Who Are These People?

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We now live in a day where a $350 CPU is called a bargain.

We now live in a day where people eagerly await a “broken” $450 video card, and the makers really want you to pick up two.

That may be a downright bargain compared to the talk of future $1,200 cards.

We now live in a day where magazines put together $13,000 “dream machines” that don’t do a whole lot better than those that cost 10-15% as much.

Did you all get rich when I wasn’t looking? Somehow I doubt that.

Who is buying this stuff????

I mean, really, who are they? Where are they? They can’t be in the usual geek spots because outside of an occasional exception here and there, nobody is laying out this kind of money for their equipment.

However, they can’t just be a freakish phenomenon giving all the time and effort being spent building this luxury equipment. Just the other day, you had Dell give the bird to Intel’s motherboard division just because Intel didn’t come up with a true dual x16 SLI motherboard fast enough for their XPS line.

Somebody has to be buying these things.

We Have Met The Enemy

It would be one thing if the emergence of luxury computers had as much effect on the prices of regular computers as the price tag of the latest luxury car had on the price of a Ford Taurus. Namely, none.

However, that’s not the case, not the case at all. Prices for good equipment are now a lot higher than they were two years ago.

Why is that? I think nVidia’s comment the other day was instructive, that pricing these days isn’t based on the actual cost of the items, but rather what they think people will pay for it.

So Mr. Spouting-Money-Like-A-Broken-Hydrant isn’t just draining his wallet, he’s draining yours, too, by encouraging manufacturers to assume that you’re all twenty/thirty-somethings with apparently little to no interest in anything non-virtual who need somebody to relieve them of troublesome excess cash.

The damage isn’t that you’ll go out and spend $13,000 for a system. The damage comes from you putting out an extra hundred here, an extra hundred there because you don’t think you have a choice in the matter.

Does It Really Matter?

There’s an article of faith among gamers (well, at least the gamer equipment manufacturers) at least as solid as the divinity of Christ is to the average Christian: Hardware matters.

Does it? Does it really? Obviously, you’re going to be faced with real handicaps trying to play the most popular/demanding games today with a GF3 video card. However, that doesn’t mean you don’t stand a chance if you don’t have an SLI setup with two 7800GTXs.

At what point does it just become eye candy, and expensive eye candy at that?

For sure, you’ll see the top/professional competitors loaded to the silicon gills, but how much of that is need, and how much is marketing trying to convince you that you have to have it?

Even if there’s a case to be made at the very top that any edge counts, is that as applicable for the other 99%+ of gamers? If you have the response time and tactical skills of a rock, isn’t that your problem?

This is the kind of testing folks ought to be doing these days. Unfortunately, it’s the sort of testing that requires a research grant to do right, and believe me, the people making the equipment will get intimate with elephants before they’d ever fund something like that.

What Can Be Done About It?

Obviously, you can’t stop people from spending money. However, that doesn’t mean nothing can be done.

Peer pressure is one possibility. While one should never underestimate the human capacity for self-praise, if spending outrageous amounts of money were considered to be decidedly uncool, and those who did so were regularly flamed for it, this might help a bit.

OK, maybe you need a bigger stick than that.:) Fortunately, there is one.

What is the main purpose of loading up for bear these days? To beat up on people who aren’t so loaded. If gaming competition were split up into classes based on equipment, though, you could solve much of this problem in one fell swoop.

Want to spend $10,000 on your rig? Fine, then you’ll compete against those in the same weight class, and not beat up on technological cripples. Can’t spend more than $750 on yours? Compete against those equivalently-equipped.

It ought not be terribly difficult for gaming servers to do hardware checks to see where someone signing on would fit in. Nor would it be difficult to allow aspiring future gaming stars to choose to compete in equipment classes above their weight class. You just couldn’t compete below your weight class.

If some gaming systems were set up this way, the overall community would reap several advantages.

First, it would reduce the perceived need to “keep up with the Joneses” in order to be able to play at all. Second, it would keep more gamers around if the felt imperative to “upgrade or drop out” weren’t so strong. I often get emails from people telling me, “I used to game a lot, but then I got married, and I have better things to spend my money on.” In the long run, it would be better to keep those kinds of folks around rather than making gaming the equivalent of a singles bar without women.

