Before Christmas, whilst eagerly awaiting unwrapping my 360 on December 25th, I formed the opinion that PC gaming was no longer for me. I cleared out a lot of my old PC games, trading them at CEX or Gamestation for credit to spend on shiny new (well, second hand) 360 titles.
PC gaming was to expensive, I reasoned. Sure, the games were usually cheaper, with most new multi-platform releases at the £17.99 price point for PC as opposed to £29.99 or £39.99 on consoles, but the problem with PC gaming was keeping up with the hardware. You could reasonably spend £200 or more each year trying (and frankly failing) to keep your PC on the cutting edge so you could play the latest games.
In 1999 I spent £150 on a 3dfx Voodoo3 3000 graphics card. 3dfx was a massive player in the graphics card market at the time and I was confident that I had purchased the best possible upgrade for my PC. By the end of 2000 3dfx had undergone one of the most high-profile demises in the history of the PC industry and my £150 graphics card had been replaced by an nVidia Geforce256 that a friend gave me for free.
Looking back I can't believe I spent £150 on a graphics card. It was part of a large upgrade that included a new motherboard, new CPU (Celeron 333 mhz!) and new memory. At the time it seemed worth it. This was from my original spec of a Pentium 200 mhz MMX with 64 Mb RAM and an STB Velocity 128 with a 3dfx voodoo card!
After sorting all the drivers out me and two friends settled back in front of my 17" CRT monitor to play FIFA 99 in 1024x768 resolution. Staring open mouthed at the screen and feeling very pleased with my upgrade, I declared to my friends "THIS... is how FIFA should be played!"
Numerous upgrades followed over the next few years. I don't know how many cpu and motherboard combinations I went through. I can recall a couple of K6-2 chips, a Pentium II, several flavours of Duron processors, an AthlonXP, etc. And almost without fail each new CPU would have meant a new motherboard, not to mention all the different memory I've gone through. And the graphics cards! In addition to what has already been mentioned I can recall a Geforce2, Geforce3, Geforce4, Radeon 9200, Radeon 9800 Pro, S3 Savage4 (big mistake that one!) and a KyroII.
Add to that hard drives, cases, CD-rom drives, DVD-rom drivers, CD-writers, DVD-writers, sound cards, power supplies... I could go on and on here! I shudder to think what I've spent over the years trying to keep up with the games, I really have no idea what that figure would be. What I do know is that none of the subsequent upgrades had the impact of that first one and the improvements I was seeing in my games just didn't seem to justify the outlay. There were also problems with older games written for Windows 95 not working in later versions of the OS. Driver problems, seemingly endless patch files for some games, problems configuring joypads and joysticks, software running in the background slowing down games, crashes... all the joys of using a PC basically!
Fed up with all this I decided that console gaming was the way to go. I seem to recall what prompted my decision to get an XBox 360 was downloading the demo for PES 2008. Every PC version up to that point had run quite happily on my PC, with a handy little USB device connected that let me use two PlayStation2 pads. Suddenly PES 2008 wanted me to use 360 controllers, ran like a dog and looked absolutely awful. Oh dear. I went on the net and priced up two new 360 pads and a new graphics card. Coming to the conclusion that I would have to spend over £100 I decided I might as well scrape up the extra and just buy an XBox 360 and avoid all the other problems I was likely to encounter with the game!
Now, just over six months later, I am back in the PC game. New PC ordered with a new graphics card too. Nice spec, 3 Ghz dual core P4 and 2 Gb RAM. Vista as the OS which I was initially reluctant about but checking recent benchmarks following the release of SP1 the performance has definitely improved so it shouldn't be a problem.
I'm actually quite excited. I need to get busy downloading all the applications that a fresh Vista install needs (not to mention that lovely SP1!) and the latest drivers for my new graphics card. I also need to pick out some of my 360 games to trade in for some PC games.
Hmmm. Full circle. Funny that...