Let us do some math, shall we? The cost of consoles

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | August 7, 2011 - 04:11 AM |
Tagged: pc gaming, consoles

There is a lot of discussion over how expensive the PC is compared to the consoles. I have heard from a number of former PC gamers who switched to the console to escape the large cost of ownership. I have also heard from a number of console gamers who claim that they cannot afford a three-thousand dollar gaming behemoth to just launch the typical PC game. Suffices to say, my head has exploded more times than causality allows for.

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Is your PC bleeding gushes of money?

Let us clarify something straight out of the gate before tl;dr kicks in: the true cost of a console is not the price you pay for the box itself. For proof, look at Sony: the cost of the $499 PS3 at launch was $805.85 according to CNET. That means that for each PS3 they sold they lost $306.85. You may think, “Pfft, that’s fine. They’ll make it up later.” Nope, it was mid-2010 before Sony made any money on each PS3 sales. They were bleeding for 3 years.

So where does Sony and Microsoft make their money? Firstly, Microsoft has that cash-cow Xbox Live that they have been milking for a substantial time now. You may consider $60 per year to be chump change however after 4 years that tallies up to 240$. I want you to consider the following: Xbox Live every 4 years, or a Radeon HD 6950 (Bundled with Dirt 3) for four years without paying a cent more? (Actually, okay -- you pay 3 cents more at $59.99-per-month{{edit: year, typo}}). It is also pretty much given that not only will your games look better than on a 360 by a long shot, you will also still be able to physically play games in four years’ time. You might be turning the quality settings to medium or low near the end of your card’s life cycle, but hey: at least you have the option for quality settings. Also, just because a console claims to run a game at a specific resolution does not mean it actually is. For instance, most Call of Duty games on the consoles are actually rendered at approximately 600p but are up-scaled to their listed resolutions.  To claim an upscaled 600p is 1080p would be like claiming a DVD upscaled is the same thing as a BluRay.

And this leads to our next point: You can buy a three-thousand dollar computer. You can also buy a Porsche. You do not need a Porsche to drive to work, but there are some distinct advantages to owning one that make it viable for a portion of the market. The rest of us can be perfectly happy driving to work with a Hyundai or a Chevy. Besides, it’s cheaper than paying a taxi. For good examples of cost efficient PCs, check out our constantly updated Hardware Leaderboard. Technically a license of Windows is not included, which is the one kink in PC gaming openness. Ideally we would be all running Linux or a similarly licensed OS not just for cost but also for longevity. Videogames will struggle as timeless art so long as the platforms they run on are not timeless. Unfortunately even in the PC gaming sphere there is no guarantee that the platform will just be torn out from under your dependent art. But, at least the PC platform is not designed to be disposable like the consoles. It is the lesser of two evils, and baby-steps to an ideal future.

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A moment of silence for your wallet.

So how much money are we talking about? I personally summed up how much I spent on the first Xbox in $10 per game license fees and $60 per year Xbox Live fees which came to $520 excluding the cost of the system itself and accessories which need to be replaced each generation for no sensible reason. Keep in mind; I was not a very extreme gamer purchasing only five games per year on average. Had I been PC exclusive, however, that would have been $500-some-odd dollars over the price of the system and accessories itself that I would not have needed to pay. The truth of the matter is over the long run you pay more to be a console gamer than a PC gamer unless you physically choose to pay more for your PC. Also, do not forget: due to the existence of proprietary platforms, if you own multiple systems because your games are only available on one or another, you are even further worse off.

There will be a follow-up article to this in the near future discussing what you are paying for with consoles – spoiler: it is, in general, not desirable.

August 7, 2011 | 07:58 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

You dont need a $3000 behemoth to play a game either.Thats only if you want to be the futuremark king.I play every pc game out there,and every game to come on my $700 machine.

August 7, 2011 | 08:47 AM - Posted by rougal (not verified)

Nice info and good point from the editor. Game consoles are definitely cheaper than high end gaming pc. The main point here is that after 3 years a console is still capable of playing newer games, but a pc after 3 years you would definately upgrade at least the graphic card to enjoy smooth gaming. Personal preference is the key here.

