The PC versus console debate has been around for years, and with the rise of the video games industry in the past few decades, more and more people have staunch opinions and preferences. Each option has its pros and cons, and also depends on how much money you want to spend on each, and whether or not you want your console to be future proof. It also depends on whether or not you’re willing to upgrade a system (or parts of a system) every few years. My personal preference is PC, but there are certainly many options out there and looking at all the options is the best way to make an informed decision.
PC gaming may have a higher buy-in cost, but the graphics can be better than regular consoles depending on which graphics card and monitor you choose. You can choose to customize your computer by building a PC or buy a premade system. This can sometimes save money if you are buying all the necessary components separately or during common sale times (especially Black Friday deals). Unlike consoles, you also don’t have to pay for subscriptions (such as Game Passes or season passes to certain games), which are required to run multiplayer games with most consoles. According to Business Insider, the $60 dollars a year may seem like not a lot of money, but in five years you may end up spending the same amount as the price of a computer graphics card on a subscription for a console. Not to mention that in five years, your console may be replaced by a newer console, which can run newer games. You can easily run an older game on a PC (through a series of programs or temporarily lowering graphics and color options in compatibility mode), but with consoles you have to wait until it's ported onto whichever console you buy, or backwards compatibility is supported for said game. For a high end computer, it may run you around $800-2000 dollars or more for the top notch models. PC has various third party platforms, such as Steam, Epic and Humble Bundle, which run independent sales that can be much lower than the retail price in a store. PCs also tend to have more games available than consoles.
Sometimes, the quality of a game can actually be better than a console, depending on the equipment in it and how savvy the user is. This is because modding is another big benefit to personal computers, which may add more longevity to whichever games you are playing. The amount of modding you can do with games is astounding, you can completely change the look, feel, and even objectives of the game. Mouse and keyboard can give you more accurate controls than a game controller, but if you prefer a controller you can use one too. There are more options for key bindings and shortcuts on a keyboard, of course. Mods are also often offered for free and are generally user created. Not enough credit is given to the passion and commitment of the modding community, who often search out developer bugs to fix and create new textures and other custom content purely for their own enjoyment and the enjoyment of the community. They are also often much more closer to their user base than a big box developer and are extremely grateful for support. Today, with the rise of Patreon, content modders can even make a career or at least part time job out of their creativity. The modding community is fascinating and vast, and only available to PC gamers.
If you don't get a system that is "future-proof" (a system that is unlikely to become obsolete for a number of years), you may have to eventually replace your graphics card, CPU and update your RAM. You may run into the chance of buying a game that does not meet your system's specs. Repairs for a personal computer can get costly and can be more inconvenient for you. They are also more vulnerable to viruses and malware than consoles. Because of all these factors, the cost of a computer can also be a barrier for lower income people. While "budget" laptops in the $300-500 range can be easy to find at any Best Buy or Walmart, they are almost always lower quality than ones in the $800 range or higher.
Consoles, however, are easy to use because they are generally just plug up and play. There are multiple manufacturers in the market including Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo. Most of the current generation of consoles need a subscription of $9.99 or more to play games. However, for someone who just wants a console that they don’t have to update their hardware for a while, while also not spending as much for a new computer, a console is a good idea. They tend to run around $300 for each console, comparible to the prices of a low end PC. You will also not have to worry about games not being compatible that you buy for it (and most are labelled clearly so you will know what games are). Most of today’s newer consoles also have 4K TV compatibility with the exception of the Nintendo Switch.
According to Wikipedia, Playstation has the majority of the market share for console gaming. It sold around 102.8 million in 2019. The basic version of the PS4 runs around $220 according to GameStop. It also has VR support, which you can buy with the headset bundle and comes with a few games for an extra 200 US dollars. You can also get the upgraded PS4 for around $320. The PlayStation runs a custom AMD card and has 8 GB of RAM. It also offers a streaming service that offers games from Sony’s other older consoles.
Xbox One is another high end console. It is estimated to have sold 46.9 million. It runs twelve gigabytes of RAM and runs a custom AMD graphics card. With the Xbox One, you can stream games onto your laptop running Windows 10 (PC compatibility is huge plus for some people). It is also backwards compatible with a number of Xbox 360 and original Xbox games. It also has two different subscriptions, one where you can just play the games you own online with friends called Xbox Live for $9.99, and another called Xbox Game Pass that gives you access to 100+ games for $14.99, which is only $5 more than the original subscription.
Nintendo has the only handheld console on the market right now with the Switch. It has the lower end of the market value with 41.67 million. It doesn’t offer 4K resolution, and is lagging as a graphical competitor with the other two consoles. It runs a modified Tegra card, which may not run some games well. Most of the titles out now for the Switch tend to either go towards the market for kids, people that want some form of nostalgic games, or motion games. It also offers a streaming service for the SNES and the NES with its online subscription. The subscription to play online costs $9.99.
Google is also a notable competitor with the Google Stadia. You can stream on a Chromecast, a computer running Chrome, or a Google Pixel, which is something not available on other consoles. Everything is streamed off an external Google server with high end graphics cards. Some may argue that it is not an actual console, but I think future consoles may go into this concept. The one downside is that you have to have internet in order for the system to work, while the other consoles can work offline.
One notable new consideration as far as accessories is concerned is Virtual Reality. While there a variety of both budget and high VR devices, almost all are in the early stages of development and have yet to truly take off in the market. It is hard to say what the future of VR holds, but as of right now it is only compatible with PC and PS4. Xbox has actually stated that they will not be entering the VR market for the foreseeable future.
You may have to buy a whole new system in the next couple years after buying the system, and may have to wait a while for backwards compatibility. You can't exactly upgrade parts of a console (as the companies that own them hold tight to that technology and they are packaged as a complete unit that doesn’t vary). There aren't as many games for consoles as there are for PC, and in the long run subscriptions for consoles can cost you to play the full version of games you like. Due to heavy competition, many manufacturers don’t allow for cross play of their games on consoles. You can only really use a controller to play on consoles. The graphics are decent but can’t compare to what a high end computer can run. For example, most consoles can only run at 60 frames per second. In contrast, mid to high range computers (if custom built properly) can run into the hundreds. This may also depend on Wi-fi speed and card.
In conclusion, I think the best system to have is a personal computer. Being able to have higher quality graphics and having to upgrade to the newest system for the next generation is important to me and gives the sense that the device that will grow with my desire for better content. But for someone who can’t afford a computer for gaming, a console is also a good bet, and is universally the same from model to model. It is also easy to learn and pick up with fewer buttons, and is especially easy for kids. It really does depend on budget and what the consumer wants to get out of their purchase.