PC Gaming Is Cheaper Than You Might Think

June 8, 2020

Money was incredibly tight for my family while I was growing up. My mum was on her own with two kids, and so getting the latest and greatest games wasn’t exactly on the agenda except for on special occasions like birthdays. I’d normally get a few games at Christmas between my mum and grandparents, and then spend the year playing those few games repeatedly (plus any others from the year before) until my next birthday rolled around or I sold/traded in my games. Unfortunately for me, being born on Christmas Day meant I didn’t have the luxury of two big gift receiving days of the year as a kid (don’t worry though, I certainly wasn’t shortchanged). So, variety wasn’t exactly the spice of life for me. Obviously, not being a child anymore means that my game buying ability has changed quite a bit, but the last few years in particular have opened my eyes to a world of cheap PC gaming that I hadn’t known existed a decade ago.

For years I always viewed gaming on a PC as some massively expensive undertaking; Mostly likely because I tend to go for medium to high end parts. $2000 isn’t a small amount of money, but it’s also super easy to drop that on a PC build. Especially if you need to buy a bunch of peripherals like a monitor and speakers. The view has always been that how cheap you can buy PC games makes up for this, but with sales on console digital storefronts getting better and better over time this advantage had been gradually decreasing.

Combatting this, however, has been the rise of ‘Beat the Average’ or ‘Build Your Own’ bundles on PC game storefronts. From Humble Bundle to Fanatical and more, storefronts across the internet have made a name for themselves selling ubercheap bundles filled with some fantastic PC games. Right now, for example, you can pay sub-$17 for 8 Idea Factory games on Fanatical (such as MegaDimension Neptunia VII and Fairy Fencer F), while $29.99 over at Humble Bundle will get you 9 games from a selection of 12 (including 2019’s GRID – Ultimate Edition, The Messenger and Hellblade Senua’s Sacrifice). With bundles like this it’s easy to build an instant library of 30+ medium to high quality games (including some only a year old) for sub-$100 on a PC, something that’s near-to-impossible to do on a console.

The risk here comes with whether or not your PC can run the games in the bundle, something you never have to worry about on a console. So, I decided to take a look at just how little you could spend on a PC and still be able to take advantage of these bundles. The short answer? Not as much as you might think.

To work this out, I reviewed the last six months of Humble Choice bundle to find the game with the highest minimum system requirements. This ended up being Hellblade Senua’s Sacrifice, which is part of this month’s Humble Choice bundle. At a minimum Hellblade requires an Intel i5-3570k/AMD FX-8350, 8GB of RAM and an Nvidia GTX 700 with 2GB VRAM /Radeon R9 280X 3GB. All of these are parts that are half a decade old and certainly not high-tech. Using PC Part Picker I was able to put together the below PC configuration that met those requirements, and beat them in some aspects as well:

Component Selection Base
CPU AMD Ryzen 5 1600 (12nm) 3.2 GHz 6-Core Processor $189.00 AUD
Motherboard ASRock B450M-HDV R4.0 Micro ATX AM4 Motherboard $125.00 AUD
Memory Corsair Vengeance LPX 8 GB (1 x 8 GB) DDR4-2400 CL16 Memory $63.17 AUD
Storage Western Digital Caviar Blue 1 TB 3.5″ 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive $54.00 AUD
Video Card XFX Radeon RX 570 4 GB RS XXX Video Card $208.12 AUD
Case Cooler Master MasterBox Q300L MicroATX Mini Tower Case $89.00 AUD
Power Supply EVGA 500 W 80+ Certified ATX Power Supply $83.60 AUD
Total $811.89 AUD

Obviously, there are a couple of other things you might need such as Windows, a keyboard/mouse, or a monitor, but those are so variable in price that I’ve left them off. For Windows, you might be eligible for a free or extremely cheap copy as a student or through your workplace. For a keyboard and mouse, unless you’re going super hard a $20-$30 combo pair is totally fine, and for a monitor, you can always use your TV or find a monitor that suits your preferred size.

For under $900 AUD you have a PC that can run the most resource heavy game in the last 6 months of bundle. Hell, this PC can even run Resident Evil 3, which released only 2 months ago. Sure, it’s not going to be at high settings, and it won’t look as good as if you spent $2000+, but PC Gaming is really only as restrictive as you need it to be. In fact, there are dedicated websites and YouTube channels out there that spend time deliberately altering settings on games to make them run on systems that don’t even meet the minimum requirements. PC gaming isn’t cheap, but it certainly isn’t as expensive as you may have been led to believe.