2019 saw a massive year for the gaming industry, from the messy release of Anthem in February to the inevitable newest in the Call of Duty franchise in October. Alongside new additions was a strong year of continued success for older titles. Rainbow Six Siege grew from 45 million players at the beginning of the year to 50 million strong and Grand Theft Auto 5 was able to become the most sold game of the decade with 110 million copies sold.
And as a new decade of gaming begins and the era of the Xbox One and PS4 seems to be coming to an end with a new round of competition imminent, we should take a moment to explore an older rivalry.
Console versus PC gaming, which is better?
Well, on the surface you are likely to hear loud arguments from both sides of the debate. PC gamers will claim loud and brashly that their access to RAM and GPUs is far superior to the console player, stuck with no customisation or ability to swap out parts.
The console gamer, on the other hand, is likely to laud over the early exclusivity they get on mega game titles, as shown in the past with Rockstar releases Grand Theft Auto 5 and Red Dead Redemption 2, both games taking months to roll out to PC platforms, all the while being smugly enjoyed by console players.
But how does the PC argument about RAM and performance stack up?
Whilst true that a modest gaming PC built well can likely outperform consoles in terms of sheer performance, the console can definitely hold its own. In fact the current iteration of Xbox, the Xbox One X, has been recorded performing at a jaw-dropping 60 FPS, the frames per second considered a benchmark for quality. If a device can run at this level, it is unlikely that you will ever run into issues with performance. So the fact that you can doll out hundreds more for an extra few gigabytes of RAM means very little in the long run – you likely won’t notice the difference in most games.
In fact, we are still getting to the stage in which consoles are, though not as powerful, closing the gap on performance with dedicated GPUs for better graphics now a staple in the PS4, Xbox One and even Nintendo Switch. This will only improve going towards the PS5 and Xbox Scorpio in the coming years.
However, there are obvious benefits to having a higher specification system when it comes to competitive gameplay, as it may be the difference between shooting at your enemy or shooting behind them. You will lag less and your surroundings and movements will appear faster when running with a higher framerate, as the PC can handle more happening in the world at once.
But this lag is typically not an issue on console games in the single player aspects, even on behemoths such as Death Stranding. Lag on competitive games, that is to say online, is typically due to poor wi-fi connection or server stress and so is not dependent on your use of either console or computer but your service provider.
So there is not a noticeable performance difference, how about the games themselves?
One benefit of PC gaming is the massive repertoire of games offered from platforms such as Steam which are not offered on consoles. The huge selection is down to the ability for people to very easily create their own games and directly publish them for free with relative ease to be downloaded directly. This is a process which is not as straightforward or supported on console. You will likely find very few free games of the calibre found on the PC marketplace, yet titles such as Fortnite and Apex Legends have been changing this landscape.
However, further than simply offering more games, PC also offers the brilliant world of mods. For those unfamiliar, mods are extensions for games made by fans or developers. Mods can do everything from adding to the backbone of a game’s missions to changing your appearance in game. Mods are something which are easily done and largely permitted by game developers so long as they are not used in competitive settings.
But even the sacred world of mods is being introduced to consoles, albeit slowly. Most notably would be Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, which allows you to import very basic mods onto your console version of the game.
This matters! Modding greatly extends the lifespan of games long after the developers are done and onto sequels, so this may be enough to tip the hat in the favour of PC gaming until such a day that consoles become more open source for development, which as of now tends to involve hacking and subsequent lawsuits.
Which is right for me?
There are four key components to deciding which gaming platform is for you.
- Cost – Pricing is of course a massive consideration for what will satisfy your gaming needs for the foreseeable future. Will you splash out on a high end, high power gaming PC or save some money with a slightly older console? This is an important question because on the one hand if spend too little, you may find your tech becoming redundant very quickly. On the other, spending a lot may mean you cannot afford the new releases or DLC being released. It may also mean you’re short on rent this month so be smart! As a guide, the current-gen base consoles can be found for around £200 ($260) and a decent gaming PC can be built for around £600 ($800) – bear in mind that you will likely get a lot of bang for your buck here!
- Convenience – When and where you use your device is going to largely impact what it is you buy. Maybe you are very mobile and so you can’t just boot up the desktop when you need your fix of Titanfall or maybe you are home a lot but like to be able to move your gaming zone around a bit. So what are your choices? Well, the more causal and old-school player is likely interested in a Nintendo 3DS or maybe even a Nintendo Switch as both are relatively affordable and portable (the Switch also has a battery life from 2.5 to 6 hours). If you want portability but a little more power then you are either going to go for a gaming laptop or a home-console, the laptop being far more portable. Unfortunately, laptops grant portability at the expense of… money. One with decent specs will set you back about £530 ($700). Then of course you reach desktops. These with their cooling systems, power supplies and cases are unlikely to accompany you on the commute to work of a morning though it could be argued they are about as portable as consoles, if not a bit heavier.
- Complexity – On a smaller note, you may want to bear in mind how much time and effort you are willing to put into this. Whilst there are only a handful of variants to pick between in consoles, a gaming PC will require a fair amount of research and knowledge in order to get the best prices and most up-to-date components. Though you could always splash a little cash to have someone build it for you.
- Preference – This is what really counts, what do you prefer? If you are reading this, you have probably tried gaming on everything from the smart TV to the PSP, you know what works for you. Do you like the simplicity of parties in Xbox? Do you enjoy the rabbit hole of fan-made content for PC? Great! The point of gaming is to immerse yourself and have fun, so if 4K graphics and 120FPS is what you need to feel immersed, then go Donkey-Kong crazy! Don’t let any player on any platform belittle what you enjoy, that defeats the purpose.
Final Thoughts – Who Wins?
There is a real distinction you have to face up to when arguing consoles versus PCs. You have to admit that PCs will always hold the advantage over consoles; they can be customised and upgraded every time a new graphics card is released or a more efficient cooling system comes out. You also have to admit that they cost more. From there, you have a choice to make about how much processing power you need and if you can really justify not only the price but the time needed to design and put together your own desktop when you could spend far less on a ready-to-go console.
In all, PC currently holds far more perks. According to Statista there are currently around 1.22 billion [link] PC gamers worldwide, with only 645 million [link] playing on console. On a personal note, I find that in reality your social groups will determine which platform you play on more than anything. You can have an enjoyable experience on any platform, might as well group up with a team just like you. Where you find it is your choice.