Review Index:

The Five Stages of Griefing: Death of the Consoles

Manufacturer: PC Perspective

Bargaining: But I’m getting great value

When a purchasing decision is made, it is most common to relate up-front cost with perceived value derived from that investment. While that intuition works for most situations, there are times where smaller but recurring charges sum to be substantial. The consoles are designed to bury as many recurring costs as possible to profit from their valued customers. Ponder this: The $499 PS3 was created for $805 according to CNET. Sony continued to take a loss on all units sold between their late 2006 launch until mid 2010. The true cost of the console is therefore quite safely said to be not what is paid upfront, as Sony always intends to make a profit; they clearly could not expect to recover all that loss directly from the petty profits during last few years of sales. If someone spends hundreds of millions to billions of dollars marketing a device that they sell you for less than they paid to develop it... how much money are they really getting from you in the nickels and dimes?

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(Want to see how we came up with the figure? Check out the calculations.)

The green blocks represent inherent costs, while the yellow blocks represent the sum of unnecessary small charges. Obviously there is a lot of variance in both situations. The point is more-so that arguments made about PC Gaming being more expensive are completely wrong... and as shown is often quite the opposite.


There are several methods that console manufacturers use to monetize their consoles. The following are just some of the examples:

  • Charge ten dollars per video game sale from a third-party publisher
  • Online services fees
  • Break compatibility with accessories to force repurchase (occasionally within the same generation, see: PS2)
  • Direct sale of first party games
  • A cut of micro-transactions such as DLC and download-only games.
  • Late-life unit sales

Over the life of console the concept that you are getting a bargain erodes; the cost only gets worse as you purchase more games, extra content, and redundant systems with accessories. If you wish to experience many specific games that are spread across multiple platforms your troubles compound further. Developers have been projecting and occasionally outright crying for a single-platform future. The problem is, as described through the anger stage, you cannot have a single proprietary platform without having either a monopoly or competing platform(s). A single open platform is more desirable for developers than both outcomes, profitable for everyone, and much easier on the wallets of consumers.

Your PC is only as expensive as you desire it to be.

You choose your experience; you are not paying someone to give you any different.

If you have ever balked at the price of a “gaming PC” then I can understand why you would assume that consoles are cheaper than PC gaming as a whole. While there are definite advantages of those systems, they also are well above the experience provided by consoles. Purchasing four years of Xbox Live Gold, at $60 per year, costs you $240; had you spent $200 four years ago for an 8800GT you would play all games on the market for those four years including Battlefield 3 albeit at heavily reduced settings. Xbox Live fees, without considering any other expense including the price of the box itself, cost more than what is likely required to upgrade your existing PC to a gaming system for four years.

There are three tiers of gaming PCs that are capable of running just about every product on the market. This is just a general rule, but has been valid for quite some time now.

The Console-like tier

If your desire is to have a similar experience as you would have with a console:

  • Upgrade all the main components (CPU, RAM, Mobo, GPU) of your system at once
  • Purchase the third best component, give or take, of each product line
  • Repeat every 4-5 years

It will almost definitely be cheaper than the console over its lifespan. This typically corresponds to buying the Mid-Range System on our hardware leader board every 4 years.

The Always-Highest tier

If your desire is to play every game, apart from outliers like Crysis, max at 1080p from launch:

  • Upgrade all the main components (CPU, RAM, Mobo, GPU) of your system at once
  • Purchase the third best component, give or take, of each product line
  • Purchase the third best, give or take, GPU of the time about 2 years later
  • Repeat every 4-5 years

It will probably be cheaper than the console over its lifespan, and a much better experience. This typically corresponds to buying the Mid-Range System on our hardware leader board every 4 years and replacing the video card after 2 years with the Mid-Range System’s video card at that time.

The Enthusiast tier

If your desire is to play all games beyond 1080p, on multiple monitors, at a solid 60 or 120 FPS, with stereoscopic 3D, or any other special requirements: get the computer that will suit those needs. Your Cadillac is not required to drive to work, but you just want to drive a freakin’ Cadillac! No one will tell you that you cannot, except your spouse or major credit card vendor.

It will be more expensive than the console over its lifespan, but for reasons that simply are not possible with the console. Get whatever you want -- no one is artificially limiting what you can.

When you carefully look at the cost of a gaming PC: you are typically spending less over the long run for a better experience, or you purposely spoiled yourself for an immensely better experience. Either direction leads to the same conclusion: you are not paying more to receive less with the PC.

Do you feel depressed about your bargain not panning out?

December 6, 2011 | 07:05 PM - Posted by Scott Michaud

Yeah, you raise another big point that I had to cut for readability of the editorial: you probably already have a PC.

