The history (and future) of PC gaming

From floppy disks to powerhouse processors, we team up with Exertis to turn back the clock and retrace how PC gaming became the defining force majeure it is today

1984 – Enter the Amstrad 

The first ‘affordable’ PC capable of bringing gaming to the masses, the Amstrad CPC 464 set the groundwork for the gaming PC giants of today. Costing £359, users enjoyed games such as Bomb Jack and Contra. CGA graphics and 4MHz of power allowed for bigger, more technically complex games than ever before. 


Storage: Magnetic Tape

CPU: 4MHz (Zilog Z80A)

RAM: 64KB-128KB

Graphics: CGA VRAM

Resolution: 160×200

1993 – Processor power

The early 90s saw CPU speeds go through the roof, with 66MHz 286 processors from big names like Intel and AMD at the forefront, and RAM running into megabytes. It allowed for a new era of gaming, typified by big names like Heretic, Raptor and the now iconic Doom.


Storage: 1GB (Avg.)

CPU: 66Mhz (Intel 286)


Graphics: VGA

Resolution: 320×220

1998 – Pentium on a pedestal

In late 1997, Pentium released its Pentium II processor, offering amazingly fast speeds of up to 450MHz without overclocking. Dedicated GPUs became a common addition for home PCs, offering 3D games like Half-Life that looked better than ever before.


Storage: 10GB (Avg.)

CPU: 233Mhz (Pentium II)

RAM: 64MB 

Graphics: 16MB SVAG

Resolution: 640×480

2004 – Home builders 

By the early noughties, gamers were taking the machines into their own hands. With processors running at over 1GHz and RAM in the hundreds of megabytes, self-builds became far more popular and accessible. Multiplayer games were becoming more popular with Counter Strike leading the pack. 


Storage: 50GB (Avg.)

CPU: 1.7GHz (Pentium 4)

RAM: 512MB 

Graphics: 128MB 

Resolution: 1024×768

2007 – Crysis point 

With more gamers opting for dual core processors and multiple GPUs, gaming PCs were pushed to their limits. The dawn of Crysis typified this, pushing the boundaries of what PC gaming could look like.


Storage: 200GB (Avg.)

CPU: 2.8Ghz (Pentium 4)


Graphics: 512MB (ATi x1600)

Resolution: 1280×1024

2011 – Budget breakthrough 

As developers started to struggle to squeeze more power out of aging, cheaper parts, PC gaming on a budget really kicked off. Falling costs of dual and quad core processors and the ability to hold onto GPUs for longer kept specs and performance high, while maintaining lower prices. Games like Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim typified this, with mods and enhanced visuals making the PC many gamers’ platform of choice.


Storage: 750GB (Avg.)

CPU: 2.8Ghz (Core 2 Duo)


Graphics: 1GB GDDR5 (GTX 650)

Resolution: 1920×1080

2014 – Getting to grips with graphics

Pixel-smashing graphics cards became commonplace, with most gaming PCs packing quad core processors. 2014 also saw the release of affordable, powerful cards from Nvidia and AMD with the GTX 750Ti and the R9 270x packing serious punches without breaking the bank.


Storage: 1TB (Avg.) | CPU: 3.0GHz+ (Quad i5 4430)

RAM: 8GB DDR3 | Graphics: 2GB GDDR5 (GTX 760)

Resolution: 3820×2160

2017 – Present day power towers 

With VR and 4K becoming more affordable, PC gaming is moving into a new world. Gaming laptops are also slimming down to finally make them more practical. But power towers are still at the top of their game. Market leaders include the Alienware Aurora R5 and MSI Trident 3, while in terms of games Prey and the seventh incarnation of Resident Evil top the charts.


Storage: 1TB

CPU: 4.0GHz (Intel Core i5-7400 – i7-6700K)

RAM: 8GB – 16GB

Graphics: AMD Radeon RX 460 – Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070

Resolution: 3820×2160

2025 – Into the crystal ball 

Looking ahead five years, Ben Miles at Chillblast expects to see more cores added to processors, modest uplifts in clockspeeds and ramped up memory density. VRAM will continue on its current aggressive trajectory, as 8K gaming will become the high end and 4K the mainstream. SSD hybridisation will become standard and the demise of the standalone internal soundcard is in the offing. Half-Life 3 still won’t be out. 


Processor: Intel Core i7-15700K CPU, 64 Cores, 4.5 – 5.2GHz

Motherboard: ASUS Republic of Gamers Z1070I-STRIX Motherboard 

Memory: 128GB DDR6 6399MHz Memory (2 x 64GB Sticks) 

Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1880 Ti 128GB

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