Finally, with such a setup, we might actually begin to get a good idea as to how much (or little) equipment really counts in competition.

Of course, the computer hardware establishment will hardly like this idea, but then, they wouldn’t, would they?

If anybody doing game serving wants to try out this idea, be my guest. No charge. 🙂

Ed

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Discussion
  1. My voodoo 2 was about 300CAD at the time

    I can not get a midrange part for 300 CAD now.

    inflation lowers the doallar a few % per year

    Its not something we really need to factor in, as price has gone up and not down


    I don't know what you consider a mid-range card. You can pick up a 6600gt for 240 CDN or less. I would still consider that a mid-range card. And to be honest, this price point has stayed the same for all generations. I bought a GF2 GTS, a GF4 TI 4200 and my 6600GT all for roughly the same price while waiting a bit to purchase them. All were mid range cards at the time. As well, I paid the same price for my P4 1.6a Northwood as I did for my P4 530J 3.0 Ghz. And as we all note, both Ram and HD prices have significantly decreased. I think the video card market is still somewhat questionable, at least with respect to the high-end market. I can accept paying 200-300 (Cdn) for a video card every few years. But 500-600 for top tier that will plummet in price after a year? No.

    However, while mid-range CPU prices seem okay, I also think CPU manufactures are running a crooked operation as well. The moment I got my 530J, I overclocked it to 4 ghz at a slightly higher voltage and it's totally stable after testing. The price difference was more than double for the 3.8ghz chip at the time. (A 4ghz chip didn't exist). I think paying hundreds for a .2ghz increase in CPU speed that you are almost gauranteed to get with a slight overclock in the case of P4's, is silly.

    Similarily, like AudioAfficionado, I go for bang for the buck. I don't care if I don't have the top of the line equipment, so long as I know I am 80% of the way to the best, spending 50% less. That's a good tradeoff, and is the same in consumer electronics as well.
    Inflation has been very low for the last several years if you trust the government figures. Just look at the price of gold over the last ten years to see how stable currency has been. Gold is fairly stable relative to other commodities. As people lose faith in currency (it's just paper with no gold backing) the price of gold goes up. So I'd say we're a bit inflated right now. (but not my wages :()
    Just an off the wall question. Has anyone adjusted prices for inflation? Just curious how much "real" difference there is.


    My voodoo 2 was about 300CAD at the time

    I can not get a midrange part for 300 CAD now.

    inflation lowers the doallar a few % per year

    Its not something we really need to factor in, as price has gone up and not down
    I worked for TARA Labs making amps, cables, etc that sold for thousands each. The profit margins were 100:1. Both owners are multi millionaires. They got greedy and started picking off the contry of origin stickers and selling them as if they were completely made in the USA with cutting edge technology. Well once the FEDs busted them, the people realized that the Emporer's new cloths were in fact just his birthday suit LOL. Those Chinese made cables are just as good as ones made here but the high-end buyers won't pay that much for the same quality unless it's got bragging rights. If you pay more than what Radio Shack sells their Gold Series for, you are getting ripped.


    Good post, and this part I thought was pretty interesting, though not surprising. I'm probably an even bigger audio guy than I am a computer guy.

    It's tough to tell some audiophiles that the price of the gear is high for the invisible thread instead of special audiophile components and design and such.
    I'd say Ed is more in touch with reality than most of his detractors in this thread.

    Heck I spent over $3k for the Micron PPro200 in my sig back in 97 when I earned much less and dollars were worth more.

    My Xeon duallie cost less than that (not much) and it will stay up to speed for at least five more years. It's a way over the top desktop/workstation but I love the response I get when using it for pretty much anything I want to run.

    It does seem like a rip and it is in reality. Even so, the market works on supply and demand. Even if you are among a large group of oil companies who can manipulate the supply to keep prices up. Same goes for the contries who have the oil. And the computer/audiophile electonics companies.

    If you want the high-end, you'll either have to pay their asking price or figure out a cheaper way to get the best bang for the buck. DIY is one way.

