Cost: Console Gaming vs. PC Gaming: A Simple Look

This is something I've been thinking of doing for a while - with some inspiration from Chewxy, of course. What costs more? Console gaming or PC gaming? First, a list of assumptions:

1. The gamer is an ethical person - who pays for every single game they play. No piracy. 2. The gamer pays for everything in US dollars - and is not subject to shipping costs. The gamer buys all his PC components from and all his games from 4. The gamer needs a PC capable of doing rudimentary tasks. The basic computer a gamer will have at the minimum have is something I thought on to be reasonable - costing USD400. (basic Dual Core E2160, which I think is more than enough for most day-to-day work) 5. The gamer buys games using Metacritic as a guide - buying half of all games rated 90 and above at full price, and a fifth of all games rated 80 and above and preowned prices (say 50% of the full price). The gamer ignores all other games. 6. The gamer doesn't buy a display or sound systems. Why? Most people who build a computer or buy a console will just use their existing display/TV. If anything, they'll get more utility from the TV, since they'll use it for something besides the computer, that is, ordinary TV (unless you don't watch TV o_O). 7. The console will be purchased at the beginning of the first time period, and after that, everything else is bought at the end of the year. Why? Most games are bought at the end of the year (Christmas period), and my discount rate is small enough for the effect to be small.

Console assumptions: 1. The console will be bought new at the current USA RRP. 2. For both the XBox 360 and PS3, we assume the owner bought Rock Band last year. (why? because this helps account for extra accessories console owners buy) 3. Wii is being ignored (since it costs so much less and there are so few good games). 4. The console will last six years. 5. In the last year of the console's life, you buy 25% of the games you would otherwise - by this time a new console has replaced it - and it should be getting its last batch of usually critically acclaimed games. 6. The gamer upgrades their console's hard drive halfway through the console's lifetime. 7. The XBox 360 gamer pays for XBox Live Gold every year. 8. The gamer pays for 2 arcade games every year at USD15 each. (This is in addition to those games he/she bought.) 9. The console owner pays for a second controller. 10. A new game costs USD60.

PC assumptions: 1. The gamer only buys what is needed above the normal day-to-day computer, meaning - a good processor, a good motherboard, good RAM, a good graphics card - and a good sound card (yeah, that's practically rebuilding the whole thing, so I'll just build a whole computer with the money and minus USD400.) 2. The gamer WILL upgrade that computer 2 years down the road, and buy a new computer four years down the road. The upgrade will consist of more RAM and a new hard drive. (Although you usually need a new graphics card, I'll let that pass.) 3. In the last year of the PC's life, you buy 25% of the games than you would otherwise - because your computer can't play all of them well, so you just buy what you really want to play. 4. The PC gamer gets console arcade equivalents free. Yay! 5. The PC gamer pays for a controller with analog sticks. (I was never one for struggling with FIFA, and this nullifies that second controller most console owners buy.) 6. A new game costs USD50. (Assuming the game costs USD10 less on a PC, which seems to be the trend.)

Results from some assumptions: Using Metacritic as a guide, there's as many PC games in the highly rated (8 and above) category as with the consoles. Ah-ha! Surprising considering the amount PC games sell (which if you haven't noticed, is pretty sad sometimes, even with a 9.0 rating).

If I were to use myself as an example, even I know the problem with that - I buy and play far less PC games than I do console games every year. And I do buy games I like regardless of whether I could pirate them or not.

The result is that the gamer will buy 10 games a year. Nearly one game a month - reasonable if you ask me. (Unless you aren't a gamer, then you don't have to read this to know which is the cheaper option when it comes to gaming.)

I'll be using Net Present Value analysis using a discount rate of 7% p.a. Why? Because that's a nice round number close to the interest rate in Australia - and I assume gamers don't invest in the stock market, but in hardware and games alone. LOL.

The analysis will be over a six year period, and will use half the computer cost the second time round (since it only has to last half the time - note that you are still spending the $400 every 4 years - it's just that some of it went towards better components). (I know it's not correct to judge projects are different lives like this, but I don't really want to explain how the 'right' methods work, and why they're right.)

The XBox 360 console gamer:

Initial cost: Console: USD350 Accessories (Rock Band, maybe): USD250 Hard drive upgrade in 3 years: USD100

Annual cost: Games: USD420 XBox Live: USD50

The PS3 console gamer:

Initial cost: Console: USD400 Accessories (Rock Band or others): USD250 Hard drive upgrade in 3 years: USD100

Annual cost: Games: USD420

The PC console gamer: Computer:

Intel C2D E6750: USD200 (No Wolfdales on the list, so I went with a Conroe and added USD10.) ASUS P5K (P35 chipset): USD130 nVidia 8800GT: USD240 Western Digital 500GB: USD100 OCZ Platinum 2GB kit: USD50

If you're like me, you'll reuse your old case, old drives, old sound card, old mouse and keyboard and old power supply unit (I got a dual rail 500W PSU).

Total: USD720 - USD200 (to account for me reusing certain components plus the adjustment from the mandatory PC that you'll need anyway) Upgrade in 2 years: AUD150 New computer in 4 years: USD255 (half, since it'll has to last half the time)

Annual cost: Games: USD350

What do I get? The cost of gaming on an XBox 360 over 6 years is: $2635.94 The cost of gaming on a PS3 over 6 years is: $2447.61 The cost of gaming on a PC over 6 years is: $2313.58 The cost of gaming on a PC (with an $10pcm MMO) over 6 years is : $2885.57

Surprising, ain't it? PC gaming does in fact cost less! Why? Games cost less. If the annual cost is constantly lower, so does the cost of ownership, even if the initial investment is higher. However, a lot of PC gamers play MMOs - while it would be flawed to say they still spend the same on other games, a lot of my assumptions are faulty. Games sell a lot less on the PC than they do for consoles, which probably means that either there's a lot fewer PC gamers, or just that PC gamers buy less games. I know that I buy fewer PC games than console games and I play much fewer PC games than I do console games, and the number of MMO players on PCs are undeniable - and it easily follows that a console's cost per game is actually lower.

However - it is interesting to note that the difference in cost of gaming is mostly in the Rock Band controllers. However, if play a wide variety of games, you'll understand how important immersion sometimes is. Otherwise, the cost of gaming on either a PC or an XBox 360 or a PS3 is similar - and the PC wins in the cost department if you play the same amount of games on each.

There will be another post after this - I intend to make a comparable calculation for the Wii (and its numerous accessories) and make an analysis of my own theoretical expenditure per console.

Note: Leaving for Australia on the 28th night. Will be back in Australia on the 29th! Update: Edited a few things here and there for rambling. I'll update with a post using the proper method later, and who knows, we might get a different result!