The PS5 and Xbox Series X remind me why PC gaming is so much better

ps5 xbox series x
(Image credit: Microsoft/Sony)

I can’t imagine having to pay a subscription fee to play games online. But then, for the most part, I’m a PC gamer. You console folks with your fancy PS5 and Xbox Series X are really being taken advantage of, and I think you should rise up against paying the multiplayer tax. 

For me, this was at its most irksome when I was deep into the world of Animal Crossing. I wanted to visit someone else’s island, and to do that I had to cough up for a year’s worth of Nintendo Online. It’s one of the cheaper subscriptions for multiplayer, but it still bothered me that I needed it. I only used it once, too, and I haven’t done a single online thing with my Switch since.

I can hear you thinking “well there are the free games.” And yes, you’re right, there are “free” games. Except they aren’t free. The classic NES and SNES games are included in a price as a value offset, and I still feel you shouldn’t be paying for online access. 

What's worse, for a lot of games it’s not even Sony or Microsoft providing the services that run online play, it’s the game developer or publisher. And you may be paying for season passes and in-game items, too. How many times do you want to pay for everything you own? 

I’m sure none if this bothers some people, but I’m here to be professionally bothered for you. Online play shouldn’t be stuck behind a paywall for arbitrary reasons. It gets even worse when you consider that I might be merrily driving around in Forza Horizon 4 and not paying a cent for it on PC, meanwhile, you’re playing the same game and trapped in an Xbox Live Gold subscription. 

Microsoft recently got eviscerated for attempting to bump the price for Xbox Live Gold. In fact, it went so badly wrong for Microsoft that it also had to cancel charging people to play free games, like Fortnite, online. And rightly so. 

Microsoft justified its attempted price hike by saying "In many markets, the price of Xbox Live Gold has not changed for years and in some markets, it hasn't changed for over 10 years." I had a good laugh at that. Microsoft is charging people for nothing but a few games (Microsoft first-party games carry no charge on PC, remember). It's inserting itself between your expensive console and the internet which people also pay for. It reminds me of that joke about management consultants stealing your watch and then charging to tell you the time. 

Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo are acting like some sort of gateway to the internet. It’s like AOL and CompuServe all over again, bloated corporations that create a walled-garden that contains a few shiny things. Meanwhile, the internet is bursting with opportunities that are behind a door that costs $60 a year to unlock. 

Well, citizens, perhaps it’s time to kick down the door and tell console manufacturers you’re not prepared to pay them to play games you paid for. Played over the internet, which you also paid for, on a console that you may well have had to overpay a scalper for, just to be abused with fees not present on PC. 

Ian has been involved in technology journalism since 2007, originally writing about AV hardware back when LCDs and plasma TVs were just gaining popularity. Nearly 15 years on, he remains as excited as ever about how tech can make your life better. Ian is the editor of but has also regularly contributed to Tom's Guide.

  • WarriorOmega
    First, let me get this out straight away, I don't fully disagree with the writer. I think the Online ecosystem should get a revamp, which already partly happened behind the scenes. Many free-to-play games don't require the PS+ or Xbox Live Gold subscription to play online, and this should be a choice of the developers. You either host your own servers and don't require Microsoft/Sony online subscription for your userbase, or go the "old-school" route and let Microsoft/Sony handle all the digital infrastructure for you. This could be combined with a lower price tier in the store since MS/Sony is already earning on the subscription.

    But I find this article is written with a double standard. It's been proven over and over again that for the money for which you any of the consoles it's hard to build a PC with that same specs/capabilities, especially on the same level of hardware quality (E.g. Youtube linus techtips had to use a Chinese knockoff controller to stay within budget, and even with it he didn't). So I don't think its fair to say "...your expensive console...", since compare to PC its a cheap option. But you have to pay for online functionalities. And then I haven't mentioned the mayor extra on both Sony and Microsoft subscriptions is the free monthly games, which at the very least are worth the 60 euro's a year which you pay for the subscription.

    Also I think you forget what the reason is why things are free on PC and not on console. PC has been there at birth of the internet, at those times there was no commercial vision to earn with multiplayer services, and also hardly costed anything. Now, about 25 years later, hardly anybody had the nerve to change that vision, since they would know they would probably sell bad when the competition isn't doing it. Console ecosystem started after the birth of "the internet" and knew what kind of infrastructure is required, which isn't cheap. This is the reason that Microsoft, and Sony later on, have made Multiplayer access a paid functionality. If you see it like this, the free access on PC is the odd one, not the console. I mean, even Sony who made jokes about that you needed to pay for MS network, followed the path afterwards. But this is an evolving world, with shifting service suppliers, which brings me back to the first paragraph. I think paying for MS/Sony network is not weird in any way, but the way require it, that’s outdated.

