As PC Gaming Keeps Climbing, Hardware Sales Down

By John Walker on April 11th, 2013 at 11:00 am.

To analyse the state of the PC these days is to spin around until you get dizzy. PC gaming is climbing and climbing, with extraordinary numbers being published for games like Dota 2 and League Of Legends, the massive popularity of the download market, and the phenomenal rise of the indie market. When RPS launched nearly six years ago, there wasn’t a single other big-name dedicated PC gaming site online. Now there are many. And indeed multi-format sites have switched from treating the PC as a barely mentioned also-ran, to a significant portion of their coverage. From MMOs to Humble Bundles, eSports to Minecraft, the PC is enormous right now.

So why isn’t anyone buying them?

Data recently published by market research firm IDC, and very usefully broken down by Ars Technica, shows that PC shipments dropped more in the last quarter than ever before. Almost every major PC producer, except Lenovo, saw very pointy-down graphs. Even Apple saw their non-iOS units failing to fly out of stores. So what’s going on?

Comparing Q1 sales (Jan – March) for 2013 and 2012, HP saw a fall in growth of -23.7%, Dell -10.9%, Acer -31.3%, and ASUS -19.2%. Lenovo, meanwhile, saw their growth sit steady at a flat 0.0%. US-only figures look similar, seeing Apple in the top 5 sellers with a drop of -7.5%, and Toshiba with -5.2%. Again Lenovo bucked the trend here, showing growth of 13.0%.

Clearly this is while the world is still very much in the grip of financial issues – manufacturers across all manner of sectors are showing losses. But it’s also impossible not to recognise these drops as indicative of a trend for PC hardware. No, the PC isn’t dying (those drops aren’t getting close to 0 – the PC still sells well – it just doesn’t sell as well as it used to), but it’s clearly not too healthy. And the blame seems to be being laid at the feet of Windows 8.

IDC man Bob O’Donnell says,

“At this point, unfortunately, it seems clear that the Windows 8 launch not only failed to provide a positive boost to the PC market, but appears to have slowed the market. While some consumers appreciate the new form factors and touch capabilities of Windows 8, the radical changes to the UI, removal of the familiar Start button, and the costs associated with touch have made PCs a less attractive alternative to dedicated tablets and other competitive devices. Microsoft will have to make some very tough decisions moving forward if it wants to help reinvigorate the PC market.”

But clearly the reasons are more widely spread than just Microsoft’s ill-advised and distinctly un-PC new operating system. There was a time when if a family wanted to be online, provide their kids with somewhere to do their homework, and have access to email, etc, they had to have a PC. (Heck, I remember when I was 16 (1994), selling entire PCs to parents just so they could run Encarta for their kids’ homework.) And that time stuck around for a good long while. But now a tablet can do much the same. With the exception of a useful way of doing word processing, the family PC – that so often morphed itself into a gaming PC – has been much usurped by other smaller, often cheaper devices. If you want to check emails, you’ll most likely do it on your phone, rather than boot up the giant wheezing box in another room, or even bother opening up the laptop. And while I think common sense dictates that a full size keyboard, separate mouse, nice big detached monitor (or two), and a device properly designed to cope with multitasking still remains a very preferable solution, there’s no point in denying it’s not winning that battle.

Then there’s also the rapid demise of the netbook. It feels like only yesterday complete strangers would approach me in a coffee shop or on a plane to coo at my miniaturised laptop, and comment on how useful one would be. Then POW, they were everything, everywhere. And then as quickly they were gone. The Ultrabook – a sort of middleground that wasn’t so tiny your hands looked like a giant’s mad claws, trying to wrestle with the half-gig of RAM that could be tucked into the casing – also doesn’t seem to be faring too well in a world where magic Star Trek flat-panel touch-screens let you sweep and swoosh your way through most of the same tasks.

But no, obviously, bloody Windows 8 hasn’t helped. Microsoft’s death-grip on the PC sales industry, such that it’s nigh-impossible to walk into a store and buy a PC device without having it pre-infected, has put many off buying the hardware. It’s bemusing blend of a touch-screen interface and over-complication of the most primary PC purposes looks like it will be remembered as one of the most damaging moments in PC history. While Vista was utterly terrible, it at least looked like Windows, and Windows 7 was hurried along to replace it with something far superior. At this point, if Microsoft wants to recover from Vista II: The Even Vistarier, it’s going to have to do some very awkward about-facing, back-tracking, and tacit-admitting of its failures. Something at which the company isn’t too brilliant.

It also hasn’t helped that both HP and Dell have both been through major restructuring in the face of their lack of profits. But the Lenovo story is one worth paying proper attention to. In the last year the company has been making statements about its desire to push itself from a relative unknown to the average household, to a big player (although in fairness, they were saying the same, less successfully, in 2006). They’ve focused hard on PC in the last 12 months, and as a result – and indeed while not endlessly restructuring themselves – they’ve proved steady. It’s evidence that there’s still gold in these here hills.

But what next? It’s interesting that IDC’s analysis is not, “And thus this is a sign that the PC will soon disappear…”, but rather focused on how the industry can turn itself around. The reality is, as great as tablets and phones really are, they just don’t have an adequate replacement for a mouse and keyboard when it comes to practical computing. And none is yet a serious player when it comes to top-end gaming. For business, the PC still remains the most practical solution, and as has been the case since the early 90s, it’s the success of the PC as a practical instrument that seems to be behind its success as a gaming platform. PC gaming has always been about the subversion of the tool.

