In this post I'll compare 4 ways to play video games: desktop PC, laptop, consoles and streaming. My goal is to play Assassin's Creed Valhalla, Age of Empires 4 and Diablo 4 when they come out.

Streaming

The two main players in that area are Google Stadia and Amazon Luna. Unfortunately they're not available in my area, so I won't be able to try it myself.

Amazon Luna

It is available only in the US with two subscription schemes:

  • Ubisoft+: $15/mo
  • Luna: $7/mo
Luna is supported across mainland US. We currently do not support Hawaii, Alaska, and U.S. territories.
Amazon Luna – Cloud Gaming Service
Introducing Luna, Amazon’s cloud gaming service where it’s easy to play great games on devices you already own. No waiting for lengthy downloads—just play.

And the controller costs $69. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07P989QTJ

The Luna subscription doesn't seem to have many games. Since I'd want to play Assassin's Creed, I'd have to go for the Ubisoft+ subscription. They don't seem to have Diablo 3, so they might not have Diablo 4 either in the future.

Google Stadia

Stadia - Play for Free across your favorite devices
Get instant access to Stadia and a collection of games with a Stadia Pro free trial now.

Stadia is available in the US and in Europe. It costs $10/mo and they seem to have many more games such as Cyberpunk 2077, Assassin's Creed Syndicate, Origins, Odyssey, Valhalla but no Age of Empires nor Diablo.

Console

PlayStation 5

Cost

Here's how much it would cost to buy a PS4, then upgrading to PS5 from 2013 to 2025:

  • PS4 (2013): $400
  • 1080p TV: $500
  • Optional upgrade to PS4 Pro (2016): $400
  • PS5: $500 (not scalped) or $400 for the digital only edition.
  • 4K TV: $500

Total $1,900 over 12 years or $2,300 with the upgrade to PS4 Pro. I assume we're not going through the hassle of selling old hardware.

Add to this games at about $50 a pop. They don't get sales as often as on PC. If you bought the $500 PS5 with bluray drive, then you could buy games secondhand for cheaper. Anyway, since I wouldn't have bought more than 4-5 games a year, it wouldn't impact the total cost overall.

Performance

The PS5 supposedly runs Assassin's Creed Valhalla in 4K at 60 fps. See https://www.ubisoft.com/en-au/help/assassins-creed-valhalla/article/assassins-creed-valhalla-for-next-gen-consoles/000074741.

It can run Cyberpunk in 1080p at 60fps. See https://www.reddit.com/r/PS5/comments/kiuh2t/list_of_60fps_games_playable_on_ps5/.

Availability

Some game stores here occasionally sell the console, but it get sold out as soon as they're on sale. It seems as hard, if not harder to get than in the US.

Xbox

Cost

I'm feeling a bit lazy to research older generations. The newest generation, which got released roughly at the same time as the PS5, has two editions. The Series X for $500, which can run games in 4k resolution, and the Series S for $400, which can run games mostly in 1080p and some in 4k. For example, the Series S can run Assassin's Creed Valhalla in 4k at 30 fps. The Series X runs it in 4k at 60 fps.

For Cyberpunk 2077, the Series X can run it at 60 fps in 1080p at can go to 1600p at 30 fps. The Series S runs it in 1080p at 30 fps. See post.

Availability

The local game store just got a shipment of XBox Series S, but no XBox series X in sight.

Gaming Laptop

Cost

It really depends on your budget. The price ranges from about $1k to over $3k.

  • This MSI-Stealth-15M features a RTX 3060 and 11th gen Core i7 processor for $1.3k.
  • The Alienware x17 R1 costs $2,2k for the same graphics card and processor. For $3.4k you can get a RTX 3080 instead.

Performance

An RTX 3060 can run Assassin's Creed Odyssey, Assassin's Creed Valhalla, Cyberpunk 2077 in 1080p in high at 30 fps.

An RTX 3080 can run the same games in 1080p in high at 60 fps, and can nearly run Assassin's Creed Valhalla in 1440p, but not Cyberpunk 2077 in 4k.

Desktop

Cost

It depends if you're building it yourself or buying it assembled. Just looking at Alienware's gaming desktops, the price ranges from $1.1k for an 11th gen Core i5 and a GeForce GTX 1650 SUPER all the way to $4k for an 11th gen Core i9 and GeForce RTX 3090.

