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PC or Console? Which Is
Right For Your Family
Author: Andy Robertson

11/11/2020 16:27:14 / 3 years ago / Author: Andy Robertson

It is becoming increasingly popular for children to want a Gaming PC rather than a dedicated Console. This is a computer with a dedicated graphics card to run games and a gamepad or gaming mouse for controls. It offers access to a wider range of games, is useful for other activities like homework, video and music editing or programming and can be upgraded rather than replaced when it's out of date. However, it is a more expensive and complex option than a console.

The decision isn't between two interchangeable options. A Gaming PC is usually on a desk which means it will likely be in a bedroom while a console is more often on a television in shared family spaces. This not only affects the cost because it requires its own screen, but also how it fits into family life. Because of this a Gaming PC is usually something children aren't usually allowed until they are older.

Because PC's are usually owned by older players there are fewer and less robust Parental Controls on these systems. While Consoles offer apps and settings to make controlling play time, age ratings and online interactions really simple, on a PC this is harder because games can be downloaded from a range of different stores that don't support PEGI ratings.

The main things to consider are as follows:
  • Exclusive PC Games
  • Cost of Ownership
  • Required Expertise
  • PC vs Console Cost Comparison

Exclusive PC Games

A big benefit of a Gaming PC is that you are not tied to buying games from the platform holder. On the Switch, Xbox and PlayStation only approved games can be sold. On a PC, anyone can provide a game on a website. This means that there are many more games each year on PC, and games that are more unusual and experimental. The most popular of these games may eventually come to consoles but this can take a number of years.

There are online stores for PC games, like Steam and the Epic Store, that offer an ecosystem of games and recommendations like the digital stores on the console. Unlike console digital stores that require a PEGI rating before a game can be sold, Steam and Epic stores let people sell games without an official rating.

Here are the most popular exclusive PC games that you can’t play on Switch, Xbox or Playstation:

Unlike Consoles, Gaming PC's let you customise, upgrade and modify the games themselves. There's an active community of developers who provide updates to the visuals and play style of existing games long after they have been released. There is a huge amount of creativity here, although it should be noted that this falls outside any age ratings and often includes content only appropriate for older players.

The experience of more graphically demanding games varies more on a Gaming PC. On a console you know you are getting the experience that the developer intended as it's a controlled system. Everyone has the same hardware so developers can optimise the game to make the most of that specific setup. On a Gaming PC you have different components to everyone else so the experience you get in your game may vary which can lead to considerable time tweaking things and getting it to work well.

Cost of Ownership

Generally speaking a Gaming PC that performs on a par with the current generation of consoles will cost quite a bit more. This is because consoles are sold at a loss when they are first released and developers can better optimise their games for the known hardware configuration. You are also likely to purchase a monitor for the Gaming PC rather than use your existing television, which is more expense.

Unlike consoles, Gaming PCs can be upgraded over time. This means you can start with a cheaper configuration and expand it as your child wants to access more demanding experiences. If you continue to spend on upgrades and have the expertise to install them, PC's have the potential to stay viable for gaming longer than a game console that is usually superseded by the next generation every six years.

Another difference is that, unlike consoles that require a yearly subscription of about £50 to play games online with other people, on the PC you can do this for free in most cases. The games themselves are also usually cheaper than the console version. Assassin's Creed Valhalla is £59 on console and £49 on PC. However, PC games stay more expensive over time. FIFA 20 is now only £24 on console but still £55 on PC.

Although both Console and PC are moving more towards digital purchases, there is still a healthier second hand game market on consoles. Combine this with the steep fall in price of older Console games and you can save substantial sums via second hand games, as well as sell on the games you have purchased on disc or cartridge.

Finally, on a console the operating system is part of the cost of the system. A Gaming PC requires you to purchase Windows. This is often included in the pre-built PC price, but will be an additional £119 for the basic version if you are building your own. Although children will say you can buy cheap Windows codes from eBay, these often don't work for very long and come from disreputable sources.

Required Expertise

A Gaming PC is a custom piece of consumer electronics that you need to tinker and fix as you go. This is less true if you buy a pre-built system off the shelf, but even here you need to deal with operating systems, configuring peripherals and opening the box if you want to take advantage of upgrading.

Many children think that building their own Gaming PC is a way to get better value for money. While it's true that you save the build cost, you pay for this in time and effort selecting parts and putting the machine together.

The building is a double edged sword. It has value as a family project and children will learn a lot about their machine in the process of getting it to work. But getting it to work can easily spiral into quite a headache even for technically savvy parents.

After you have taken time to check the compatibility of your motherboard, processor, memory and all that, you still have to put these high-end relatively fragile pieces of electronics together. If you carefully do all that and it doesn't work, as was the case with the PC my son was building, there is no one manufacturer or helpline you can call. The makers of each component will try and help but there is often no way of knowing which bit isn't work. For us, this meant sending back first the processor, then the memory and then finally the motherboard before we had a working system. This took us over a month from when it first arrived.

Once you have built your computer you then need to configure it. This involves first getting the different pieces to talk efficiently to each other with system settings, and then installing an operating system. This last step I thought would be simple, but creating an installable USB drive for Windows turns out to be nearly impossible for the man on the street if you don't have another Windows PC in the house.

There needs to be a strong and clear reason why you want to do it. If at the end of that time consuming and costly process all they do is play Fortnite, well, they could have done that for a fraction of the price and non of the stress and heart ache on a console.

PC vs Console Cost Comparison

In general, the comparison in cost between a Gaming PC and a console is uneven because Game Consoles are sold at a loss because they make money from game sales. But provided you don't spend too heavily on games and make use of subscription services this can work in favour of families.

To get a good comparison between the latest consoles and a Gaming PC we can consider costs on a system that will play online games like Apex Legends, Overwatch, Forza Motorsport, Valorant and Marvel's Avengers at same 4k resolution with raytracing similar to PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X:

Gaming PC
Cost based on NZXT Streaming PC:
• Machine: £1299 / $1499.00
• Controllers: 1 * £54 = £54
• Keyboard and Mouse: £100
• Windows: Included.
• 12 Months Online Subscription: £0.00
Total: £1453

Xbox Series X
Digital or physical game purchases with 1TB storage:
• Console: £449
• Controllers: 1 included
• 12 Months Online Subscription: £50
Total: £499

PlayStation 5 BlueRay
Digital or physical game purchases with 825GB storage:
• Console £449
• Controllers: 1 included
• 12 Months Online Subscription: £50
Total: £499

Comparing the previous generation of consoles and equivalent Gaming PC we can consider costs on a system that will play online games like Fortnite, Minecraft and FIFA in HD resolution similar to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One:

Gaming PC
Cost based on NZXT Starter PC:
• Machine: £599 / $699
• Controllers: 1 * £54 = £54
• Keyboard and Mouse: £100
• Windows: Included.
• 12 Months Online Subscription: £0.00
Total: £753

Xbox One
The previous generation Xbox. Many new games you purchase offer an upgrade path to Xbox Series X|S.
• Console: £249
• Controllers: 1 included
• 12 Months Online Subscription: £50
Total: £299

PlayStation 4
The previous generation PlayStation. Many new games you purchase offer an upgrade path to PS5 version.
Digital or physical game purchases.
• Console £249
• Controllers: 1 included
• 12 Months Online Subscription: £50
Total: £299
Taming Gaming Book Written by parents for parents, the database complements the in-depth discussion about video game addiction, violence, spending and online safety in the Taming Gaming book. We are an editorially independent, free resource without adverts that is supported by partnerships.

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