Games That Pushed PC Hardware Sales Through The Roof

Written by Jon Sutton on Sat, Oct 12, 2013 4:00 PM
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It can be quite a crutch for many of us PC gamers, but wanting the latest and greatest hardware seems to be something that is intrinsically in our DNA.

Not content with mediocre performance or half-decade old graphics, we constantly feel the urge to seek out the new, pushing the boundaries of what our PCs can do, squeezing out those extra few frames per second. Whether it be customising your rig with a new water-cooling system, slotting in a few extra gigs of RAM, or going all-out and getting that SLI setup you always dreamed of, there are some games which have pushed hardware sales like no other. Check these chip-selling beasts out for size...

Quake 

Where else would we begin? This is where 3D graphics truly began. The introduction of Quake brought with it the Quake engine and one of the first examples of a game utilising dedicated 3D hardware acceleration. id originally released Quake with software acceleration but patched it post-release with OpenGL support and kickstarted the graphics card revolution which has tumbled on to this day. If you wanted to play Quake you had to pick up one of the 3DFX Voodoo chipsets of the time. Voodoo cards were all the rage and had a high price point to go with it, tipping the scales at $300.

Launching in November 1996, the 3Dfx Voodoo1 was a 3D-only card that required a pass-through from an entirely seperate 2D card, which then connected to the display. The 3D graphics card race had begun. For now, at least, the Voodoo reigned supreme, raking in a staggering 80% of the market share for 3D accelerators. A tip of the hat to the guys at 3Dfx and id, for kickstarting 3D graphics.

Unreal 

If Quake laid the foundations for 3D graphics, Unreal was most definitely the cherry perched right on top. 3Dfx was still the all-conquering king of graphics at the time, and Unreal’s sumptuous graphics were very much the king’s feast.

The Unreal landed with hardware-accelerated rendering using the now-defunct Glide API; Glide API was specifically created for for 3Dfx GPUs, in particular the all powerful Voodoo 3. Games like Unreal and Quake 3 were the Voodoo 3's bread and butter, and combination of powerful graphics performance with the growing interest in online gaming helped push both the cards and the games. 

The Unreal and its subsequent iterations has gone on to become one of the most successful engine series of all time, still powering a large proportion of games today.

Half-Life 2

With the Source engine Valve successfully created one of the most scaleable engine’s we have ever seen. Despite this, Valve released that tech demo that everyone felt impossible not to drool over. It was unlike anything else we’d seen at the time and, regardless of whether our systems were already capable of running the game or not, sent us out in droves to pick up some sparkling new graphics cards.

ATI’s partnership with Valve went into overdrive, the Radeon 9600 XT and 9800 XT became must buys; the much-vaunted DirectX 9 was getting a real chance to stretch its legs. The world became familiar with terms that look remarkably commonplace now; bump-mapping, specularity, reflective water, refractive water, bump-mapped displacement maps, volumetric effects… The list was endless. I didn’t know what it all did, but I knew that I wanted it. 2004 was an era where PC gaming was standing head and shoulders above consoles graphically; for all its sales statistics, no Playstation 2 game looked a patch on Half-Life 2.

Battlefield 2

A huge driver of memory sales, Battlefield 2 was the moment most stubborn PC gamers caved in and whacked that 2 gig of RAM into their rigs. Without the additional boost the game would have to access your HDD a lot, seriously impacting your gaming performance. The step up to higher resolution textures that were also large in scale hurt systems in a way that people really weren't used to at the time.

Those of us stuck with the then-standard half-gig or gig of RAM were experiencing serious frame rate drops during gameplay, to the point that the game would often become unplayable on the larger scale maps with 64 players running around. Sound familiar?

Crysis

We talked about Crysis in our previous feature of the most demanding games of all time, and its place in this list is undeniable. Crysis, and in turn CryEngine2, was the moment that Crytek kicked console gaming graphics to the kerb. The next-gen consoles had arrived, and there was a fair amount of whoopin' and a hollerin' about what they were capable of, and then Crysis turned up. Chuck Norris once got into a fight with the CryEngine and lost; what it could do to PCs was unthinkable. 

Where would this list be without Crysis. Come Christmas 2007 many a stocking was bulging with new GPUs, sticks of memory and everything in-between, as everyone desperately sought to play what was at the time the most beautiful looking game in the world. This game was capable of shredding whatever you threw at it and it’s one of those titles that surely had NVIDIA rubbing its hands together with glee.

