Bargaining: But I’m getting great value

When a purchasing decision is made, it is most common to relate up-front cost with perceived value derived from that investment. While that intuition works for most situations, there are times where smaller but recurring charges sum to be substantial. The consoles are designed to bury as many recurring costs as possible to profit from their valued customers. Ponder this: The $499 PS3 was created for $805 according to CNET. Sony continued to take a loss on all units sold between their late 2006 launch until mid 2010. The true cost of the console is therefore quite safely said to be not what is paid upfront, as Sony always intends to make a profit; they clearly could not expect to recover all that loss directly from the petty profits during last few years of sales. If someone spends hundreds of millions to billions of dollars marketing a device that they sell you for less than they paid to develop it… how much money are they really getting from you in the nickels and dimes?

(Want to see how we came up with the figure? Check out the calculations.)

The green blocks represent inherent costs, while the yellow blocks represent the sum of unnecessary small charges. Obviously there is a lot of variance in both situations. The point is more-so that arguments made about PC Gaming being more expensive are completely wrong… and as shown is often quite the opposite.


There are several methods that console manufacturers use to monetize their consoles. The following are just some of the examples:

  • Charge ten dollars per video game sale from a third-party publisher
  • Online services fees
  • Break compatibility with accessories to force repurchase (occasionally within the same generation, see: PS2)
  • Direct sale of first party games
  • A cut of micro-transactions such as DLC and download-only games.
  • Late-life unit sales

Over the life of console the concept that you are getting a bargain erodes; the cost only gets worse as you purchase more games, extra content, and redundant systems with accessories. If you wish to experience many specific games that are spread across multiple platforms your troubles compound further. Developers have been projecting and occasionally outright crying for a single-platform future. The problem is, as described through the anger stage, you cannot have a single proprietary platform without having either a monopoly or competing platform(s). A single open platform is more desirable for developers than both outcomes, profitable for everyone, and much easier on the wallets of consumers.

Your PC is only as expensive as you desire it to be.

You choose your experience; you are not paying someone to give you any different.

If you have ever balked at the price of a “gaming PC” then I can understand why you would assume that consoles are cheaper than PC gaming as a whole. While there are definite advantages of those systems, they also are well above the experience provided by consoles. Purchasing four years of Xbox Live Gold, at $60 per year, costs you $240; had you spent $200 four years ago for an 8800GT you would play all games on the market for those four years including Battlefield 3 albeit at heavily reduced settings. Xbox Live fees, without considering any other expense including the price of the box itself, cost more than what is likely required to upgrade your existing PC to a gaming system for four years.

There are three tiers of gaming PCs that are capable of running just about every product on the market. This is just a general rule, but has been valid for quite some time now.

The Console-like tier

If your desire is to have a similar experience as you would have with a console:

  • Upgrade all the main components (CPU, RAM, Mobo, GPU) of your system at once
  • Purchase the third best component, give or take, of each product line
  • Repeat every 4-5 years

It will almost definitely be cheaper than the console over its lifespan. This typically corresponds to buying the Mid-Range System on our hardware leader board every 4 years.

The Always-Highest tier

If your desire is to play every game, apart from outliers like Crysis, max at 1080p from launch:

  • Upgrade all the main components (CPU, RAM, Mobo, GPU) of your system at once
  • Purchase the third best component, give or take, of each product line
  • Purchase the third best, give or take, GPU of the time about 2 years later
  • Repeat every 4-5 years

It will probably be cheaper than the console over its lifespan, and a much better experience. This typically corresponds to buying the Mid-Range System on our hardware leader board every 4 years and replacing the video card after 2 years with the Mid-Range System’s video card at that time.

The Enthusiast tier

If your desire is to play all games beyond 1080p, on multiple monitors, at a solid 60 or 120 FPS, with stereoscopic 3D, or any other special requirements: get the computer that will suit those needs. Your Cadillac is not required to drive to work, but you just want to drive a freakin’ Cadillac! No one will tell you that you cannot, except your spouse or major credit card vendor.

It will be more expensive than the console over its lifespan, but for reasons that simply are not possible with the console. Get whatever you want — no one is artificially limiting what you can.

When you carefully look at the cost of a gaming PC: you are typically spending less over the long run for a better experience, or you purposely spoiled yourself for an immensely better experience. Either direction leads to the same conclusion: you are not paying more to receive less with the PC.

Do you feel depressed about your bargain not panning out?

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