For a long time, gamers have fiercely debated over which device is best for gaming: PC or console. In more recent years, mobile devices have also entered the mix, offering a different gaming experience.
But with the release of the next generation of consoles from Sony and Microsoft just days away and a slew of new hardware for PC gamers streaming onto the market, the debate is hotting up again.
So if you’re thinking of buying a new device to play games on this year, which one should you go for?
Here are some factors to consider:
No matter how you play games, it’s a hobby that can get very expensive. AAA titles can set you back $60 or more each time, and limited-edition versions will cost even more. Subscriptions that allow you to play online, new controllers, headsets, and other peripherals will also add to the cost.
Many modern games also contain microtransactions to buy in-game items, new maps, season passes, and more which can push the costs even higher.
These are all costs that exist on both console and PC platforms and don’t take into consideration the cost of the hardware itself.
Typically, games consoles cost less upfront than a dedicated gaming PC, even newly-released machines like the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S. The PS5 will cost games $499 in the US, while a gaming PC will typically cost around double this when factoring in a high-performance CPU, graphics card, memory, cooling, motherboard and SSD.
If you also don’t own a copy of Windows, gaming monitor, keyboard, or mouse, then the cost is going to rack up even further.
On the other hand, mobile gaming will typically be much cheaper. You almost certainly already own a smartphone that’s capable of running most games, even if it’s not going to run them on the highest settings.
Mobile games are typically much cheaper and are often completely free. Publishers make their money by showing you ads and/or offering in-game items that can be purchased with real money. However, you’re under no obligation to pay for them.
Some free-to-play games on mobile devices can even be played against people using computers and consoles. For example, Fortnite allows cross-platform play, though it can be a little fiddly to set up.
Choice of Games
There used to be a big gulf between the content available on different platforms, with many exclusive titles only available on one console, PC or mobile. In more recent years, this has slowly begun to change, though the problem still exists.
Therefore, you may have to check if the games you want to play are available on your preferred device before buying it.
Many AAA titles such as Call of Duty and FIFA are available on both consoles and PC, both in physical format and digitally. These typically aren’t available on mobile devices though since the hardware won’t be capable of running the games at the same level as a larger machine. That said, some publishers create mobile versions instead.
Additionally, there are many games that can be found on PCs and mobile devices, but not on consoles. For example, online casinos where you can wager on games like roulette and blackjack or play video slots for which sites like Oddschecker offer free spin bonuses are typically only found on computers, smartphones and tablets.
“Homebrew” and indie games are also more prevalent on PC and mobile devices than they are on consoles. This is because consoles are typically harder to develop for and their manufacturers are more selective over what content is permitted to run on them.
Emulators that can run older games and even Android apps can also be installed on a PC to give you even more choice.
There’s no perfect option in this case and there will always be platform-exclusive games. However, if you want to have the largest library available to you, a PC will probably be the best option.
When you buy a console, it will remain the same for its entire lifecycle. The games released at its launch will run just as well as the games that went on sale just before the console was superseded.
You don’t need to worry about the latest title having more demanding minimum system requirements, you can simply buy it and play it.
In contrast, this is something PC gamers have to consider all the time. Hardware manufacturers are constantly pushing the boundaries of what’s possible, releasing new processors and graphics cards each year. Meaning PC hardware can become obsolete much more quickly.
Of course, you don’t need to upgrade each year as a top-of-the-range graphics card will still usually be capable of playing new games for 3-5 years, though you may not be able to take advantage of the highest graphics settings.
If you want the option to upgrade over time, giving you gradual improvements to the games you play instead of a large step up every 10 years, a PC will be a better option.
The same applies to customisation. While consoles sometimes come in a range of colours, your choices are severely limited. With a PC, you can customise every last detail from the performance to the backlights of your keyboard.
PC gamers use this to express their personality, adding case lights, experimenting with liquid cooling systems, and designing a “rig” that looks great as well as being cutting-edge.
Mobile gaming can also allow this to some extent. You have a greater selection of smartphones and tablets to choose from, though you can’t usually build your own device from scratch.
You can then also add cases, customise the theme, and make many other software changes that consoles don’t typically allow.
Unless you’re taking a TV or monitor with you, consoles and gaming PCs can’t be easily moved around to play away from home. A gaming laptop could allow this, but these are typically more expensive than the desktop equivalents.
The Nintendo Switch is a hybrid console, so it can be played on the go, but it doesn’t have many of the titles released on Sony and Microsoft devices.
For the most flexible portable gaming experience, mobile devices win hands down. You already carry your smartphone with you, so it’s available at any time of day for you to whip out and start playing whether you’re at home, on the train, or in the park.
Which to Choose?
Your decision over which device to use will depend on the type of gamer you are, the titles you want to play, and how much you’re prepared to pay. While fanboys and girls on either side of the argument will never concede, the reality is there is no perfect gaming machine, it’s always going to be a compromise.