What stands out as especially interesting to us, however, is what exactly a PC really is. When it comes to RPS, where does the line between personal computer, and tablet running a PC-like operating system, with options for mouse/keyboard attachments? Is the Microsoft Surface Pro a PC or not? Will we, eventually, see our remit covering something a lot broader than the big grey box and its folding portable pal? Or will everyone at a certain point realise that typing on a touch screen is BLOODY HORRIBLE, and just remember proper PCs again? However things work out, it’s important that people don’t resort to shouting, “THE PC IS DYING!” (because it’s REALLY annoying). Gaming – the good bit – is madly healthy right now.

Top image by S Baker.

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280 Comments »

  1. uh20 says:

    well, this is a survey of vendors on pre-built PC’s, but it seems like parts manufacturers are in even worse conditions, memory(ram) producers just recently got out of a massive price-fall (i got my 16 gb for 35 bucks)
    and the rest of the companies are all going down in stocks.

    if the sales are dying, then its obvious why, as no manufacturer has put out a upgraded chip in nearly a year, and theres tablets and smartphones and chromebooks taking over.

  2. pupsikaso says:

    Hold on a minute. When did gamers ever buy PCs from the likes of Dell or Lenovo or even HP? You buy printers from HP, not PCs!
    Linking these statistics to PC gaming make little sense to me. These are vendors that sell complete PCs to businesses and corporations or to non-gamers in retail spaces like Best Buy or Futureshop or, heck, even Walmart. These are not the channels that gamers use to get their PCs so it seems completely irrelevant to me.

    • Guvornator says:

      Dell own Alienware, and HP sell “gaming computers” although I’ve not seen much bang for your buck in these. However, I agree with your point – my last 2 desktops came from Cyberpower and Chilblast respectively.

      • El_Emmental says:

        +1, the people too afraid of getting a custom PC or looking for a gaming PC brand often choose to buy a console (which is a smart choice if don’t want to have to learn how to build and maintain a PC – missing out imo, but everyone’s free to choose), which filtrates a lot of non-powerusers out of the PC gaming (and it’s why Dell, HP and the such don’t sell much gaming PCs and don’t really try to make a push).

        Like it was said by many other comments, the desktop/laptop PC vendors like Dell/HP/Lenovo don’t sell to PC gamers, their main customer base (companies) delayed their upgrades (economic crisis, no need to upgrade), the “home” consumers (non-powerusers) have less purchasing power (= thus prefer a cheaper, smaller, trendier device) and have no need to upgrade (social networks, emails, music, movies, streaming can run just fine on most Semprons/Celerons/Pentium – and a cheap i3/Phenom II allows them to play WoW/LoL/Dota 2/CS:S once a week).

        Meanwhile on the PC gaming front, beside the 3D monitors (and soon VR goggles) there isn’t any major change requiring an entire hardware upgrade every 2-3 years. I usually kept my CPU+GPU combos for 5 years and was part of a minority (most people changed their rig every 2-3 years), nowadays everyone do that.

        And the new generation of consoles won’t change that: from what we already know they’re mid-range PCs (= with optimization, they’ll get the visual equivalent of current mid-high-end PCs, and current high-end PCs 3-4 years later), which mean we’ll probably have to upgrade in 2-3 years for a mid-range PC to keep playing new games at maximum settings.

        In my opinion the desktop PC gaming hardware sector will shrink down in the next 5 years, as the lack of economic growth in the US and Europe will prevent the explosion of the 4K and 3D display, people being satisfied with the existing 1080p (and 3D 1080p/720p for the few enthusiasts), as they’ve got to face the rising cost of energy (especially regarding the transport).

  3. Rufustan says:

    I think the Windows 8 factor is masking what is really going on; so many sectors of the market have no reason to buy a new PC right now:

    1). The low end market is being squeezed by mobiles, tablets and cheap laptops. As has been said many times already, the casual PC users of the past can get much of what they need done with other devices. Those people are unlikely to replace a PC any time soon.

    2). Businesses can get by with their current PCs for far longer as current tech is more than capable of day to day jobs. In a recession, its an easy choice not to upgrade.

    3). At the more enthusiast end you have people like me, where I jokingly point out I have had the same PC for nearly 10 years. OK, its the: 2nd PSU, 3rd CPU/MOBO, 2nd set of memory sticks and so on, to the point where the only original component is the case, but….

    I have not bought an actual PC in 15 years, and if I did I would be buying from one of the component retailers where I buy to my Specifications, and they build it.

    Worse still is that (as has been pointed out) even at this end the need for upgrades has reduced. Short of a hardware failure, I cannot see a need to upgrade until the new consoles push on the need for graphical power. Even then it is just going to be slotting a new card into my current setup. How long will it be before I need more than 8gig of memory? A stronger CPU than an i5 2500K?

    Windows 8 may have had an effect on sales to some degree, Personally I have no dislike for it, but long before release I decided it didn’t offer enough over Windows 7 to upgrade to it on a PC. Equally with the system Reqs for 7 and 8 being the same, you lose the ‘new Windows; new hardware’ factor that traditionally boosts sales at each OS release.

    • Brun says:

      I jokingly point out I have had the same PC for nearly 10 years. OK, its the: 2nd PSU, 3rd CPU/MOBO, 2nd set of memory sticks and so on, to the point where the only original component is the case, but….