    I worked for TARA Labs making amps, cables, etc that sold for thousands each. The profit margins were 100:1. Both owners are multi millionaires. They got greedy and started picking off the contry of origin stickers and selling them as if they were completely made in the USA with cutting edge technology. Well once the FEDs busted them, the people realized that the Emporer's new cloths were in fact just his birthday suit LOL. Those Chinese made cables are just as good as ones made here but the high-end buyers won't pay that much for the same quality unless it's got bragging rights. If you pay more than what Radio Shack sells their Gold Series for, you are getting ripped.

    I got a 6600GTO for less than $200 because it was ¾ of the performance of the 6800GT for ½ the price. It wasn't the best but close enough for me to pull the trigger without any buyer remorse.

    BTW those benchies aren't linear but heavily weighted/inflated to make the top dawgs look like they are stomping us a lot worse preformance wise than they really are.

    I'd love to have the best of the best but I don't have the bux to play with the rich boys. So I shop hard and DYI everything I can to get great high-end quality stuff for a fraction of the price of the Stereophile ad supporters.

    I design and build my own speakers and electronics where there is money to be saved or I can't get very specificly exactly what I want. Same for computers.

    Maybe Ed's on a rant but he's right about how they lure people to spend more than they really should.

    That's why I don't need to get the cutting edge but I will wait and get the better designs once it's in the #2 posistion. I think the 7800 is more like the 6600 in design efficiency. So I'll upgrad to the GTX once it gets to where I think I can justify the expenditure to myself. $500 is still too much for me but <$300 might be worth it. Look at the prices of 3D pro cards. They've always been high.

    I'll get an X2 and 7800GTX sometime next year after all the rich guys who need the bragging rights are done at the feeding trough and have moved on to the next new toy ;)

    We are all entitled to our POVs so let's not get too emmotional in this thread.
    By 2-3 years ago I'm leaning more towards the 3 years part in the GF 4 series, and in the 2 years part more towards the ATI 9700 stuff, when they first started competing with with nVidia and carving out decent market share.

    I do look at AA/AF as part of "max settings" now-a-days, but that wasn't really my main point.

    Main point is more in terms of what things could be versus what they are. I'll try this other way to explain it...

    Okay, lets say at any point in history or now you could suddenly introduce a new, highly competitive company into the market that pretty much had access to standard technology of the day but nothing special. If we did, would things change for the consumer much?

    Lets take the GF 4/9700 range of days...would some other company been able to come in and give us a better product for less money? Probably not. The cards of the day were good cards with largely cost driven prices. Where could they cut in? The prices on the very top end might have been able to be beaten by $50 or so, but that's about it. They wouldn't be able to change much and still make money without having some sort of superior technology available.

    What about now? It would change everything. This fictional company would come flying into the middle price market with a bunch of higher end features and performance. ATI and nVidia would do the same in reaction to stay competitive. And, the prices on the ultra-high end would probably drop to around $300 because they wouldn't be perceived as worth the several hundred extra for just incremental performance gains. No superior technology needed, just cut-throat business tactics.

    That's how you know if things are better or worse market wise. Tech wise, we are absolutely better...we always will be short of some world changing event. The sad part is that we don't need this fictional company to come along. We just need consumer behavior to be different. We need the equivalent of new car shoppers who know what invoice really is and are determined to not get screwed.


    well said
    Thanks for the greetings!

    John, if you're trying to say that extra features like AA/AF should be considered as part of 'max details' settings (I think that's what you're getting at?) then you have a point and I agree to an extent. However, let's talk about specifics. You mention 2-3 years ago was relatively a better time than now, but I'm not seeing it. That was the time of R3xx and NV3x. The NV3x cards were NOT a good deal at any marget segment - cards like 59xx couldn't even run all contemporary games at high resolutions with good fps, while cards like 5700 were just ass. Ass for ~$200msrp mind you. ATI's offerings in 9700/9800pro were much better, but there were not cheap, and did not improve much from generation to generation. For over a year and a half, ATI basically used the 9700pro to lead the market. The performance increase to 9800pro was 15% tops, and to 9800xt even less. You just didn't see jumps like 100% that we saw with 6800/x800 lines, and now 40-50% with the 7800.

