the box with just about everything you need to start playing, no assembly required (unless you count plugging in cables)! I know that there are a handful of people out there who will tell you that you can have an equal experience to console gaming for the same price or less on PC, but those people are wrong. Don’t listen to them. If you want a better experience than what’s available on console, that’s where PC gaming shines; it just costs a helluva lot more.
Keep in mind that this can easily change though. As this console generation ages, comparably spec’d PCs can easily overtake the current generation Xboxes and PlayStations for a reasonable price, assuming of course that Nvidia, AMD, and Intel can resist capitalizing on the current PC parts market.
One of the major deciding factors for choosing the platform you game on however, is what you actually want to play. While there are many game franchises that were previously unique to consoles that moved to PC, like Halo or God of War, it may be a while before many of them make the jump to PC… possibly never, especially in the case of Nintendo. Then same goes for PC to console too, because there are a ton of games that are on PC that never make their way to consoles. So the question you need to ask yourself is: Are there any games/franchises that I want to play that are only on [X platform]?
Xbox makes this easy considering that all of their new titles will be on PC as well, but with PlayStation, the situation is much more grey. Nintendo likely will never come to PC in any manner other than through emulation.
Then again, there’s more to it than just exclusives, because PC gaming tends to be a lot cheaper, even with the introduction of services like Game Pass. There are sales upon sales on PC platforms like Steam and GOG. Unfortunately the number of platforms and launchers on PC makes playing a wide variety of games a tricky prospect, considering that every major publisher seems to want their own launcher, making it necessary to have more than just Steam installed. Consoles (for better or worse) have it a little easier since their ecosystems are effectively walled gardens. So while consoles generally don’t afford you the same benefits of things like the Steam Summer Sale, nor the psychotically massive catalog of games available to PC gamers, you again can count on simplicity.
There isn’t much I can say to wrap all of this up, other than the best final advice I can give is to take your time. There has never been a worse time than the last couple years to rush into trying to purchase a console or PC, due in large part to the pandemic. A combination of intense demand for gaming devices and shortages caused by manufacturing delays, supply chain bottlenecks, and opportunistic individuals and corporations exploiting demand to make a quick buck have made it damn near impossible to get anything like a GPU or game console without resorting to buying from a scalper or spending an unhealthy amount of time watching for retailer drops.
Obviously, what you end up going with depends heavily on what you value. If you’re a tinkerer, want the best experience, or want to have something that can do more than just play games, then a PC is the way to go. However, if you just want something plug-and-play, or have exclusives you’re interested in, then a console would probably be best. Weigh the pros and cons, and take your time. It’s a gross feeling learning later down the line that you got the wrong thing, or overspent on the wrong things like I did.
What really matters in the end is that you have something to game on, so maybe don’t overthink it like I clearly do.
What’s your view on all this rambling? What made you choose what you game on?