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ship_of_Theseus

      • Rufustan says:

        Yep, the version I always remember is the old Janitor who gets an award on retirement for keeping his broom for over 20 years. His comment is something along the lines of:

        ‘Aye it has served me well over the years. Its had 2 new handles and 4 new brushes, but has been with me every day.’

  4. Cold Steel says:

    Companies are still on their way to migrate to Windows 7, I doubt anyone with a larger corporate network infrastructure will touch Win 8. Hardware lasts a lot longer than it used to in terms of computing power too.

    Is there also a chart that showcases individual Hardware component sales?

  5. belgand says:

    It’s a complicated set of complimentary issues.

    For one almost everything that was mentioned in the article as driving PC gaming sales is relatively non-demanding. It can run on the cheapest $300 laptop with integrated graphics easily and largely without sacrificing performance. I know, I’ve done it.

    On the other hand the demanding, high-end AAA games that are typically the province of the enthusiast likely won’t be played on a pre-built PC from Dell or the like. This is a market that is likely going to build their own system from components or upgrade an existing one. If they do buy a pre-built it’s even more likely to come from a company that specializes in gaming rather than a mass-market dealer.

    Everything else? Pretty much there. The average user has a PC that’s more than powerful enough for everything they’re doing with it and, in many cases, a tablet or smartphone is capable of the very limited uses that they’re likely interested in. Since those are trendy at the moment they’re seeing more in the way of sales.

  6. Ajh says:

    I have a franken-hp. It was an hp. Originally. Two years ago. Several upgrades ago.

    I’ve built my own computer also.

    It might also be that first quarter simply ISN’T a pc buying time. Second quarter has graduates getting pcs, third has new students, fourth has holiday pc stuff. What does January to march have? Taxes online time? Not really a reason for people to go buy new computers at a consumer level…

  7. Cytrom says:

    Just looks at the cpus released in the past years… AMD barely improved upon the deneb cpus, and intel is releasing cpus every year that are like 5% better than the last one. Who the hell would buy the same crap every year? Besides cod-tards… Theese aren’t small investments either, cause chances are you need a brand new motherboard and ram too.

    The gpus have improved much more significantly, but you can buy stuff from yesteryear that runs everything flawlessly for half the price of a new one.

    Also, if by some miracle mobile devices (smartphones, tablets, vconvertible stuff) get comparably powerful as PCs today, then PC will just lose their point of existence. It hasn’t happened yet though, so if there isn’t significant improvement I imagine the mobile craze would quiet down as fast as it have risen… but its unlikely in the near future, progress is still blazing fast. PC hardware is stagnating by comparison.

  8. SuicideKing says:

    When RPS launched nearly six years ago…in 1873…

  9. SuicideKing says:

    Agree completely with the article. PC’s going nowhere.

    Don’t forget that a lot of people build custom rigs, or get the computer guy to get it done for them. PC component sales are never included, and Intel, Nvidia and AMD have been turning profits almost every quarter (Intel, at least, has).

    I’d also add to the second-last para, professionals will almost always choose a PC, be it engineering, programming, writing, architecture, graphics design or perhaps even psychology.

    I think if anything, desktops will survive far longer than any other device. I think we’re at the point where they’ll be able to work as game servers, file servers and compute servers rolled into one. Look at Nvidia’s Shield and GRID, AMD’s RadeonSky.

    While cloud gaming will have to wait for the day everyone has gigabit Ethernet and unlimited data caps, local game servers, be it for a building or each house, are closer to reality. Plus you’ll be able to play on them directly as well.

    You can also hook them up to a TV and play in “console mode”, or use them as a HTPC. The latter should be made even easier by the likes of Leap Motion’s Leap controller.

    Smartphones are useful for quickly answering mails, but a desktop’s gotta do what a desktop’s gotta do.

    Analysts and investors want the non-PC stocks to climb, hence the deluge of “PC is DYING” news, but honestly i believe that PC’s big three: Intel, Nvidia and AMD are the ones who’ll dominate mobile and the traditional PC market in the end.

    Why? Because they have to scale down power, not scale up performance, and they know their shit all too well. Their tech seems to be far ahead of the ARM group, and I believe 2014-2015 will be a testament to that, with HSA, integrated DRAM and stellar efficiency taking the cake.

  10. Paul.Power says:

    If it helps at all, I bought my first desktop PC in a decade about half a year ago having gone with laptops since 2003.

    I got it custom-built, though, so that wouldn’t really help sales here though. Motherboard and monitor are Asus.

  11. elevown says:

    Reading the comments I agree its a mix of widows 8, the recession, new devices taking over certain pc roles, old consoles meaning new games dont push our hardware so we need new ones, and the fact many more these days upgrade as opposed to buying new pcs.

    But i’d be interested to see what the console sales are like for the same period, and comparing both to previous periods. Obviously these old gen consoles must be selling alot less, but I bet they too have fallen faster this last quater.

  12. plugmonkey says:

    I have Windows 8. It’s fine.

    Really.

    It does have a Start Menu, it’s just that it fills the entire screen. Which is good, because I can fit more than 10 things in it.

    Yes, it can run also tablet apps, essentially doing so in the Start Menu. This would be useful if I had a Microsoft tablet as I could access my apps on my PC, but I don’t, so it does nothing. It’s just a feature I don’t use.

    The Start menu now appears on both my TV and monitor screen at the same time, which is handy, and there’s a shortcut for swapping windows from one screen to the other, which is very handy. They need to implement that for full-screen games too, and stop putting the login screen on only one of the two screens. That’s a bit confusing. Even so, it’s still better than Vista or 7 in this functionality.

