Learn the Pros and Cons of PCs vs. Consoles for Online Gaming

Choosing the best hardware for online gaming is a weighty decision

The latest generation of video game consoles has features that use the internet to enhance gameplay. Also, many of the same games are available for PC and consoles. We compared the pros and cons of playing online games on PC vs. playing on consoles to help you decide which platform you prefer.

PC vs. console

Overall Findings

Console Online Gaming
  • Easier to use and set up.

  • Less expensive start-up costs.

  • Controllers and other accessories are optimized for the specific hardware.

PC Online Gaming
  • A wider selection of online games.

  • Superior graphics and performance.

  • PCs can be used for more than gaming.

In late 2002, Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo introduced online capabilities for the PlayStation 2, Xbox, and GameCube, respectively. Online console games are now common with services like Microsoft Xbox Live and PlayStation Now leading the way. A few titles can be played across platforms, such as Final Fantasy XV, in which PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC users explore the same online world.

Nonetheless, PCs offer the largest selection of online games. Some of the most popular MMO games, such as World of Warcraft, are exclusive to PC. While PC gamers have more options when it comes to graphic cards and custom controllers, these bells and whistles come with monetary costs.

Costs and Longevity: PC Gaming Is a Big Investment

Console Online Gaming
  • Console games can be rented.

  • Limited options for upgrading specific components.

  • It's easier to return games to retailers.

PC Online Gaming
  • Controllers and other peripherals sold separately.

  • It is difficult to return PC games because they are easy to copy.

  • Easier to upgrade specific components such as graphics cards.

The primary advantage consoles have over PCs is cost. Most consoles sell for under $500 and are often bundled with games, controllers, and other accessories. A PC that is adequate for running the latest games can easily cost twice that much.

While PCs have come down in price over the years, PCs are expensive compared to consoles. There are ways to economize on a PC, but it's not easy to get the cost of a PC down to a price that's comparable to the most expensive console.

As a PC gets older, there's a reasonable chance of extending its gaming life with a component upgrade. When the components inside a console become dated, there's generally no way to solve the problem without replacing the entire console. In most cases, upgrades that could prolong the life of the system aren't an option.

Games and Graphics: It's No Contest

Console Online Gaming
  • Some titles are exclusive to consoles.

  • Games are optimized for the console hardware and accessories.

  • Most consoles offer subscription streaming services for games.

PC Online Gaming
  • Millions of online games are available on the internet.

  • Access Steam's massive library of games.

  • Augment games with mods, trainers, and hacks.

  • Design games and custom levels.

One of the biggest advantages PCs have over consoles is that there are more games available, particularly when it comes to multiplayer online games. The majority of MMOs are designed for the PC. PC gamers have the option to play MUDs, email games, browser games, and titles that are distributed digitally or available as free downloads. If you like to modify game files or create custom maps, a PC is essential.

PCs are always on the cutting edge of gaming technology. The current generation of consoles with high-definition capabilities briefly narrowed the gap. Still, well-equipped PCs continue to offer superior graphics. High-resolution computer monitors and the latest multicore processors and dual GPU solutions make it possible to build a powerful gaming system. Even if a console offers incredible technology upon its release, there's no way for it to compete with the rapid hardware advancements in the computer industry.

Ease of Use: Consoles Are Made For Gaming

Console Online Gaming
  • More options for local multiplayer.

  • Comfortably play games with friends on your couch.

  • Native support for motion controls and controllers with touch screens.

PC Online Gaming
  • Limited support for local multiplayer.

  • Many games require the use of a mouse and a keyboard.

  • Keyboard and mouse controls add depth to gameplay.

Multiplayer gaming is made easy with companies like Microsoft and Sony offering online services for their products. Consoles come equipped with a network card, which makes it simple to connect to the internet and get into a multiplayer game.

Console games tend to have a lower learning curve than PC games due to the controls. You might need fast thumbs, but you usually don't need to spend hours in a tutorial learning how to operate basic game functions.

Configuring the graphics, input, and network settings for PC games can be a technical nightmare. On the other hand, you can take a console home and play a game within minutes. There isn't an operating system to configure or drivers to update, and you won't accidentally purchase games that your console isn't powerful enough to run.

Flexibility: Do More With a PC

Console Online Gaming
  • Online multiplayer is often restricted to users with the same console.

  • Supports streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime.

PC Online Gaming
  • PC and Mac users play in the same environments.

  • PCs are more vulnerable to viruses and other security breaches.

Consoles perform one task well. In contrast, PCs can be used for a wide range of tasks and entertainment. Some console manufacturers try to make their systems flexible. Still, it's doubtful that consoles will support the variety of applications that are available for PCs.

When it comes to online gaming, PCs offer a variety of ways to connect to the internet and to other PCs that aren't restricted to proprietary services or software. Different brands of computers and operating systems usually communicate well with one another.

There is a distinct lack of interconnectivity between the different console brands. Many games are available for one type of console, but not others. When it comes to online play, each is typically restricted to its network. This means that people with Xbox consoles can usually only play against other people with Xbox consoles (although there are some exceptions).

Final Verdict

There are many things to consider before choosing a gaming platform. Foremost among these is deciding which games you want to play, how much money you want to spend, and whether or not you need a PC for other purposes. Having both is ideal. However, if you're new to the world of online games, it may be best to start with a console due to the lower costs and simplified set up. If you're a hardcore gamer who wants to play as many online games as possible, then consider a dedicated gaming PC.