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

Choosing the best hardware for online gaming is a weighty decision

Two friends playing a PC game sitting in chairs

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

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

  • 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's 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 still 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 great 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 most obvious advantage consoles have over PCs is cost. The majority of consoles sell for under $500, and they often come 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, they are still 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 comparable to even the most expensive console.

That said, as your PC ages, there is 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 are not 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

  • Literally millions of online games available on the internet.

  • Access Steam's massive library of games.

  • Augment games with mods, trainers, and hacks.

  • Design your own games and custom levels.

One of the biggest advantages PCs has over consoles is that there are a lot more games available, particularly when it comes to multiplayer online games. Not only are the vast majority of MMOs designed for the PC, but PC gamers have the option to play MUDs, email games, browser games, and a wide variety of 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, but 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 remarkably powerful gaming system. Even if a console offers incredible technology upon its release, there is 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 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 simply to the controls. You might need fast thumbs, but you usually don't need to spend hours in a tutorial trying to learn how to operate basic game functions.

Configuring all of the graphics, input, and network settings for PC games can be a technical nightmare. On the other hand, people can take a console home and begin playing a game within minutes. There are no operating systems to configure or drivers to update, and you don't have to worrying about accidentally purchasing games that your console isn't powerful enough to run.

Flexibility

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 while PCs can be used for an extremely wide range of things. Some console manufacturers are trying to make their systems flexible, but it is doubtful they will ever support the variety of applications that are available for PCs.

When it comes to online gaming, PCs give people a variety of ways to connect to the internet and to one another 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, and when it comes to online play, each is typically restricted to its own 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, but if you're just getting your feet wet in 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 you might consider investing in a dedicated gaming PC.

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