    And that’s it.. That’s all I have to say about it. When I read about Windows 8 on sites like this one I wonder, not for the first time, why the entire world has gone completely fucking mad. It’s fine. It’s a slightly faster, slightly more featured version of Windows that could also run my tablet apps (if I had any).

    • Guvornator says:

      All Windows new releases get flak and I must confess that for this one I fell for it, hook, line and sinker.

      But at the same time why upgrade? There is literally nothing I want to do in Win 8 that I can’t in Win 7. Nothing at all. And pretty much everything I’ve done in win7 has been stable and quick and, thanks to being out for a long time, my music and video editing software is pretty stable on it.

      “Fine” isn’t going to get my money.

      • basilisk says:

        Which is why the upgrade option was so cheap this time. You are right that if you have W7, paying the full price for W8 is really hard to justify. That’s also why Microsoft is trying to change to a different model of smaller and cheaper upgrades instead of major version changes every two to three years. Getting people away from XP is hard enough; forcing them to move on from 7 will be perhaps even harder.

        • Guvornator says:

          Paying ANYTHING for win8 is hard to justify if your PC works how you like it. Which is the point. All my hardcore editing software runs as smoothly as Mac-ites are always boasting their’s do. All my games do as well, not least because that what they were made for. Price doesn’t really come into it – indeed, I bought my PC to take advantage of the £14.99 upgrade, but as everything was running as smooth as silk, decided against it.

          I’m sure at some stage I will be forced to, essentially, upgrade or die, but seeing as Win8 is just a tweaked version of Win7, which itself was an optimized version of Vista, I can see myself skipping it entirely. So this idea of smaller upgrades seems a little weird.

          So essentially, I’m a case study for why you’re right. ;)

          • Sheng-ji says:

            If you can look beyond the UI, which I am pretty harsh about earlier in the thread, there is an awful lot to recommend it the kernel changes alone should see you getting a visible noticeable boost to your performance. It is, despite appearances a really well thought out OS and the metro interface has workarounds and can be made exactly like windows 7 with a few well made apps.

            If you like the idea, that under the hood there is so much less crap going on and stability is already on a par with windows 7 (and will only improve) then it is worth upgrading. If you don’t care that windows 7 is a bloated mess because it hides its mess nicely, stick with what you’ve got!

          • plugmonkey says:

            I use my desktop purely for cocking around, as opposed to my laptop, which I use purely for work.

            Did I upgrade my laptop from 7 to 8? No. Why would I? It hadn’t ground to a standstill, and I don’t need to make playing games on a TV from it ever so slightly easier, and there’s absolutely no reason to risk compromising it when I just NEED it to work. There’s very little reason to do anything but leave it well alone.

            If you’re buying a new PC, or have some other reason to be installing a fresh OS, then get Windows 8. It’s slightly nicer in most respects. If you’re not, and your computer is working just fine, then don’t bother.

            This state of affairs doesn’t make Win8 a travesty. It makes it exactly the same as any other release of WIndows. I skipped Win7 on my desktop. That’s normal. Since when did everyone have to get every version of Windows?

      • plugmonkey says:

        Mostly in concert with a new gfx card with hdmi out for sofa based TV gaming. The multiscreen support for this sort of behaviour is currently a fraction of what it should be, but it’s still miles better than Vista. If you do that, I would recommend Win 8 (at least at the £25 I paid).

        Other than that, my 5 year old Vista install had ground to a standstill, so I needed to reinstall an OS of some sort. And I’m a glutten for punishment (early Vista 64 adopter!). And frankly (if I’m honest) I wanted to spite Gabe Newell.

    • Brun says:

      It’s mainly because:

      1) People don’t like the direction Microsoft is taking Windows (i.e. more focus on tablets and walled gardens) with W8. It’s more of a philosophical problem than a technical one. For power users (read: the most vocal users) these features add nothing of value and are often hindrances. Many such users see the hybrid nature of W8 as a compromise designed to familiarize users with what Microsoft wants to be (Metro + Windows Store), to ease them into this new paradigm so that they can push these angles more aggressively in future releases.

      2) As I mentioned above the features added by W8 really don’t add enough value to justify upgrading, even for a power user.

      • plugmonkey says:

        1) There’s absolutely no evidence (that I’ve seen at least) for this walled garden ever existing anywhere other than the tablet OS, where it is the standard amongst Microsoft’s competitors. As I said in my original post, having access to my tablet apps on my desktop PC would be very handy, if I had any.

        The idea that the presence of this feature means the locking down of the rest of the desktop OS seems to have very little basis in fact, so this philosophical objection appears – to me at least – to be based entirely on conjecture. I also can’t help but notice that the prime sources of this conjecture were people with competing business interests…

        2) What new version of Windows does have features that makes everyone rush out and upgrade? This represents the first time EVER my getting a new OS didn’t coincide with my getting an whole new PC! And I did it to get the new features.

        Early adopting an OS is a fool’s game, to be perfectly honest. Vista 64 was a bloody nightmare. It’ll get better, as they always do, but right now – it’s fine. If you want a faster version of Windows with a few useful extra features, then get it. It feels a bit clumsy to begin with, just because a few things are in different places, but once you get used to it, it’s better in almost every regard. I wouldn’t swap back.

  13. The V Man says:

    I think a large part of it, at least in the gaming sector, is that we don’t *need* newer/better/faster PCs currently. The sad truth is that PC gaming is still mostly dictated by consoles – consoles which are now so badly aged that a PC I built almost 4 years ago is running the newest released game at full detail and resolution.

