Overall, consoles are a better choice if you prioritize affordability and accessibility, whereas a PC is a better choice if you care about better performance and visuals, along with more flexibility and customizability.
At the moment, however, odds are skewed in favor of consoles, as the ongoing GPU shortage has rendered gaming PCs exorbitantly expensive for the time being.
It may feel like it was only yesterday that the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One were the latest and greatest gaming consoles that you could get, though the refreshed mid-generation releases of the PlayStation 4 Pro and the Xbox One X variants probably had a hand in that.
However, before we knew it, it was 2020 already, and with it came the new generation of consoles. Both the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X came out in November 2020, showcasing new technologies and re-opening two eternally recurring discussions among gamers…
Which of the two is better and is gaming on a console better than gaming on a PC?
As you can tell from the title, the latter is what we will be focusing on here today, so if you’re debating whether one of the shiny new consoles or a new gaming PC would be a better investment at the moment, or if you’re just in it for curiosity’s sake, read on!
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For many people, the choice between a console and a gaming PC may just come down to one simple factor: the costs. However, the price of the hardware itself is only one factor, and there are some not-so-obvious expenses that need to be considered, too.
So, how expensive are the latest consoles compared to PCs in 2023?
It goes without saying that pricing is an important factor for consumers, and it seems that both Sony and Microsoft had learned from their earlier mistakes with the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox One. Namely, both companies have cut down their prices and are now also offering more budget-friendly alternatives to their flagship consoles, and this just might entice some buyers.
To be more specific, the PlayStation 5 launched at $499, while the PlayStation 5 Digital Edition goes for a more modest $399. The difference? The latter model lacks a 4K Blu-ray drive, which makes it a great pick for those who do not intend to use their console as a media player and who have no intention of collecting physical games.
Meanwhile, the situation is a bit different in Microsoft’s corner. The mainline Xbox Series X also goes for $499, but their budget solution makes some additional trade-offs. Namely, the Xbox Series S goes for a mere $299, and not only does it lack a 4K Blu-ray drive, but it also features weaker hardware.
What this means is that the S variant offers less impressive performance that reflects either in lower framerates or a lower resolution, but this may still be a worthwhile trade-off for those who are pinching pennies and/or have no interest in investing in a 4K display any time soon.
For a more thorough comparison of these consoles, we suggest checking out this article, as we go into more depth regarding their respective strengths and weaknesses.
Now, moving forward, just how much does a gaming PC cost in 2023?
Well, unlike with consoles, there is no clear-cut answer to this question. Why? Simply because of the sheer variety of computer hardware that’s available at the moment. Considering how customizable they are, PCs cover a very wide spectrum when it comes to both pricing and performance.
Generally, gaming PCs can be divided into five common categories that indicate their pricing and performance brackets: entry-level, budget, mid-range, high-end, and enthusiast.
Depending on how you go about it, the cheapest entry-level PC can set you back as little as $300, whereas the prices of some high-end builds can easily hit quadruple-digit price points and can cost literal thousands of dollars. However, a solid gaming PC is bound to be more expensive up-front, especially now.
Something else that’s worth noting is that getting a gaming PC doesn’t necessarily mean buying all the components off the shelf and putting everything together yourself, and there are various ways to cut costs.
Getting a prebuilt PC can be a good way to save some money, provided that you know what you’re doing and that you’re not overpaying for an underpowered build. Moreover, some services will build custom PCs to order, which can also potentially save you money, effort, and net you some extra benefits.
Finally, there’s also the option to save a considerable amount of money by building a PC with used, older hardware. Processors and graphics cards don’t become obsolete after a year or two just because their manufacturers have something shinier to show you at the latest event.
Naturally, though, it goes without saying that building a PC out of used or dated parts would also require some research in order to ensure that you’re actually getting good value for your money.
Now, something that is important to keep in mind is that it’s not just about the up-front cost—there’s also the long-term to consider, and that’s where consoles have a significant advantage.