    I was a poor college student in those days and couldn't afford to shell out $300+ for them, and 9800xt stayed at nearly $400 all the way until R420. I had to scout and buy a 9800non-pro with 2.2ns samsung memory on ebay and flash it to a pro, and even that amazing deal cost me ~$230. Having owned a 6800gt, I can say for a fact that at $250 it is now, it gives at least as much in today's games as the 9800pro did in games 2-3 years ago. My personal feeling is that hardware is outpacing software requirements so quickly that the level of what's 'necessary' has been left in the dust and we essentially have a new marget segment for ultra-high performance that never existed before; and that carries a price premium. However, it's not driving the prices for segments below it up.


    By 2-3 years ago I'm leaning more towards the 3 years part in the GF 4 series, and in the 2 years part more towards the ATI 9700 stuff, when they first started competing with with nVidia and carving out decent market share.

    I do look at AA/AF as part of "max settings" now-a-days, but that wasn't really my main point.

    Main point is more in terms of what things could be versus what they are. I'll try this other way to explain it...

    Okay, lets say at any point in history or now you could suddenly introduce a new, highly competitive company into the market that pretty much had access to standard technology of the day but nothing special. If we did, would things change for the consumer much?

    Lets take the GF 4/9700 range of days...would some other company been able to come in and give us a better product for less money? Probably not. The cards of the day were good cards with largely cost driven prices. Where could they cut in? The prices on the very top end might have been able to be beaten by $50 or so, but that's about it. They wouldn't be able to change much and still make money without having some sort of superior technology available.

    What about now? It would change everything. This fictional company would come flying into the middle price market with a bunch of higher end features and performance. ATI and nVidia would do the same in reaction to stay competitive. And, the prices on the ultra-high end would probably drop to around $300 because they wouldn't be perceived as worth the several hundred extra for just incremental performance gains. No superior technology needed, just cut-throat business tactics.

    That's how you know if things are better or worse market wise. Tech wise, we are absolutely better...we always will be short of some world changing event. The sad part is that we don't need this fictional company to come along. We just need consumer behavior to be different. We need the equivalent of new car shoppers who know what invoice really is and are determined to not get screwed.
    Thier is a MAJOR difference between now and Voodoo 2 days.

    I was a poor high school kid when i saved all smmer to get mine for $300 CAD.

    And i could run EVERY game with all the eye candy at 800x600

    My Rage 3D could run Quake 2 in GL mode also. But i was stuck with low frame rates and a buggy 3D card.

    Now for 300 i can get a 9800Pro or a 6600 GT

    They cant run Modern Games with full detail

    This is the difference
    You easily get as much in current titles today from affordable cards as you did at any other time, the difference now is that you have more choice.


    Welcome to the forums Com.

    I absolutely agree. We never had this much choice before. I'm satisified with previous generation technology. I get killer deals off people who go High-End, and then six months later sell to me because they want the next best thing.

    It's like buying new cars. Why buy new when you can get used. Likewise, why get the latest greatest most expensive thing out there when you can pay a mainstream price for good technology.
    Well looking at this from the manufacture's point of view why make handful of diffrent video cards every generation (expensive less profit) when you can make one main line of cards and just take away features from it for cheaper variations?(cheaper more profit) If I was in the possition I would do the same thing and that is what they do. They are in buisness for profit not there to accomodate our needs. It there wasn't a market for $400-$600 Ultra highend video card or a "broken" cheaper card then they would not sell it. This is regular buisness practice these days. I know to most people here (Overclockers) might find that foolish to buy such a thing but we apparetly are the minority and have been for sometime, a piece of the market not profitable enough to cater. And until this changes I wouldn't worry about what they are doing now to break the card its what are they going to do next generation( personal speculation) to deter overclocking and pull a "AMD" if you will to only have a certain card unlocked overclockable w/ all the features for X amount of $. Then I would like to see how Ed would react :p
    Thanks for the greetings!

