I am a doctoral student in Cultural Anthropology, with a bachelor's in English & Creative Writing. I specialize in subcultures and cognition.
I love gaming, and I have followed the industry and its technology since I was a kid in the 80's. I have gamed primarily on PC since 2000, though I still follow console news and hardware as well. I was also a sales associate at Micro Center for a while, which was a great experience and got me into PC hardware.
I worked as a mapper and beta tester for the mod Action Half-Life. My maps, most of which have vanilla Half-Life Deathmatch versions, are available on my website.
I'm getting tired of people telling me how expensive PC gaming is. If it was, I'm pretty sure I'd know, seeing as I've been a PC gamer for 15 years. So I decided to write a blog to set the record straight.
To that end, I thought I'd see what building a from-scratch new PC might look like for me on a budget, but with the aim of outgunning the PS4/One as well. This is a very quick and dirty build I'm throwing together in just an hour or so. There might be issues with it, but it should still serve to give a good idea, price-wise, what the initial cost of a (nice) new gaming PC would be.
My own PC. That humongous Antec server case was about $150... but I've had it 11 years...!
Three quick notes about overall costs before we start, though:
a) A PC gamer reuses parts. I'm still using the case and 2.1 speakers I bought 11 years ago. After the first investment, you never have to buy everything at once ever again.
b) A PC isn't just for gaming. You have to think of it as pooling your computer budget and your console budget into one machine. That isn't practical for everyone, which is cool. But don't buy a $600 desktop PC and a $400 console and tell me $1000 for a gaming PC is too expensive. Also, a gaming PC is more powerful than a generic PC- so the $$ you invest in it for gaming pays off in having a fast, powerful PC for every task.
c) Games on PC are cheaper. This should be considered in any long-term price equation. If you like to buy your games (vs rent) that savings adds up rapidly. I'm not just talking Steam sales, either.
Arkham Origins on PS3 = $60+tax, so about $66 Arkham Origins on PC = $50, no tax. Plus GMG gives you a $8 cash back or $12 credit toward another game.
Assuming you just take the cash back, you only pay $42 on PC. That's a $24 price difference on one game. And you often get even better discounts, or games simply release for less on PC.
These three things are important, because comparing the price of a gaming PC to a console is an apples and oranges kind of thing. Obviously a PS4 is cheaper than a gaming PC if you are starting from scratch and comparing prices directly. But a PS4 would be kinda shit for writing this blog on, or editing all the images that are in it, or researching hardware prices with 12 tabs open in Firefox.
The Castlevania demo on PC. It's shiny. (I need filler pics, okay?!)
Anyway. There are some recent build guides on sites like Ars Technica. While my own PC is an upgraded version of Ars' budget build from a few years ago, I don't agree with their current build choices. So I'm making my own, based specifically on surpassing the next-gen consoles.
This is not the cheapest PC you could possibly build for gaming. You could easily shave $200 off and still have a solid machine. But I'm building one with a bit of headroom. Often it's worth that extra $20 here or there to get a component that will be useful longer. Also, if you buy parts over a period of time (even a month) you may be able to get better deals, or better parts for the same price. I'm just using Newegg as it is today, though Amazon isn't bad, especially if you have Prime to cover shipping.
$159.99 AMD FX-8320 Vishera 3.5GHz (4.0GHz Turbo) Eight-Core Processor * Why an 8-core AMD when everyone recommends 4-core Intels? Because future games will use more than 4 hardware threads, especially with next-gen consoles having 6-8 AMD CPU cores. Intel CPUs run better in current-gen games (4 threads max on them) if you have a high-end video card, but the 8-core AMDs are more future-proof imo and won't bottleneck a mid-range video card.
$259.99 GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 760 2GB 256-bit GDDR5 Video Card * These bad boys just came out and are quite kick-ass for the price (reviews are excellent). They beat out everything else in the price-range, and should tromp the GPUs in the PS4/One. My only reservation is that I'd prefer 3GB of video ram. If you aren't buying till this Fall, though, there may be 3GB versions of this or other cards. And AMD's new cards still haven't dropped. The price for this card will probably drop when they do, you'll probably be able to get one for just a little over $200 then.
$69.99 Seagate 1TB 7200RPM 64MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5" Hard Drive * 1TB is the minimum you'd want for a PC, since you need to do full game installs. Don't waste money on an SSD, a regular hard drive will give you very fast load times and more capacity. It's still much faster than the 2.5" laptop drives consoles use.
$15.99 ASUS DVD/CD Writer * You'll barely use it, but you still should probably get one. There are Bluray drives for PC, but they are a pain (you need special software to play movies). Better to buy a cheap Bluray player and hook it to your monitor if you want BD playback.
$99.99 Windows 7 64-bit OEM or Windows 8 64-bit OEM * Most of us like Win7 better, but at this point I'd probably go with 8 for future-proofing as the next version of DX11 will have features only supported in 8. Either way, make sure to get the 64-bit version. The 32-bit can't properly use over 3-4GB of RAM. Btw, if you are a college student you can probably get this free.
$854.91 Probably more like $950 with tax and some shipping.
That's about what I'd go for if I was building a system from scratch right now. You could cut that down considerably with a cheaper video card, for example, and by going a little cheaper here and there on the case, power supply, etc. But I wanted to build a system that was a good investment, would exceed the next-gen consoles, and be easy to upgrade.
Obviously this doesn't include things like a monitor, speakers, a mouse, a keyboard, a headset, a 360 controller, etc. Those would probably add about $200 assuming you owned none of them already. I was going to itemize those, but this is getting a bit long as it is lol. Again, many of those items you'll keep for a very long time.
Let's put it in perspective, though. Say you were going to buy a pretty average PC, because, well, you need one to post stuff on Destructoid, right?!
$498Dell Inspiron 660s * Yeah, you could spend less or more. And it's just a tower, so like our build you still need a monitor etc.
$400-$500 for your PS4 or Xbox One
You're already at $900. That gets you a mediocre PC and a pretty decent console.
Which is the best way to go? It really depends on you, and your situation in terms of finances, needs, and interest in hardware.
If you can put the money into the initial investment, and will use the PC for more than gaming, a gaming PC is a good deal. Once you have a system, upgrades are typically gradual and you can reuse the parts you have. Plus you'll get great deals on games, and a very fast regular PC to boot.
If you don't have the money for the initial investment, or prefer a laptop to a desktop, or just don't need a new PC yeah, it might not make sense for you. And hey, that's just fine. The new consoles, especially the PS4, look pretty damn good.
What I want to show, though, is that for many PC gamers it is actually cheaper in the long term for us and very practical. We are people who already use our PC a lot and would like it to be fast. So we'd already be buying pretty good systems. And we also save a lot of money over time because games are much cheaper on PC.
While you do see people spending a lot of money on gaming PCs, either pre-built like Alienware or overdoing it on their own system, none of that is necessary. A pretty modest gaming PC will get you performance better than consoles, access to cheap games, and a great system that's fast as hell for everything else. I think Alienware has done more to damage PC gaming than anyone else. Their overpriced systems are all console gamers see. If all you saw were advertisements for $150,000 cars, you'd probably assume you couldn't afford a car at all, right?
Anyway, I hope that clears things up a bit. Gaming on PC is not for everyone, but for some of us it's a fantastic deal in terms of price and performance. And if you see us talking a lot about console hardware, too, it's because we like gaming hardware of every kind!
Another Castlevania pic! Don't pics make bland tech blogs exciting? I think so!