Monday, 9 April 2012

How PC Gaming is cheaper than Console Gaming

 How PC Gaming is cheaper than Console Gaming
(no, really - keep reading)

The amount of times I've been on a variety of social networking sites where people claim that "PC gaming is for rich kids" and that "console gaming is for normal people" is racking up. Not only is it absurd to base the amount of money one has by the gaming device they use, it is also a statement that makes no sense - one that has no backing whatsoever, other than of course the misconception that purchasing a PC means you'll be dropping several hundred pounds every other month on hardware.

In fact, when you look at it, playing your video games on a computer is actually a fair bit cheaper than playing your video games on a console - especially if you need a 'home' computer alongside the gaming console.

Allow me to explain: the 'gaming' computers that you see advertised around on the internet are notoriously overpriced - brands like Alienware and Cyberpower are generally pretty extortionate with their higher end computers, which may or may not come as a surprise. However, if you build your computer, you're going to get a much better deal - and it's not all that frightening building a computer, just like playing with (admittedly expensive) Lego - and if you follow the instruction manuals included and don't just jam the things where and how you think they fit you're almost certainly going to be fine - but even if you aren't, there are many people on the internet ready to help you.

The computer components below cost £316.83 (click to enlarge):

A list of components for a computer, parts purchased from eBuyer - prices correct at time of writing

You could go a fair bit cheaper though - most games are ports of the console counterparts anyway, albiet with one or two fancy graphics settings. If you can deal with playing at 720p in one or two instances, this computer build at £257.08 could easily satisfy your needs (that's right, the new series of Celeron and a mere entry level card outclasses current generation console hardware by several times, being able to max out even some of the most unoptimized games around - GTA IV, I'm looking at you).

A brand new 250GB Xbox 360 is £159.85 from

An Xbox 360 250GB, new from Amazon.
Don't worry, I have noticed that £159.85 is actually cheaper than £316.83 - and yes, you did read the title corrrectly, PC gaming is cheaper than playing on a console. Again, allow me to explain why.

Let's say that you're going to buy a brand new game every month for a year - and you plan to play these games with your buddies and internet peers in multiplayer modes that require the internet. Your average PC game costs £24.99 when purchased off an online retailer like Amazon or, and your average Xbox 360 game costs £39.99. Of course, there are exceptions to this average, but they are pretty standard prices for the games on both of these consoles. When buying a PC game over a console game, you are theoretically saving £14. Over the first year of PC gaming versus the first year of Xbox gaming, you'll save £23.02 by playing on PC.

In the first year of PC gaming, you'll save £23.02 over someone buying an equal amount of games to play online as you, but on an Xbox 360.

Now you're almost certainly thinking "£23.02? Why the hell is he making it seem like it's a much better investment?", and that's because the first year also includes the price of the device in the first place, which for PC is a fair margin more (as in almost double), if you were to game only for a single year, I'd agree that PC is, while a better investment, it's not by a big margin. However, let's say you bought twelve games to play with your friends online next year, and see how that works out.

In the next year, you'll save an awful lot more playing on PC
Now you're seeing a vast amount of money-saving by playing on PC. Over the two years, you've saved a total of £233.02 by playing your games on a PC. The value doesn't stop there though, the graphics are better on PC on a fair few games - of course there are a few straight console ports, but we won't count those, eh - and you're saving money off the consoles anyway. There's also so many indie games for PC, so many innovative gameplay ideas that couldn't possibly happen on console because of limited controls, hardware and monetary constraints from the respective companies masterminding the console, it's games and it's development. You have no idea how much it costs to licence a game for a games console, indie games couldn't be at any level of success with these prices, because they're already on a small budget.

Don't forget that a lot of games come out with mod tools, meaning that the length of the game is elongated - you can play the same game for longer, as the community extends the gameplay experience, not the companies who still want to bludgeon you with their DLC. Sure, occasionally there are is one or two games that come out slightly later on PC, but you can wait a few days right? Then there's the Steam sales, you can get games for £3.74 after six months of release on some occasions - even big releases.

Then there's Kickstarter games, we're getting Takedown, a sequel to Wasteland and The Dead Linger. These are all games that couldn't easily succeed on consoles because of constraints from the companies behind the console, who cater better to Triple-A developers.

Oh, and you're going to need a computer with your console too, the console can't do both. When gaming on the PC, you've got one device for everything.

Of course, you're going to say that you need to upgrade consistently, but you won't need to do that for some years after you've purchased your computer, by which point you've saved several times the amount of money actually needed to upgrade the part. Sure, if you buy a single game a year to play with your friends, maybe the consoles are a better option - but playing many games, new or old is going to be making a massive saving.

I know some people prefer console, but if you're going to use the price argument - shove it up your arse. We all know it's bullshit.


  1. You've forgotten to add in the cost of the XBox Live account.

    1. No I didn't, it's just not explicitly listed ;)

      I took the price of Xbox Live membership as £30 for a year, seen as that's the reduced price from retailers other than Microsoft, where I imagine everyone gets their subscriptions from (also the consoles kinda needed a handicap ;) )

    2. Ok then, you forgot to *mention* that you included the Xbox live account in the maths.

      otherwise its a well written article on why building a PC yourself is cheaper than what is essentially a fixed spec and overpriced branded PC. Even some 'exclusive' Xbox games end up coming back to the PC in the end.

    3. And likewise some PC exclusive games end up coming to the consoles in the end. Most of the time, the love is shared.

  2. What about the PS3? Since it's free for multiplayer? Also, your argument only applies to new games. What about used? Consoles have that at least. PC games have locked themselves to accounts for ages.

    1. There is also Steam. That service had great deals on daily basis. You can save far more money there (or other online distribution services) than buying used. Not to mention the fact that buying a used game makes no money for the developer.

      A used copy of Bioshock at GameStop is $9.99 USD. It's $19.99 on steam, but I bought it for $4.99 during one of the daily sales. Not huge savings, but it's something.

      Then we could take a look at a more extreme case. Borderlands is available at GameStop for $14.99 used on Xbox, $19.99 PS3.It is also $19.99 on Steam.

      There are four DLC packs $9.99 each. Game of the year edition, which includes all dlc, is available at GameStop for $29.99 new, with no used option. Same for PC. However, I got it for $7.49, 75% off. There was also a 4-pack option which included 3 extra copies to give to friends, at the price of $22.49. 25% off the previous 75%.

      TL;DR Used games don't provide a huge discount, and if you wait a short while you can get the game much cheaper on PC.

    2. This, and the PS3 games are a bit more expensive too sometimes - probably because the Blu-Ray disks actually cost more to use.

      But yeah, Steam sales are usually a ton cheaper than used games.

    3. I don't buy PC games at full price anymore; I wait for them to be discounted and buy then. The maximum I pay nowadays is £20, but usually it's less than £10. I have a huge backlog of games to play through while I wait for something I want to go on sale so it works pretty well.

  3. You've neglected to include the cost of an OS (about £70). Also that build leaves a lot to be desired. If you want to max out games like BF3 then you're going to have to spend at least £500. You haven't included the cost of peripherals either, a decent keyboard and mouse will set you back a fair bit. You'll also want some speakers or headphones.

    1. In that case, it would take three years of payback time. I refuse to believe that there is anyone without a pair of headphones/speakers though.

  4. And many monitors include speaker outputs.

  5. I don't see a cost of a TV to play the actual 360/PS3 on? or a monitor for the PC, Theres a big difference in price, at least in my part of the world.