Namely, whereas a console can last you for the entirety of the generation (about seven years) if you maintain it, a PC will inevitably need upgrading during that time period, no matter how powerful it is.
Sure, your high-end gaming PC may be cutting edge now, but no matter how great its performance is today, it will get overshadowed by new hardware tomorrow. Unfortunately, you would need to upgrade to stay ahead of the curve at least once in the timeframe that a single console could last.
On the other hand, if you’re into multiplayer games, it’s worth noting that playing on a PC means free multiplayer, whereas both Sony and Microsoft require the user to pay a subscription in order to be able to play online.
Specifically, multiplayer on a PlayStation would mean you’d have to get a PlayStation Plus subscription, which would set you back $60 per year ($5 per month), which would also get you some exclusive discounts and several free games each month that you can play for as long as you subscription is active.
Meanwhile, Microsoft’s Xbox Live Gold subscription starts at $10 per month and offers the same additional benefits, although it is overshadowed by the far superior Xbox Game Pass Ultimate that also grants you access to an ever-growing library of Xbox titles from across several generations.
Overall, these subscription services, while completely optional, can really rack up the long-term cost of console gaming over time, bringing the total cost much closer to those of gaming on a PC.
And last but definitely not least, there’s also the cost of peripherals associated with consoles and PCs, and it’s another area where consoles have yet an advantage in regards to the overall costs.
Consoles are prized for their simplicity and ease of use. When you buy a console, all you need to do is hook it up to the living room TV, connect the controller that comes bundled in the box, and you’re good to go. Of course, consoles come with a range of peripherals of their own, but these are entirely optional.
As for the PC, you would need to invest in some pricey peripherals that you simply can’t do without. The most important ones would be a monitor, a keyboard, a mouse, and a headset/speakers. And depending on your requirements, all of these put together could easily amount to the price of an actual console and even surpass it.
So, while this doesn’t necessarily answer whether console or PC gaming is better, it does give you an idea as to which of the two is better for your wallet.
Consoles are simply more affordable on every front: the initial purchase, the long-term costs, and when it comes to associated peripherals. Overall, they definitely offer better value for your money, especially with how inflated GPU prices have gotten again. Granted, console prices are inflated now, too, but not quite to the degree that GPU prices are.
But of course, PCs have their advantages too, and it’s those advantages that could very well be worth the additional cost—more on those below!
Graphics and Hardware
Moving on, we get to the next main point that many gamers will consider even before looking at the prices: what kind of graphics and hardware are you getting with the latest consoles, and can PCs match it?
Historically, consoles have always been lagging behind PCs when it came to hardware power and graphics performance, even at launch, and it was only due to clever tricks and optimization that they managed to stay relevant as the years went by.
However, the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X break this pattern, at least to a degree. Both consoles are capable of running many impressive-looking AAA titles in 4K at a stable 60 FPS, something that has been the dream of many a gamer throughout the second half of the previous decade.
It goes without saying that there is PC hardware out there that can easily top this kind of performance, but that is where we loop back to the matter of pricing and just how much more expensive such a PC would be, especially right now.
With that said, we’ve already mentioned that one of the main advantages to owning a PC is the sheer variety of hardware that you have access to, but it’s really something that will become noticeable as time goes on.
Be it the resolution, framerates, or additional graphical features, PC hardware will inevitably overtake consoles and will offer better graphics performance at better price points as time goes on.
Granted, this is something of a double-edged sword—as mentioned above, PC hardware needs to be upgraded every few years if you wish to stay ahead of the curve, and a console can easily last an entire generation thanks to optimization.
But speaking of hardware power and hardware upgrades, it’s worth mentioning that it’s unclear whether we’ll see refreshed and beefed-up variants of the latest consoles released further down the line, as was the case with the previous generation.
The releases of the PlayStation 4 Pro and the Xbox One X were necessitated by the rising popularity of 4K TVs, so unless there’s pressure to increase the resolution or the framerates in the face of 8K TVs or 120Hz 4K TVs growing more popular, chances are the latest consoles will see no major upgrades to their hardware over the course of this generation.
