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Do you need to pay to play online on PC?

No, online multiplayer gaming is completely free on PCs. All you need is an internet connection to enjoy free online play.

Online Gaming Growth and Popularity

Online gaming has exploded in popularity, with over 3 billion players globally according to a report by Limelight Networks. The PC platform represents the largest portion of online gamers worldwide. This presents an awesome opportunity to jump into PC gaming, since the multiplayer experience is free and more vibrant than ever.

Global Online Gamers

Platform # of online gamers
PC 1.5 billion
Console 781 million
Mobile 957 million

As you can see, PCs have by far the most players actively gaming online. The variety of games and genres available also exceeds consoles.

Growth of Online Gaming

The online gaming market has seen exponential growth in recent years. A few stats:

  • Global online gaming revenue was $175 billion in 2021, up from $107 billion in 2017.
  • There were over 3 billion online gamers worldwide in 2021, up from 2.5 billion in 2017.
  • The market is forecast to grow at a 9% compound annual growth rate through 2025.

This rapid growth means game developers are heavily investing in online experiences across PC, console and mobile. There‘s never been a better time to jump in.

Why is Online Gaming Free on PC?

Unlike consoles like PlayStation and Xbox, there are no fees required for online play on PC platforms like Steam, Epic Games Store, Origin, Uplay etc.

As your tech-savvy friend, let me explain why this is the case:

Open Platform

PC is an open platform that anyone can develop for. Developers can create and run multiplayer servers for their games independently without any platform holder involvement or fees.

By contrast, closed console platforms are tightly controlled by Sony/Microsoft. All servers and online infrastructure have to go through them.

Revenue Sources

Console makers subsidize the hardware costs by collecting online subscription fees. But for PC platforms, online services are provided for free by the developers.

Instead, digital game stores like Steam make money by taking a 30% cut of game sales. This means they earn more revenue by making online play free to grow their userbase.

Expectations of PC Gamers

There is an expectation among PC gamers that online play should be free. Attempts to charge a subscription by some platforms have failed. Keeping online play free attracts more users and game sales.

So in summary, the openness, business models and user expectations around PC gaming have kept multiplayer free. This gives PC a huge advantage for gamers.

Popular Free Online PC Games

One of the best parts of gaming on PC is the sheer variety of high-quality free online multiplayer games available across different genres:

MOBAs

  • Dota 2 (over 700,000 concurrent players)
  • League of Legends (over 3 million peak concurrent players)
  • Heroes of the Storm

Shooters

  • Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (over 500,000 concurrent players)
  • Valorant
  • Apex Legends
  • Destiny 2
  • Warframe

Battle Royales

  • Fortnite (over 9 million peak concurrent players)
  • PUBG
  • Call of Duty Warzone

RPGs

  • Genshin Impact (over 2 million peak concurrent players)
  • Path of Exile
  • Neverwinter

Card Games

  • Hearthstone
  • Legends of Runeterra

Strategy

  • Starcraft 2
  • Age of Empires II Definitive Edition

And many more! Nearly every multiplayer game on PC is free-to-play, with only optional cosmetic purchases. So there‘s tons of variety to choose from.

Building a Gaming PC

One advantage of PC gaming is being able to customize your setup. So let‘s discuss what you‘ll need for a gaming PC build:

Components

Here are the core components and typical costs:

Component Starting Cost
GPU – Nvidia RTX 3060 $330
CPU – AMD Ryzen 5 5600X $200
Motherboard – B550 $110
RAM – 16GB DDR4 $60
SSD – 512GB $50
PSU – 750W $80
Case $70
**Total Cost** **$900**

This gives you a very capable mid-range build capable of running any multiplayer game smoothly. You can adjust components based on your budget.

Aim to allocate around 40% of your budget to the graphics card as it‘s most important for gaming.

Building Tips

Here are some quick tips from my experience:

  • Watch build tutorials on YouTube to learn proper assembly.
  • Ensure all parts are compatible before buying.
  • Don‘t skimp on the power supply (PSU). Get an 80+ Bronze or better certified model.
  • Budget an extra $100 for Windows 10/11, mouse, keyboard etc.
  • Aim for an SSD boot drive rather than just a hard disk for much faster load times.

Let me know if you need any help picking parts or troubleshooting! I‘m always happy to help friends build their dream gaming PC.

Comparing Costs – PC vs Console

When considering the long-term costs, PC gaming is generally cheaper than consoles:

PC Console
Upfront hardware cost $800-$1500 for a good gaming PC $500 for console
Online play Free $60 yearly for PS Plus/Xbox Live
Game prices Frequent discounts up to 90% on digital stores Rare discounts, new games $60-$70
Lifespan Upgradeable piece-by-piece Buying a new console every 5-6 years

While PC gaming has a higher upfront investment, you save a lot long-term without recurring online fees and super cheap games. Consoles are simpler to use, but offer less value to serious gamers.

Maximizing Gaming Performance

Here are some tips from my experience for getting the best FPS and smoothest online gaming experience on PC:

Wired Ethernet Connection

For competitive online games, use a wired ethernet connection rather than WiFi whenever possible. This greatly reduces ping and prevents bandwidth issues that can cause lag spikes.

Close Unnecessary Programs

Make sure to close any programs running in the background that aren‘t needed like web browsers. This frees up more system resources for your game.

Game Mode

Enable Game Mode in Windows 10/11 to prioritize CPU and memory for your game rather than background processes.

Update Drivers

Ensure your GPU drivers in particular are updated to the latest available version for best performance.

Tweak In-game Settings

Adjust in-game graphics settings to optimize FPS – lower resolutions, turn off vertical sync, reduce shadows etc.

Let me know if you have any other specific questions on maximizing your PC‘s gaming capabilities!

Finding Free Games

Here are some tips for discovering great free PC games:

  • Check the free-to-play sections on digital stores like Steam, Epic Games Store, Origin etc. You can filter by various genres.
  • Follow deal sites and subreddits like r/GameDeals to find limited-time free game promotions. Various stores give away free games quite frequently.
  • Look up lists of "best free PC games" which are updated frequently as new titles release. Try both multiplayer and single-player genres.
  • Check free bundle promotions like Amazon Prime Gaming which offer a rotating selection of free PC games and in-game content each month with a Prime subscription.
  • Consider free-to-play mobile games like Genshin Impact and PUBG Mobile which also have PC versions. Linking your account allows cross-platform play.

With some digging, you‘ll be amazed at the selection of fun free games available on PC spanning all genres. Let me know if you want any specific recommendations!

Getting Started with PC Gaming

If you‘re new to PC gaming, here are some steps I recommend:

Get a Powerful PC

Ideally build your own gaming desktop (covered earlier) if you want maximum performance for the cost. A gaming laptop works too if you prefer portability.

Install Digital Stores

Create accounts on popular digital gaming stores like Steam, Epic Games, Origin, Uplay etc. This gives you access to their libraries of games, both free and paid.

Download Games

Browse for and download any games that interest you. Multiplayer games are 100% free!

Optimize Internet Connection

For the smoothest online gaming experience, connect your PC directly to your WiFi router using an Ethernet cable if possible. Or position your PC closer to the router.

Join Communities

Engage with gaming communities on platforms like Discord and Reddit to find people to play with. Gaming with friends makes it much more fun!

Let me know if you have any other questions getting started. I‘m always happy to help out fellow gaming enthusiasts. Have fun!