Friday, December 12, 2008

PC vs console gaming

Like I said back in May, I'm currently both a PC and a console gamer. I'm in a unique situation now, you see, as many PC gamers consider their choice superior to that of console gamers. Of course, the console gamers feel quite to the contrary. While I don't hope to once and for all end this argument, I will lay the facts down right here and now and decide whether one choice truly has any sort of advantage over the other.

Round 1: Price

When it comes to a good, gaming quality PC, you're quite often going to be spending big bucks just to make par, so to speak. Most every gaming-level PC out there is going to cost you upwards of $1000, and that's just for the CPU. Add in a $300-$400 high-quality monitor, a keyboard, mouse and speakers and the price is sure to be at least $1500. Going PC when it comes to gaming is never cheap unless you have some major connections and the know-how to put together your own computer from scratch.

Consoles, on the other hand, currently cost between $280 and $400 plus tax here in Canada. At those prices, you'd be able to get one of each consoles and a few games for less than a fully-loaded gaming PC. Of course, there's the addition of peripherals and, in the case of the XBox 360, online subscription fees, but even factoring in these would at most overshoot the PC price point by no more than $100 or so. Still, you'd be getting three game consoles, peripherals, games and subscriptions for the price of a computer, monitor and accessories. I feel that's reason enough to conclude that round 1 goes to the consoles.

Round 2: Game Selection

The PC gets a relatively mixed-bag of games. Many major console games eventually see release on the PC, sometimes simultaneously, especially games otherwise exclusive to the XBox 360. Mass Effect, Fallout 3, Left 4 Dead, Grand Theft Auto IV and BioShock are all good examples of this. The PC's library of exclusive games is somewhat lacking, though, with only a few significant titles coming to mind, some of which are many years old. Finally, due to how open the world of PC game development is, the amount of shovelware clogging up the shelves rivals that of the Wii and DS combined. Back on the bright side of things, the PC has a game library going back about twenty years, with many classic games such as Fallout, RollerCoaster Tycoon, SimCity, and so much more available for little or nothing. No console in history can match the shear size of the PC's library.

As for the console scene, there tends to be far more exclusives than on the PC. If you were to add up all the exclusive titles available out there for the 360, Wii and PS3 you'd surely come up with a number many, many times that of what you'd find doing the same with the PC. Heck, the AAA exclusives for the Wii alone over the last two years probably outnumber those of the PC. Super Mario Galaxy, Mario Kart Wii, Metroid Prime 3, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Super Paper Mario, No More Heroes, Wario Land: Shake It, Battalion Wars II... The list keeps going! However, as I said before, even counting services like the Virtual Console and XBox Live Arcade, no console can even come close to the gargantuan amount of classic games available for the PC. Round 2 ends in a tie.

Round 3: The Social Factor

Even the most die-hard PC fan would have to admit that there's just no matching having a bunch of friends all crowded around a single TV wailing on game controllers in a frantic race to outdo each other. Unless you have a dedicated circle of PC-playing friends with easily-transported rigs, you just can't match the same-room mayhem of consoles.

When it comes to being a social gaming experience, the PC isn't entirely behind the consoles. Like the 360, PS3, and soon to be the Wii, the PC also has live voice chat during games. That being said, although this does help close the gap a little, the consoles still claim round 3.

Round 4: Compatibility

When you bring home a new XBox 360 game, do you have to check what version of the console you have, or what your processing power is? Nope, you just pop in the disc and get playing. This isn't the case with PC gaming, though, as I nervously approach any new game and carefully read the requirements on the back to check if I can run it on my mid-range PC. Even if I can run it, it probably won't be at full graphical quality. This is where price comes back into play, as PC gamers have to continually upgrade their rigs in order to keep up with the ever-changing standard of processors and graphics cards. Console gamers? We just buy the successor every five years, sit back, and relax. Without a doubt, consoles claim victory this round.

Round 5: Controls

If you're reading this article on a computer, look right in front of you and see one of the greatest controllers ever made: The keyboard and mouse. With the keyboard's nearly infinite possibilities for customization and the mouse's pinpoint accuracy, the PC can adapt to just about anyone's preferences. Heck, if you don't like to use a keyboard and mouse, you can even hook up an XBox 360 controller and play with that instead!

In the consoles' corner, the only controller that comes close to matching the precision of a keyboard and mouse is the Wii remote. With its infra-red pointer, the Wii remote is every bit as accurate as the mouse, if not more so. Of course, the Wii remote, along with the Dualshock 3, have motion sensing, something no PC input device I've heard of can match. This round is too close to call, with motion sensing on one hand, and customization on the other, I'm going to have to call this a tie.

Round 6: Multitasking

The latest round of consoles come complete with many features other than playing video games, from web browsers to weather updates to virtual stores for customizing. However, no amount of additional features on a game console can match the insane multitasking abilities of a PC. After all, PCs are generally computers first, game consoles second. Just about every PC out there has word processing, web browsing, photo editing, movie making, music playback, a DVD player, and so much more. Without a doubt, round 6 goes to the PC.


With each victory counting for a full point, and each tie counting for a half-point, the consoles win the round with a 4 over the PC's respectable 2. Don't go thinking that a PC isn't worth your time for gaming, though, as these are just numbers. While the consoles may have won when it comes to the score, the PC isn't entirely inferior. It's a complicated sort of battle, really, and it's the kind that really never will have any sort of clear winner in the end. However, based on the above facts alone, the consoles do beat out the PC. Just remember that preference is the one true deciding factor, since that's all that really matters.

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Kyle said...

Awesome article. The main reason I game on consoles versus my computer is the system requirements and constantly having to update like you said. I used to play games like Oregon Trail and one of the first Harry Potter movie games on my comp, back in the day, but now it can barely run iTunes and Firefox at the same time... :D

Anonymous said...

Your price comparison is terrible.

Here is why:
You first assume that the normal gamer does not first have a computer. You then assume that the normal gamer does have a television, but NOT a monitor(which by the way tend to be quite less pricey since you sit closer to a computer than a TV). This immediately shows huge bias towards consoles.

Fact is that most gamers have both TVs and computers with monitors.

The median cost of a console is 375$(200-480 xbox360, 400-520ps3, and 280-375 wii)

The hardware to make a gaming PC is 515$(180$ gfx beyond console gfx/100$ mobo/100$ proc/45$ HDD to equal high end console HDD/90$ case & power supply)

However when you take into account that one already has a PC to learn/do work on, the amount of money you spend above and beyond that to buy your PC isn't much and usually can amount to the price of a midrange gfx card, that is to say, less than a console would be.