    I remember a time when I’d build a mid-high end PC that wouldn’t be able to run a new game at full res/detail after 6 months unless I shelled out for a new video card. Ah, those were the days – oh wait, that made me really mad…

    So it’s a blessing and a curse. We can enjoy the games we have now on a much wider hardware base, but it’s coming at the cost of higher visual fidelity and hardware sales. It’s a tough place to be in because I’ve never enjoyed spending $600 on just a video card.

    • MentatYP says:

      Exactly what I came here to say. I’m still running a by-PC-terms ancient Core 2 Quad Q6600, which when I built this machine in 2008 was already almost EOL. Since then I’ve installed an SSD and added more storage as well as recently bought a new video card, but the other core components are the same. I have no trouble running any of the games I’m interested in playing. It might choke on Crysis 3 and friends but thankfully I have no interest in those games.

      Besides, PC gaming is a small portion of the PC market. Any ups and downs in the PC gaming area shouldn’t be seen as an indicator for the market as a whole except to say that even the notoriously hardware-hungry PC gaming scene has slowed down a bit because the games just aren’t pushing the hardware like they used to thanks to a glut of console ports.

  14. bad guy says:

    I’d like to see the PC graphics-card sales.

  15. voorsk says:

    What about sales figures of graphics cards, as people upgrade their crappy, overpriced, pre-built PCs to be able to play the decent games?

  16. Beelzebud says:

    People aren’t rushing out to upgrade hardware because the console world has stifled innovation in graphics, so there is no need to stay on the upgrade treadmill.

    I’m using a CPU I bought in 2007 (Q6600), and after updating the graphics card, and throwing some more RAM in the machine, I simply don’t see why I need to upgrade right now, as I play Bioshock Infinite on the highest settings with smooth frame rates.

    • plugmonkey says:

      I’m afraid you have a cart / horse sorting issue there.

      Normally, PC tech gallops madly ahead, and then when it gets far enough ahead that people look at it and the tops of their heads fall off out of sheer amazement, this triggers a new console generation to catch back up again.

      But this hasn’t happened. The law of diminishing returns on increases in hardware power means we still haven’t seen anything amazing come from the top end PCs. That’s the reason why nobody’s bothered with a new console generation, not the other way around.

      Until now, and only then because they think they have to, but with nothing really driving it, nobody really gives a shit. PC is the cutting edge, and it simply hasn’t moved forward because it’s running out of places to go.

      • Milky1985 says:

        you missing the fact here that games are developed for the consoles and so are restricted in scale or graphics or in some way to count for that.

        So the PC cannot push ahead as much as normal because to make them money back companies have to release big games on PC, PS3 and 360, so it has to work on the weaker hardware.

  17. solymer89 says:

    Out of everything that everyone has stated as to the reason, I still believe that the real issue is the disparity between the end user and the companies, in regards to knowledge of the device. There are still so many people that don’t know what RAM is or why a motherboard is so essential to a machine or what CPU stands for and what it’s function is. All these tablets, and even laptops to an extent, are user friendly in that they do not require the user to learn anything new beyond what buttons to press and when.

    I myself do it to a degree. I’ve known and only known Windows as an operating system. There are obvious short comings to the program but it is what I am used to. I want to explore the other OS’s out there but I hold myself back because I’m not willing to go through the growing pains of learning a new thing.

    So this is me saying PC hardware sales will tread water in between it’s highest point to date, and it’s lowest point due to the lack of overall knowledge in regards to the product (which parts are needed and which to get, etc…). Console gamers will remain console gamers because all they have to do is put a disc in and hit a button or two. They will never attempt to put together their own PC, they will never explore all that a machine is capable of. Like everything else it seems, they will let someone else tell them how it is instead of discovering it for themselves.

    With that said, we few who took the initiative to learn our hobbies and crafts, know just how good things could be if it weren’t for the masses (money) of people that took the “easier” (user-friendly) route to their work and entertainment. The sad reality is that the masses (money) controls where the ship goes and how fast or slow it moves.

  18. Tams80 says:

    As others have already stated, I think what we’re seeing is the decline of larger PCs from their peak. Before, you almost had to have one to quite simple tasks and consumers were sold them as such. Now most of that can be done on smaller computers.

    What we’re ending up with are the professionals and enthusiasts, who will likely always like ‘more power’, which will still only be available in larger PCs.

    Larger PCs for general consumers won’t completely go away though. There will be demand for larger screens, that essentially necessitate larger PCs.

  19. Bweahns says:

    I’ve never bought a pre packaged computer in my life. But from my perspective I haven’t upgraded in forever as no new game has come out in the past 4 years that required me to purchase new hardware. Triple AAA releases are also not my cup of tea these days. I’ve been playing FPS shooters since Wolfenstein was first released and it’s rare anything comes out that really fires up your passion to play it.

    If games were coming out that were truly making big advances in graphics that were also fun to play there is no doubt I would be upgrading more often. However there isn’t and hardware that is 5 years old still runs windows and day to day tasks just fine.

  20. MacTheGeek says:

    The primary market for prebuilt PCs is the same as it’s always been: corporate entities. Corporate entities don’t care how many graphics a computer has, they just want it to run the necessary software. They’ll buy thousands of units at a whack, because it’s easier to administer a corporate help desk when everyone has the same hardware. Something doesn’t work? Swap out the box, drop the company-standard OS image on it, let the user sign in and download all of his/her unique bits from the corporate server, and they’re good as new.

