Table of Contents
- Why is PC Gaming So Expensive (or Why Can it Be)?
- Are Prebuilt Gaming PCs Worth It?
- Is PC Gaming Worth the Price?
- A Quick Note on PC Game Mods (Modifications)
- What’s the Point of Having a Gaming PC?
- Should You Buy Used PC Parts for Gaming?
- Is PC Gaming More Expensive Than Console Gaming?
- What Is a Realistic Budget for a Gaming PC?
- Conclusion: Is PC Gaming Worth the Money?
If you’re thinking of getting into PC gaming, you might be wondering “is PC gaming expensive”? Though it sometimes can be, it doesn’t necessarily have to be. I want to show you exactly how much it’s going to cost you depending on a few factors.
You’ll learn about how you can get into it for a budget that absolutely will work for your personal situation.
However, to get a gaming PC for the best possible price, you’ll need to ask yourself a few questions.
For instance, what games do you want to play – older titles like Half-Life 2, Portal 1 and 2, etc, or all the newest, modern-day tripe-A titles like Borderlands 3, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, and Far Cry 6?
Lastly, you will find out how your monitor’s screen resolution, your preferred refresh rate (frame rate – or “FPS”), and your desired graphics settings all affect how much you’ll need to shell out for a gaming PC.
But first, let’s talk about why gaming PCs can be pricey, and how you don’t have to overspend on one.
Why is PC Gaming So Expensive (or Why Can it Be)?
PC gaming can be expensive because it requires many individual parts that must work together. You have to either buy these components separately or purchase a prebuilt gaming PC which can often be even more pricey.
Prebuilt gaming PCs exist to help you get into gaming without actually knowing how to build a PC, or how all the components work together.
They’re a fantastic option – and even I, as an experienced PC builder, would still love to have a prebuilt. They’re just so convenient!
But if you just want to dive into PC gaming and learn how to build your own PC, it’s really not that difficult. But here’s why gaming PCs can get expensive.
If you’re going to build your own PC, here’s a list of all the components you need:
- The computer case itself (or chassis)
- An operating system (OS) like Windows 11
- Extra case fans if your case doesn’t come with enough
- A video card (often referred to as a GPU) from Nvidia, AMD, or Intel
- RAM (Random Access Memory, or simply “memory”)
- CPU (processor)
- A CPU cooler (heat sink and fan) if yours doesn’t include one in the box
- A Motherboard
- A PCI Express WiFi adapter if your motherboard doesn’t include WiFi connectivity
- A PSU (power supply)
- A hard drive (HDD) or SSD (Solid State Drive)
- A monitor
- A keyboard and mouse
- An optional mouse pad
- Some sort of office equipment like a gaming chair and desk
- Cables to connect your GPU to your monitor
- A power bar*
- A UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supply)*
*Though these are optional, they’re highly recommended.
Here are some additional things to keep in mind. It’s a good idea to double-check if the CPU you want to buy includes a heat sink and fan combo.
However, each CPU maker (Intel and AMD) have special considerations. For instance, some SKUs (stock-keeping units) do not come with bundled heat sinks and fans.
What Intel CPUs Come With Heat Sinks and Fans?
Intel Processors that have the letters K, KF, KS, XE, or X in the model name don’t include a heat sink and fan in the box.
Specific examples include the i5-13600K, i7-13700KF, i9-12900K, i7-11700K, i9-1200KF, i9-12900KS, i9-9980XE, and i5-10600K.
What AMD CPUs Come With Heat Sinks and Fans?
For instance, the Ryzen 5 7600X, Ryzen 7 7700X, Ryzen 9 7900X, and Ryzen 9 7950X don’t have one included.
PCGA Pro Tip: There are some AMD CPUs that do come with included coolers:
- The AMD Ryzen 5 7600 comes with and AMD Wraith Stealth cooler
- The AMD Ryzen 7 7700 and Ryzen 9 7900 come with the Wraith Prism cooler
This isn’t an affiliate link, but have a quick look here to see what they look like. These are actually excellent these days, and definitely allow for extra overclocking headroom.
What About 3rd-Party Heat Sinks and Fans?
PCGA Pro Tip: Even if your CPU includes a heat sink and fan, I don’t always recommend using it. Sometimes, it’s okay.
For the most part, if the CPU you buy does include a heat sink and fan, it’s probably okay to use it if you don’t push your CPU to the absolute maximum continuously for several hours at a time, every day.
My thoughts are since you can get a really good CPU cooler for a very reasonable price, you may want to consider buying a 3rd-party CPU cooler.