August 7, 2011 | 01:55 PM - Posted by Scott Michaud

The thing is, that's not really true. The 8800GT, for instance, was launched in October 2007. Battlefield 3 is one of the most intensive games coming out in October 2011 and it will still run on a videocard that was $200 4 years ago.

That said, you probably would *want* to upgrade your videocard every 2-3 years to have them run games on higher settings. The point is, you're holding it to different standards than the consoles. But just from a "can it run?" standpoint: for less than the cost of Xbox Live fees over four years you can buy a videocard that can run basically any game out there for four years. (And have it play better than on the consoles as well)

So if you don't pay Xbox Live fees, you can essentially upgrade a decent non-gaming computer into a gaming computer for 4 years for free.

August 7, 2011 | 06:23 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

A SLI or CrossfireX solution like dual 6950s could have you playing games at medium-max settings for years to come.

If you spent say---400 or 500 dollars on graphics...and went with a dual card solution, you have almost gauranteed yourself 4-5 years @ max settings...I know people with the high-end 4000 series (3 generations ago) that are still runnign todays games @ 1080p at a respectable level.

August 7, 2011 | 06:23 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

A SLI or CrossfireX solution like dual 6950s could have you playing games at medium-max settings for years to come.

If you spent say---400 or 500 dollars on graphics...and went with a dual card solution, you have almost gauranteed yourself 4-5 years @ max settings...I know people with the high-end 4000 series (3 generations ago) that are still runnign todays games @ 1080p at a respectable level.

August 7, 2011 | 08:46 AM - Posted by Jeff (not verified)

Who spends $3000 on a PC? I built a top of the line system for $1200 and it's got the works: i7 2600K, water cooling, Radeon HD 6950 2GB, 8GB RAM, 120GB SSD, nice case, nice mobo, Blu-ray drive. If you spent more than me, I think someone suckered you into a bad deal.

August 7, 2011 | 10:51 AM - Posted by Aquineas

SSD, Higher end graphics card(s), more RAM, Raid... Those things add up. Once you've gone SSD, you'll never go back. It's like the difference from booting from Floppy to booting from hard disk, which probably won't mean anything to you, but trust me, it's a big difference :-)

August 10, 2011 | 07:26 PM - Posted by Kokain (not verified)

Another thing people's mind can't interpret is that a PC with Windows is not just a gaming machine. I have 8800GT and I play Crysis 2 DX11 no problem, before that I had FX5500 and I played Painkiller/San Andreas no problem, and another 15 years ago I had RivaTNT and I played Quake 3 without a problem. As somebody pointed out unless you want to show off some stats on 3DMark you don't need 3000$ machine. Also you know who buys 3000$ PC? Bums like the op who don't know how to put things together.

By the way thumbs up if you are writing these comments from your console?

.............Yeah I didn't think so!

August 16, 2011 | 07:08 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

@ Kokain

you have an 8800gt and play crysis 2 dx11 no problem? yeah your a moron.

August 7, 2011 | 10:48 AM - Posted by Aquineas

Completely agree. Give me a PC any day of the week over a console, unless I happen to be playing Madden (which for some inexplicable reason doesn't seem fun to me anymore anyway).

August 7, 2011 | 11:27 AM - Posted by patfactorx

Every gaming computer I've had has cost less than $1k and I play most of my games at max settings.

I'm running a Gateway AMD Phenom II x6 that I dropped a GTX 460 into for my current system. ($850)

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August 7, 2011 | 01:55 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

You can't return PC games. On the other hand, you can rent two console games out at a time from Gamefly for $22 a month.

August 7, 2011 | 02:00 PM - Posted by Scott Michaud

Most stores you cannot return console games either -- except as a straight-exchange for the same one (1 Black Ops = 1 Black Ops) in the event it is damaged. Now... you cannot sell PC games used while you can for console games and *that* is a major problem that is working its way into the console space as well.