    Games have nothing to do with the drop in prebuilt PCs. The biggest reasons why prebuilt PC sales volumes are dropping? One, most corporate environments have cycled through hardware within the last 5-6 years, so all those corporate users have a newish multi-core CPU, a decent quantity of RAM, sufficient disk space and network connectivity, and those systems have yet to start breaking down en masse. There’s no compelling hardware reason to upgrade.

    The second reason why prebuilt sales are dropping was mentioned in the article: Windows 8. Corporate IT departments won’t spend money buying a new operating system that’s going to require all their employees to learn how to perform their job-related tasks all over again. (And it doesn’t really matter whether the actual time investment would be minimal; the fact that the time investment would be necessary at all is sufficient.) Throw in the necessity of re-certifying all of those custom-designed applications for a new operating system, and it’s no surprise ConHugeCo wants no part of Windows 8. It’s a compelling reason NOT to upgrade.

  21. geldonyetich says:

    The games industry tried turning everything into casual-friendly cash grabs, it managed to generate a brief burst of revenue, but ultimately they ended up regretting it because casual gamers only play games casually and it turned out their core gamers were the ones doing the real, long-term buying. The consequence was damage to the entire gaming industry as their most valuable customers simply lost faith in it being able to deliver a product they were interested in.

    Along comes Microsoft who tried to do the same thing with Windows 8 to operating systems. It may have managed to generate a brief burst of revenue as some casuals thought, “Neat, I can use OS now!” but history repeated itself as they alienated the core PC users who did the real, long-term buying by shutting them out in trying to appeal to people who are only casually interested in computing to begin with. The consequence was damage to the entire PC platform, and that includes hardware sales, because their most valuable customers lost faith in this platform as suiting their needs.

    Worse, Windows 8 may even have failed to interest casuals. My dad’s a 70-something year old, and he wastes no time telling me how much really, really hates Windows 8. Microsoft may have thought they were doing him a favor hiding all the system-damaging things, like that scary control panel, away from him: think again, even he wants to be able to have more control over his own computer than that.

    Windows 8 is like trying to sell us a refrigerator that can only keep food slightly below room temperature because they felt was more important to develop a robotic voice that tells the user to go on a diet. Well, okay, it’s not quite that bad: Windows 8 is still Windows 7, deep down, so the proverbial refrigerator keeps food just as cold as ever. But the trouble is that the only changes it introduced was to make Windows harder to use for anyone who already knows how to use it, for fear that those who don’t will make a mess of it: the damn door of this fridge keeps sticking because of its dietary nanny addition. That’s a no-sell product, how didn’t they realize that? Did they think that bundling it on every laptop was going to make us tolerate such brazen casual shoehorning? Get real!

    I humored Windows ME and Windows Vista because, hey, they may not have been perfect, but at least they were trying to innovate. But Windows 8 managed to make me seriously consider making the transition to Linux. If the PC industry plays hardball and implements a feature that makes me require Windows 8, I think I may well make good on that threat.

    Give us power, stability, and security, or get the Hell out of the operating system business, Microsoft. If any overture to user friendliness gets in the way of those three things, the core functionality of what an operating system needs to do above all else, it is a catastrophic failure to deliver a viable product, and nothing less. Leave inefficient, price-inflated hardware developed for people who don’t like dealing with real computing to Apple: it’s better for industries to have distinct niches to serve their users better.

    • MadTinkerer says:

      Pretty much this. I am saving up for a couple of new systems (one for me and one for my brother), and if they’re infected with Win 8 and we can’t get a “downgrade” to Win 7 for free, I’m just going to buy two more copies of Win 7 (because we need Win 7 for most of our library) and look into finally figuring out how to use Linux (because it’s looking more and more like the future).

      It’s funny: Windows 8 seems to be the best thing to happen to Linux in a long time.

      • bill says:

        You realise that windows 8 is basically exactly the same as windows 7? But with a few small improvements and a few optional extras?

        And that by repeating all the FUD about it you just sound either (a) brainwashed or (b) very scared of change.

        After 2 days you’ll forget that you’ve changed OS.

  22. thematrix606 says:

    I’m going to take a wild stab here…yeah…and guess that there were more cars than ever on the road when the big car companies went in trouble?

    What I’m trying to say is… perhaps if Intel finally released a CPU where the processor part was more than 1% faster than it’s predecessor, and perhaps nVidia can release a faster card for 70% less of the current high end (1k). Perhaps when prices are where they SHOULD be people would buy things?

    Just saying. A video card for the price of 3 smart phones, or 3 tablets, or 2 laptops…. just saying guys, JUST SAYING PROBABLY NOTHING FISHY GOING ON HERE.

  23. screeg says:

    What is this about PCs and hardware? I thought this was supposed to be a GAMING website!!!!11

    • -Spooky- says:

      Hardware is part of PC gaming.

      @Topic

      No real Hardcore PC Gamer cares about “compact” system like Dell etc. – The most ones (for my experience) are custom builds.

  24. Milky1985 says:

    I don’t get this whole debate, the PC market is a saturated market, of course sales won’t continue to rise as much as they did during the time when not everyone had one of the sodding things.

    Now the sales will be replacements for slow or broken machines, but apparently common sense is a bad thing in the business world.

  25. 11temporal says:

    This article completely missed the number 1 reason: PCs are so good nowadays there is little reason to upgrade them.

