It’s been a long time since I’ve written an article on this page that is not either a game review or an update for Extra Life, but seeing as I am currently in the middle of multiple games (reviews could be a while), I’ve been itching to change that. And to be honest, this has probably been a long time coming. If you spend any amount of time on gaming sites or in hobbyist youtube channels and the like, you will see some serious ignorance. I think it’s time to do our best to debunk some of the myths we are aware of. Today, I want to start with PC prices.
It is a long-held myth that if you want to game on a PC you better be ready to spend a few thousand dollars on your rig to start playing. And not only that, but every year or two you are going to have to drop even more to upgrade your hardware. As someone who has been building gaming PCs for well over a decade now, I want to tell you this is demonstrably false. But I think it would be better to show you as well as explore how this myth came to be. Let’s start there, in fact.
The origin of this myth is that at one time, it was actually true and I can personally vouch for this. If we go back a little over 20 years to 1995, this was when I started to play with a modern PC (for the time). I had just gotten out of middle-school and saved up everything I could to get my hands on a 486DX2/66 made by Packard Bell… and it cost about $1400 if I remember correctly. Suffice it to say, I did not do this on my own, but this is besides the point. This was at the time one of the last in two forms: last of the 486s as the Pentiums were starting to arrive (the initial batch had some serious computing issues and I wanted nothing to do with it) and the last of the DOS 6.22/Windows 3.11 machines as I did not want to go up to Windows 95 (I was seeing a lot demo PCs that ran Windows 95 games like shit compared to the same hardware on DOS gaming). By those grounds, I would expect this machine to be cheaper then the new ones coming down the line at that moment… and it was STILL that expensive!
And while I did have other uses for this machine (I was upgrading from a hand-me-down XT-clone, so for school work purposes, I already knew Windows was the way to go against my DOS-based word processor), to think that I wasn’t going to play games on it would be ignorant at best. However as a gaming machine, it was INCREDIBLY over-priced. To put this into perspective, at the time, the Sony Playstation had just launched for $300 that year and the N64 was going to launch the next year at $200. Even the Sega Saturn, the most expensive console at the time, was $400, well below the cost of that PC. And this is back in a day when consoles didn't have online fees and it was a shock if your system didn't come with two controllers! Back in this day, PC gaming WAS expensive as hell, especially when you consider both inflation and the cost of consoles in comparison.
Furthermore, the requirements to upgrade also had a time when it was true, if not a few years later. This became a requirement as PCs became easier to build and upgrade yourself around the time of the Pentium 2/3 processors. Back in this day, you generally saw two libraries of games: those for console and those for PC, with little crossing over between. Without any restraint holding back how much PC AAA games could use, it wasn’t uncommon to need to upgrade your video card twice before your 5-year old motherboard and CPU would need to be replaced.
But times do indeed change, and in this case, these are realities that became myths. Even as inflation has gone up, the cost of a modern PC has gone down dramatically, and to the point that you can buy a prebuilt gaming PC for $700 with literally everything you need out of the box which should handle anything you throw at it for many years. If you are willing to do a little more tweaking you could push your performance for a few bucks more between a $600 PC and a relatively cheap graphic card. Or if you are really into the platform, you can set your own price and limits as you build your own machine, and there are many builds for various prices on Youtube to check out. Obviously, this means the gap has cut down dramatically (how so depends on your choices), and that’s BEFORE you consider how much cheaper games are on PC.
And before someone says it is still a lot more expensive then console gaming, it isn’t. Another part of this myth is due to the front-loaded nature of PC gaming. When you buy or build your PC, you are done until you want to change it and you have no extra costs to worry about. However, this also is sadly where this myth dying takes a darker turn, as comparatively, consoles have become alot more about that hidden fee. If you want to play online (and in some cases even talk with friends over the system’s network) be ready to fork over $60 a year. This may not sound like much, but if you expect to be playing that machine for 5 years, that’s an additional $300 you will pay out over time bringing your total cash spent on the machine itself to $600 minimum… a much closer price to the machines above. (And we dont even want to start about Nintendo’s offering coming up in about a month and a half)
And as for upgrades, this has also changed, and I believe it has been because of the merge of AAA gaming to multiplatform. Simply put, these games need to work on all three major platforms to support their budgets, which means being able to work on much lower specs then the PCs and hardware I linked in the above paragraph. You can thank Microsoft for this, believe it or not, as this trend was started due to the original XBox console and various ports that were made from PC to it, including the one and only Half Life 2. As such, the demand to upgrade has dropped to a crawl and really has been crawling since the last generation and putting the final nail into the coffin of this myth.