Over the decades, video games have grown from a niche hobby to a mainstream form of entertainment. The industry rakes in twice as much revenue as the music and movie industries combined.
Most people play games on a mobile device or console: these device segments account for 45% and 32% of the market share, respectively. They also project the fastest growth across the three major industry segments.
The third segment, computer games, might seem less popular or relevant. But the computer has been a household and office staple for decades. Many current casual or would-be gamers already have access to one.
However, the problem you might encounter is when you want to play a new title but fear your computer isn’t up to scratch. Short of sweet-talking your geek buddy or local technician into doing the hard work for you, how do you decide if it’s time to update your rig?
Specs and benchmarks
First, you need to make sure that money isn’t an issue. Most computers will run office programs and basic apps just fine, but video games can really put that hardware to the test. Only you can decide whether the entertainment aspect is worth some extra dollars from your pocket. Checking a website with PC-building capabilities is a good place to start.
Of course, you should also know what sort of hardware upgrades you might be looking at. These will vary with the games you intend to play.
If you have a specific title in mind, the developer’s website should list the corresponding specs. These are typically broken down into two options: minimum and recommended. Aiming for the former tends to be more budget-friendly, but you may miss out on the overall experience.
Games also tend to be more or less demanding of specific hardware components depending on the genre. A real-time strategy or multiplayer battle arena game has to process many elements simultaneously but doesn’t have overly complex graphics, so you might need a CPU upgrade. Role-playing games often render immersive environments, placing more strain on your GPU. First-person shooters and simulators may need upgrades to both, while even recent sandbox or retro games may run just fine on older hardware.
If you really want some assurance that your rig can handle the game you have in mind, try benchmarking. Run an app that can score your hardware capabilities, or try running the real game live and use a benchmarking tool to see how your system is doing.
If a benchmark score, or real-world test, tells you that you’re good to go with what you already have, congratulations! You should be able to play without further investment.
Sometimes, though, the in-game experience will fluctuate in quality. Or, if you skipped the benchmark, relying only on paper specs, you might find that your system performance just isn’t living up to expectations.
It’s commonly held that old computers slow down with age. This is rarely due to the hardware itself. Unless there are unusual circumstances, such as a busted CPU fan which leads to automatic throttling to prevent overheating, your hardware continues to perform as it has from day one.
More often, the issue is software bloat. Most computer users don’t pay attention to every program installed on their system or every process allowed to run in the background. Over time, updates to these programs or to the OS itself place greater constant demands on your hardware. In turn, this limits the bandwidth your system can allocate towards smoothly running a game.
How to reinvest
Once you’ve identified the bottlenecks to performance, you can take appropriate steps to improve. On the budget-friendly side, you might consider a thorough cleanup, uninstalling all unnecessary apps, and perhaps even reinstalling your OS. This can be tedious, though, and it won’t change the fact that updates and software bloat will continue to be an issue over time.
If you can identify selective areas for an upgrade, such as a faster CPU or high-end GPU, or more RAM, you can install those components only. In the process, you could save hundreds of dollars on buying a brand-new rig.
However, bear in mind that older devices will inevitably incur greater costs in either time or money. According to Intel’s study of the total cost of ownership, businesses should look at an optimal replacement time of 3-4 years for their computers. Past that, the risk of productivity-impacting incidents rises significantly.
As a casual user and part-time gamer, of course, you might be able to put that off a little longer. But no machine lasts forever, and if you give it serious consideration, you might find that you’re past due for a brand-new device anyway.
Meta title: Does Your PC Need an Update for Gaming Purposes?
meta desc: Avid gamers will update their systems almost as soon as the latest title or hardware is released, but casual gamers might struggle to determine if their old computer needs an upgrade.