Console vs. Computer Gaming: What's the Big Deal?

dual shock game controller playstation 4

We’re on the cusp of a new era, with the launches of both the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One this month. Both consoles have been preordered into oblivion—people waited in line for hours at the launch of the PS4 on November 15th.

Even if they usually play on computer, your household gamers have undoubtedly been keeping an eye on the new consoles—and maybe making revisions to their Christmas lists. Which leaves you with the big question of what to do: plunk down $400-$600 on a PS4 or an Xbox One? Or can a computer fulfill all your family’s gaming needs?

To the uninitiated, the difference between all these different systems might not look like much. Let’s take the time before Black Friday to run down some of the differences between console  and computer gaming, and what it means when your kids want the next big thing.

What You See Is What You Get: The Power of Graphics

Computers have always had the upper hand when it comes to graphics. Even a cheap computer can get a graphics card upgrade, and if you splurge for a custom gaming computer, the possibilities are endless. The new consoles like Xbox One and PS4 offer a big leg-up on graphics, with better animations, textures, and frame rates compared to the old Xbox 360 and the PS3, which have been around since 2005 and 2006 respectively.

If that doesn’t sound like a long time, think about the phone you were using in 2005. Yeah, technology has come a long way. The new consoles give a much-needed graphics update to console gaming, and will allow for more impressive-looking games in years to come.

However, the consensus is that as technology improves, computers will continue to be ahead of consoles when it comes to graphics—they’re just easier to customize.

It’s All About How You Play

For some people, sitting down at a computer to play games is too much like work. A console offers the comfort of your couch, and the (potential) size of your TV screen—no hunching over a keyboard.

There are also certain games that are only available on consoles, like Halo for Xbox, or LittleBigPlanet and Kingdom Hearts for PlayStation.

Most games will make their way to computers as well, maybe with a slightly later release date. Microsoft has a vested interest in getting its games on computers, obviously! They own Windows, after all.

At the end of the day, computers have a healthy mix of game types. Each console has its ups and downs when it comes to exclusivity. The Xbox is a dominant platform for first-person shooters. The PlayStation offers more offbeat RPG titles like the Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts series, as well as games like Journey— a quiet but powerful game that blew many people away, and features no violence whatsoever.

Culture Clash

It also comes down to what kind of gaming your kids prefer. Computer gaming has a variety of choices, and at very little cost—downloading Steam and paying attention to Humble Bundle sales will net you loads of games, sometimes for just a few dollars. If your kids are interested in indie game titles, you don’t need to invest in a new console. The best and brightest are all on PC.

Computer gaming is often very social—entering games with people online is as easy as sneezing. Console gaming offers similar connectivity, but has an added bonus of making multiplayer available right in your living room. Co-gaming is definitely where consoles become ideal. With a large screen and multiple controllers, it’s easy to make gaming part of the family experience. If you are interested in being part of your kid’s gaming life, it’s easiest to engage them with a console. If you just want them to let you have control of the TV, well, computer is the way to go.

Conclusions?

It’s all about your lifestyle, how frequently you play, and what interactions your kids want with their games. If the kids are clamoring for the Xbox One or the PS4, know that these machines will offer them the most cutting-edge console gaming experience on the market. But also know that there’s not a time limit—these consoles are stick around for years to come, and that as they age a greater variety of games will be available for them.

Until then, the trusty computer is always waiting.

Simone de Rochefort

About Simone de Rochefort

Simone de Rochefort is a game journalist, writer, podcast host, and video producer who does a prolific amount of Stuff. You can find her on Twitter @doomquasar, and hear her weekly on tech podcast Rocket, as well as Pixelkin's Gaming With the Moms podcast. With Pixelkin she produces video content and devotes herself to Skylanders with terrifying abandon.