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Monster rigs get more monstrous as PC market shrinks

Windows 8.1

IDC released a doomy report on PC shipments in April. Since Christmas, it transpired, the number of PCs delivered to retailers worldwide had declined at its fastest rate ever – rounding off a full year of shipment freefall. Analysts like Jon Peddie Research suggested consumers had hopped to tablets, phones, toasters and pocket watches – anything that wasn’t running Windows 8.

Bad news. But those of us that remain are spending more than ever, it seems – pushing our resolutions further, stacking our graphics cards higher. And oh, what graphics cards.

Nvidia’s GTX Titan holds 6GB of GDDR5 memory and costs about $1000. It’s the most expensive graphics card stocked by US custom PC specialist Falcon Northwest – and their highest-selling “by far”.

“Our customer for this card is actually buying an average of 1.3 Titans per PC,” founder Kelt Reeves told Forbes. “In other words, a huge number of them are buying two and even three of these monster GPUs in a single system.”

Wallace Santos is CEO of high performance PC retailers Maingear, and told a similar story.

“We notice that when it comes to graphics, the Nvidia GeForce GTX 770, 780 and Titans are our most popular selections,” he said.

You’re not likely to find the GTX 770 anywhere for less than $400. In fact, Santos reckons that the customers he describes as “high-end gamers” are spending at least $4,000 at a time. Falcon Northwest, meanwhile, have seen their average sale price for 2013 rise to $4,100 – pushed by a 16% increase in graphics card spending since last year.

The numbers are quite bewildering, and require some explanation. Reeves cites an upsurge in 4k monitor displays, which require “at least two” top end graphics cards if their owners plan to run 3D games at something resembling a good framerate. Santos points to the rise of eSports, and the consequent boost to both online gaming and streaming services like Twitch.

And then there’s Arma 3. A JPR report estimates that oncoming PC exclusives like Bohemia’s will inspire $800m in newly kitted out PCs. In summary: buh.

How much did you spend on your last upgrade? And what’ll prompt your next?