Warning: the currency used in my argument is euro. The price are just indicative from my country (france), all can be argue but I don’t think I’m that far off.
The lifetime of a console generation typically is about 5-6 years. I will use a 5 years’ timeline as for my comparative study.
Price of a decent Gaming PC + monitor: 1 000€
Typically a PC gamer will upgrade its computer regularly. So I consider in that timeline
1 video card change : 200€ changed to 300€ taking comment into account
1 processor + motherboard : 200€ 300€
Total 1 400€ in hardware in 5 years. 1600€ now
Price of a console: 400 € 300€
Price of TV (to have a fair comparison, PC does come with a dedicated monitor): 200€
Difference is 800 € for a 5 years’ timeline, so about 160€ per year. difference of 1100€ so about 220€ a year
However most PC new game cost 50€ while console game are about 70€. There is a 20€ difference between PC and console games, the difference get as small as 10€ as the game get older but PC game is always cheaper. So say that the gamer buy both new and old game, so we’ll use an average of 15€ difference.
How many game can do you buy per years. Let’s take a number of 10 games a years (some will buy less, some will buy more), that give us a difference of 150€ per years.
So PC gaming and console gaming cost about the same if you buy 10 (at least 14 games with new prices) games a years. For more games, it’s more advantageous to be a PC gamer.
But I haven’t talked about steam. PC gamers knows very well steam and especially the famous steam sales. 75% off a title that could be only 6 to 12 month old. If the PC gamer mostly buy games on steam sales, during this 5 years, being patient, he will save between 30 and 40€ per games which for a mere 10 games a year amount to 300 to 400€ saving or up to 2000€ saving in the course of 5 years (which he may invest to buy a console or upgrade for its PC, or more game)
No change in that conclusion with the new price
So in reality, PC gaming is far cheaper than console gaming, but the upfront money needed is much higher (a thousand euro for a complete system).
They are many advantages to PC gaming as well, such as mouse aiming, modding community for certain game, access to full internet, easy screen or video capture of game. You can work, study, learn from PC.
Not everything is perfect of course. There are game that we never see in PC (red dead redemption, metal gear solid, halo 3/4, …) and some are delayed on PC (GTA 4 was 8 month late compare to console release).
But I wanted to address the legend that PC gaming is far more expensive than console gaming. It simply is not true, or at least not as bad as most console gamers tend to believe.
I, for one, proudly say that I play more games and spend less money since I switch completely from console to PC gaming. Obviously, you can do both, but the object of the post was to compare both.
Edit: Upgrade Price have been update, i edited in red to make it readble