Stock ones, generally speaking, aren’t designed to cool your CPU during extremely heavy workloads. However, that’s different with AMD’s stock Wraith coolers. These are quite respectable.
But if you still want to upgrade your cooler, what exactly is a heavy workload?
A heavy workload would definitely include gaming – and if you’re saving money and buying a cheaper CPU, most games will place a fairly heavy demand on it.
For example, one of the best and cheapest CPU coolers is the Thermalright Assassin X120. It’s available for many different Intel or AMD platforms, and it only costs around 20 bucks. You can also get it in a variety of colors.
Colors include white, grey, silver, and black, and there are RGB and non-RGB versions.
Gamers have been using a similar one literally for over a decade (the Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo) because, for a time, it was the single most legendary CPU cooler for the money.
However, at the end of the day, you’re free to purchase any CPU cooler you want – or just stick to your stock one that comes with your CPU.
PCGA Pro Tip: There are air coolers and AIO (All In One) water CPU coolers. Water cooling solutions will almost always be pricier than air coolers.
This is another reason why PC gaming is so expensive (or can be) – the sheer variety of choices!
If you choose the wrong components or don’t do enough research you could easily spend way more than you need to.
By the way, you really don’t need to spend a heck of a lot on a gaming CPU. You can get some very solid optoins nowadays for under $200.
Related Article: Best CPU for Gaming Under 200 Bucks: Top 7 AMD + Intel Picks
Are Prebuilt Gaming PCs Worth It?
To some, it may be worth it. If you don’t want to go through the hassle of learning how all of the components above work together, you can buy prebuilt gaming PCs.
They offer you a very simple way to get into PC gaming without having to put too much though into it.
However, again, I really think it’s worth noting that you should be aware of what you’re buying, at the very least.
Sometimes, Prebuilt Gaming PCs Use Subpar Internal Components
For instance, prebuilt gaming PCs often use outdated, last-generation, or outright cheap hardware that is still being sold at premium prices.
At best, this hardware will be too overpriced for the performance you’re getting, and may not be able to play the games you want.
At worst, cheap components like motherboards and PSUs could really put your system at risk. You could risk your PC blowing up or otherwise becoming severely damaged.
Here are some ways some prebuilt gaming PCs try to cut corners:
- Last-gen CPUs (or even several generation-old ones)
- Last-gen GPUs
- Very poor-quality power supplies (PSU)
- Off-brand or no-name motherboards
- Cheap cables
- Cheap computer cases
- Not enough case fans
- Cheap hard drives or SSDs
As such, it’s very important to only choose high-quality prebuilt gaming PCs.
You can get these from companies like Alienware, iBUYPOWER, and Origin PC (as some examples) – but I still highly recommend doing your due diligence.
Make sure you know exactly what you’re buying, how new the hardware inside is, and what components the PCs have inside so that you can make sure it’ll be high-quality.
And – most importantly – make sure you know for sure if the prebuilt gaming PC you’re looking at can play the games you want!
PCGA Pro Tip: Make sure the PC you buy includes a CPU and GPU that can handle the games you want to play. I want you to have an amazing time gaming without spending too much, or getting terrible hardware!
It’s a great idea to look at benchmarks for your chosen PC components and game combos from the likes of a few YouTube channels:
Check out those YouTube channels, do some research, and really know what you’re buying before splurging on especially a prebuilt machine.
Is PC Gaming Worth the Price?
I can’t really answer this for you, but to me, it absolutely is. You could experience several benefits of switching to PC gaming if you’re already gaming on some form of console.
For instance, there are thousands of games available. You can get far more games that are available on PC vs any console out there.
There are also lots of PC games that are simply not available on any console. For some examples, here are some games that you can only play on PC:
- Half-Life: Alyx
- Age Of Empires IV
- The S.T.A.L.K.E.R series
- Fallout 1/2
- ATOM RPG
- Baldur’s Gate III
- Planescape Torment
- Neverwinter Nights
- Pathfinder Kingmaker
- The Civilization series
- Endless Legend
- Black Mesa
- Dyson Sphere Program
- FTL: Faster Than Light
- Ready or Not
- Euro Truck Simulator 2
- Dwarf Fortress
- V Rising
Here are some other games you can only play on PC according to this article by GamePur.com. This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means, but these are just some reasons I think gaming on PC is worth it.
A Quick Note on PC Game Mods (Modifications)
A very common thing people love to do is mod (modify) their PC games. This means adding additional functionality to your games or simply making them silly.
Many games allow you to change them with modifications you can download from the internet. But these mods are not available on consoles in most cases.