If it's a laptop, I expect we'll eventually have external videocards at some point -- especially since bus bandwidth for videocards is not a dominant factor for performance and CPU performance is not a dominant factor for gaming these days. A dockable gaming or HTPC makes sense to me over some period of time.

December 6, 2011 | 09:26 PM - Posted by JSL

There have been available niche items for external video card support already... but again, its lack of wide adoption has also been its hinderance. But 'Gaming' laptops are yet another one up over a console... complete portability. One can still connect it to a tv and game that way as well, and still have all the functionality of the home pc all in a mobile unit.

I see the options like this;
A console = one grain of sand, A PC = a vase of sand.

December 27, 2011 | 03:04 AM - Posted by Makaiookami (not verified)

There's plenty of great console exclusives that are worth it. Fact of the matter though if you're someone like me who has a girlfriend and you want to play games with her, the only option is a console. But beyond that it's infinitely easier to convince your friend to buy a 200-300 dollar console (depending on employer discounts and etcetera) than it is to explain to them why they need to upgrade, help them find all the parts, help them with the upgrade, teach them hardware stuff, help them troubleshoot, etcetera.

Poor people, children, and those who don't care about having the greatest and would rather plug in a console are always going to go for consoles.

There are plenty of worthwhile games you just can't get on PC. Demon/Dark Souls, 3D Dot Game Heroes, Infamous 1,2, Festival of Blood, Little Big Planet series, most JRPG, etcetera. Not everyone has the same tastes. It's way easier to do local play on a console than a PC. I can't find any PC games that my girlfriend is willing to play with me but have done so with multiple console games. Even if I find a PC game she's willing to play with me then it becomes the hassle of buying new controllers for the PC and going through all the settings and calibration stuff, or trying to fit 2 sets of hands onto a keyboard, doing hot seat stuff, or building and maintaining 2 PCs.

Compare that to handing her a controller, looking on the back of the case for 1-2 local player support, giving her a kiss, and then jumping into the experience.

For people that are poor, for people sharing the same living space, for people that don't want to deal with the hassle, etcetera there are tons of benefits to a console.

You are an idiot or delusional to think that PC gaming is the end all be all and that there's no reason to own both a PC and a PS3. You are just as delusional to think that owning a PS3 is the end all be all best solution, and you are being fairly redundant to own a PC and a 360 since there's a much larger overlap of the same games between those 2 systems and far less variety than you get with the PS3/PC combo. For just my Disgaea series, the ease of use with my PSP, and Demon's Souls alone I find the console worth the money. I like to run netflix on the PS3, while I game on the PC. Especially when I play MMOs.

At the end of the day. Let's all get along, and if you're a hermit who just likes a few narrow types of games and gameplay than ya a PC is most definitely worth it. But if you like a good deal of variety you can't deny that there are perfectly valid reasons to own a PS3 unless you are a rabid and delusional PC fanboy/console hater.

December 28, 2011 | 09:58 PM - Posted by Scott Michaud

The problem is you're sacrificing a lot for those perceived advantages -- which can completely be mapped onto the PC given a fraction of the care and attention as the consoles receive.

The issues with the consoles, however, will forever remain... because it is inherent to what they are.

December 6, 2011 | 05:44 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

You did not factor in the time value of money $1000 for PC and $400 for consoles at the start means you have $600 in your pocket to invest with interest over 8-10 years.

December 6, 2011 | 06:58 PM - Posted by Scott Michaud

I don't think that's worth being factored in.

December 6, 2011 | 09:24 PM - Posted by JSL

Why would you want to spend $400 on obsolete hardware in the first place? ... and what would you 'invest' $600 in later... more obsolete hardware? I dont think you would buy a Pentium 4 or an Athlon II64 at the prices that they sold for when they were the latest & greatest available within today's market. But when you buy a 360 or a PS3, thats essentially what you're doing.

When you "invest" in something, you expect a return. Investing in a PC (with Windows, OSX or Linux on it) you're going to have a much greater return for your money than any console would give you.

December 7, 2011 | 01:01 AM - Posted by Norm (not verified)

See the price of consoles do drop over time. Same as computer hardware. For $1000 I could buy a nice mid range PC (with monitor) or I could buy a budget laptop, TV, and new XBOX. The later of the two is what I just did for my son.

I think the idea that most console gamers use iPhones, and most PC gamers use Android devices is a bit off. I prefer my Android phones and devices, but I also enjoy my iDevices as well. I develop for both. My wife on the other hand uses both devices as I do, but refuses to game on a PC (still working on that).

Now please do not think this is a flame or what not. I just think that debates need some good intelligent counter arguments.