    John, if you're trying to say that extra features like AA/AF should be considered as part of 'max details' settings (I think that's what you're getting at?) then you have a point and I agree to an extent. However, let's talk about specifics. You mention 2-3 years ago was relatively a better time than now, but I'm not seeing it. That was the time of R3xx and NV3x. The NV3x cards were NOT a good deal at any marget segment - cards like 59xx couldn't even run all contemporary games at high resolutions with good fps, while cards like 5700 were just ass. Ass for ~$200msrp mind you. ATI's offerings in 9700/9800pro were much better, but there were not cheap, and did not improve much from generation to generation. For over a year and a half, ATI basically used the 9700pro to lead the market. The performance increase to 9800pro was 15% tops, and to 9800xt even less. You just didn't see jumps like 100% that we saw with 6800/x800 lines, and now 40-50% with the 7800.

    I was a poor college student in those days and couldn't afford to shell out $300+ for them, and 9800xt stayed at nearly $400 all the way until R420. I had to scout and buy a 9800non-pro with 2.2ns samsung memory on ebay and flash it to a pro, and even that amazing deal cost me ~$230. Having owned a 6800gt, I can say for a fact that at $250 it is now, it gives at least as much in today's games as the 9800pro did in games 2-3 years ago. My personal feeling is that hardware is outpacing software requirements so quickly that the level of what's 'necessary' has been left in the dust and we essentially have a new marget segment for ultra-high performance that never existed before; and that carries a price premium. However, it's not driving the prices for segments below it up.
    Welcome to the forums. :)

    Ed knows all of what you just said about competitive gaming, I'm sure. His comments were half serious, half humorous, and primarily targeted at simply trying to point out the problems in consumer buying behavior.

    I remember voodoo 2 days also, but there's some relevent things in history between voodoo 2 and now. 3dfx is long since out of business because of mistakes they made that kept them from being able to keep up with the competition. NVidia and eventually ATI were producing significantly better performing cards at cheaper prices. Value for the consumers took big steps forward since then, and have been slowly sliding backwards again in the last few years. Is the overall situation better than it was in the days of 3dfx? Certainly. Is the overall situation better than it was 2-3 years ago? Nope, it's worse.

    Looking at what features you can turn on and and what resolution you can play modern games at isn't really the way to look at it. We went from graphics cards that were literally a simple display adapter and nothing else to so much more... The things to look at are what modern technology can provide, manufacturing costs, and what retail price points things get packaged into.

    We would be getting a lot more for our money right now if people were a little tighter with their money in general. That was Ed's point, and he's right.


    Earlier a 12mb drived ad was poosted in this thread $2995 rip off you say, geuss how many years ago that was. New technology is always going to be more exspensive than old. That 12mb would be the equivelent a few tb now.
    I've been reading this site for years, but this article is so outrageous, I had to register just to comment on it.

    I remember buying a voodoo2 12mb at best buy in the old days for $250 after a $50 rebate. It was an awesome card! I got hardware accelerated graphics that looked stunning at 800x600 with full details. That's right, no hi-res, no AA, no AF. Those gf2's and gf4ti4200's people mention in this thread weren't very different - if you could run hot contemporary games at 1024x768 with full details at good frame rates, you were happy. AA/AF were poorly implemented all the way through the gf4 cards and were unusable in all but outdated games.

    How much do you need to spend today to get 1024x768 with full details and no AA/AF in current games? How about $130 for a 6600gt? It'll do bf2, farcry, doom3, hl2 all at a good clip at those settings. You easily get as much in current titles today from affordable cards as you did at any other time, the difference now is that you have more choice. You can spend $250 on a 6800gt and get hi-res+aa+af in the most demanding games if you wish. When could you ever do that before? Never. And if want transparency AA and HDR at very high framerates, you can get a 7800.

    Ed, your insight into the CPU industry is riveting and keeps me coming to this site, but please don't discuss subjects you're completely clueless about, such as game competition. If you'd ever seen a competitive gamer's screen, you'd know that they tweak all their games to look like legos with bland wall textures, reduced geometry and simple, bright lighting. It's done because all the eye-candy reduces aim and awareness, and at those settings even an archaic computer can run recent games flawlessly.


