Difference between PC and Console gaming?

Jan 24, 2022
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I worked in the IT industry for 20+ years. I'm retired now but held the highest technical position available at a 55,000 user Fortune 500 company 4 years back. But I have never been into PC gaming except a bit in the early to mid 90's. My son in law plays PlayStation and Xbox games. He is now talking of sinking some heavy dollars in to a gaming PC. He has absolutely no experience with computers. I suspect he will be wasting a good bit of money getting into something he's not going to enjoy. Its also very annoying to watch a father waste a tax credit that is really for his children.
Enough of my background and gripe - on to the question.
Whats the difference between PC Gaming and Playstation/Xbox gaming.

[Mod edit: changed title for clarity from the unhelpful "Need some advice".]
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Welcome to the forum!

Hm, where to start, well without writing a book about all the differences between PC and console (playstations/xboxs/nintendos) gaming ill just say playstations and xboxs are built mainly to just play games but PC's can do so much more than just play games, in a lot of instances they look, play and run better on PC too, but PC's are the more expensive option.

PCG Jody

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Dec 9, 2019
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One of the differences between PC gaming and console gaming is how cheap the games can be to buy. Subscription services like Game Pass change things of course, but if you want to own games then between constant sales, the number of cheap indie games on PC, and the huge library of old games that remain playable and are usually discounted, I find buying games much cheaper on PC.

(Obviously if you only buy new games on day one, that's not going to be the case.)

The amount of old games around is significant too. If you're into working through the history of a series or genre, PC is usually the best place to do that.

MMOs are bigger on PC. There are some you can play on consoles, but if you want to dump hours of your life into MMOs then you've got a lot more options on PC and will have an easier time of it. Same with strategy games, and a few other genres too.

A big one for me is modding. Being able to download tweaks and additions to games is what brought me back to PC gaming after I spent a good amount of time as a PlayStation 2 guy. Playing Skyrim or XCOM or Stardew Valley or a bunch of other games can be a completely different experience on PC if you want to really make it your own.

Using a mouse for first-person shooters is a heck of an upgrade too, so there's that. Plus various peripherals for other genres, and a more varied VR experience if that's your thing.
Welcome to the forum :)

Fyi there's a halfway house now:

Article by PCG staff when newest consoles were announced:

Below is a post I wrote 2 years ago elsewhere, I think it still holds true:

If you need to use a PC for other reasons, then if you’re on a budget, make it your gaming machine also. You get access to tens of thousands of games—most of which are obviously exclusive to PC—at rock-bottom prices as long as you wait for your titles to go on sale. Have a quick look at Steam & GOG at the weekend—and of course EpicGames give away a free commercial game or two every week, as if there weren’t already thousands of free PC games.

Re the higher price of a PC v a console, you’ll recover the difference quickly via the major savings on game purchases as long as you can wait for titles to go on sale.

Re playing console games on PC, see if an emulator will cover your needs:

Apart from choice & price, the biggest reason for me to prefer PC is the mods. Most big games have great modding communities and they produce some top-quality stuff. Mods can allow you to customize the game to your preferences, or fix bad design by the developers, or make a game almost totally different to the original.

PC will mostly have better controls, now that console controllers can be used for racing, fighting etc. Keyboard-mouse is much better for shooters, and genres like RTS and other strategy can hardly be played on consoles. Get a programmable keyboard & mouse with multiple game profiles and you have gamer heaven.

Of course PC graphics are better, but the real kick comes from the customizability of the graphics settings. Older PC? No problem, turn the graphics down a notch—or turn some of the settings down and ramp some of the others up, choice is yours.

If you don’t already need a PC, and you play mostly racing, fighting & platformer games, and the other aspects above aren’t of interest, then a console is a good choice for you.

The good news is that consoles have been becoming more like PCs for a couple of generations now, and that’ll definitely continue with 2020’s new models, so the gap between consoles and PCs is becoming less with each generation. I expect the difference will disappear next decade, if not in the later 20s.
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I expect a big difference will stick around for as long as the consoles are around: simplicity.

If you get, say, a PS5 then buy games for the PS5, the games will all work just as well as the work on any other PS5. You'll neither know nor care what video drivers it has, what CPU it has, what memory it has (well, maybe the memory size, but certainly not the memory speed), or any of that other stuff. Hook it to the TV, put in a game that says "PS5" on it, and you're good. Some day, the PS6 will come around, new PS5 games will stop being made, and it will be time to buy a new one. Very simple, very easy, and great for anyone who's new to gaming or doesn't want to spend any time understanding how it's working.

Computer gaming works better for people who are willing to spend some time. You'll get far more graphic options in a computer game that let you customize how good the picture looks vs. how fast the pictures are drawn. You can customize your PC to work better for the types of games you want to play and take into account what you can afford. When something new comes out, you can buy it right away or you can wait, or maybe not ever use that new something. Sometimes you can even modify games to suit your own tastes - like switching out the players sword for a light saber. To do it, though, you've got to spend some time learning what a video card is, what anti-aliasing is, and a host of others. For that reason, PC gaming works great for enthusiasts.

(I'm just assuming the PC has no other use. As you well know, PCs can be used for many other things as well as gaming. You get quite a few folks who get into PC gaming simply because they already have a PC, so they just buy a few games that can run on it.)
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PC's can be upgraded instead of buying new ones. I honestly think that PC gaming is cheaper in the long-term for people who don't always have to be on the bleeding edge of tech.

Some financial advantages to PC gaming:

The games are much cheaper on PC.
There's no $9.99/mo fee to Xbox or Playstation
PC's can last a long time thanks to robust graphics options. A large number of people on Steam are still using graphics cards from 2014.
PC's can be upgraded.
Get a decent CPU in your computer today, and you'll probably never need to upgrade it (it will die before the need arises, but that should take a long while).
When you upgrade or get a new PC, all your old games still work, which is a huge financial advantage.

Just one last thought, the great thing about getting a child a great PC is that they learn how to use it, which will help them for the rest of their lives. Learning how to use a console gets you nothing.
What everyone above me said.

But also, since your job description leads me to think you know quite a bit about the technological aspect of computers (if not as it specifically pertains to games), then to circle back to your concerns, if your son-in-law is smart and is building his own PC himself and shops around for parts and doesn't rush into things, then it will be a good investment for a long while and he might even end up saving more money than if he'd continued with consoles (presuming a comparable level of playing and game purchasing).

However, if -- and I'm not making any assumptions about your son-in-law, but I want to cover all the bases here -- he's just an idiot and just throws money at an overpriced pre-built $4k system with bleeding edge features most games don't (yet) use, and doesn't take the necessary precautions with websites and ends up getting bitmining malware on his rig, then that could be an issue. But that's more of a worst-case scenario.

I imagine it's more of a middle ground, in which case he might not save any money, but as others have said, if he shops around and gets good deals on games or even sticks to the numerous free (or dirt cheap) games readily available, then he'll eventually make up the difference from what he might have spent on console.

But to regurgitate what others have already said, if he's keen on getting a gaming PC, I'm guessing he wants the flexibility and variety that PC's offer and consoles generally lack. Granted, if he ends up just playing the exact same games as he would on console just slightly prettier, then that was probably financially foolish. (Unless the computer doubles as a Zoom HQ for family/schooling/whatever, along with Netflix/Chromecast and other streaming options that can also be done via PC.)

To use an unfair analogy, if consoles are a break room with a microwave, K-cup machine and mini-fridge, PC's are a chef's kitchen with a wide array of appliances and a fully stocked pantry. If he's just gonna consume the gaming equivalent of Hot Pockets, the latter would be a waste. Otherwise the sky's the limit.