December 7, 2011 | 02:38 AM - Posted by JSL

Im all for good intelligent counter arguments. :)

I based my arguments on what I've seen around me. And there's a lot of herp derp Canadians in my area (I'm Canadian as well - south of the GTA) that are console/iphone users and would argue pro both even through the majority of them are technically inept.

Most of the android users who actually root their devices that I've met are like me, and they also pretty adept in the generalized info. tech. field. Most of them perfer to game on their PC rather than on a console when they do have time to game.

December 6, 2011 | 10:45 PM - Posted by ThorAxe

Or $400 for a PC that plays games at consoles resolutions and detail or better.

December 6, 2011 | 10:56 PM - Posted by WubbaWub (not verified)

I am a proponent of the PC for gaming but must ask. Why did you not include the cost of PC games in that breakdown table? It would still be cheaper for me but that table is blatantly misleading.

December 7, 2011 | 12:30 AM - Posted by Scott Michaud

I did include the cost of PC Games in that table. However much the PC Gamer paid for a game... the console player paid $10 more.

The console player didn't pay $480 for games... he OVERPAID $480 for games.

December 7, 2011 | 02:58 AM - Posted by WubbaWub (not verified)

Durp...I see. Thank you for clarifying. Great article!

December 7, 2011 | 03:00 AM - Posted by Scott Michaud


December 7, 2011 | 05:19 AM - Posted by Draconian (not verified)

I'm surprised this wasn't mentioned, but one of the biggest advantages of PC gaming is OnLive. With an internet connection speed of 5 Mbps or greater (which most online gamers have), you can play streamed games on your PC, laptop, TV, tablet, and (eventually) smartphone. You don't have to install the games, you don't have to patch them, and you don't have to download video card drivers. And your saved games follow you.

Cloud gaming has the ability to do away with the major disadvantage of PC gaming, which is having to upgrade your video card every few years.

December 7, 2011 | 02:15 PM - Posted by Scott Michaud

Cloud gaming services like OnLive have other disadvantages... if they want you to purchase something new rather than play that old game? It's gone from their library. OnLive specifically states in their policies that after three years from first introduction on the service, they can pull a game from your library without refund; if they do it sooner? Partial (prorated) refund.

OnLive is the epitomy as "content as disposable entertainment" rather than "content as art". Surprisingly they're actually slightly worse than the consoles are when it comes to the "Depression" page.

And they won't be more powerful than the PC... they outright said that at I believe it was GDC2010.

December 7, 2011 | 06:44 AM - Posted by alextorex (not verified)

Most people don't want PCs in their homes. PCs are costly to upgrade and to maintain. They don't fit well in small homes.
Since most people have TVs it is just simpler and cheaper to buy a console.

In the long term both PCs and console will die and only the TV display will remain connected to the cloud.
Later also the TV will die and we'll have contact lenses with display and augmented reality games or mobile phones conected wirelessly to flexible displays or showing holograms.

December 7, 2011 | 02:17 PM - Posted by Scott Michaud

PCs appear more expensive, but are not.

Also, people read *way* too much into cloud computing.

December 7, 2011 | 08:09 PM - Posted by Justin (not verified)

Good luck playing games when your ISP goes down.
Good luck choosing what games you play or buy. Will you still be able to play Neverwinter Nights or Baldur's Gate on your cloud attached device?

December 7, 2011 | 08:27 AM - Posted by Aquineas

Great article, though admittedly I am biased, as I strongly prefer my PC to my xBox.

Having said that, I think the PC vs. Console argument is strongest in favor of the console immediately after a new console is released. It is then and only then that a console can match (and even surpass in some cases) what the best PCs can do, from a hardware capability perspective. From the day a console is released onward, each year brings a widening gap between that console's capabilities and what even an average PC can do. This of course is filled with assumptions related to how often one upgrades their pc, etc. This will remain the case until Microsoft, Sony, or Nintendo get smart and build their systems modular enough such that CPU and Graphics components can be upgraded (you know, sort of like how PCs are now).

I also believe an increasingly relevant question going forward will be not be the PC vs. Console question, but instead be wired vs. wireless. On the wired side, you'll have PCs and Consoles in the same bucket, while on the wireless side you'll have smartphones and tablets.

December 7, 2011 | 11:34 AM - Posted by yourbuddypal (not verified)

Making consoles modular is not a solution to this problem. Allowing that kind of ability, while appealing to a subset of owners, would do more harm than good for their business model as it would fragment their user base. Software developers would have a very hard time making titles that require an add-on that only xx% of the install base has.

This is the problem with the adoption of both PS Move (struggling the most) and Kinect, and is why MS will bundle Kinect 2 with the next XBox. Lack of fragmentation and ease of use is THE single biggest appeal of consoles and modular components will never be a possibility for this reason.