Sure, some console games can be modded, but for the most part, that’s not the case. For instance, here’s a video of the 13 best GTA V mods that you can only get on PC. Pretty sweet!
What’s the Point of Having a Gaming PC?
Maybe you also want to do a bunch of other things rather than being limited by a console. I like using my PC for several different things – not just gaming, Netflix, YouTube, etc.
So, spending the extra money on a PC that can do thousands of things rather than just a few is well worth the price.
There’s also the question of whether you like to use a mouse and keyboard or a controller. Your gaming PC can utilize a mouse and keyboard, or a controller – and a console can of course only utilize a controller.
Related Article: Gaming Keyboard vs Regular Keyboard: Differences Explained
A mouse and keyboard give you so much more control over your games, in my experience.
However, you could still benefit from using a controller for the following games, for instance:
- Elden Ring
- Platformers like Tomb Raider 2013/Rise of the Tomb Raider/Shadow of the Tomb Raider
- Persona 5 Royal
- Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered
- Just Cause 3 and 4
- GTA V
- Devil May Cry 5
- the Batman series
- Dark Souls 3
- …and so many more!
A console, for the most part, can only use a controller. It’s not common to use a mouse and keyboard on a console.
Again, I love using a mouse and keyboard because of the extra control I get over my games. It allows me to just overall be better at any game I’m playing.
Since PC gaming is so expensive (or can be) I need to make sure that it’s worthwhile to me – and so should you!
Should You Buy Used PC Parts for Gaming?
There’s something to be said about purchasing used PC gaming components. You could stand to save lots of money.
For instance, you could buy many PC gaming components from marketplaces like Amazon or eBay – but should you?
This is a pretty loaded question. I’d say that you really have to know what you’re getting yourself into if you’re planning on doing that.
For instance, buying used PC gaming parts and components comes with some inherent risks:
- You don’t know what the condition of the parts is
- You don’t know how they were treated
- There’s no way for you to guarantee they’re actually functional
- Even if they are functional, you don’t know how long they’ll work
- They could (and probably are) out of warranty
- There’s the risk that they could be fakes or not genuine parts
- The parts could get lost using sketchy shipping methods
- The parts could get damaged
- … and, at the end of the day, you could be out hundreds or thousands of dollars
Don’t let these things deter you, though. If you’re diligent enough, you could potentially get yourself a really good deal on something used – but I can’t stress enough that it’s best to do a ton of research first.
Check the eBay and Amazon listings very carefully, make sure you read everything thoroughly, and even message the seller first if you can.
I do not want you to read this website, go out and buy used gaming components, and lose your money.
That would make me incredibly sad, and it would defeat the entire purpose of what I’m trying to do, which is to help you out.
Is PC Gaming More Expensive Than Console Gaming?
Yes, PC gaming, in general, is more expensive than console gaming. As I’ve outlined above, the reason for this is because all of the equipment for your PC has to be purchased separately if you’re not buying a prebuilt gaming PC.
A console, for instance, already has everything inside of it that you’ll need – and it even includes a controller. Console gaming is also cheaper than PC gaming because you’re not getting as much freedom as you would on a PC.
Why Are Gaming PCs so Expensive Compared to Consoles?
One reason is that a PC is capable of rendering games at far higher resolutions than a console. Gaming PCs also have the ability to use far higher graphics settings.
Both of those things combined mean that your games can look far more beautiful on a PC than on a console. A PC also easily allows you to use 2 (or more!) monitors at the same time. Generally speaking, a console can’t do that.
As I briefly mentioned above, your PC also has much more versatility than a console. For example, as your PC gets older, some PC components can simply be upgraded if they’re not providing adequate performance anymore. A console is not upgradeable.
However, if you don’t care about everything else a PC can do, a console could be better. That’s especially true if you don’t have the extra money to spend on a gaming PC vs a console.
And, if you’re happy with your gaming console and already have another PC or laptop, you may not need a gaming PC at all – but that’s for you to decide.
There are also less-known details like the exclusivity of certain titles to certain platforms. For instance, the series Uncharted is unavailable on PC. It is a Sony PlayStation-exclusive series of games.
With that in mind, think about which games you want to play, and whether they’re available for PC. It’s really important to know this information before buying either a console or gaming PC.
This will help you get a better sense of whether PC gaming is worth the price to you. You’ll have to decide for yourself what you think is worth it.
Are PC Games More Expensive Than Console Games?
For the most part, PC games are cheaper than console games. However, sometimes console games are cheaper, and sometimes PC games are cheaper. It all depends on the game, and where/when you buy it.
