The PC versus console debate is a tale as old as time. Elitism on both sides of the aisle leads to nothing more than keyboard warriors squabbling over seemingly nothing specific at all. While I’m not sure there’s a clear winner in terms of which is better, there is a clear victor in the argument of which is cheaper. I’m going to try my best to break the numbers down for you to digest as easily as possible so your path forward is a bit clearer. There are a lot of things that go into determining whether PC gaming or console gaming is cheaper. The first, and most often focused on is the upfront system cost.
Upfront System Cost
The truth is that when comparing apples to apples, consoles have the advantage here. Our cheapest system, the Periphio Portal costs $499, which is very competitive in the PC gaming space. The Xbox One S, the base Xbox offering at the moment costs $299, $200 less, and often includes a game in the box at no extra charge. The caveat here is that for online play, an Xbox Live Gold subscription is required, priced at $60 per year if you purchase annually, an expense not required on PC. That brings the initial system cost of a console up to $360, narrowing the gap a bit between our entry-level PC. Still, the console takes the cake in this round.
My previous knowledge of PC gaming leads me to believe that this is where the PC will shine. A catalog of decades-old games paired with the newest and greatest titles gives PC a clear advantage here. Consoles can typically only play games designed for that console, and in some cases, a handful of backward-compatible titles for the system prior. The best way to do this is scientifical -- comparing the prices of the same games on both Xbox One’s digital store and PC’s largest game distribution platform Steam -- to see who comes out on top.
I did my best to choose a list of games that are relevant and popular in order to be as accurate as possible in making my determination. I compiled all of my data into an easy to read chart below so you can see for yourself the results.
|Game||Xbox Price||Steam Price|
|Ark: Survival Evolved||49.99||9.99|
|Skyrim Special Edition||39.99||15.99|
|Halo: Master Chief Collection||39.99||31.99|
|Rainbow Six: Siege||39.99||7.99|
|Grand Theft Auto V||29.99||14.99|
|Red Dead Redemption 2||59.99||47.99|
|Star Wars: Fallen Jedi Order||59.99||29.99|
|Player Unknown's Battlegrounds||19.99||14.99|
|The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt||39.99||14.99|
After all the scores were tallied, the PC’s Steam marketplace took this comparison by a landslide, with these ten games being on average just $20.89 each compared to Xbox’s $39.99 each. This doesn’t take into account other marketplaces either -- for example, in June 2020 both Grand Theft Auto V and Ark: Survival Evolved were offered completely free for a period of time on the Epic Games Store on PC. There were no games on PC that were more expensive than their Xbox counterparts, and only one game was the equivalent price.
Furthermore, on PC, typically games get much cheaper as they age. For example, something like Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare -- a game that’s now four years old, is still $59.99 on the Xbox digital marketplace, and only $19.79 on Steam. That trend is persistent throughout the entire catalog of games available on the Xbox digital marketplace.
Upgrade Paths and Forced Obsolescence
Upgradability may be one of the biggest long-term cost advantages of gaming on a PC rather than with a console. If you go out today and purchase an Xbox One S, there’s nothing you can do to that console to make it play newer games or play games with higher quality. Your only option is to go out and purchase a newer console. This isn’t so with most gaming PC’s.
Because of the nature of a PC, it is upgradable, customizable, and modular by design. A good PC is a typically large investment for most people and thus is expected to last a reasonable amount of time and grow with you throughout its life. In a gaming PC, you can upgrade the processor, memory, graphics card, and storage to suit your needs and the needs of the games you play. If a game comes out and you don’t like the way it runs, or you decide you want to play at a higher resolution, you can always change your machine to fit. Most of the time, there’s no need to go out and purchase an entirely new PC.
With a new console being released on average every 4 years now, that’s a cost of $300-500 ever four years to be able to play the newest games at the best quality on offer at the time. That’s not including the potential cost of having to re-buy games you already own or purchase an entirely new library for that console if, say, the PlayStation or Nintendo console of that year looks more enticing.
The world of console gaming is one of forced obsolescence, a term that describes the planned discontinuation of products on a schedule structured to maximize your spending on new hardware and software. This, fortunately, does not exist on PC, or if it does, it’s not as apparent. Games on PC are coded with adjustable settings to work across many generations of hardware. A gaming PC built 6 or 7 years ago can still play many games released today. This is not so in the console world.
It’s clear by examining all parts of the gaming experience that PC gaming is measurably more affordable over time than console gaming. Games costs average almost 50% higher on a console, limiting the number of games you can own to how far you’re willing to stretch open your wallet. Consoles also have required subscription services to allow online play and communication with friends, something that is not required on PC.
Furthermore, consoles are designed to last for a determined period of time before they eventually cannot play games that are released, a concept known as forced obsolescence. If you want to play the newest game, you’ll eventually be forced to buy an entirely new system. With a gaming PC, you can choose when to upgrade and what to upgrade, with graphics card replacements costing as little as $120-150 and storage expansions as large as 10TB. You don’t always have to be forced to choose between playing the newest games with your friends and paying rent. With Periphio, you can have your cake and eat it too.
Please check out the line of Periphio Gaming PC Towers that are affordable and powerful!
*All prices listed were collected at the time of writing and may be subject to change depending on sales and availability.