The introduction of CPU technology with four cores that effectively quadrupled the processing power available, combined with the latest and greatest DX10 supporting graphics cards helped to push even the most powerful of beige beasts to the limits, creating new benchmarks for how good a good should look.

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Looking into the future we are seeing yet another huge step up in system requirements that are going to have wallets begging for mercy, but such is the way with PC gaming. Watch Dogs in particular looks to be ushering in the new generation with some considerably ramped up system requirements, as everyone is forced to make the shift to 64-bit OS's and quad-core processors.

 

What other games had you forking out a fortune?

What's the most amount of upgrading you've done in preparation for a game release?

Let us know your guilty secrets below! 

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14:02 Oct-17-2013

metro last light really pushed me to the outer limits

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04:29 Oct-18-2013

Metro Last Light was better optimized than 2033 and believe it or not actually runs on rigs below the minimum requirements while 2033 refuses to run properly on rigs that exceed minimum requirements... This is much like how Crysis 2 was way way better optimized than Crysis 1 and Warhead... But I have to agree with Tsogo111 comment below about Metro 2033... It should have been on this list... In 2010, Bad COmpany 2 and 2033 pushed upper middle class and high end hardware sales...

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23:19 Oct-13-2013

metro 2033, no?

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18:46 Oct-13-2013

how good a good should look? at the end of crysis.

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17:26 Oct-13-2013

I upgraded my old compaq presario a lot just for Star Wars Galaxies. Got the game on launch and couldn't get in due to server overload. :( Then when SWG was upgraded, I had to build a new rig from the ground up. Last month I built a whole new PC from the ground up just so I could play Final Fantasy 14. I have built a lot of rigs over the years. I'm on my 3rd gaming rig. Before that I was a console gamer until I found some PC games that I really liked.

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12:47 Oct-13-2013

Half life 2. Was bought a whole new computer for it.

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10:58 Oct-13-2013

I think Battlefield 3 takes the win in my case, bought a new GPU and CPU because of it :P

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17:32 Oct-13-2013

Oh silly you

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08:16 Oct-13-2013

Half Life 2 was great at that time!
i heard that HL 3 is on the way to come out!

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09:22 Oct-13-2013

No one knows for sure yet that Valve's making HL3 yet, Silv. But the only thing we can do now is hope it's in development already c:

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09:25 Oct-13-2013

I know lets hope so!!!

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18:43 Oct-13-2013

I heard it was to release shortly after the steambox release.....maybe bundle with steambox?

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08:08 Oct-13-2013

Definitely Watch Dogs...lol

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06:43 Oct-13-2013

crysis 3 because of dx11

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18:44 Oct-13-2013

I can run Crysis 3 high no problem but crysis 1 i still can't get a soild FPS on that game.

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13:53 Oct-17-2013

yup, me too, wasnt for crysis 3, still be rocking the 9600gt! hehee
got the quad too while I was about it!

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03:05 Oct-13-2013

Played all of them except Quake.

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21:29 Oct-12-2013

LOL grew up with all them games. Although never really invested in a uber machine until Crysis was announced, that had me throw a cool £3000 at a Uber Rig. Quad core extreme, EVGA Black Pearl 8800gtx OC in SLI, 4 gig ram. All water cooled. Played it a dream and it looked stunning. Only game ever to make me sit and look at the water and trees etc with jaw wide open :)

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04:49 Oct-13-2013

This is off topic, but your username is my mother inlaw's nickname.

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14:52 Oct-13-2013

lol xD

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12:49 Oct-13-2013

Blew £2500 on a Dell XPS 710, with 2.4 gh/z quad core 2 extreme with 2 gigs of ram, upgradable to 8, (you could run a server on that at the time) and came with a gigantic footlong GTX 8800 768mb. Take that Crysis!

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21:17 Oct-12-2013

Why isn't Witcher 2 on this list?

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21:33 Oct-12-2013

Witcher 2 has a very jaw dropping quality but it didn't affect the hardware sales like others on the list.

