The End of an Era? Why Budget PC Gaming Might Be on Life Support

Will Budget PC Gaming Ever Be Affordable Again?

As we step into the year 2024, a pressing question looms over the gaming community: Is budget PC gaming on the brink of extinction? Building a competent budget gaming PC has been becoming harder and harder over the past few years, and it almost seems impossible to get a good value-for-money experience unless you’re building a $1000 PC.

Let’s take a deeper look at why budget PC gaming is going extinct, and what the future of PC gaming actually looks like.

At A Glance
  • Rising prices of GPUs post-pandemic have been the main driving factor.
  • The lack of competition in the GPU space further exacerbates the problem.
  • Current-gen consoles offer competitive performance at a lower price.

Why Budget PC Gaming Is Dying In 2024

Rising Price Of Graphics Cards

The rising prices of graphics cards stand as a formidable barrier to entry for budget PC gaming enthusiasts. Graphics cards have been a cornerstone of gaming rigs, dictating performance capabilities and graphical fidelity. However, in recent years, the cost of graphics cards has skyrocketed, fueled by a confluence of factors including supply chain disruptions, increased demand for gaming hardware, and the lack of competition in the GPU market.

As a result, budget gamers find themselves grappling with inflated prices and dwindling options, making it increasingly challenging to procure affordable graphics cards capable of delivering satisfactory gaming experiences.

GIGABYTE GeForce RTX 4090 – (Image by Tech4Gamers)

NVIDIA and AMD have both been increasing the price of their GPU options for the last 2-3 generations, and it became even more pronounced after the pandemic. The pricing of GPUs skyrocketed beyond comprehension in 2019-2021, and the GPU manufacturers took advantage of that timing and raised the MSRP of their products across the board.

Even after the supply chain issues have been resolved, NVIDIA and AMD have stuck with their new pricing scheme, which basically terms a $500 graphics card as “mid-range”. Moreover, even the introduction of CPU giant Intel into the GPU space hasn’t proven to be an effective competition for NVIDIA and AMD, especially towards the higher end of the market.

Lack Of Entry-Level CPUs And GPUs

In addition to the rising cost of graphics cards, the scarcity of entry-level CPUs and GPUs compounds the challenges facing budget PC gaming. Traditionally, budget gaming rigs relied on affordable components to strike a balance between performance and affordability.

However, the current market landscape is characterized by a severe lack of entry-level options, with manufacturers focusing their efforts on high-end and enthusiast segments. Intel and AMD have all but discontinued their budget CPU lineups, with very little effort being put into the Core i3 and Ryzen 3 components.

Best Budget CPUs
Budget CPUs – (Image by Tech4Gamers)

As a result, building a competent gaming rig within traditional budget constraints becomes an increasingly elusive goal, pushing budget PC gaming to the brink of extinction. Nowadays, it is almost impossible to build a decent gaming PC in the $500-700 range, which was the home of budget gaming in years past.

Looking at the cost of gaming PCs, entry-level gaming PCs are now touching the $800-1000 mark, with mid-range gaming confined to the $1000-$1500 price point. Moreover, entry-level gaming PCs may even struggle to sustain 60 FPS at 1080p in modern games.

Lack Of Competition In The GPU Space

The lack of competition in the GPU space has emerged as a significant impediment to budget PC gaming in 2024. Historically, competition between major GPU manufacturers like NVIDIA and AMD spurred innovation and drove down prices, benefitting consumers with a wide range of affordable options.

However, in recent years, this competitive landscape has eroded, with NVIDIA and AMD dominating the market in different segments and dictating prices. NVIDIA has a stranglehold at the very top end of the market, with no graphics card even coming close to the RTX 4090 and 4080 Super. AMD also has its place, but more in the mid-range where price-to-performance is paramount.

Intel ARC A750
Intel Arc A750

The absence of robust competition has allowed these companies to maintain a firm hold on the GPU market, resulting in inflated prices and limited options for budget-conscious gamers. Intel has emerged as a viable third player in the market, but its initial GPU launches were plagued with performance issues and dwindling demands.

Without viable alternatives or competitive pressure to keep prices in check, budget PC gamers are left grappling with exorbitant costs and diminished accessibility, further exacerbating the challenges facing the budget gaming community.

Stagnation Of iGPUs

Integrated Graphics Processing Units (iGPUs) have long been hailed as a cost-effective solution for casual gaming and multimedia tasks, particularly for budget-conscious consumers. However, in 2024, the landscape of iGPUs has stagnated, failing to keep pace with the evolving demands of modern gaming.

While integrated graphics solutions have made incremental improvements over the years, they still lag behind entry-level dedicated GPUs in terms of performance and graphical fidelity.

AMD Ryzen 5 8600G
AMD Ryzen 5 8600G

The main problem with iGPUs is that any half-decent iGPU is limited to a high-end or enthusiast-level CPU, which does not make any sense from a budget perspective. As a result, budget PC gamers are confronted with limited options and compromised gaming experiences when relying solely on iGPUs.

