It wasn't that long ago that the PC was the only choice you had if you wanted to play games online. The first console that had online capabilities was the Sega Dreamcast, that lead the way for other consoles. The Dreamcast didn't sell very well, and the company wasn't able to support it anymore and went out of business. It wasn't until 2002 that PlayStation 2, Xbox, and GameCube introduced online capabilities. Now that developers knew what gamers wanted it was very natural for a console to have online capabilities, to even be close to a successful system.
Online games are very common in the gaming world, with Microsoft's Xbox Live service leading the way with 23 million registered users. Sony has some tricks up there sleeve, and has big plans for online content for the PlayStation 3, consoles are starting to get game downloads only available on the PC. A few titles can now be played across systems, Final Fantasy XI uses this system and people with PS2, PC, and Xbox 360 can all explore the same world simultaneously.
However, Computers still have the largest selection of online games. Some of the most popular games in the world are exclusive to the PC only. Games such as World of Warcraft and Counter Strike Source make up 40% of online PC gamers. There are many things to think about before deciding which device you want to buy. You have to decide what type of games you want to play, and how much money you are willing to spend, and if you need a computer for other things besides gaming. Ideally we would all have both a PC and a console, but if that's not an option, then a comparison of the two is needed.
Multiplayer gaming has been made easy with Microsoft offering online services for their products. The Xbox comes equipped with a network card right out of the box, making it a simple hook up to a DSL or Cable Internet connection to get into multiplayer games on Xbox Live.
With Xbox Live players are able to play with people around the country rather than having to play the AI, or have to go through the hassle of inviting friends over to play. You are able to trash talk your opponents if they you where in the same room. While these things are possible on a PC, consoles are built for this right out of the box.
The biggest reason PC gaming isn't bigger than console gaming is mainly the cost. Most consoles today sell for less than $500 unless it's within the first couple months of release, often with a couple games included. A PC around the same graphical power as an Xbox 360, or a PS3 can cost double the price of the console. On the PC, you have a very large range of often options everywhere you look. . Prices for a high-end PCs can get expensive very quickly "A desktop can start at anywhere from $1,500 to $1,700. Not that you have to spend that much but, if you're going to spend time gaming on a PC, shouldn't you make the experience worthwhile? And, that startup cost presents a serious drawback for a lot of people" (Charlie Deitch, Cityweekly.net). Everything in a PC is customizable to fit the gamers needs. You can pick and chose what you want to be in your computer, and when newer technology comes out you have the power to upgrade your computer if you want to.
The second most obvious advantage is simplicity. PC Gaming can be a technical nightmare when trying to install games. People with Xboxes or PS3's can take their newly purchased game home and be playing within a matter of minutes. There are no operating systems to configure or drivers to update, you have the assurance that your game will work on your system unlike a computer.
Console games are rented out more frequently than PC games, and more easily returned to the retailer if you're not satisfied with them. In other words, it is difficult to return PC games because they are easy to copy, and resale. The other problem with renting PC games they run off a CD/DVD with a serial code only working one time, so it's not possible to Rent these games or return them. You have to take this into consideration when looking at the games available for both platforms. You will be able to rent games you don't want to buy, and if you do indeed buy the game you are able to return it and get something else if you are not satisfied. With the PC your return will just be simply rejected.
Although sealing everything in one unit does seem like a good idea, when some of the components inside the box become out-dated there is no way to upgrade your console, or even repair your system without voiding a warranty. If you void your warranty by opening your system to try and upgrade or repair yourself then you can no longer send your Xbox in for repair meaning you have to buy a new one if you can't fix it yourself. The only safe choice you have to repairing your system is sending it back to the manufacture and waiting 4-6 weeks to get your system back.
Consoles perform only one task really well, where PCs can be a wide variety of things. Some manufactures are trying to make consoles more flexible, but it is clear that it will be a long time before consoles will be able to run applications like the PC does. Keyboards use many more keys to do the same tasks you can do on a controller, but PCs offer a lot more control of the game, but it comes at a cost of hours of tutorials and practicing at the game.
There is an obvious lack of connectivity between the different console brands. Many games are only available to a specific type of system, which means you can only play other people who own the same system as you. This means that people with Xboxes can only play against other people with Xboxes, for example there is no way for a person with a PS3 to jump the countless PC World of Warcraft servers available. The PS3 has made some progress in this area, paving the way for multi platform gaming between PS3, Xbox and PC users, but there are only a couple of titles that support this, and there done very poorly.
While the PS3 and Xbox both have online capabilities a broadband connection is required for both systems. PS3's online services are free, while Microsoft charges a yearly fee for use of the Xbox Live service. One of the biggest advantages the PC has over consoles right now is that there are a lot more games available for the PC than there are for consoles, particularly when it comes to multiplayer online games. Not only are the vast majority of MMOGs designed for the PC, but PC gamers also have the option to play MUDs, email games, browser games, and a wide variety of titles that are distributed digitally or available as free downloads.
As mentioned above, another clear advantage PCs have over consoles is that you can use them for a lot more than playing games. Furthermore, if you like to modify games or edit maps for them, a PC is essential, and you have to take a break from gaming sometime to read gaming sites. PCs are always on the cutting edge of gaming technology. The current generation of consoles with high-definition capabilities did briefly narrow the gap, but well-equipped PCs continue to offer superior graphics. Computer monitors can be found with considerably higher resolutions than HDTVs, and the latest multi-core processors and dual GPU solutions make it possible to build a remarkably powerful game system. Even if a console offers incredible technology upon its release, there is no way for it to compete with the rapid hardware advancements that have become a way of life in the computer industry.
When it comes online gaming, PCs give people a variety of ways to connect to the Internet, and to each other, which aren't restricted to proprietary services or software. Different brands of computer and event different operating systems generally communicate very well with one another. This is quite different from services like Xbox Live, for example, which is the only option available to Xbox users that want to play online, and is closed to everyone that doesn't have an Xbox.
Finally, as your PC ages, there is a reasonable chance of extending its gaming life with a component upgrade, although it can get a bit messy. While PCs have come down considerably in price over the years, they are still quite expensive compared to consoles. There ways to economize on a PC, such as building it yourself, but it's not easy to get the cost of a PC down to a price comparable to even the most expensive console. Computers are also getting a little more user friendly, but eventually every PC gamer will encounter some technical complication that interferes with their gaming, be it a device driver that needs updating or components that are simply incompatible. PCs are also much more vulnerable to viruses and other security breaches.
The truth is, installing a game on your computer is always a bit of a gamble. You never really know if it's going to work until you're actually playing the game, and even then, in the back of your mind, you're expecting it to crash at any moment.
Unlike most console games, PC games have the potential to get ridiculously complicated. This can give a game depth, but it can also result in tedious arrays of keyboard commands and lengthy tutorials which one must endure to learn how to play. PC games are often not well-suited for playing on the couch, especially given that the mouse and keyboard are the preferred PC game controllers. Unlike console games, you also won't find many PC games that support two players on one machine at the same time.
The latest round of consoles has a lot to offer online gamers, and if you're into sports and racing titles, consoles are a good way to go. If you like massively multiplayer games and online shooters, there are a great deal more to choose from on the PC. Online play options for consoles are getting better all the time, but proprietary networks and fees for services like Xbox Live make them a bit less attractive. For the most part, PCs are still the dominant platform for online gaming, and that appears likely to continue for a while yet.