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. I agree, PC prices are cheaper than they have ever been. Heck a machine I built for my wife a couple of years ago on the cheap still works perfectly fast for her to this day with proper maintenence (defrags, check disk for errors, anti virus, anti spyware, security patches etc). Looking at prices of machines now its mind boggling how cheaply I could build her a machine that she would have no need for at all. And thats the key. For a few hundred dollars today I could build a machine with enough power that most people would have no need for it.
    Of course enthusiasts, gamers and OCers all have a different outlook on things, but I am a realist and can face the facts that we are the type of market segment that will exist regardless of price, so what motivation is there to gear prices for us? By our very nature we buy more than we need. Any issues we have of cost are of our own creation.
    $479 for all that contradicts your point. It says that we're being screwed on single components when you have to shop hard just to get the 19inch LCD and 2.8Ghz P4 CPU for under $479. Used to be that you could build a better rig cheaper than systems integrators could because your labor was free.
    I'm getting worried seeing prices like that. Dell can kill off all small independent system builders, then there will be no large market for PC components, then we'll be screwed for getting anything other than what Dell wants to make for us, and do you think it will be cheap then?
    Road Warrior
    Ed's point is the high end.
    5 years ago the fastest graphics card cost £220
    today it costs £430ish
    the point stands on pretty much all top end.
    sure, you can get a bottom range, office ONLY type pc for even as low as £390 (or $250 i see Dell doing in USA) but the top end is horrible as of now, and its only going to get worse.
    even the software is doing the same. Win98 £90 full retail. WinXP pro SP2 32bit is around the £200-250 mark i mean WTF? :bang head :shrug:
    Or you can buy a OEM version of XP, which you can only install on ONE MOTHERBOARD for £90. However upgrade the MB (lets say AGP to PCI express, or 939 to M1) and you have to buy the OS again. That WRONG.....however thats another subject.
    Yeah, I agree with Overlag. High end equipment seems to be just skyrocketing in price and it's really pretty rediculous. I know that new brand new technology always costs more when it first arrives, but there is lots of new equipment, and the prices aren't dropping in time for the next to come out. So a new video card is released and costs premium $. Then before manufacturers make price cuts, they just release a new faster card and instead of bringing it in at the same price point as their previously high end card, they just hike up the price and make a new, higher price point!
    It's just getting to be too much.
    I think a poll would be interesting. Something like: "How much did you spend on your hardware?" But not including things like case, optical drives, speakers, monitors, fans/heatsinks/cooling....
    My first computer an XP system cost me 600$, my next system cost my 900$, a 300$ jump in 1 year. That is ridiculous. Companies are just getting greedy and its ridiculous. And products aren't getting better. GPUs and CPUs are getting worse heatwise, Motherboards are coming with more and more defects and issues, for the cost we are paying we should be getting better quality, IMO Eds got a point
    I think Over lag hit the nail on the head.
    I was thinking back to '99 (possibly early 2000) when I bought a just released, top of the line Voodoo3 3000 for $150 at Best Buy of all places. Now a top of the line 7800GTX at Best Buy would be $600 if they carried it in the store. I know the card can be found cheaper at etailers but a 400% increase in 5 to 6 years...come on. Everyone would have to agree that is a bit excessive.
    agreed.
    Now imagine this:
    if AMD would kill Intel, how much the cheapest CPU cost?
    if NVidia kills ATi, then how much will you be FORCED to pay?
    Now reverese the statements.
    if Intel would kill AMD, how much the cheapest CPU cost?
    if ATi kills NVidia, then how much will you be FORCED to pay?
    They are companies. That means they take the most money they can.
    Like for example Windows. It costs an OUTRAGE amount of money.Why? Because it has no competition.
    I bet it could be sold for $30 and still make money.
    But it has no competitots, so its sold for $200.
    its less with NVidia/AMD/ATi/Intel. They have one other competiore.
    BUt its not enough. The PC market just doesnt have enought competition :bang head
    I think Over lag hit the nail on the head.
    I was thinking back to '99 (possibly early 2000) when I bought a just released, top of the line Voodoo3 3000 for $150 at Best Buy of all places. Now a top of the line 7800GTX at Best Buy would be $600 if they carried it in the store. I know the card can be found cheaper at etailers but a 400% increase in 5 to 6 years...come on. Everyone would have to agree that is a bit excessive.

