Most people probably associate PC gaming with cutting-edge performance, graphics, and hardware. Yet, if you take all of that away, there’s a long list of remaining reasons why PC gaming is fantastic and worth your time to try out.
Most Gaming PCs are Modest
It should be unsurprising that most PC gamers do not spend $5000 on their PC builds, and you won’t find many people in the real world with these prestigious machines. It’s very similar to buying a car. While supercars exist, almost every person who drives a car doesn’t have one. They represent the pinnacle of what’s possible but not what most people use in the real world.
Thanks to the Steam Hardware survey, there are data to support this as well. The top-tier RTX 3090 GPU from Nvidia represents a mere 0.48% of the PCs surveyed by Steam. The more “mainstream” high-end GPU, the RTX 3070 Ti, only accounts for 0.28%. Meanwhile, 2016’s mid-range darling, the GTX 1060, represents just short of 9% of surveyed Steam users.
The first ten cards on the list would all be considered mid-range or lower by today’s standards, but they represent about 42% of all cards surveyed. The rest of the list shows us a smattering of high-end cards and then mostly even older GPUs. The CPU charts tell much the same story, and the bottom line is that most PC gamers are not playing on particularly powerful computers.
Any of the current generation consoles, even the humble $299 Xbox Series S, would put most of the computers on the Steam survey to shame. So why bother with PC gaming at all? We’re glad you asked!
Any PC Can Be a Gaming PC
While we tend to think of “gaming PCs” as those machines purpose-built for AAA gaming goodness, any computer can play videos games. For any PC you can point at, there’s a library of games that will run well on it. They may be older titles and they may need to run at lower detail settings, but that takes nothing away from how much fun you can have with a PC. Plenty of people own a PC for a purpose other than gaming, but there’s no harm in trying out a few PC games that have minimum requirements within reach of your system.
The Open PC Games Market Rules!
There’s no argument that console hardware is an absolute steal for the asking price. There’s no way to build a $500 computer that comes anywhere close to something like the PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X.
On the software side of things, it’s very different. Console games are sold through a walled-garden store. There is only one place to buy digital games, and that’s the console maker’s storefront. Therefore, on the digital side of games, at least, there is no price competition.
PC gamers enjoy virtually total freedom of choice when it comes to buying digital games. There are several independent storefronts to choose from, and they are all in competition with one another. You can see this in how aggressively each seller tries to bring in new customers. Steam is famous for its massive sales events, where video game prices are cut to the bone. The Epic Games Store gives away free games every week with no commitment from the buyer. Good Old Games sells their titles with no copy protection so that you can make your own independent backups.
A PC may cost more than a console upfront, but if you look at the opportunities to buy the games you want at the lowest prices, the upfront investment pays for itself quickly.
The Best Backwards Compatibility
There’s a new appreciation for older games in the console gaming world. The latest consoles all offer some form of backward compatibility so players can experience the best games from days gone by. The catch is that you need the cooperation of the console maker or game developer to make older games compatible with new systems.
On PC, it’s almost always possible to work out a way to get old games running on new systems. It may take a little work, but where there’s a will, there’s a way. Best of all, you don’t have to figure it all out yourself. Like so many things in PC gaming, there’s a community of people out there who have the answer to almost any problem.
Whether through virtual machines, emulation, or a few simple tweaks and patches, you’ll get the chance to play classic, obscure, and hit games on your PC without needing to ask anyone’s permission.
Anyone Can Make or Sell a Game on PC
If you want to create a video game and sell it to PC gamers you can simply code your game, upload it to your own website and then sell it directly to anyone. In practice, most developers choose to sell and promote their games through a major software platform like Steam, but the point is they don’t have to. There’s no censorship, no curation process, or anything that can stop someone from putting their game out there for gamers who want to play it and that’s an incredibly fundamental freedom to enjoy.
PC gaming is the home of video game modding. If players want to expand a game or turn it into something completely different, they can. Sometimes developers formally support modding, but even when they don’t it doesn’t take long for someone to figure out how to modify their favorite title.
Modding has come to select titles on console (such as Skyrim), but it’s nothing compared to the sheer scope and variety of PC game mods.
There are Many PC Form Factors
There’s one more noteworthy aspect of PC gaming that’s often overlooked. PCs come in all shapes and sizes and that versatility makes them suitable for a wide variety of gamers. You can build or buy a hulking tower case with water cooling pipes and more lighting than the Vegas Strip, but you can also build a tiny small form factor system packed with powerful parts. Gaming laptops, even gaming ultrabooks, let you combine your on-the-go work machine with a full-fat gaming system. Specialist manufacturers, such as GPD, can build PCs into a handheld form factor. Even Valve, creators of Steam, is getting in on the action with the Steam Deck.
This means you can get the gaming system that you want instead of a single mass-produced design. You can create something that fits your lifestyle and needs perfectly and that doesn’t need to include bleeding-edge technology. Just the technology to let you play how you want to.
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