    The benefit of upgrading a few years old PC is negligible for the vast majority of people hence the sells falter. That doesn’t mean PC is dying it means it’s now a mature technology.

  26. MiKHEILL says:

    Am I the only person who has no trouble writing capably and efficiently on a touchscreen (especially that of a tablet)?

    • bill says:

      Am i the only one who wonders why tablet keyboards are very clever and learn from how I type, but PC keyboards don’t. Is there a PC version of SwiftKey or something similar?

  27. bill says:

    Late to this, but oh well:

    The most interesting question is the last one posed. Personally I’ve been wishing for a while that RPS would cover more tablet/android games. I realise that they probably won’t, but recently I keep reading about interesting sounding indie games and thinking ‘That sounds great, but it would be better on a tablet. I wonder if they have a tablet version?’. Not for all games of course, but for a fair number.

    There seems to be quite a large crossover between indie PC games and tablet games, so it almost seems to make sense to cover them. But then of course the argument could be expanded to include consoles too.

    As for the other points in the article, I found them a little misleading.

    PC games sales being up has little to no bearing on hardware sales, as PC gamers make up a very small fraction of all PC users. Desktop sales have been going down for years now. (does anyone seriously know anyone except a gamer who has a desktop? I don’t). And regular corporate replacement of PCs makes up a huge part of the PC market – and they’ve all put that on hold due to the economy.
    Gaming PC hardware sales will probably keep on trucking as they always have, as they seem unconnected to wider PC sales.

    Windows 8 bashing is getting rather old. It just comes across as being remarkably inflexible and stuck in your ways. I use it every day and it works fine. Not only that but it works EXACTLY THE SAME as all previous versions of windows. The tablet apps are a nice little bonus, but I rarely use them (except the mail app and calendar) and you could easily use windows 8 without ever opening a single one.
    Once on the desktop it works just like you’d expect. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but it improves performance. It has a sweet file copy dialog, nice skydrive integration, much better multi-lingual options and it’s the first windows with a built in anti-virus. It installed in abuot 10 minutes without the need for any driver disks or hassle. Plus they sold it for half the price of a PC game.

    It may well be true that the cost of touchscreen laptops might have slowed sales, but to be honest MS needed to do something to try to introduce something new to get people to buy new PCs. Most people have no reason to buy a new PC these days, unless it’s for a trendy touch screen.

    Windows 8 might not be the saviour of PC sales, but it’s hardly fair to stick in the snide remarks each time it’s mentioned.

  28. Wallllrod says:

    Hardware piracy is killing the blah bluh gmuh

  29. buxcador says:

    Well, my old 8800GT still runs any game very well. I bought a GTX 670 just out of greed, but I understand that nobody has a reason to upgrade.

    My i7 920, is many years old, but still have performance close to top processors. No reason to upgrade. I would consider an upgrade if Intel were offering a new x58 processor, but again, I would upgrade only out of greed. Is not really necessary, and Intel pretends to believe that I would buy a new mother just to buy a new processor.

    On the software side, yes, I hate Windows 8.
    As a side note I ever was a serial updater. I ever had the last version, but I have no plan to migrate from W7 to W8, and I still use MS Office 2007, because that was the last opportunity I gave to MS about Office. They keep removing features (like the old drag and drop of Excel cells to add lines to a chart), and keep modifying the interface to reduce his usability.
    I’m not closed to newer interfaces, but they should be better, not just pointless upgrades for marketing purposes.

    About touch screens:
    I don’t want to fill my screens with tomato sauce, and I don’t accept that Metro Interface can be scrolled with a finger, but not with a mouse “drag and drop”. I hate being forced to use the clumsy wheel.
    Maybe I would take a keyboard sized screen to be used as a touch screen keyboard. I dreamed for a long time with a cheap keyboard with reconfigurable keys, but I would not put my fingers on my impollute screen.

    No, I hate Apple, have no plan to move, and I don’t touch a console even with a pole.

    Is just that there is not an appealing upgrade path, both in hardware and software.

  30. HisDivineOrder says:

    I think tablets are the new netbook and they are hot right now, so they are going to sell like hotcakes, but eventually people will have had that tablet and smartphone experience they need. Then they’ll want to do more advanced things and they’ll glance over at that laptop or desktop covered in dust.

    The mp3 will start up. “That new hotness not gettin’ yer Word up, eh?” the plain jane PC’ll say with an amused, perhaps vaguely sad, question.

    “No,” they’ll say. “I… I was thinking I might boot you up and do some writing. Maybe some taxes.”

    “Oh,” she’ll say, “But I thought you liked asking Siri stupid questions? Or sliding your hands all over those other devices. I thought you liked how fast they instantly woke up.”

    “Nah,” they’ll say and then they’ll lie. “It wasn’t nothin’. We’re just friends.”

    “Didn’t look like just friends when you were jammin’ every SIM card you could find into their port…”

    “Look. She don’t do it for me anymore. I got REAL things to do. I don’t have time for feely, touchy flights of fancy anymore. I need… you.”

    “Maybe I don’t want to do it anymore. Maybe I’m tired of being a Core 2 PC with 2 gigs of RAM. Maybe I’m just too tired.”

    “BUT I CAN GET YOU HASWELL!”

    “That’s a start…”

    “I might even swing you a start button.”