December 7, 2011 | 09:43 AM - Posted by Ol'dawg (not verified)

I have several thoughts on this:
1) Sure, PC gaming may be less expensive in the long run, but the console has a lower initial out of pocket expense. And that's all many people can afford.
2) I've gamed on a PC for well over a decade, but use a console, now. It is easier, by far, in my opinion. Updates are applied automatically, no searching for drivers, no editing .ini files, etc. Sure, a PC can be connected to a TV, but it isn't natively set up to do so. And, why would you? After you spend the price of a console on a GPU, why would you connect it to a display that is limited to 1080p?
3) It is easier to deal with a hardware failure on a console and software incompatabilities don't exist. After I installed The Witcher 2 on my Windows 7 PC, Windows would often refuse to start at boot. When I had a hardware failure on my PC I had to mail it back to the reseller. You can't take it to your neighborhood PC shop, and to suggest you can is misleading. It took over a month to get it back. When my console died I mailed it in and got a refurbished model back with a week or two. The long wait was associated with the PC, not the console, as you suggested.
4) You complain about the proprietary nature of consoles, but that makes software development easier, as the hardware configuration is fixed.

December 7, 2011 | 10:22 AM - Posted by Adam (not verified)

I liked the article and generally Agree. Also Console games are jsut about never on sale and cost around $60. While I can often get my PC games for $40 or less. Lately there have been many $50 and $60 AAA titles though. I don;t know why I paid $60 for BF3 on the Pc but its a damn good game.

December 7, 2011 | 11:37 AM - Posted by yourbuddypal (not verified)

I'm a PC supporter and must say that this is simply not true. If you watch the prices of console games, they do drop within a few months of release. Uncharted 3 was already as low was $40 I believe, and thats within about a month of release.

December 7, 2011 | 10:33 AM - Posted by drbaltazar (not verified)

in MY view!the game maker are going at it this way:they dev for console then once that is made they adapt it to pc!ok where is our uber powerfull game like say 64 bit,dx11,24p optimised etc etc etc.the sad truth is aside from very limited situation like wow did patch arent optimised for pc they are optimised for console then ported to pc.and when they do start in pc it is always with the idea that it has to be portable to console (again this limit)so tell me what does the pc has the the console dont.hell they have had kinect for a while.they are going to make kinect avail for pc soon.see again ?consolle first then pc.pc come has an aftertaught for them.why because most game maker feel there are too many standard too many stuff to support in consolle you got what 3 consolle at most to support on the whole a lot simpler.

December 7, 2011 | 02:38 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Your excuse whenever something is in favor of consoles is that it doesn't have to be that way, that if only this or that changed, the problem would go away. Shoulda, woulda, coulda. We could give the same excuse for every PC advantage.
Consoles still are easier. With only minor exceptions, they always will be.
I agree PC gamings costs are exaggerated though.
You act as if there are no trade offs between consoles and Windows. I disagree because every difference I see seems constrained by economic realities. A proprietary console is DRM. A Steam like system is the only viable DRM solution for PCs, but that destroys the used game market.
A non proprietary universal console would abandon all the advantages for game producers, so they would turn it into something indistinguishable from a PC anyway.

December 7, 2011 | 05:54 PM - Posted by Scott Michaud

That is basically my point... these are the ways we're screwing ourselves. It is not something the consoles can fix, because in order to fix it, they need to become PCs ("indistinguishable from PCs") themselves.

I already said that Windows is not ideal -- it's more open than the consoles, but for art to really flourish we need to run on legally-enforced perpetually-free standards, such as Linux.

The profitability of the consumable model for entertainment is dangerous for us on a cultural level. That is basically the submarine point I wanted to make with this editorial.

December 7, 2011 | 03:06 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

One more thing to add;

I have 3 consoles on my HDTV and a PC with an i5 2500k and a GTX580 on a 2560x1600 display, so I know the greatness of PC gaming.

But I prefer single player games, and I play them once or twice all the way through. For this, Gamefly has no equal on PC. Steam sales are great, and I certainly take advantage, but for $150 I can rent any game I want for a year. That is less than the cost of 3 new PC games. And as a member, I have a discount on buying their used games that still are in great shape and have all the original dlc and codes. I bought DA2 and Crysis 2 for $14 combined a few weeks ago from Gamefly.

Again, trade-offs, not one being better or worse.

December 7, 2011 | 03:17 PM - Posted by John (not verified)

This article's appendix could be a lot better if it were elaborated.

December 8, 2011 | 01:30 AM - Posted by Scott Michaud

Thanks for the feedback. It is a bit anaemic, but the point really was not all to big anyway. It is just to shatter just how sure people are that PC gaming is more expensive, despite fewer pockets being filled.

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