PC Gaming Soon To Be Affordable: Growing Popularity Equals Better Competition

HP GamingThe big computer companies seem to have one thing in common right now: bring computer gaming to the masses. Last week HP launched the Blackbird 002 desktop PC, the company’s first HP-branded gaming PC. The starting price is $2,500, roughly half the cost of much of the high-end gaming competition.

Then there’s Gateway (soon to be purchased by Acer), which plans to introduce a gaming PC in November called FX540 with a gaming-oriented notebook line planned for release in January. And let’s not forget that both Toshiba and Dell released new, more affordable gaming computers this summer. Toshiba, with its Satellite x205 series of gaming notebooks which start at around $2,000, and Dell with its XPS 720 gaming desktop, which starts at roughly $1,700.

Traditionally, PC gaming has been a niche market of avid gamers willing to spend upwards of $5,000 for the latest gear. But now gaming is catching on with a new group of consumers, including women, who still enjoy their games with good graphics, but aren’t interested in breaking the bank for high-end gaming computers. Even stay-at-home moms are getting in on the action. Thais Walsh is given as an example of a stay-at-home mother who plays Guild Wars (an online role-playing game) often while her kids are napping.

Interestingly enough, even though cheaper options are on the rise, the big companies are releasing them in conjunction with keeping the existing extra-expensive systems. The mainstream may be interested in computer gaming at a different price point, but the niche of deep-pocketed extreme gamers is still there. Phil McKinney, chief technology officer for HP’s PC unit explains that “HP is working to broaden the availability of game play for a much bigger audience.”

This move into mainstream gaming seems to make sense. According to a recent research study, more than half of Americans age 12-64 play some sort of electronic game every week, and 29% of them play games on PCs, which is still higher than the 24% who play games on consoles. Also, sales of PC games are expected to grow to $13 billion by 2012 from $7 billion in 2006.

  • Interesting story, but those figures are completely off. PC gaming has never been for avid gamers willing to spend $5000 on a system, or at least it hasn’t been for the past decade or so. I only know one gamer willing to spend that kind of money on his system, and he’s a multimillionaire.

    These kinds of pre-assembled gaming rigs are totally overpriced, they always have been and they probably always will be. The Blackbird 002 for example is less capable than my new custom gaming PC, which cost $1300 less (or $1700 less if you count the $400 I made on my old PC).

    So sure, the price of pre-assembled PCs is dropping, but this is merely because the price of custom PCs is dropping as well. Furthermore, it’s easy to find inexpensive pre-assembled PCs in webshops nowadays, which are a much better alternative if you don’t know everything there is to know about the latest computer hardware.

    Home assembly, or selecting your own components and having the shop assemble it, can easily save you 50% of the cost for a high end gaming PC. Don’t know the latest about computer hardware yourself? Look up your local whizkid and have him give you some advice, or google for some recent recommendations by major hardware sites. It’s not hard to find these things nowadays – and it can save you a lot of money.

  • Droniac,

    I agree that gaming PCs are overpriced (even with these new developments). But home assembly (which is what I did, incidentally) is still a ways off from being accessible to the average consumer, especially considering that warranty and service is a nightmare when you go for a custom made.

  • Paul Ellis

    Just had to chime in on the stats sited for percentage of people who play an “electronic game” every week. I hate it when people compare console game play where people went out and bought a console and games, to “computer gaming” where a lot of the people being counted as playing games are playing games like Freecell, Solitaire, or Hearts. That is a completely different consumer and experience.

  • Paul Ellis

    As a side note, that should be cite, note site. Don’t you hate it when you only see a typo right after you hit submit?

  • Paul,

    Good point, sort of like Sony counting PS3s as sales of blu-ray players…

    But at the same time, the industry is changing and the breakdown you suggest may not be as significant as it once was. Meaning, the Wii and now Xbox Live Arcade are making it such that consoles are getting their own significant share of casual gamers while the PC gamer base is converting more of those solitaire players into midrange (better term?) gamers.