Initially, computer games were designed for PCs; the first generally accepted PC game is Spacewar! developed at MIT in 1962, a clunky offering played on a PC the size of a car but paving the way for the development of the industry. Next came arcade games, an early precursor of the console, where one game only (or perhaps a couple) was pre-loaded and that is what could be played. Home consoles were initially launched in the early 1970s but attained limited success as the games were often hardwired into the console and there was no removable media, and so no other games could be played.
As technology advanced, console gaming and PC gaming has generally developed together at a similar pace. Moving from arcade gaming into the home, games began to be designed to last longer and storylines and genres became important, and as the internet became more mainstream and connectivity increased, games moved from being single player to multi-player as developers took advantage of the social aspect of the gaming. With this in mind, the vast majority of games have been designed to be playable on a number of different devices, including PCs, consoles, and even mobile and hand-held devices, although there is yet to be cross-device functionality.
One area that has embraced this is the gambling industry, where gamers can access a casino with real money from pretty much any device, though it is more common to see casinos on PCs, developers are starting to see value in targeting the console market, particularly on Xbox and PlayStation.
PC is still the most popular platform for developers, with 56% of developers developing games for PC in 2020, and roughly a quarter developing for Xbox and PlayStation. However, the popularity of console gaming is growing, and console games tend to outperform PC games in the global market.
Differences between the two platforms
The majority of games can be played on most platforms, and the graphics and game play tend to be very similar. But there are some key differences between console and PC gaming.
PC gaming is more expensive up front. The initial PC build to play games at the same level as a console is far higher, but there are a number of other factors to consider. PCs can have individual components upgraded to keep up with advances in gaming technology, whereas consoles usually have to be replaced every couple of years as new updated versions are launched. PCs also don’t need different controllers (though it is possible to use console controllers with a PC if wanted to suit different gaming styles, as well as bespoke steering wheels/joysticks and so on as required by the game). PC Games also tend to be cheaper than console games.
Once upon a time, developers would develop a game for one specific platform, whereas now the majority of games released are playable across different platforms. For example, Street Fighter V can be played on console or computer, as well as a raft of other games such as Gears of War 4, Forza motorsport 7, Rise of Tomb Raider and so on. Though many console games are developed either for Xbox or PlayStation, both also tend to develop for the PC, regarding it almost as neutral territory. With the increased popularity of Steam and Sony’s latest subscription service offering games on the PC, PC gaming is certainly not being overlooked as a valuable market. There are however a number of PC games that never get a console version, such as most strategy-based games like Civilization, as well as Unreal Tournament, Tyranny and Duskers.
- Backwards Compatibility
With consoles, sometimes the previous generation games remain compatible with the current console offering, but more often than not console games have to buy a new version of the game to match the new console, whereas with PC games, this problem doesn’t happen as long as the individual updates their computer regularly, and the game remains supported by the developer.
Whilst many gamers will want a console, most of us need a PC to complete other tasks, like working, online shopping, emailing, and checking social media. Most households will have a PC, some will have a console.
There are many options for gamers and they can decide their preference based on what they want from a gaming device to make sure it is the best fit for their budget and needs.