There’s a new generation of consoles on the horizon, but here in PC land we’re sorta always in the midst of upgrading, right? It’s a blessing and a curse, really. It’s great to have the option to boost performance with the new GPUs and CPUs that are constantly coming out, but there’s definitely some appeal in buying a new console and then getting a seven year-or-so break before you have to buy anything else.
Sometimes a particular game can push you into upgrading your PC, or building a new PC, or even just flat out buying a prebuilt. Something you desperately want to play that your current PC can’t handle, or at least that it can’t handle on max settings.
So that’s our question this week: Did you ever upgrade, build, or buy a PC just so you could play one particular game? Which game was it? Below you’ll find our answers and some from members of the PC Gamer Forum. Sound off with your own answers in the comments below.
Steven Messner: World of Warcraft
If anyone who knows me is surprised by this, you don’t know me that well, haha. My first real gaming PC ever was built entirely so that I could start playing World of Warcraft back in 2004 when it became all the rage among my friends at school. I was working at A&W then, slinging burgers as a greasy 14 year old, and I desperately wanted a proper gaming PC so I saved up as much as I could and for around $500.
I bought myself an AMD Athlon 64x CPU and some Nvidia 128mb graphics card alongside 512mb of DDR2 RAM. Even at the time it was far from high end, but it was more than enough to play World of Warcraft and that’s all I really cared about. I didn’t know what I was doing, so we had to invite a family friend over one afternoon to help me set it all up. It went pretty smooth. The worst part was that, by the time we were finished and I had installed everything, I had to endure the painful process of installing WoW using its four separate CD-ROMs. The process easily took over an hour and by the time it was done, I had just enough time to create a Dwarf Hunter before my mom mercilessly sent me to bed.
Thus began an extremely unhealthy habit of waking up as early as 3am each morning so I could sneak in a few hours of WoW before school. That computer was my first real gateway into PC gaming, so it’s an especially fond memory for me.
Phil Savage: Apex Legends
This game and my old CPU were not pals—with regular crashes to desktop as it consistently hit near-100% use. Likely I could have troubleshooted the issue more than actually did, but I felt I was due an upgrade and this was just the excuse that I needed. Obviously a new CPU meant a new motherboard, and then I just kept adding components to the basket until I’d essentially purchased a new PC.
Jacob Ridley: Skyrim/The Witcher 3 mods
I’ve never upgraded for a specific game per se but I have pursued an upgrade in order to run Skyrim and The Witcher 3 with even more ludicrous mods installed. You have to dream big if you’re aiming for high-res textures and 28 ginormous horses rendered on screen all at the same time, and my ageing Radeon R9 390 and four-core CPU at the time just wasn’t going to cut it.
Alan Dexter: World of Warcraft
It’s not the case now, but for many, many years my PC was kept bang up to date with the latest hardware for one game: World of Warcraft. The latest graphics card? Check. Lashing of RAM? Damn right. Stupid fast storage? Check. Big expensive screen? Got it. And bar a few games I’d have to install briefly for work, the only constant through all of this was WoW. I had to have the prettiest boars to kill, otherwise it just didn’t work for me. What’s that? Nvidia Ampere is going to be out in time for Shadowlands? Don’t mind if I do…
Tom Senior: Final Fantasy 7
It was the dawn of the 3D era, and my computer couldn’t handle it. Suddenly PC gamers had to buy whole new chipsets—”graphics cards”—to slot inside our machines to render the fabled “polygons” that promised a new age for gaming. The big game that I couldn’t play was Final Fantasy 7. The 2D pre-rendered backgrounds were fine, but once I entered a 3D battle the world became a slideshow. The characters looked okay, but anything resembling a texture looked weird and wrong—too dark, or distorted. I never made it to the 3D world map, but I think my computer would probably have melted.
My saviour arrived in the form of the classic Voodoo 2 graphics card. This thing had a core clock of 90Hz and eight beautiful megabytes of onboard memory.
After a fraught setup and much driver wrangling, FF7 suddenly ran like a dream. I played it for a hundred hours and it became one of my favourite games ever.
