While the Steam Summer Sale is doing its best to ravish the wallets of PC gamers everywhere I talked my roomate into buying the Counterstrike Complete pack (CS1.6, Condition Zero, CS:Source and CS:Global Offensive) because it came on sale for $7.50 and I'm always looking for new people to own in Counterstrike!
After he bought it we both noticed that Left 4 Dead 2 had also gone on sale for $5, and he lamented that he had already spent money that he hadn't planned on spending on Counterstrike when he probably would have liked L4D2 better but couldn't spend more. I can understand that frustration, and so didn't push that it. It was then that we decided to go to Freebirds and get 8 dollar burritos for lunch.
Which got me thinking.
One of the common complaints about PC gaming is that it is very expensive. Computers are typically more expensive than consoles and gaming computers are more expensive still! Or are they?
For as long as I can remember, Tom's Hardware's quarterly system builder marathons have always included a $500 or $600 budget gaming PC that has to compete against $1,000 and $2,000 machines. While the low end machine never wins in terms of frame rates, it typically does very well in the price/performance segment, and it is almost always capable of running all the test games at playable settings.
That is to say, a $500 gaming PC is within the realm of possibility. The PlayStation 3 launched at $500. The Xbox 360 launched between $300 and $450 depending on the configuration. Now a gaming PC will still require a monitor, peripherals, and operating system (though Steam is now on Linux so that may change), but console gamers still typically own a PC of some kind anyway. Even the cheapest systems from an OEM start at around $400. In the case of my roommate he owns a Macbook, which is far more expensive.
Now a common counter-argument is that PC gaming technology advances too quickly and that PC gamers have to constantly upgrade their hardware. Well, yes and no. If you want the fastest frame rates in the newest titles, then yeah, you'll be buying a new video card every year or two. However, PC game writers are very careful to include as many configurations as possible so they don't shrink their potential market. And some older game engines are still in constant use. Heck, the Source engine has been around since 04 and they are *still* new games being built on it! I don't think its unreasonable to expect console longevity from a gaming PC these days.
In the end, a lower end PC that is fully capable of gaming is, hardware wise, cheaper than a console and a PC. So far PC gaming is looking cheaper, but what about software?
Well, this posted started with Steam and necessarily returns to Steam. While Console games tend to start at around 60 dollars and do not have consistent sales, Steam has turned all of use PC gamers into Pavlov's dogs waiting for weekend sales or the summer and winter Steam sales. Most my friends tend to buy a lot of games at these sales, and then slowly play through them the rest of the year. While a Console gamer may be doing well to pick up a game for thirty bucks, we'll be buying four or five games for five dollars each. So, I think PC gaming is cheaper here as well.
Now I'm not making fun of console gamers, consoles are better for some things. Guitar Hero and Mario Party are two styles of games that I don't think would work well on the PC. I'm also not making fun of my roommate for spending more on a burrito than on a video game.
What I am saying is that it seems to me that this whole idea that PC gaming is more expensive should be put to rest.