The eighth generation of consoles is in full gear now, but you might ask yourself: Is 2015 the year to upgrade your gaming PC?
Some PC gamers, of course, do incremental upgrades to their gaming rigs, while others have enough money to buy the latest, top-of-the-line bespoke when it comes out. But, if you are not made of money, and you are putting serious consideration into building something completely from scratch, a lot of questions start to take shape as you being your hardware journey. One in particular takes consideration no matter what generation we’re currently in.
That question: Is now the time?
There will always be something new in gaming PCs year-after-year. But, as you will see below, there has not been a more dramatic time to consider upgrading your gaming experience. Here are five things to consider and weigh before you pull the credit card trigger.
It won’t be long now before we learn all about Windows 10, but Microsoft has already shared some pertinent details on its upcoming operating system (OS). Windows 10 brings back the start bar, integrates Microsoft’s personal assistant system, Cortana. There is also the Xbox app, further tying it in to the Xbox One console.
Perhaps the most troubling news about the upcoming OS is the possibility that it will switch to a subscription model. For any gamer, subscriptions are already a daily reality, and having to subscribe to your desktop OS, even if it’s something that comes up every two years, is an added pain.
However, PC gamers may be compelled to take on this burden if Windows 10 ends up seeing wide adoption. If this is the OS that will prompt businesses to upgrade from Windows XP, it won’t be long before everyone switches to it. That means the PC makers will follow suit – and your next gaming PC may be running Windows 10, whether you like it or not.
It remains to be seen how much of an impact Windows 10 will have, or how consumers, and the PC industry at large will react to it. So, your choice might be not so much if than when.
SteamOS / Steam Machines
On the other side of the equation is Microsoft’s big budding competitor, Valve. The company has revealed more and more future plans that seem to undercut the software conglomerate by making both its own hardware and software. Most of the gaming community knows that the SteamOS and Steam Machines boast a lot of potential, further shortening the distance between desktop and living room gaming. As Valve steps up to take over the PC gaming market, Microsoft seems to have left it behind in favor of its console brand.
Valve Wants Control
Valve has become mum on the state of Steam Machines for months now, with the latest piece of news being no more than rumors of a redesigned controller. When is Valve officially releasing SteamOS and Steam Machines? What games are they launching it with, and what models at what prices are coming out first? Consumers are curious, but I’ll bet Valve’s hardware partners –some of whom have already started selling SteamOS capable machines – are even more anxious.
Whether Steam Machines come out before or after Windows 10 may mean the difference whether it will even be relevant. Right now, Valve’s pet project has gone under the radar, but of course, that can change.
Microsoft Completely Leaving PC Gaming to Valve?
Valve’s vision of what we know as Steam Machines came when Microsoft was at a different time and place. Now, not only has Team Xbox undergone dramatic shift under its new boss, Phil Spencer, so has Microsoft itself as a whole. The ascendance of its server specialist, Satya Nadella, has delivered new possibilities. While we don’t know enough yet about Microsoft’s plans for Windows gaming, the company’s purchase of Minecraft was a clear sign that the company is seriously invested.
The third major outlier may affect your purchase of your next PC indirectly, and could easily be reason enough to lay off the trigger. That variable is known as the Oculus Rift.
Facebook Inc’s upcoming consumer level VR HMD is heavily touted as the next major step forward for PC gaming. It’s a sentiment shared by the console makers, as Sony has also revealed their Project Morpheus, and Microsoft is apparently also poised to share their VR and immersive tech very soon.
Oculus VR developers have yet to reveal an official release date, but word on the grapevine indicates that the company hopes to release their first consumer release between 2015 and 2016. Several games, both AAA and indie titles, are being developed or are currently ready for use with the device. Even if VR does not become the next big thing the tech industry thinks it will be, these games may make it a worthwhile purchase for gamers on their own.
So, what does this mean for you, gamer?
At this point, we don’t exactly know the technical requirements your PC will need to work with the Oculus Rift. If you are hoping to build a new PC for the device, you may want to wait and see what those requirements will be.It may be entirely possible in this case that compatibility of certain components, in particular, graphics cards, may end up being more important than pure processing power.
Xbox streaming on Windows is more than just a rumor. Microsoft has freely admitted that they are working on this technology, and, in fact, they have even offered demonstrations to the press.
However, what they have not done is show off or share this technology with the public. At this point, most would simply like an explanation behind this decision. It may be possible that Microsoft is still refining the technology, but my own personal suspicions point me in another direction.
Could it be that Microsoft is still figuring out exactly how they are going to sell this tech? Look at the initial marketing behind such devices as the Xbox Kinect, or even the original Xbox console for that matter. Of course, they would want to do it in such a way that it benefits, and will not undermine, sales of Xbox consoles, not to mention its future library of games.
Of course, there are other considerations, too.
Game developers release games on Windows as well as Xbox. These developers and publishers may not be happy with this potential service cutting into a specific markets’ sales. If you have kept your eyes peeled on PlayStation Now, of course, you may also already know that such a service could still be prohibitively expensive to truly be worthwhile.
Xbox streaming on Windows could be a bane or boon for you as well, depending on whether you own an Xbox console, have an Xbox LIVE subscription, own the same games on PC and Xbox, and the slew of other questions Microsoft must address to make the endeavor worthwhile.
Whether or not Microsoft actually finds that sweetspot may determine whether or not you feel the same way about handing your money over.
AMD vs. NVIDIA
Finally, there is the simple matter of the graphics card wars. While it is nowhere near as prominent as ‘Sony vs. Microsoft’ or ‘Samsung vs. Apple’, the fight between AMD and NVIDIA impacts the tech industry in its entirety. Not only does it impact gaming, but across fields such as CAD, video editing, and other industries that value high-end graphics in workstation PC’s.
For the most part, games can run on most PC’s regardless of card brand. The real impact comes in terms of whether or not video game developers will optimize their future projects to run better on the aforementioned choices. NVIDIA, being the admitted market leader, has been met with a challenge from AMD. That challenge has been with a more aggressive push with several technologies, including FreeSync, Mantle, and most recently, the Catalyst Omega driver.
However, what may prove more important in the long run is seeing who AMD and NVIDIA will partner with between Valve and Microsoft. Assuming both Windows 10 and SteamOS become viable contenders as PC gaming OSes, the two graphics card companies will position deals between them. Depending on how it pans out, they may choose with only one, or work with both.
Are you planning to upgrade your PC this coming year? What else do you think will gamers have to look out for? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.