So, all in all, when talking about graphics and hardware power between consoles and PCs at the moment, there is no clear answer.
Right now, the consoles offer excellent performance, especially when pricing is taken into consideration, but PCs are guaranteed to overtake them a few years down the line.
Next, we get to another major factor to consider when choosing the right gaming platform for your needs: the games themselves. What games can you play, how can you get them, and are there any additional factors to consider here?
First things first, consoles have grown (in)famous over the years because of the numerous exclusive releases that were confined to a single platform. While the practice has often been labeled as “anti-consumer,” there’s no denying that it has proven to be a lucrative strategy that contributed in no small part to the popularity of mainstream consoles.
In the previous generation, Sony in particular was known for securing an array of excellent exclusive titles that drove the popularity of the PlayStation 4 and gave it an important edge over the Xbox One, which was lacking in this regard. Now, in the current generation, things are a bit different.
While Sony already has a number of notable PlayStation 5 exclusive titles lined up, such as the Demon’s Souls remake, Horizon Forbidden West, and God of War: Ragnarok, Microsoft has also been stepping up its game in this respect.
Among Microsoft’s lineup, we can already see several notable games such as Forza Horizon 5, Halo Infinite, Starfield, and even the long-awaited S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2. Not only that, but with the recent acquisition of Activision Blizzard, Microsoft has gotten a hold of several notable franchises, though it’s still unclear as to which of them will become exclusives.
Something that’s important to note is that Microsoft’s “exclusivity” isn’t console exclusivity in a traditional sense. Namely, it’s not about confining games to the Xbox platforms, but rather keeping them off the PlayStation 5. As such, while Xbox Series X/S exclusive games will not be available on Sony’s console, all of them will be available on PC.
Now, we should also note that PC does have exclusives of its own, in a way. Not necessarily because anyone is trying to keep games off of consoles but because there isn’t much of a push to release them on consoles. This could be due to things such as hardware limitations, insufficient financial incentives, or other miscellaneous factors.
These PC exclusives most commonly include strategy games that would be nigh-unplayable with a controller, but it also covers MOBAs, MMOs, and many indie titles, not to mention all of the older games that were released on Windows (but more on that below).
At the end of the day, you simply won’t be able to play everything on a single platform, so it’s entirely up to each individual to decide which one is the right pick based on what they want to play.
On a final note, it’s worth mentioning that most exclusives really only end up being exclusive for a limited time, even if that time might be several years. Considering that the majority of critically acclaimed PlayStation 4 exclusives have been or are currently being ported to PC, it’s a safe bet that the same will happen with PlayStation 5 exclusives once their marketing power diminishes over the years.
The next important question when it comes to games is: how and where can you get them?
First off, it’s important to draw the distinction between digital copies and physical copies of games. The popularity of physical copies has been steadily declining over the previous decade. As a matter of fact, they went from comprising 80% of video game sales in 2009 in the US to a mere 17% in 2018, and that percentage is not going up.
Today, physical copies of PC games are all but extinct, and they only remain relevant for consoles. Though you can still see PC games in stores, the boxes don’t actually contain a disk but a code to be redeemed on Steam or another platform.
It’s easy to understand why this change happened when we consider how much more convenient digital distribution is for both the consumer and the distributor, especially given how far the internet infrastructure has come around the world. However, there are still advantages to owning physical copies of games.
Apart from the fact that some people simply prefer collecting physical copies and lining their shelves with their favorite games, there’s also the fact that you can always sell a physical copy of a game after you’re done playing it. Just the same, you don’t have to buy copies that are brand new, but can get them used instead.
Needless to say, this can save you a considerable amount of money, especially considering that you’d otherwise be confined to Sony’s and Microsoft’s official stores, neither of which are known for frequent and/or generous discounts—at least not compared to what you can get on PC.
Now, when it comes to how you can get digital copies of games on PC, the situation is a lot more diverse and wallet-friendly.
