Mouse versus gamepad. Custom-built versus ready-made. PC versus consoles. These debates have been around ever since video games first became popular and the two branched off onto different paths away from each other. Gaming has become one of the biggest industries on the planet, and the stereotypes of the casual console gamer and the geeky PC gamer have generally been consigned to the past – but if you compare PC and console gaming, which is doing better?
In terms of statistics, you have to look at a few different ones. For example, if you look at the revenue of the industry as a whole ($116bn) in 2017, PC gaming was responsible for 28% ($32.3bn), with boxed games contributing $3.2bn of that. Browser games, which include online casino games offering a casino bonus, made up $5.2 billion, and the remainder was digital games sales and add-on content.
Console gaming made up 29% of total revenues, so it was slightly larger than PC gaming. This means that PC gaming was nearly as big as all consoles combined. However, since both saw growth of 4% on the year before, it seems that the market is generally healthy, with PC gaming not necessarily killing consoles. The real story here is just how big mobile gaming is – it accounted for 43% of gaming’s total revenue for 2017.
What you need to split up here is the difference in the types of games people play on PC and on consoles. For example, if you only looked at the biggest franchises, such as Grand Theft Auto, Battlefield and Call of Duty, then you would see a notable slant towards console game players. Battlefield 1 had a peak number of concurrent PS4 and Xbox One players of over 60,000, whereas the PC only had around 21,000. However, because there are so many games that are exclusively on PC, the game sales and player numbers of those more than make up the comparatively less major franchise sales and players.
The main outlier of the major franchise’s trend is in the enormous and growing market of China. Here, PC and mobile dominate and consoles struggle in comparison. This is because, for 15 years between 2000 and 2015, the Chinese Ministry of Culture banned games consoles because of fears that they had a negative effect on the mental and physical development of children. The ban was lifted initially in 2014 in Shanghai and then extended to the rest of the country in 2015 – so now PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo can all try their luck in China again. However, this 15-year period led to the domination of PC, mobile and web gaming, so consoles might find it difficult to claw their way back into the market.
Why is there a debate?
The short answer is that people like to pick sides. PC gaming and console gaming offer different features and experiences. On PC, you have access to a much larger library of games because indie developers are more likely to develop their games for PC due to the comparative costs of getting the development kits for consoles. This means that you have far more varied options from which to choose – from niche simulations and grand strategy games to small puzzle games and platformers. PC gaming also offers the best in graphical fidelity, provided that you can pay for the hardware.
Console gaming offers simplicity and ease of use because all you have to do is buy the console, plug it in and stick a game in it. With the PC, you have to check the hardware requirements. Also, console gamers get access to some incredible exclusives that are not available on the PC – think of the Uncharted games, The Last of Us, Red Dead Redemption and Super Mario World. Finally, sometimes it’s nice to just sit back on the couch with a controller in your hand.
PC games are not killing consoles. Both are doing very well, but not in comparison to mobile gaming. You also don’t have to choose between them – you are allowed to have both. In addition, consoles and PCs have begun to borrow features from each other, such as consoles allowing you to install games and PCs becoming compatible with controllers. As console and PC games start to share more features, this debate will become more irrelevant.