Keep in mind that there are several places from which you can purchase video games. Digital distribution platforms for PC have made gaming on PC cheaper than ever.
In terms of PC games, one of the most popular digital distribution platforms is Steam. It often runs steep discounts during holidays or other special promotional periods. But Steam isn’t the only place!
Here are some other digital distribution platforms for PC (aside from Steam). I recommend sticking with Steam, though, as all your games, save files, and everything else will be backed up in the cloud. Plus, you can use Steam Deck, too!
- Green Man Gaming
- Gamer’s Gate
- Amazon Prime Gaming
- Battle.net (for Blizzard and Activision titles)
PCGA Pro Tip: Want to learn more about Steam? Check out PC Mag’s awesome Steam review.
You can often find PC games at a bare minimum of 10% off the regular retail price – sometimes up to 50% off (or more) from any of these platforms.
Console games, on the other hand, have historically been sold as physical goods in the form of discs with boxes. This is changing now though with the number of console games being sold as digital downloads increasing year after year.
Some digital distribution platforms on consoles include:
What does this mean for you? Well, in the grand scheme of things, PC games, and console games can sometimes be similar in price. But PC games are generally cheaper.
Sometimes you’ll find one cheaper than the other, and vice-versa.
What Is a Realistic Budget for a Gaming PC?
A realistic budget for a gaming PC is somewhere between $500 and $700 on the low-end, $700-900 in the mid-range, and $1,000+ for high-end gear.
There are plenty of options in the mid-range and low-end price tiers. However, to get the best possible value for your dollar, you will have to build your own as prebuilts can be more expensive than what they’re actually worth.
Related Article: How Much Does a Decent Gaming PC Cost?
If you’re just looking to play casual games that don’t demand a lot of GPU and CPU power, you can get away with spending less.
Here are some examples of games that can get away with less power:
- Portal and Portal 2
- Team Fortress 2
- Half-Life and Half-Life 2
- Among Us
- Disco Elysium
- Tomb Raider 2013
- …and a few more
For those of you who want to play much more demanding games like the latest AAA titles, you’ll have to shell out more, unfortunately. There’s just no way around it.
This is another instance where console gaming is a great option as it lets you get into high-end gaming for a little bit cheaper than a PC.
Is 1000 Dollars Enough for a Gaming PC?
If you have $1,000 to spend, there’s no reason why you can’t get a gaming PC that can play any game you want, like the Skytech Shiva II Gaming desktop.
The Core i5-12400F you’ll find inside, along with the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060, 16GB of RAM, and 500GB NVMe make this PC perfect for 1080p gaming, or even 2560×1440 in some games.
Gaming PCs that start at $1,000 are a great option, and they strike a great balance between price and performance. This is what’s known as the price-to-performance ratio.
You may not be able to play every game at your monitor’s maximum resolution, highest graphics settings, or the highest FPS, but you’ll still be able to have a great time.
It’s also about getting a PC that won’t be obsolete a year from now. If you have the budget to spend $1,000, it’s important (at least to me), to grab yourself a PC that has room to grow and become more powerful over time.
Sure, it would be best to spend as much money as you possibly could, today, on a system that you’ll love – but that’s not always possible. In that case, you can always upgrade the PC you buy at a later time.
If not $1,000, How Much Should I Spend on a Gaming PC?
If you don’t want to spend $1,000 on a gaming PC, you don’t have to. You can easily purchase one for less than that – but again, you’ll likely have to build one yourself.
But, as I said, you may not be able to play every game you want at the settings you want for a budget under $1,000.
In my experience, I’d aim to spend at least $500 on a gaming PC. If you don’t have $500 yet, you could always look into buying something used or save up for a little while longer.
Between all the old platforms available for Intel and AMD, you can also get something last-gen that’s still decent, including CPUs and GPUs.
The more you spend, the more it will directly translate to a better overall gaming experience, up to a certain degree.
For example, ramping up your budget from $500 to $1,000 could, in theory, result in much better gaming performance.
But if you’re playing older titles that aren’t too demanding on your hardware at low resolutions and display refresh rates, you might not notice a difference.
Conclusion: Is PC Gaming Worth the Money?
To me, absolutely it is because I’m a PC gaming nerd through and through. I love building PCs, tinkering with them, benchmarking my games, and, of course, playing them!
For you, PC gaming could be worth it if:
- You want to play games only available for PC like the S.T.A.L.K.E.R series, Baldur’s Gate III, or the Civilization series (and tons more)
- You prefer to use a mouse and keyboard for extra control
- You want to experience games at the highest possible resolutions, refresh rates (FPS), and graphics settings
- You want to use multiple monitors at the same time
- You want to be able to mod your games
- You like paying less for your PC games (vs console)
- You want to play some indie games or games from small-time developers
- And so much more!