If you assembled it yourself, here's how much it might cost for the equivalent config. Prices may not be exactly accurate. I am basing those price estimates based off of my previous post where I describe my own build. For example motherboards can cost anywhere from $80 to over $250. Same for PSUs:

  • Core i9-11900K: $550
  • GeForce RTX 3090: $1,500 (MSRP), $3,500 (scalped price)
  • Motherboard: $100
  • PSU: $100
  • Windows license: $100
  • Case: $100
  • 1 TB SSD drive: $150
  • 32 GB RAM: $200

Depending on whether you manage to get the RTX 3090 at MSRP or you used a scalper, it'll cost between $2,800 and $4,800. Because of how hard it is to find graphics cards these days, I'd say it's a really good time to buy a premade Alienware rather than assemble it like I did. I wish I had written this before buying it.

Btw, I just looked at the most expensive build. But if I bought my dream machine, I'd probably go for a Core i5-11600K at $230 and an RTX 3080 for $850 (MSRP).  A scalped RTX 3080 sells for $2,5o0 right now on Amazon. Then it'd cost between $1,830 and $3,380. The corresponding Alienware desktop costs $2,900.

Performance

The GTX 1650S can run Assassin's Creed Odyssey and Valhalla in 1080p in high at 30 fps. The RTX 3080 can run Valhalla in 4k at 30 fps and Cyberpunk 2077 in 4k in ultra. As for Valhalla in 4k at 60 fps, some posts also say that even an RTX 3090 can't do it.

Availability of games

While most games I care about are available on all platforms (Assassin's Creed, Diablo 4), Age of Empires 4 will only be available on PC. It's a pity the XBox doesn't support mouse and keyboard.

Ergonomics

The mouse is essential for real-time strategy games like Age of Empires. It is also great for aiming, such as when using the bow and arrow in Assassin's Creed or playing FPS. However I don't play FPS and I rarely use the bow in Assassin's Creed.

Except when playing the Switch, I've never really use controllers before, so I didn't know what to expect when I bought an XBox controller for my PC and Assassin's Creed Odyssey. At first it was overwhelming. You get two joysticks and one D-pad. Shortkeys seemed totally arbitrary. Why does the up key on the D-pad summon my eagle? Why does one use the bottom left trigger to aim the bow, but the other triggers perform other actions? But after only 3 days, it became more comfortable than the keyboard and mouse. In fact I realized that the keyboard shortkeys too were just as arbitrary. X to summon the horse, Tab to open the quest menu, E to parry. In the end, you want to use keys that are close to where your hands already are, and then it's just muscle memory.

So I'm relieved to know that I will be just as happy with a console controller than a mouse and keyboard for the majority of games.

In a nutshell

AC Valhalla (2020) has slightly higher requirements than OC Odyssey (2018).

Machine Type Price Performance
XBox Series S Console $300 AC Valhalla 1080p 30 fps
XBox Series X Console $500 AC Valhalla 4K 60 fps
PS5 Console $500 AC Valhalla 4K 60 fps
Self-assembled PC
(7 year old GTX 970, 11th gen Core i7)
Desktop $1,300 AC Odyssey 1080p 30 fps
MSI-Stealth-15M
(RTX 3060, 11th gen Core i7)
Laptop $1,300 AC Odyssey 1080p 30 fps
AC Valhalla 1080p 30 fps
Alienware Aurora R12
(RTX 3080, 11th gen Core i7)
Desktop $2,800 AC Valhalla in 4k at 30 fps
Alienware x17 R1
(RTX 3080, 11th gen Core i7)
Laptop $3,400 AC Odyssey 1080p 60 fps

Conclusion

I grew up with computers around, so I have a strong bias towards computers. But seeing those figures makes me favor consoles more and more. It's hard to justify spending $3k for a ready-made PC, or even $2k (and lots of sweat) for a self-assembled PC that can run Assassin's Creed Valhalla in 4k at 30 fps when a $500 PS5 or XBox Series X can run it in 4k at 60 fps. Granted, they don't specify the level of detail on each platform, so I'll have to research that in a later post.