August 7, 2011 | 02:14 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

The price of the PC and consoles do not compare to cost of the games. But that cost isnt really important. Its the price you have to pay to play games. However, of the the two platforms, consoles have the advantage in dealing with crappy and only pushed out for business reason games. Not sure if youre familiar with Gamefly, its same business model as Netflix in the U.S. Reason i switched to consoles was because i bought too many $50-$60 games that i was utterly dissapointed with. So i switched to console where there is no excuse for poor quality because its only one platform for everyon. Ive rented so many PS3 games via mail from Gamefly. Let me rephrase that. Ive returned so many crappy PS3 games that had no right of being published. If it were any other industry, youd be able to get your money back. Returning the game instantly and giving it the lowest rating possible. The publishers can see that feedback. PC games are made to be super hyped and pushed out to the new kids that reached the right age when it shipped. Like how car dealerships work in the US. Always too many new customers that repeat business means nothing.

August 7, 2011 | 02:40 PM - Posted by Scott Michaud

I was aware of GameFly for a while. We have a similar service in Canada called "Game Access". The point is that there is no reason why that should not apply to the PC as well AND there are upcoming developments on the console (such as potentially product keys and "the final boss is DLC for first-owners only") that will hinder that too. The fight is with DRM, not with PC Gaming.

Also, shovelware is much moreso a problem on the consoles. Think holiday gifts from non-gamers. They often try to get away with as little as possible especially when the gift recipient is typically not a gamer (young child, etc.) -- they don't know any better. See: Franchise tie-ins... especially Nickelodeon.

August 7, 2011 | 06:26 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I've got all the best games....BFBC2 -- Metro 2033 ---Fear 1,2,3, portal 1,2 --counter-strike 1, cz, and source. This isn't even 1/10th of them. Did i EVER pay $60 for a game? Never....not one single time.

You console gamers pay $60, or $50 if your lucky in the first year of the game.

3-6 months after launch, with pc games, the game is already being discounted and packaged.

August 7, 2011 | 06:58 PM - Posted by adster

How did you figure $10/game paid for your Xbox games? Isn't that pretty low?

August 7, 2011 | 10:44 PM - Posted by Scott Michaud

10$ per game on a console goes to the console owner (Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo).

In other words, every time you buy a game for the system you own, you need to pay ~10$ to Microsoft, Sony, or Nintendo on top of the actual cost of the game for the grace of them letting the game run on their console.

On the PC, game prices are approximately 10$ cheaper because there is no-one to collect the 10$ from. (Except the occasional greedy publisher just jacking up prices and pocketing the rest on their own "to recover piracy costs"... but they're just dumb.)

So when I was counting 10$-per-game... I was counting how much extra I paid for playing it on a console than I should have had I played it on a PC.

August 8, 2011 | 11:36 AM - Posted by ddg4005

I would say the real cost of consoles is the lack of backwards compatibility for many games. Sony is better than Microsoft on this but the fact is that you can't migrate most of your old games to a new console. That said, I'm running games that shipped for Windows 95/98 twelve years ago natively in 64-bit Windows 7.

Consoles are a dead end for games in terms of cost and compatibility. Just sayin'...

August 8, 2011 | 12:50 PM - Posted by Scott Michaud

Mind my spoilers, but that is a good portion of what the next article will be about and was briefly mentioned earlier. Timeless classics on a disposable platform? Good luck with that, art preserving organizations. It's especially bad since there are a lot of circumstances where preserving the art might in fact be a felony.

August 10, 2011 | 02:01 AM - Posted by Mindscrew

Sony isn't better; They dropped legacy support on the PS3. Whereas with Microsoft, every Xbox game that I've bothered to try has worked on a 360.

August 11, 2011 | 12:04 PM - Posted by Fandango (not verified)

Every time somebody close to me buy a console they feel the need to contact me so I can come over and crack it. It's all fun and games until you realize the prices per game are way higher and most time not worth it. Hell I don't pay for any of my games unless they are really, really competitive online and generally awesome. Example: Return to Castle Wolfenstein, Quake 3, Unreal Tournament, Painkiller and so on.

By the way as Kokain said there is far more things you can do on a computer than play games which immediately out weights the cost of the console.

But who cares anymore. Gaming is dead! Quit wasting your time on inferior controls and console ports.

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