Rise Of Cloud Gaming

The rise of cloud gaming has emerged as both a boon and a bane for budget PC gaming in 2024. On one hand, cloud gaming offers a compelling alternative to traditional hardware-based gaming, providing access to high-quality gaming experiences without the need for expensive hardware upgrades.

By leveraging the power of cloud computing, cloud gaming services deliver immersive gaming experiences directly to a variety of devices, including low-end PCs, smartphones, and tablets. This democratization of gaming technology can also potentially remove the need for budget gaming PCs.

Xbox Cloud Gaming
Xbox Cloud Gaming

Moreover, the proliferation of cloud gaming also raises concerns about affordability and ownership, as subscription-based models and streaming requirements may incur additional costs over time. As such, while cloud gaming presents new opportunities for budget PC gaming, it also introduces complexities and uncertainties that must be navigated by gamers seeking affordable gaming solutions.

Inflation

Inflation has emerged as a pervasive force shaping the landscape of budget PC gaming in 2024. As prices rise across the board, from hardware components to everyday necessities, the purchasing power of budget-conscious gamers diminishes, making it increasingly difficult to afford gaming hardware within traditional budget constraints.

The impact of inflation is particularly pronounced in the realm of PC gaming, where hardware costs have surged in recent years due to supply chain disruptions, increased demand, and the lack of competition.

Console Competition

Value Advantage

Console gaming presents a formidable challenge to budget PC gaming in 2024, largely due to its inherent value advantage. Consoles such as the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S offer complete gaming solutions at competitive price points, providing gamers with everything they need to jump into the gaming experience right out of the box.

Unlike budget PC builds, which require careful selection of components and assembly, consoles offer a plug-and-play experience that appeals to novice and budget-conscious gamers alike.

PS5 Xbox Series S|X
PS5 and Xbox Series X/S

Additionally, the upfront cost of purchasing a console is often lower than that of building a comparable gaming PC, making consoles a more accessible option for those on a tight budget. You can get a current-gen console in the $450-600 range depending on your choice and region, which will easily be better than a $800-1000 PC in terms of raw power.

With consoles providing a compelling value proposition, budget PC gaming faces stiff competition in attracting gamers looking for affordable gaming solutions.

Better Exclusives

One of the key advantages of consoles over budget PC gaming lies in their exclusive titles, which are developed specifically for each platform. Consoles such as the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S boast an impressive lineup of exclusive games that cannot be experienced on other platforms, enticing gamers with unique and immersive gaming experiences.

These exclusive titles, ranging from blockbuster AAA PS5 games such as God of War: Ragnarok to multiplayer Xbox gems such as Halo, serve as a major draw for console gamers and contribute to the overall appeal of console gaming.

God of War Ragnarok
God of War Ragnarok

Better Game Optimization

In addition to their exclusive titles, consoles also benefit from better game optimization, resulting in smoother and more consistent gaming experiences. Unlike PC gaming, which relies on a wide range of hardware configurations, consoles have standardized hardware specifications, allowing developers to optimize games for a specific set of hardware.

This optimization results in games that run more efficiently and reliably on consoles, minimizing performance issues and ensuring a seamless gaming experience for players. With better game optimization, consoles offer a level of consistency and reliability that is often lacking in budget PC gaming.

The Future Of Budget PC Gaming

amd and nvidia gpus
AMD and NVIDIA
  • While the current landscape presents numerous challenges for budget PC gaming, there remain opportunities for innovation and adaptation that could shape the trajectory of the industry in the years to come.
  • One potential avenue for the future of budget PC gaming lies in advancements in hardware technology, such as the development of more affordable and efficient components.
  • As manufacturers continue to push the boundaries of performance and efficiency, there is potential for the cost of gaming hardware to decrease, making it more accessible to budget-conscious gamers.
  • However, the major driving factor in this aspect is competition, and we must see strong competition between NVIDIA, AMD, and Intel at all price points in order to see a significant drop in average prices.
  • Additionally, the emergence of alternative gaming platforms, such as cloud gaming services and subscription-based gaming models, could offer new avenues for budget PC gaming.
  • By leveraging the power of cloud computing and streaming technology, these platforms provide access to high-quality gaming experiences without the need for expensive hardware upgrades, potentially lowering barriers to entry for budget gamers.
  • Moreover, the future of budget PC gaming also hinges on broader market dynamics, such as changes in consumer preferences and economic conditions.

Final Thoughts

The landscape of budget PC gaming in 2024 is marked by a series of complex challenges, from the rising prices of hardware components to the emergence of alternative gaming platforms. It seems as if the traditional budget gaming PC is fading out of the realm of possibility, mainly due to the high pricing of graphics cards and other components.

Consoles are also making it difficult to justify the effort of building a budget gaming PC since they offer a better and more refined gaming experience at a much lower price. Competition must return in full force if we are to see a significant change in the landscape of PC gaming.

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