Wes Fenlon: Emulationnnnn
In late 2010 I was running on an outdated Core 2 Duo and an equally outdated graphics card, and a friend offered me an exciting GPU upgrade: a GTX 260 Core 216. Now this card was already outdated, but it was a lot better than what I already had, and on a hand-me-down budget. But when I went to install it, I discovered a problem: my power supply didn’t have the necessary power cables to run it. After a trip to Fry’s and a new case and PSU, I was up and running, but that halfway upgrade got me itching for something more substantial. So in 2011 I spent real money to buy the brand new i5-2500K, a Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO, and a 128GB SSD boot drive, a PC that lasted me a good five years (with more GPU upgrades along the way, of course).
A big driving force for me upgrading at the time was the emulator Dolphin, and the idea of being able to run Wii and GameCube games at a sparkling 1080p resolution instead of the fuzzy 480p they ran on the original hardware. I overclocked the 2500K as high as I reasonably could at the time. Hitting 4GHz was exciting, because in the early days of the emulator raw speed and single core performance made a big difference. When I built my new 2500K machine I also bought a specific model of LG DVD drive that could read GameCube and Wii discs, and I ripped my entire collection to ISO images. I still have those disc images on my HDD (and that drive in the closet somewhere).
Andy Chalk: All of them
I don’t remember all the specifics as well as I wish I could, but this is basically the only reason I’ve ever purchased, built, or upgraded a PC. I splurged for an 80286 instead of the cheaper 8088 for my first PC so I could get a better Microprose sim experience. I bought a 386—a Fujikama, I think—to play Doom. I bought a DX4/100 for something specific too, maybe Quake? After that it gets even hazier, because I was opting for individual upgrades more often that whole builds: A Voodoo 2 for Quake 2, a TNT card for Return to Castle Wolfenstein, I think I ditched my Adlib card for a Soundblaster 16 for TIE Fighter. Man, that thing sounded sweet. Those were the days.
Chris Livingston: I don’t think I’ve ever upgraded for just one specific PC game, but I’ve definitely bought a few consoles just to play one particular game. I bought an NES just so I could play The Legend of Zelda, I bought an N64 to play Zelda 64, and I bought a Xbox 360 just so I could play Red Dead Redemption. They were all worth it. I’ve held off since then, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before I’m wooed into buying a Switch or a PS4 just to play something I can’t get on PC.
From our Forums
Drunkpunk: The first PC I ever built was to play Star Wars: Galaxies back when it first came out. I had been a PC gamer before that, but hadn’t had one in a few years and never built one myself. I bought some cheap parts from a friend, but they weren’t compatible so I got to learn a bit of what worked with what and purchased some replacement parts. I’ve been building my own PCs ever since.
RIP SWG, you were a game ahead of your time.
Zloth: Nope, never did that. I’ll start having to turn down settings in games, interesting hardware will come out, sometimes even a new OS will put on pressure. Eventually, I’ll finally take the time to read up on the latest hardware and buy a fresh, new PC. (Then I’ll more-or-less ignore hardware again until the next cycle starts.)
Mazer: I once had to make a major upgrade to my PC in order to play an entire generation of games. I was one of the seven people stupid enough to buy a Geforce4 MX 460, a very mid range graphics card that was completely absent any texture or pixel shading tech which started becoming part of basically every game from PoP: Sands of Time onwards. I was so irrationally pissed that I got my next two GPUs from AMD instead out of spite.
I also only left Windows XP for Windows 7 in order to play Just Cause 2 which needed DX10 to function.
Krud: I had never done that until Cyberpunk 2077 was looming (at the time I thought it might come out in 2018/2019, but clearly I was way off). And while technically I didn’t build it JUST to play that, it was a key motivating factor.
Since then it has fallen behind the curve a bit, so I upgraded the video card and got a better SSD, fingers crossed that this will be sufficient. It was good enough for RDR2, at least. (I didn’t pull the trigger on a more expensive ray-tracing card even though CP2077 is said to support that at the start. That could be something I’ll experience the second playthrough, perhaps.)
And yes, I realize it’s a bit foolish to prep for a game that nobody knows the ideal specs for, but I have to make purchases when the funds are there. (“Why not hold onto those funds until you know?” Good question, hypothetical person. Two reasons: one, I still needed/wanted a new PC anyway, and Cyberpunk 2077 being on the horizon was a convincing argument to both myself and my wife. And two, held funds in my experience have a habit of being diverted to other things that come up in the meantime.)