    Welcome to the forums. :)

    Ed knows all of what you just said about competitive gaming, I'm sure. His comments were half serious, half humorous, and primarily targeted at simply trying to point out the problems in consumer buying behavior.

    I remember voodoo 2 days also, but there's some relevent things in history between voodoo 2 and now. 3dfx is long since out of business because of mistakes they made that kept them from being able to keep up with the competition. NVidia and eventually ATI were producing significantly better performing cards at cheaper prices. Value for the consumers took big steps forward since then, and have been slowly sliding backwards again in the last few years. Is the overall situation better than it was in the days of 3dfx? Certainly. Is the overall situation better than it was 2-3 years ago? Nope, it's worse.

    Looking at what features you can turn on and and what resolution you can play modern games at isn't really the way to look at it. We went from graphics cards that were literally a simple display adapter and nothing else to so much more... The things to look at are what modern technology can provide, manufacturing costs, and what retail price points things get packaged into.

    We would be getting a lot more for our money right now if people were a little tighter with their money in general. That was Ed's point, and he's right.
    Welcome to the forums Com.:) thanks for the history lesson. I knew those high end cards were espensive way back when too but afraid to guess at the price.
    I've been reading this site for years, but this article is so outrageous, I had to register just to comment on it.

    I remember buying a voodoo2 12mb at best buy in the old days for $250 after a $50 rebate. It was an awesome card! I got hardware accelerated graphics that looked stunning at 800x600 with full details. That's right, no hi-res, no AA, no AF. Those gf2's and gf4ti4200's people mention in this thread weren't very different - if you could run hot contemporary games at 1024x768 with full details at good frame rates, you were happy. AA/AF were poorly implemented all the way through the gf4 cards and were unusable in all but outdated games.

    How much do you need to spend today to get 1024x768 with full details and no AA/AF in current games? How about $130 for a 6600gt? It'll do bf2, farcry, doom3, hl2 all at a good clip at those settings. You easily get as much in current titles today from affordable cards as you did at any other time, the difference now is that you have more choice. You can spend $250 on a 6800gt and get hi-res+aa+af in the most demanding games if you wish. When could you ever do that before? Never. And if want transparency AA and HDR at very high framerates, you can get a 7800.

    Ed, your insight into the CPU industry is riveting and keeps me coming to this site, but please don't discuss subjects you're completely clueless about, such as game competition. If you'd ever seen a competitive gamer's screen, you'd know that they tweak all their games to look like legos with bland wall textures, reduced geometry and simple, bright lighting. It's done because all the eye-candy reduces aim and awareness, and at those settings even an archaic computer can run recent games flawlessly.
    I like the idea of dual-cores and they will be better for the mainstream than single core cpus. The average person doesn't game on their computer, but the average person does have aim, word, wmp, and other apps running at the same time.

    I would get one if AMD lowered their dual core prices significantly in the next couple months. I already know that my next motherboard will be based on the Uli 1695 chipset so that I can use my 9800Pro now and get a nice PCI-E card later without having to trash the platform.

    I do agree that Ed is being real about the state of the market. The market is not ideal and Ed is trying to stop us from getting blinded by PR hype and shady reviews.
    I'm kind of up and down on Dual cores. On one hand, they generally help very little with typical single thread apps like we usually use. On the other hand, few of the typical single thread apps really needed any more speed than they already had. Where we typically have big slowdowns was by asking the CPU to do too many things at once and dual cores can help make the overall ride a lot smoother.

    So, I'm not in a rush to get one, but I'll be happy to have one when the time comes.
    Yeah, that's pretty much it. Back when people were getting 1.4Ghz T-birds for $150, video hardware was making big strides at reasonable prices, and everyone was just trying to figure out how loud they wanted their fan to be...it was quite a different tone on the front page. (Unless you were an Intel fan, then you were hearing about the broken 1.13 Ghz P3 and the terrible P4 Willies.)


    Right now DUAL CORES is the only good new I can see...

    So i picked up a X2 3800+, and all i can say is wow.

    This is comming from a 2.6GHz Barton to this 2x 2.0GHz. Its night and Day, things you know should bogg your system down have no effect. JaY = happy