    So you being "professionally bothered" is appreciated, but also an unbiased look at the situation, background and complete views on pro's and con's would be in place.
  • Segfault Viking
    I pay Sony the 50 euro's just for the free games they give me for a full year. Just saying. It must've been years since I've done anything multiplayery so calling it a multiplayer tax isn't really covering all there is to this.

    Another point of contention i'd like to touch upon is the absurd difference in hardware cost. My PS5 was 500 bucks, the PS4 you can get for well under 250, and provided they don't break they can last you for nearly a decade.
    Videocards that are worth anything are 600 bucks, give or take, and then you need to invest in the rest of the hardware/peripherals and that is pretty much obsolete in four to five years.
    (If you can even buy half the stuff you need currently what with that mining boom, but I admit that's a cheap stab right now.)

    Then there's the price of games often used in favor of the pc platform, but if you know how to work the bargain bins the price difference for games between al platforms is neglegible unless you buy more games then you can possibly finish.

    PC gaming has a fair bunch of advantages over console gaming, to be sure, especially for the more hardcore gamer, but it's definately not winning in the economic aspect of it.
  • Sid Nightwalker
    Heh, whether you want to admit it or not, a PC rig is well worth the initial cost. For anyone who plays games for hours on end, it's worth the initial investment. If you build the system yourself in particular, it's not nearly as expensive as most people think. Upgrading a system you built yourself, if you know how to do it right, and do your research, will ultimately be around the same cost as buying a new console. Those are what we call "facts". Anyone who disagrees simply doesn't know what the true difference is, among many other things they're ignorant of. Anyone who says a quality video card would require 600 dollars to buy, for example. No, it wouldn't. You know absolutely nothing about PC hardware. You are hilariously off the mark on that, so quit talking about a subject you are totally ignorant of. :D

    Charging to unlock multiplayer on your console is only a thing because enough idiots were dumb enough to buy into it when Microsoft introduced it. Period. Server rental is, again, factually, one of the cheapest overhead costs in business, because they pay yearly for the space, if not two or three years in advance. Large companies can easily eat the cost without an issue. Game devs themselves have proved the cost isn't that great, as they run persistent servers for multiple games. To argue that there is ANY valid excuse for the charge is to simply be a sign that you have absolutely no idea what you're talking about. Period. So quit acting like you aren't totally clueless, thank you. Also, quit being an apologist for a corrupt industry, justifying all the tacked on fees they have these days. It's sad.
  • WarriorOmega
    Welcome PC master race warrior. We can use a console for 7 years in a row. We are happy to pay the "big price" that has to be paid for it. So we have the right to defend it, even if you don't like it.

    Any YouTube daily PC builder has trouble building a system for the same price and same kind of specifications. Mostly ending up with C branded hardware to stay into budget, if you tell me any kind of system like that will make 7 years.. I guess I'm the ignorant one anyway. And yeah you are fully right, I started up Unreal Tournament (1999 GOTY) and hosted my own server, on the same system! Damn it can't be hard, or expensive. Who cares there is a factor of millions of players in difference. Add a contract and its only pocket change, how did I miss that? There is a reason cloud has grown immensely, if you think that's only corporates, you have no clue how slow corporates moves.

    I've been playing on both PC, PS4 and Xbox One. Apart from that there are enough reasons to choose for a console over a PC, I spend at least three times as much on my pc over the course of its 7 year lifespan. But this isn't a comparable amount, since my PC is more high end, currently running 144fps due to late GPU upgrade. Which it wouldn't handle if I upgraded the card when I should have, but even then it would probably have outperformed the consoles by a bit. To make it comparable on output specification level it would have still cost me more to keep my PC running as smooth as my consoles. And yes I spend a few days worth of research before I buy anything over 200 euro.

    Look fair at your own opinions before calling out someone is ignorant. Yes, I responded as an advocate for the devil since the story was full of twisted truths. Mostly because the issue is only viewed from one perspective, as you might be familiar to. I tried to stay close as possible to the neutral line, and gave some clear reasons why its not as simple as "You have to pay for online so its expensive.". I gladly discuss further about the topic, yet in a normal manner. Saying we are ignorant, don't have a right to talk or don't know what we are talking about just ends a conversation, which this one would normally be for me.

    Mod Edit for Language