This Is the Biggest Difference Between PC and Console Gaming

At one point or another every gamer decides on a primary platform. This decision has a number of significant implications that can go as far as affecting the social and purchasing behavior of the gamer.

When comparing PC and console, there are a number of considerations at play. Hardware and cost are the most commonly discussed differences between the two ecosystems. But there's another factor that is even more impactful.

The more casual comfort focus of console gaming has impacted how developers design games on platforms like the PS4 and Xbox One. Their exclusives, from The Last Guardian to Sunset Overdrive, tend to focus more on story and single-player experiences. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, especially in the case of Xbox One which has Halo and Gears of War in its arsenal. But generally speaking, these games are designed to be more concise with their entertainment value, aiming to provide a dozen or two hours of enjoyment.

PC gaming is a whole different breed. Its endless list of platform exclusive MMORPGs, RTS, survival, and competitively-oriented shooters are usually much more concerned with long-term play value. Their design choices make it harder for them to hook players during the early hours of play, and at times they can feel overbearing. In return, they are capable of racking up hundreds if not thousands of hours of play time without effort.

CS: GO is one of many PC games that tend to accumulate hundreds of hours of playtime.

This phenomenon is best demonstrated using game stats. When looking at the most popular games across Steam, Origin, and Uplay, along with statistical data from sites like Statista, the top 10 currently most popular PC games looks something like this:

  • League of Legends (2009)
  • Dota 2 (2013)
  • Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (2012)
  • Grand Theft Auto V (2013)
  • World of Warcraft (2004)
  • Overwatch (2016)
  • Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft (2014)
  • World of Tanks (2010)
  • Team Fortress 2 (2007)
  • Ark: Survival Evolved (2015)

Notice how all but one game released before 2016. Although you might assume that it's normal for older games to remain popular over time, you simply don't find the same thing on console.

Let's take a look at the Xbox One's most popular games, which are:

  • Grand Theft Auto V (2013)
  • FIFA 17 (2016)
  • Battlefield 1 (2016)
  • NBA 2K17 (2016)
  • Minecraft (2011)
  • Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare (2016)
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 (2015)
  • Overwatch (2016)
  • Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege (2015)
  • Madden NFL 17 (2016)

Recent releases are much more common here, especially annual franchises.

FIFA is a popular yearly console franchise.

The truth of the matter is that the average PC gamer spends more time playing older games for long periods of time than console gamers. It's normal for a PC gamer to be consumed by an online multiplayer game for a long period of time, whether its Dota 2 or Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.

For someone trying to save money, this is an important difference. It might be easy to make friends on PC who play a game like World of Warcraft together for years. On console, gamers tend to jump around a lot, hopping between new releases. The more dramatic sales prices of PC games further exaggerates this.

As a PC gamer myself, I've found that I actually save money when avoiding console gaming. I can go months at a time playing Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, spending no more than a few bucks a month on skins and tournament microtransactions. When I'm deep into console gaming, $60 purchases every month to play the latest and greatest experiences dominate my bank statements.

This distinction doesn't necessarily mean that PC is better. Actually, consoles tend to be the exclusive host of the most memorable single-player experiences, including the likes of The Last of Us. But for gamers who want the best bang for their buck, PC exclusives are unequaled.