The debate between PC and Consoles is as old as they come. An argument that’s been around ever since both of these machines were made available to the public.
With PC enthusiasts advocating for uncapped frame rates and graphical flexibility available to them and console gamers opting for platform exclusives and gameplay convenience – the debate is a very tight one.
I think what most people forget while thinking about this is that we can’t take the prices of video games at face value to judge whether they’re cheaper or not.
Looking solely at the price tags that most video games end up covering, PC games would win by miles. This is mainly due to ease of porting and market competition, but there are some other factors to consider as well.
However, when we consider which platform is ultimately cheaper, we need to take into account a plethora of factors. I personally believe that this debate is usually very linear, with people focusing on obvious things without taking into account all arguments.
I’ll now tackle some of the most critical variables to consider and then rank one platform over the other.
One of the most prominent things dictating video game price tags is porting. If you’re unaware, this phenomenon is basically when a video game developer transitions a game made from one platform over to another. This is applicable to all platforms, including PC, Consoles, Mobiles, etc.
Generally, it’s easier for developers to port a game over to a PC as compared to consoles. It requires less manpower and overall time to be invested in the porting process. Although not always huge, this naturally leads to a relatively inexpensive method of bringing the game over to PCs which has an overall effect on the price level.
If we’re talking about the porting bit – PCs would definitely win.
Another overarching thing I need to talk about is licensing fees. Video game prices are decided after a well-thought-out process involving several variables. For console games, developers are usually charged a licensing fee by companies to sell the game on their platform. Sony and Xbox are both responsible for doing this, but the story changes as we shift over to PC.
For the most part, licensing fees are non-existing on computer variants of games. In the case of consoles, developers usually increase the base price of a video game to offset the amount they have to pay in the form of licensing fees. This ensures that the developers earn that money back in some way.
Since there are no licensing fees on PCs in the first place, developers tend to ignore this factor altogether when pricing PC variants of their games. This results in an overall decrease in the base price of the same game on a computer as compared to a console.
Software piracy, to which video games are no strangers, is a significant problem on the current internet. There are dedicated hacker groups just waiting to get their hands on a game’s files to crack it. In some cases, games get pirated the day they come out!
Of course, several robust protection software such as Denuvo exist, but it still usually is only a matter of time before a game gets pirated. Video game piracy, however, is much more rampant on PCs as compared to consoles.
Blu-Ray discs that usually come for all new-gen games ensure that a game cannot be cracked/pirated. In contrast, the PC platform has no concept of using physical media for video games. This translates to a massive decrease in sales for developers on PCs, as many users would have the option of simply pirating a game rather than buying it from an official outlet.
Considering this, PC developers are usually in a race against time to get as many sales as possible before a game gets pirated, as that would mean a massive dip in overall sales. This is sometimes a motivating factor to price a video game lower on a PC as compared to its console counterparts – just to boost the number of sales they’d initially end up with.
I’ll make this as simple and general as possible. In consoles, market competition comes mainly from rival companies. For example, in the case of Sony – most of the competition would come from Xbox.
Both of the companies have dedicated stores where they sell a collection of video games. In this case, market competition is derived solely from each other. Additionally, there aren’t any other allocated stores from where you can purchase the digital edition of the game. If you want to buy a game, you’ll have to purchase it from the official store of the respective company.
In PCs, on the other hand, there isn’t just one outlet to buy games from. You could get a digital copy of a game from multiple distributors such as Steam, Epic, and Origin, to name a few. This means that on PC, competition exists inside the same platform to sell a particular game.
To overcome this, distributors often have vast sales of a collection of games. Although this doesn’t affect the base sale price of a title, it surely helps in tanking its overall price from time to time. Furthermore, these sales are significant enough to pitch into the general argument of whether PC games are cheaper than Consoles.
One distributor might agree to give a generous discount on a particular title just to overtake another competitor on its number of sales.
Here, I’ll elaborate more on the sales and discounts I talked about earlier. All platforms generally offer huge discounts every now and then to boost their overall video game sales. It’s a good business practice that makes for some happy customers while allowing developers to make sales they otherwise might not have had.
I can’t place a marker as to whether a particular platform offers more sales and discounts in the console genre since all of them are pretty well balanced. Shifting the debate over to PCs, however, an excellent argument can be made.
The significant number of online distributors available for PC games naturally means frequent and more attractive deals (including discounts) for users. This is an undeniable fact, and even behemoths such as Microsoft or Sony can’t compete with this.
Ultimately, this boils down to better (and cheaper) pricing for video games on PCs as compared to Consoles.
As the digital world keeps adapting, a trend has been seen for video games to shift to digital mediums. Historically, video games predominantly came in physical copies such as disks, cassettes, and the like. In recent times, however, digital video game sales have been going through the roof, and both options are present for users to pick from.
Personally, I lean more towards physical media. It might be old-schooled, but it certainly has its benefits. You might wonder why I’m telling you all this and how it ties up in the PC vs. Console pricing debate.
Well, it isn’t exactly a direct factor since the digital version of a game is, more often than not, priced precisely the same as its disc variant. The argument, however, comes into play more indirectly.
With physical discs of games, you can trade in or re-selling your disc. Granted, this is a very indirect factor, but it’s still something that can help you regain what you initially spent on your purchase.
Since this is an option you only have with physical media such as discs, you won’t be able to use it for PCs. This could alter the overall predicament of what a video game costs on a console.
There aren’t really any direct forms with which you can come up with an overall number or effect for this method, at least not one that I can think of. It is, however, still pertinent to mention it, as this can ultimately affect your overall assessment of price levels for each platform.
Taking everything into account, PC games would, and do, cost less than their console counterparts. This statement is true if we exclude recoverable amounts from the exchange or sale of discs.
Additionally, PC users can purchase the same video game from multiple digital outlets. This causes them to have much more flexibility in their picks as compared to individuals using consoles.
Although, I do need to mention that this assessment is solely related to the pricing of video games on the mentioned platforms. Even after considering all factors, the overall cost of purchasing a game on a PC would be relatively less than its console counterpart (and even that is dependent on a per-case basis).
The overall price you save might actually be relatively insignificant in the grand scheme of things. Just as a precaution, you shouldn’t let this outcome be a defining factor in choosing one platform over the other!