I have been an avid PC gamer since the late 1980s. I remember the King's Quests, the Ultimas, and the advent of first-person shooters. I also enjoyed the NES, Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, and Gameboy while growing up. When I wasn't doing homework or outside playing with friends, it's safe to say I was gaming. With my hobbyist qualifications out of the way, let's get down to business.
First of all, let's not mix facts. The current-gen XB1 & PS4 consoles are roughly on par with my 3.5 year old mid-range PC. In fact, taking into consideration all of my PC components are overclocked and stable: nVidia GeForce GTX 480, Intel i7 2600k, and 8GB of DDR3 RAM, my aging PC likely exceeds the gaming capabilities of the current year-old consoles.
So then, why would I buy one of these outdated next-gen consoles? Well, the simplest answer is console exclusives. There are games I know I'll want to play that will not be released on PC. However, there is a second, equally important yet more complex answer: less cheating in online console games. PC games don't just push the most triangles and highest pixel count, they also have the highest cheating to legitimate player ratio, a notable spec I would prefer to be without.
Cheating is something that has been around since competition has existed. If there is competition, someone, somewhere will try to cheat. Video games are no different. Being that the PC is the most open of all the gaming platforms, it is, by definition, the easiest to cheat with during online games. One does not need any experience writing programs, modifying hardware, or hacking of any kind. All you need to know is how to open a program and possibly tweak a few settings. You'll then be cheating in a matter of seconds. Consoles, on the other hand, are closed systems that require a level of commitment, understanding, and assumed risk in order to cheat. By no means do I foolishly assert that cheating is absent on consoles. However, the barrier to cheating is significantly higher on a console than on a PC. This is especially true before a console is jailbroken.
As a recent anecdotal example, I will discuss my experiences with cheaters on the PS3 and PC versions of Dark Souls II. Considering both versions of the game are nearly identical and were played under similar conditions, I felt this would help better illustrate the differences between cheating on the PS3 and PC.
I played Dark Souls II on my PS3 at the time of its release. Out of the estimated 500 encounters I had with enemy players, I cannot say with any certainty that a single one of them was cheating. Keep in mind the PS3 had long since been jailbroken, and yet the ratio of cheaters to legitimate players felt incredibly small. It was nice to know my losses against other players were almost always legitimate.
Then, I played the PC release of the same game. I encountered two obvious cheaters within the first 24 hours of the game's launch on Steam. From then on I began to subconsciously suspect that some of my more questionable losses were also the work of cheaters. This was confirmation bias at work, the most substantial drawback of gaming on a platform with just a few too many cheaters. In some instances one simply cannot know if a loss was the result of being legitimately outplayed. Since the PC is completely open, one can tamper with the game in many devious ways.
While there are some measures in place to prevent cheating in both PC and console games, the PC’s methods are generally less effective. A small percentage of games on the Steam platform use Valve Anti-Cheat (VAC), a program which attempts to automatically flag players who tamper with the game's files or memory addresses. While this has been a moderate success for the games that support it, games without such functionality are at the mercy of the programmer's server code to detect and flag suspected players -- if any such code exists. At best, a VAC ban prevents a cheater from playing the specific game tied to the specific account in which he or she was caught cheating. At worst, the VAC software can be circumvented altogether. Conversely, tampering with a Sony or Microsoft console can net one a permanent ban from playing games online with the offending console and/or account. In other words, punishment for cheating on a console can be much more severe than on a PC.
I previously mentioned the PC is a more open platform than consoles. This means PC users can readily access and run tools which allow the dissection of processes and files being run on a PC. As such, one can intercept and change the rules of the game: walking through walls, subtle or ridiculous speed boosts, spoofing client code – the options are practically limitless. The hacker can then release the modified code to the PC gaming public for easy consumption. A console, however, has its processes tucked away much more securely, making it far too difficult for the vast majority of gamers to tamper with or run modified code.
There are other, more nuanced reasons consoles make for a less desirable platform on which to cheat. Monthly subscription fees, (generally) more expensive games, greater personal accountability, and the ease at which current-gen consoles can create video documented encounters all serve as further disincentives to cheat.
Ultimately, it's simply easier to cheat online with a PC than with a Microsoft or Sony console; the PC has shown to be the path of least resistance for would-be cheaters. As such, there will continue to be a higher ratio of cheaters to legitimate players on PC than the other platforms.
In closing, I’d like to remind you there may be a vocal minority of gamers who will attempt to discredit me in order to protect their favored gaming platform – or their egos. They will claim I’m wrong, don’t know what I’m talking about, or provide disingenuous anecdotes of their own which contradict mine. With a small enough sample pool, practically any result is possible. However, most anyone who has been cross-platform gaming for any significant amount of time would agree: cheating on PCs is much more prevalent and widespread than on any other platform. All you need to do in order to prove it is spend some time playing online.