If you’re new to PC gaming, you might wonder what to expect when switching from console to PC. While the end objective of playing video games is the same on both platforms, the options you have vary quite a bit when gaming on PC over consoles.
In this article, we’ll walk you through the most important differences to keep in mind when switching from console to PC. And once you understand the biggest difference, you’ll be better equipped to start PC gaming like a pro.
1. More Controller Options
Every console has its own controller (or multiple controllers) to get used to. When you’re switching from console to PC gaming, one of the most obvious differences is the control scheme. The default is a mouse and keyboard, but as you’ll see throughout this list, you have tons of choice with this. Some gamers swear by arcade sticks (and there are excellent arcade sticks for both console and PC gaming.)
Mouse and keyboard controls work well for classic PC genres like real-time strategy and MOBAs, which require a lot of navigating menus and interacting with onscreen elements quickly. A mouse is also far superior to the controller joysticks you’re used to when playing first-person shooters. And as a keyboard has way more buttons than a controller, you can map different actions to the various keys.
However, controllers are often better for platformers, racing games, and other genres. Many PC games support controllers, and here’s how to set up your Xbox One controller with Windows 10.
2. Choosing Your Own Computer Components
When you buy a console, you don’t have much of a choice in the hardware aside from buying the more powerful PS4 Pro or Xbox One X. But when you switch from console to PC, everything changes.
You can buy pre-built gaming computers, but the real fun lies in building your own gaming PC. This process lets you customize exactly how powerful you want your gaming rig to be. Even better, if you built a decent enough computer, it will be future-proofed for years, allowing you to play games that release years down the road. This means you upgrade only when you want or need to, instead of having to buy a new console to play the latest releases.
3. Graphical Upgrades
There’s no question that PCs offers better graphics than consoles. This is because the hardware available to purchase for computers is much better than what’s in current consoles, which remains unchanged for years.
This isn’t the only aspect of graphics that’s better on PC, though. Nearly all PC games give you options to tweak the graphical settings as you see fit. Some have a simple Low > Medium > High slider, but most let you pick exactly how clear different effects and textures should look.
If you have a good monitor and a powerful enough machine, you’ll be amazed at the graphics you can get out of PC games. However, this can be a little overwhelming if you’re not used to it. If you try to crank up the graphics beyond what your computer can handle, you’ll experience a drop in performance.
4. Game Distribution and Pricing
Once you’re all set up, you’ll probably wonder how to start playing games on your PC. On a console, your main options for buying games are picking some up from a physical copy in stores or buying some from the digital shop (such as the PlayStation Store or the Nintendo eShop). As you might have guessed, PC players have many more options. However, the vast majority of PC games are sold digitally; hard copies are uncommon nowadays, even for those widely-known, most influential PC games.
The main PC gaming marketplace is Valve’s Steam. Steam’s desktop client offers thousands of games, library organization, social features, automatic updates, and more. It’s the best place to start your PC gaming journey.
However, you should also take a look at some of the other clients and services available. On GOG, you’ll find DRM-free copies of classic PC titles. You’ll need EA’s Origin client to play games like Battlefield, and Blizzard’s Battle.net to play Overwatch, Diablo, and Destiny. And for PC gaming deals, check out Green Man Gaming and the Humble Bundle.
This might lead to you having several clients installed for different games, but it’s not too difficult to keep track of. In addition, keep in mind that each of these services hosts sales regularly (included deeply discounted bundles). If you’re patient and shop around, you should be able to avoid ever paying retail price for a game.
Finally, unlike PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Gold, you don’t have to pay for online multiplayer for PC games. The only exceptions are MMOs like World of Warcraft that require their own subscription.
5. Backwards Compatibility
For console players, backwards compatibility can be a sticky subject. Not all consoles are backwards-compatible, meaning you have to keep old systems around to run those older games. And if developers re-release an older game on new hardware, you have to buy it again.
The situation is much better on PC. We mentioned sites like GOG, which tweak old PC games to run on modern hardware. You’ll also find many games on Steam and other services that were released on older consoles, but still run fine on a current PC.
For example, Fallout 3 released for the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC. You’d have to keep your old Xbox 360 out to play Fallout 3 on a console, and it would have the graphical quality that it did upon release. On PC, you can run Fallout 3 without much issue, and it will look much better on a computer than a console.
Even better, you can often install patches that enhance the graphics of older titles. You might have to take further steps to get older games working in Windows 10, but it’s usually not too difficult and you can follow guides online.
6. More Support for Mods
Mods are user-created content that change the way a game works. For many games, they add hours of additional fun and introduce concepts the developers never thought of.
Want to play more Zombies maps in Call of Duty, replace the terrible dialog interface in Fallout 4, or add better interface options in Minecraft? Mods make all of these (and much more) possible.
If you’re someone who loves squeezing every ounce out of your favorite games, you’ll love checking out and installing mods. While they have a limited availability in some console games, their true home is on PC.
7. Losing Access to System Exclusives
While most games are multi-platform, every system has its own exclusive titles that you can’t get anywhere else. So switching from console to PC means you can’t play PlayStation favorites like the Uncharted series.
However, if you’re switching from Xbox to PC, you won’t have such a rocky transition. Thanks to Xbox Play Anywhere, many Xbox One titles are also available on PC. But this doesn’t apply to everything—Halo: The Master Chief Collection has been out for Xbox One since 2014, but it’s still not available on PC.
There is a trade-off in PC’s favor, though. Many PC games are not available anywhere else, such as League of Legends and Dota 2. In addition, a lot of games arrive on PC first and don’t hit consoles until years later. This is the case with a lot of indie games, which may or may not launch right away on consoles, but are almost always available on PC.
Nintendo is a major point to note here, as first-party Nintendo games are only playable on the company’s systems. If you love Mario and Zelda, it’s worth investing in a Switch or 3DS in addition to your gaming PC.
8. Other Things to Bear in Mind
There are a few other things you should know about switching from console to PC.
First, you should be aware of how to optimize Windows 10 for gaming. This is especially important if you use your computer for more than just playing games. Remember that games take up hard drive space, so you might run into issues if you have a large amount of files on a small SSD. Having lots of background processes from other programs running can affect game performance.
If possible, we recommend going with a gaming desktop instead of a laptop. Desktops give you much more freedom to customize and upgrade components, and you often get more for your money.
To ease yourself into the PC gaming transition, try playing a game that you’re already familiar with on a console. Because you already know the mechanics of the game, you can focus solely on learning the new controls.
Finally, while it’s possible to clean your consoles to a point, physical maintenance for a gaming PC is easier. Thus, you should regularly clean your system so it’s free of dust and other debris that can hamper performance.
Now You Know How to Switch From Console to PC
When you’re new to PC gaming, it can be a daunting experience. However, you shouldn’t be scared, because there’s a lot to love about PC gaming. Once you’ve built your dream rig, installed your favorite game, and seen how amazing it looks when firing it up for the first time, you’ll get to enjoy an amazing gaming experience.
Another great aspect of PC gaming is the wide variety of accessories you can buy. To help you get started, here are the essential PC gaming accessories for all budgets and a few unusual gaming accessories to pick from.
Remember, PC gaming is not free from problems. Want to know what to watch out for? Here are a few common PC gaming problems and how to fix them:
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