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20:40 Oct-12-2013

3Dfx ....Vodoo Banshee was my card :-)

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19:04 Oct-12-2013

yeah,i remember those days,they were the most painful to my wallet

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19:02 Oct-12-2013

Hm, I remember having a pc with a 9600Pro in it and at the time I didn't actually know how awesome that card was (I was 14 or so). Everything ran smooth on it and the only next upgrade was a 6600Gt. Beat Bioshock on it actually.
Those were not upgrades per se, though. An actual upgrade that I made with a game in mind was getting with BF3. I changed my Intel E2180 (what an overclocking beast that was. got 3Ghz from 2 with ease) to a Phenom II 955BE and changed from an HD4850 to an XFX HD6850 black edition (again, overclocking beast). Good times...

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18:59 Oct-12-2013

Watch Dogs because I have to buy a new graphics card due to DX 11 :P

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18:47 Oct-12-2013

Metro 2033 brought my old PC to it's knees. By the time I calculated all the upgrades I needed, I decided to just buy a new PC :)

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18:41 Oct-12-2013

Wow i had a 9600XT and i still have but the cooler broke

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18:38 Oct-12-2013

I came to know about crysis in 2009 at that time i had 8400gs but i couldn't run it because of my ram which was only 512mb :/

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18:30 Oct-12-2013

i have played with a celeron 2ghz cpu, integrated gpu, 512mb ram and 250 gb hdd for 7 years...
these days i have the top of the line pc with outstanding performance. i can tell the difference between the old days and now, but whats more strange is: since every fps were important for me back in the days, i can really figure out what fps i am running my games (ofc, i cant count more than 55, since i am not super human xD).

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Can They Run... |

| 60FPS, Medium, 1080p
Core i5-4590 3.3GHz Radeon RX 570 PowerColor Red Dragon 4GB 12GB
| 60FPS, Low, 1080p
Core i5-4590 3.3GHz Radeon RX 570 PowerColor Red Dragon 4GB 12GB
| 60FPS, Medium, 720p
FX-8350 GeForce GTX 1650 Super 4GB 10GB
Ryzen 5 5600X 6-Core 3.7GHz GeForce RTX 3080 Asus ROG Strix Gaming OC 10GB 32GB
| Ultra, 1440p
Ryzen 5 5600X 6-Core 3.7GHz GeForce RTX 3080 Asus ROG Strix Gaming OC 10GB 16GB
| 60FPS, Medium, 1080p
Core i7-3770 4-Core 3.4GHz Radeon RX 580 MSI Gaming X+ 8GB 16GB
| 60FPS, Medium, 1080p
Core i7-3770 4-Core 3.4GHz Radeon RX 580 MSI Gaming X+ 8GB 16GB
0% No [1 votes]
| 30FPS, Low, 720p
Core 2 Duo E8400 3.0GHz Intel Q45 Express Chipset 4GB
| 60FPS, Ultra, 1080p
Ryzen 9 5900X 12-Core 3.7GHz GeForce RTX 3080 Asus ROG Strix 10GB 32GB
75% Yes [4 votes]
| 60FPS, Medium, 1080p
Core i5-4690K 3.5GHz GeForce GTX 1060 Gigabyte Windforce 2X OC 6GB 32GB
100% Yes [1 votes]
| 60FPS, Ultra, 1080p
Core i5-2400S 2.5GHz GeForce GTX 1060 Gigabyte Windforce 2X OC 6GB 7GB
100% Yes [2 votes]
| 30FPS, Low, 1080p
Core i7-8750H 6-Core 2.2GHz GeForce GTX 1050 Ti 4GB 16GB
| 30FPS, Low, 1080p
Core i7-8750H 6-Core 2.2GHz GeForce GTX 1050 Ti 4GB 16GB
| 30FPS, Low, 1080p
Core i7-8750H 6-Core 2.2GHz GeForce GTX 1050 Ti 4GB 16GB
| 60FPS, Low, 1080p
Core i7-8750H 6-Core 2.2GHz GeForce GTX 1050 Ti 4GB 16GB
100% Yes [1 votes]
| 60FPS, Low, 1080p
Core i7-8750H 6-Core 2.2GHz GeForce GTX 1050 Ti 4GB 16GB
| 60FPS, Low, 1080p
Core i3-4170 3.7GHz GeForce GTX 750 Ti 4GB
| 60FPS, Ultra, 1080p
APU A8-6500 Quad-Core Radeon HD 8570D 8GB
100% Yes [1 votes]
| 30FPS, Low, 1080p
Core i7-4700MQ 4-Core 2.4GHz GeForce GT 755M 16GB
0% No [2 votes]
| 30FPS, Low, 720p
APU A6-5200M Quad-Core Radeon HD 8400 8GB