Is It Enough?

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We asked a few days ago whether a 2.8 or 2.9GHz Hammer would be good enough for them to upgrade.

A bit less than half indicated that, yes, that was good enough to get them to upgrade.

For the rest, they were more or less evenly divided into three major camps:

Unintentional sticker shock: Many have been taken aback at the price tag for an upgrade to a Hammer system, but not for the reason you might think. They aren’t turned off so much by the price of AMD processors and motherboards as they are by the cost of such items plus an expensive video card. It’s too big a chunk to take in one swallow.

What is also of interest in this group is that if it comes down to a choice between a processor/mobo or a video card, they’re going to choose the video card.

In the past, in similiar surveys, I have rarely seen people flat-out say, “I can’t afford this at the moment.” That comment came up rather more often this time around, not saying it was said a whole lot, but more than in the past.

It’s hardly news to note that many computer hobbyists tend to upgrade their equipment one or two pieces at a time, no doubt often based on their cash flow. Unfortunately, going from an Athlon XP to the latest Hammer/nForce4 system means upgrading both platform and video, and that means a sizable chunk of change.

Might As Well Wait For Dual-Cores There was more interest in skipping Athlon Es and waiting a bit longer for dual-cores to show up, but it wasn’t what I’d call an enthusiastic interest. It’s not like people generally expect a miracle, it’s more like “Dual cores probably won’t help a lot for quite a while, but they could help enough to slide me off the sidelines.

Already Have, Not Buying Another Finally, we have those who have already bought a Hammer system. While some regretted buying sooner rather than later, most said, “My system is fine, no need to get faster.”

Paying More Less Often

One noteworthy trend in the answers was the near-disappearance of the “disposable CPU” attitude so prevalent during the XP era. Enthusiasts aren’t so enthusiastic about paying something north of $150 for a CPU multiple times. Once, yes, but that’s pretty much it. AMD may well end up getting more money from the average sale, but will end up with far fewer sales.

Granted, AMD would probably prefer one $200 sale to three $70 sales, but this will hurt their unit sales somewhat.

However, what will probably hurt the pace and type of Hammer upgrading more is the shift of priority and resources from CPUs to video cards. At this point in time, people are finding themselves spending rather more on video, which leaves them rather less to spend on other improvements. It is not much of an exaggeration to say that high video card prices are beginning to cannibalize other upgrading expenses.

While Semprons really haven’t shown up on the radar yet (they still cost close to the same as 130nm low-end Athlon 64s), lower prices and the addition of x86-64 may change that view in the next few months), as people try to economize on the platform while feeding the video monster.

Or people will start finding the new generation of consoles a lot more interesting.

This is something I don’t think the computer manufacturers realize. Over the last year or two, they’ve acted as if gamers were a captive market willing to lay out lots more money than they did in the past for their ride, so prices have skyrocketed.

While there’s certainly some who fit that bill, what seems to be happening is that the lower-end of the market is being gutted. People who are not single, in their mid-to-late twenties, with decent disposable income, are slowly being pushed out of the market: both at the very young and very old end.

For now, people are trying to juggle resources to meet higher costs, but in the long run, if this keeps up, they’re just going to throw up their hands and buy consoles. Given the likely capacities of these consoles, if the price gap between those consoles and gaming PCs stays big or gets even wider, many of the young console users may not “graduate” to a PC later on.

In the long run, that may kill the gaming goose that lays the golden eggs.

Ed

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