Discover more from The Shortcut
GPUs are too gosh dang expensive these days
Back in my day PC gaming was more affordable, I promise
The Nvidia GeForce RTX 4080 hit store shelves today, and while it’s a solid graphics card in its own right, it’s just too expensive to recommend to any PC gamer in good conscience.
Because while I know some people that are really into playing AAA titles at 4K max settings, the majority of folks I talk to just want to play games with their friends at 1080p, or sometimes 1440p. Most of the graphics cards I’ve bought in my life have been around the $249 price point, with GPUs like the Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 and AMD Radeon 5870 being some of my all-time favorite graphics cards.
But starting with the Nvidia RTX 2000 series, graphics cards started seeing stratospheric price increases. I thought it was over when the RTX 3080 launched for a lower MSRP than the RTX 2080, but obviously, with the RTX 4080 starting at an eye-watering $1,199, I was wrong.
What’s a GPU? My What is a graphics card explainer will fill you in
It’s not just Nvidia graphics cards that are more expensive these days, though. Even AMD has seen higher prices for its equivalent GPUs. To be fair, AMD did say at its “Advance Gaming” conference it claimed it didn’t even want to touch the RTX 4090, instead wishing to compete at the “$1000 and less” level, reported here by PC Gamer.
However, the AMD Radeon 7900 XTX is still a $999 product and the AMD Radeon 7900 XT is just $100 less at $899 – and let’s be honest, the latter is just the 7800 XT with a more confusing name.
We still don’t know how the 7900 XTX is actually going to perform, but even if it does dethrone the RTX 4080, the 7900 XT is a way weaker graphics card, and it’s going to face the same problem as the RTX 4080. It kind of feels like no matter which brand of components you go for, they’re just trying to push you to pay for the halo product by making everything else look like shit in comparison.
The appeal of PC gaming
Don’t get me wrong, PC gaming has always had a heavier up-front cost than, for instance, buying a PS5. But it has always made up for that in cheaper games and no subscription for the privilege of playing games online. Plus, we were the platform that made free-to-play multiplayer games actually work. Looking at you, League of Legends.
But I’m not so sure that saving a few bucks on games is worth the hugely inflated price of PC gaming in 2022. I used to be able to build an extremely high-end gaming rig for around $1,000-1,200 that would max out everything under the sun. Now, I’m lucky if that covers the graphics card by itself – never mind the rest of the system.
It just seems like PC gaming is becoming a caricature of what its reputation was a decade ago: rich kids wasting money on a high-end system to play games that everyone else can play for cheaper elsewhere. And while I don’t have a problem with people building blinged-out systems for bragging rights, it doesn’t mean that everyone should have to pay these frankly obnoxious prices for components. And don’t tell me to wait for the RTX 4060, because I can already see Nvidia slapping a $499 price tag on it.
Is PC gaming even worth it anymore?
PC gaming is basically my life, and I’ll probably never stop upgrading my PC or even trying to get more people to jump in on the hobby. But, I definitely have a lot more to think about before I tell someone to just build and/or buy a new PC. Integrated graphics are becoming so good that if someone just wants to play something like World of Warcraft, I’ll just tell them to buy one of the best laptops and call it good.
But building a traditional gaming rig is so prohibitively expensive now that I will only recommend it to someone with a huge budget to start. Anyone that asks me to recommend a gaming PC under $1,000… well, I’ll probably just tell them to buy a PS5 instead. At least that way you can get next-generation technologies like ray tracing and reconstructive super-sampling without taking out a second mortgage on their home.
The TL;DR here is that PC gaming is still wonderful and still the best place to play games – especially with continued PS5 restock troubles. But even that isn’t worth a $2,000 investment unless you literally have a pile of cash burning a hole in your wallet. That’s more than most people pay for rent.
The Shortcut is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.