    “Now we’re talkin’…”

    And just like that, everything will equalize. Tablets have their place just as smartphones do. PC’s too have their place. Sometimes, a percentage of users are going to need performance. Right now and for the far foreseeable future, we live in a world where x86 is going to maintain a significant performance lead. ARM won’t catch up to that any time soon. They may catch up to “fast enough” for a lot of users, though, which is where tablets and smartphones will have a greater percentage of penetration and uptick than PC’s. And smartphones and tablets will continue to be replaced at rapid pace for as long as their performance isn’t considered “fast enough.” (As a point of reference, PC’s are currently seen as “fast enough.” Meanwhile, tablets always seem on the verge of being fast enough, but not quite just as Netbooks did before them.)

    In the end, I think what’s going to get shoved out of the market are specialized devices. Gaming consoles, blu-ray players, streaming devices, the roku’s and appletv’s of the world are going to go bye-bye. Specialized devices make sense when generalized computing devices are expensive, but when they go down in price those specialized devices make little sense, especially in a world full of chips that sip power and require little cooling with incredible amounts of performance.

    I do think that Intel will reduce their exposure to the “enthusiast” consumer and AMD will follow not long after, if they don’t go out of business first. nVidia will eventually move to making Tegra first and GPU’s second, perhaps using one as the testbed for the other in a more direct and immediate fashion than they currently do. Qualcomm will become Intel’s chief rival in chips and Samsung will become the new Apple. Google will become the old MS of yesteryear, Apple will become the current MS, and MS will become the new IBM, focusing on business users only. Steam will focus on Android/Chrome OS and perhaps the Steambox/Linux if they ever finish it.

    I think Intel will stretch user-upgraded CPU’s out across years at a time until eventually they’ll be so far out of touch (like the IB-E is now for example) that it will actually seem a downgrade to go with the user upgraded CPU than the SOC that’ll likely be cheaper. That’s when users will switch over to the SOC even for the larger computers, though they’ll be fewer with tons of mATX and mITX (not to mention NUC) out there.

    Perhaps ePCIe will show up and give us a way to make a NUC into a high end gaming computer with the use of some external GPU box. Perhaps that external GPU box will be some form of nVidia’s version of a NUC from Project Denver, too. Separate, you have NUC and nVidia’s NUC both capable of computing, though nVidia’s only does ARM. Connected by ePCIe and magically the NUC becomes a world class gaming pair of boxes.

    Maybe. Either way, PC’s will be here. They just might not look at all like the PC’s we think of as PC’s. But don’t expect tablets and smartphones to continue to grow forever. I suspect smartphones are already about to plateau once Google Glass starts really rolling because looking at that and the possibilities of what it does and where it could go, that just seems like the logical replacement in the long run.

    Also, btw, the real way to replace the keyboard is not with touchscreens. It’s with voice and software that anticipates what you need before you need it. Perhaps, for example, software that hears your conversations and sees what you’re looking at and makes assumptions about what you need based on what you’re doing physically in the real world.

    Through Google Glass-like devices. There are few things we carry with us as many places as our phones. Sunglasses is one of the few we carry and use more readily…

  31. mdazfrench says:

    I’d actually point to the fact that most of us try and buy components (for those of us that build their own PCs) that are a) reasonably priced and b) will last for several years. While swapping out components will lead to a reasonable stream of purchases hardware has also plateued (not sure if that’s a word at all) over the last year or two. It’s tempting to blame Windows 8 or the increased tablet market but for a regular gamer? Games aren’t being released that challenge my hardware, and my hardware isn’t broken. So, no new hardware purchases. Sorry HP.

  32. Prime says:

    Fair enough. My comment was, however, aimed more at power-users of windows such as Mr Walker here. Alec has also has a rant about it. These kinds of people really should know better.

  33. Solidstate89 says:

    No. Just no to everything. Windows 8 is apparently so “appallingly different” as to drive people away from it and your answer is to send them to Linux and to use LibreOffice?

    No. Just read what you’re writing.

  34. Solidstate89 says:

    No. The people you’re referring don’t want to stop using Microsoft because it’s what they know. And using the explorer in Windows 8 is FAR FAR FAR more familiar than any DE in any Linux Distro. They don’t want to use Libre Office, they want to use MS Office. They don’t want to use Firefox, they want to use IE. They don’t want Unity, they want explorer. The list goes on and on.

    That you think showing someone to click on the desktop icon in Windows 8 is equivalent to teaching that person on how to Linux is laughable. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. If Windows 8 is too “different” and too hard to learn, like fuck they’ll want to use Linux. What’s a .deb? Why can’t I download .exes? What’s a package manager? Where’s Solitaire? Why can’t I just use [insert windows only application here] like I always did? How come Netflix doesn’t work anymore? What do you mean I have to use WINE? Why would I use WINE on a computer?

    No. Just no.

  35. solidsquid says:

    For an average user, Linux Mint (an Ubuntu derivative) has a very similar interface to Windows pre-8 and equivalents for all the software they’ll use. There will be a bit of a learning curve, but significantly less than there is for learning an entire new interface. At least that’s the logic behind the argument, don’t know how accurate it is (some people might just make do with Windows 8, or wait until 9 and see what happens. Also there’s the issue of who helps them *through* the learning curve, without friends/family to explain the differences they could be just as stumped as with Windows 8)

  36. TechnicalBen says:

    Yep. A power user can either change Windows 8, or no upgrade. They are a power user, they’ll figure out how to get 7 to do the job they want.

  37. Llewyn says:

    But you don’t even need to be a power user, let alone to install any additional shell components. If you use it like Win7 it behaves basically like Win7, in the same way as if you used Win7 like Vista it behaved basically like Vista.

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