This week a rumour emerged that both Nvidia and AMD are considering slowing down their graphics card release cycles in order to generate greater profits from each generation. To my surprise, I discovered most folks in the comments were actually supportive of investment in new technology being lessened, pointing towards the fact they wouldn’t be required to upgrade as often. This could save PC gamers hundreds of dollars a year, particularly those who just can’t resist the allure of a new GPU generation.
It’s an understandable view, but I do believe one of the strengths of PC gaming is the unstoppable march of technology and the constant choice in the upgrades available. Without new hardware, PC gaming would increasingly begin to look like console gaming, held back by the whims of the hardware manufacturers who could ultimately decide to withhold powerful GPUs with the aim of mass-producing cheaper, older graphics cards.
Ultimately, is withholding the choice from customers ever a good thing? For the vast majority of gamers, I suspect we use our graphics cards until they’re not running the latest games fast enough, and then we upgrade to whatever’s out at the time. The more GPUs that come out in that time frame, the bigger the leap in performance should be. Slow the release schedule down even a little bit, perhaps to every two years, and you can feel the cogs spinning in your head. Now, you either buy the new graphics card every two years, or you slog it out for four whole years with what you’ve got. This system could easily encourage some people to buy more graphics cards despite AMD and Nvidia actually releasing less.
However, the counterpoint to this is that there are always those who need to be at the cutting edge of technology. The actual results or percentage performance gains don’t necessarily factor in as much, it’s just a simple case that the new GeForce GTX 1080 is faster than their GeForce GTX 980, and if they don’t have it they feel like they’re missing out. New tech often comes with that ‘grass is always greener’ vibe, even if what we already have is more than enough to do the job.
Which brings me on to the point of all this - how often do you upgrade your graphics card? Do you feel the need to upgrade to the latest and greatest as soon as it’s available, or are you happy to sit with the same GPU for three, maybe even four years, and experience a huge jump in performance from your upgrade?