    They do carry it, and it is $600, but what is so rediculous is that they are selling a 6800 Ultra which is an inferior card for $1000. I can imagine how many salesman are telling customers that the 6800U is better because it's more expensive and the retarded consumer believing it.
    $479 for all that contradicts your point. It says that we're being screwed on single components when you have to shop hard just to get the 19inch LCD and 2.8Ghz P4 CPU for under $479. Used to be that you could build a better rig cheaper than systems integrators could because your labor was free.
    I'm getting worried seeing prices like that. Dell can kill off all small independent system builders, then there will be no large market for PC components, then we'll be screwed for getting anything other than what Dell wants to make for us, and do you think it will be cheap then?
    Road Warrior

    Interesting point RoadWarrior about Dell taking over, which very well maybe true.. Eventually Dell will conquer the desktop, laptop, and LCD markets. They will remain a major contender in printers and MP3 players but those areas have fierce competition. Oh well.
    But I was raising three points not contridictory at all.. Mainstream parts are falling like rocks (see dell), highend parts never changed in price, and BYO is still the way to go for guys like us since we build top flight. We don't want a granny box but instead cutting edge and dell still can't beat BYO. Go price thier XPS then price smart parts...and once OC your 630 or 3000 setup well past whatever dell offers you're still far far ahead dollar wise at that level, the "high-end"...
    5 years ago the fastest graphics card cost £220
    Geforce 2 Ultra was $499 and sent everybody screaming back then too.. Today you can get a 7800 GTX for $499.
    Geforce 2 Ultra was $499 and sent everybody screaming back then too.. Today you can get a 7800 GTX for $499.

    the gf2 ultra was probably the start of this "bring out a faster product and charge more/create another price point" instead of moving older products down the price range.
    ie (prices/products are just examples)
    399 Gf2
    299 Gf1
    199 GF2mx
    then the ultra comes out, instead of taking the 399 price and bumping the older cards down they just added the 499 slot in there. Roll on a few years and we now in the 600-700 price range......
    Don't forget SLI. The high end is having two video cards. Can you imagine the sales guy's grin getting a customer to buy 2 6800 ultras at 1000/ea.

    Thats assuming the guy's at BB even know what SLI is. Chances are they don't. :p
    Don't forget SLI. The high end is having two video cards. Can you imagine the sales guy's grin getting a customer to buy 2 6800 ultras at 1000/ea.

    I really doubt anyone who's going SLI will buy Ultras at $1000 each, at least I hope they wouldn't.
    ^^^ they will - Why? so they can brag.
    But also, not everyone on these forums are McD's working kids who make $1000 a month, there are many on here who bring in a few grand a month and can easily afford these things - just cause it is expensive to you, doesnt mean someone else can easily buy it.
    if you buy hi end - stop complaining - it is YOU that feed's these inflated prices because these companie know people will pay for it for bragging rights and to be on top - and they always will
    These companies are out there tp make money and they know they can this applies to ALL things in life
    GO buy a new high end Tv - DVD player - microwave a car.. etc etc etc
    Welcome to todays buisness world!
    Also i recall my first computer
    Look @ harddrive how cheap are they ?
    my first 40g harddrive back like 5-6 years ago cost me $500 Canadian!!!!
    my firts PC cost me $2k Canadian it was
    pIII 533
    512mb PC133
    40g HD
    19' samsung monitor
    Some asus board
    generic case
    ATi AIW 128 32mb card
    $2k - now @ the time that was all top end - today for that same price i can build a dam fast system! - so for me prices even on highe end something have gone up while other down
    How much was hi end ram 4 years ago?
    the biggest harddrive you could find ?
    The way i see it are CPU's have stabalized.
    Video Cards are over price
    Ram is under priced
    Motherboard are going up
    But what the artice is talking about is how we are paying more for less now
    You used to be able to buy a Video card with all the features.
    Now they are turned off unless you want to pay through the yin-yang for them