Make sure to check out my article How Much Does a Decent Gaming PC Cost for a full breakdown of everything you need to know.
And that’s it! Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below.
How much cheaper is it to build your own PC for gaming?
It depends. Sometimes it can be cheaper, but it’s not necessarily always the case.
For example, a prebuilt gaming PC has parts in it that have been pre-selected by someone else.
Oftentimes, they will be overpriced for what you’re getting. This is where custom gaming PCs come into play.
When you choose your own parts, you’re free to spend as little (or as much) as you want on parts and accessories.
This means you can literally build a PC down to the exact dollar amount you want to spend. With prebuilt PCs, you may not be able to do that.
Always be super diligent with your research
But if you’re not diligent in your efforts to save as much money as you can on parts, the price difference may be a wash.
There’s also the question of upgradeability. Prebuilt machines may not always have the same level of customizability or upgradeability as your own custom rig thanks to proprietary designs and motherboards.
Purchasing your own custom parts will allow you to scour the internet for the best deals, and truly maximize each dollar you spend.
If you’re diligent enough and spend enough time researching and shopping around, you could save quite a bit of money by building your own custom PC. It just takes a little bit of digging around!
PCGA Pro Tip: Always make sure to watch tons of videos about these topics on YouTube.
There’s a wealth of knowledge out there that can really complement the information you can find here.
One of my favorite YouTube channels giving incredible PC-building advice is Linus Tech Tips.
Linus and the gang will teach you everything you need to know if you’re looking to build your own PC.
Oh, and don’t forget about JayzTwoCents, either! Just like Linus, Jay is the real MVP in terms of saving you money. 🙂
Do gaming PCs last long?
Gaming PCs tend to last as long as they make you happy. That means something different for everyone. It also really depends on how much you spend on a PC.
An extremely expensive gaming PC over $2,000, for instance, can last longer than an $800 gaming PC. This is what’s known as “performance overhead”.
A $2,000 gaming PC will be a lot more powerful than most games demand – so, as time goes on, this PC will retain its performance.
Also, if you constantly want to play at the highest graphics settings, bleeding-edge resolutions like 4K or higher, and very fast refresh rates like 120 or 240 FPS, your PC may not last as long.
However, the beauty of this is that a gaming PC can mostly be upgraded if you build your own. Some prebuilt gaming PCs can’t be upgraded as much, though.
Is an expensive gaming PC worth it?
I can’t really tell you how much you should spend on a gaming PC that you deem worthwhile. It’s completely up to you.
All I can tell you is that, if you’re looking to hit a certain refresh rate, resolution, or graphics settings target, a “more expensive” PC might be worth it to you.
Also, if you want to make sure your PC lasts several years, you may have to shell out more upfront.
This is all highly personal and subjective as well. A “cheaper” gaming PC might be worth it to some, whereas others might want to spend as much as $2,000 or even $3,000 and beyond.
I’ve known some people who have built $10,000 gaming PCs – but to me, that’s highly unnecessary!
How much should I budget to build a gaming PC?
You could budget up as much as you’re comfortable with – but I’d say the starting point should be $500-600. But you’re free to budget as much as you want.
The key, though, is to try to spend the least amount of money for the most amount of benefit.
I mean, you’ll probably say, “gee, thanks, Mike… like I didn’t know that.” But believe me when I say that it’s easy to spend WAY more on your gaming PC than you need to.
For example, when I built my first gaming PC in 2012, I purchased an Intel Core 15-2500k, an Asus P8Z68-V Pro/Gen3 motherboard, a full-tower NZXT Switch 810 case, an 850W modular 80+ Gold PSU, and an AMD Radeon HD7970 GPU – all of which were entirely unnecessary for me at the time!
This rig cost me $2,000 – and I could easily have gotten something for $1,200 that could have still done exactly what I needed it to!
Do I regret that? Absolutely not, and I kept that PC for 5 years – but again, I could have saved a bunch of money, too.
Will PC gaming become cheaper eventually?
The general trend since around 2020 – right at the time Covid started – has been that some PC parts have gotten more expensive like GPUs, and some cheaper like SSD storage.
As of recently, it does appear that PC gaming in general will fall back down to “normal” levels.
I can’t tell you exactly what that will mean for each individual PC component. But waiting a little while to buy your gaming PC has never been a bad idea in my experience – unless you absolutely need one today or don’t yet have one.