Naturally, Steam is the dominant platform for PC gaming in 2023, but there are several other stores such as GOG and the Epic Game Store that are not tied to Steam in any way. More importantly, there is a range of online stores that sell game keys that can then be redeemed on Steam or other platforms, such as Humble Bundle, Green Man Gaming, Fanatical, or Itch.io.
As if that weren’t enough, you can always turn to marketplaces such as Kinguin, CDKeys.com, or Gamivo. These sites allow sellers from around the world to sell game keys, and they can often be a great way to get your hands on cheap games outside the discount season, especially if it’s older titles that you have your sights set on.
It’s worth noting, though, that there is always a chance of running into scammers on these marketplaces. Fortunately, most popular marketplaces have measures in place to prevent this, so even if you do end up dealing with a scammer, you are bound to get a refund with minimal effort.
Overall, games are much cheaper to get on PC, which does offset the increased costs of a gaming PC itself. And though it may not seem like much at first glance, it can really add up over the years and save you a considerable amount of money.
And lastly, we have the question of backward compatibility. And what is backward compatibility? Quite simply, it is a feature that allows a console to run older games that were released on the consoles that preceded it.
This was an area where the Xbox One had a clear advantage over the PlayStation 4, though Sony has finally caught up in the current generation, at least to a degree.
Though PlayStation 3 titles still remain unplayable on the latest hardware, PlayStation 4 games are playable on the PlayStation 5. Meanwhile, the Xbox Series X/S has access to the majority of the game library for the Xbox One and the Xbox 360.
And how about the backward compatibility on PC?
Well, backward compatibility isn’t really a thing when it comes to PC, as it is not a unified platform. Rather, games are released to run on an operating system that can utilize a range of different hardware. To put it simply, if a game was released for any version of Windows, it will run on the latest version, too, as Windows allows you to run games in different compatibility modes for older versions of the OS.
The only time where “backward compatibility” may get spotty on PC is when we get to really old games that just weren’t coded with modern hardware in mind. The game might run poorly, suffer strange bugs, or even refuse to launch whatsoever.
However, even in those cases, there is almost always a workaround. The bottom line is, an old PC game will work on a new PC, though you may occasionally have to set aside an hour for some googling, config file tampering, or mod hunting.
While some may scoff at the importance that many gamers seem to place on backward compatibility, there’s no denying the simple fact: if you buy and own a game, you should be able to play it whenever you want.
And in this respect, PC has a definite advantage over consoles. Sure, the situation with backward compatibility is good in both the Sony and the Microsoft corner right now, but there’s no telling how long it will stay that way and whether current-gen games will be playable on the next-gen consoles half a decade down the road.
That said, if you’re building an expansive game library and you want it to remain easily accessible over the coming years, then PC is definitely the way to go.
And so, that would be about it when it comes to all of the important factors to consider when deciding on whether you should go with a console or a gaming PC in 2023.
All things considered, we would say that consoles do have the upper hand right now, but the current state of the market plays no small part in that.
Not only do consoles offer performance and visuals comparable to what a solid gaming PC can offer this early into the new generation, but the exorbitantly high prices and the limited supply of graphics cards also accentuate this advantage even more. And as mentioned before, while the console prices are inflated as well, the situation isn’t quite as bad.
Needless to say, when it comes to sheer hardware power, PC will always have the upper hand, and the high-end GPUs that are out right now already easily outperform what the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X hardware can offer.
However, since the price gap is so great and the performance gap still so relatively small (at least in practical terms), there is little incentive to invest in a proper gaming PC at the moment unless you’re a hardcore enthusiast.
With that in mind, we expect that PC will be back in the limelight soon enough (likely no earlier than the second half of 2022) but until then, if you don’t have a considerable amount of money to spare on a good GPU, you will either have to make do with your current PC or go for a console instead.
Finally, as is always the case when it comes to these matters, the ultimate question is highly subjective and entirely up to each individual to decide based on all the different pros and cons that are involved.
So, how will you be gaming in 2023? Will you wait out the storm until the GPU prices normalize or will you shelve the keyboard and mouse in favor of a controller for the time being? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!