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The future of the PC Gaming form factor


Numbers are numbers. It’s meaningless to dispute cold, hard facts. What they mean, however, paints a different picture entirely.

Is PC gaming dying? No. It is growing. This is also undisputable cold hard facts.

Do not stare yourself blind on one number alone. Market share and mobile is important but does not paint the whole picture. Else we’d see iOS get destroyed by Android by now - this hasn’t happened. :slight_smile:


Those growth numbers are likely mostly for “e-sports” titles (in China/Asia), and those titles can be played on a potato.

Relying on those growth numbers as evidence that the PC form factor is not going to be going anywhere is shaky ground, IMHO.


The same place all of our computers are built. :slight_smile:


And a large majority of mobile games could also be played on a potato, and in fact, around 95% of the revenue-generating mobile titles are one of three camps:

  1. IAP-driven games (Candy Crush Saga, Clash of Clans, Pokemon Go…)
  2. Casino games (Blackjack, Poker, Slots, Bingo…)
  3. Mobile E-sport titles (Fortnite being the prominent example)

Is it even meaningful to compare casino games to E-sport titles such as CS:GO though? And I wonder how much money ends up on gambling sites, that isn’t shown in the statistics here. So the numbers do not show the whole picture.

This is why I do not see PC gaming “dying” anytime soon. But it could very well be that it transforms, especially in form factor. I think desktop PCs will transform more and more towards the stealth spectrum, where you just have a keyboard, mouse and screen visible on your desk. Currently this is only possible to achieve with any kind of performance with iMac Pros.

There will always be a market for 2080 Ti Threadripper builds (or equivalent future top-of-the-line PCs), the question is, how will these kind of builds proceed in the future? Still full-tower, or will it shrink away?


I don’t think TR builds are particularly relevant to gaming (Steam’s Jan 2019 survey showed 86% of players still sporting 4 cores or fewer), but anyhoo…

If you look at YouTubers that build “gaming PCs” you’ll notice that ~80% of the PCIe slots are empty and >90% of the case is empty. Big cases are used purely for cosmetic reasons. (Gotta fit in all that RGB and glowing liquid cooling loops to make it look good for the camera, “wow” the viewers, and increase affiliate link revenue!)

If one ignores all that pointless/vanity stuff, most computers could be ~1/10th the size and still function identically. The increasing popularity of the mini-ITX form factor over the last decade is testimony to this shift in thinking.


Yup, and the typical gamer in 2019 is still running 1080p resolution at 60hz.

That can be done on a low/mid-range modern discrete GPU quite adequately like an RX470 or GTX1060, maybe 1050ti.

Give it a couple of generations and that hardware power will be in a phone (or at least a larger mobile device like a tablet). It will likely be in an APU inside 12 months or so.


You are aware the smartphone market in Asia looks a lot different to the market in North America and Europe, right? They play a lot more games on mobile, games that demand high capacity batteries, the biggest CPUs and 8GB RAM.
Asia took a high-end notebook and made it into a smartphone at a price point without 340% profit margin. Meanwhile we over in the EU and the US still are moaning about “how expensive and large tech is”.

Yes, we all could absolutly scrab our whole desk and work with bluetooth keyboard&mouse on out smartphone. Of course we could game on those things!
Be honest here, the share of people who want to sit down and enjoy their games at home and keep themself entertained while on the train/bus to work is so big, both markets can coexist pretty happily (while both are growing).

The discussion has been had before, the full fat PC is not going away anytime soon. Less of them, yes. Gone, no.


Laptops average at 2-4 Cores anyways at this point. It’s not hard to get a desktop with 6 or more cores anymore.


Laptop architecture in a small form factor desktop would be really awesome, except that you would still lose some of the expandability you have with the traditional desktops. I imagine it will become more popular when we can do away with graphics cards and ram sticks, with future HBM technologies.

We already have pc’s that are smaller and more powerful than consoles but the problem is that you can’t updgrade them. If I could buy a new motherboard and cpu, and a mobile gfx chip for one of those after a few years, I’d love to have one.

Of course the keyboard and mouse will probably always keep us at the desktop, so nothing else matters anyway.


The problem is and always will be heat when it comes to shrinking things. I don’t think the PC gaming form factor is going to go away at all. You want more powerful blingy shit… well it gets to a point where the form factor is so small the heat can’t be dissipated and you spent a whackload for the same performance as someone who got an ATX setup.


I had the thought a little over a decade ago that there should be a case (that wasn’t meant to go on a server rack) that can have a mini-ITX board and a full size graphics card installed with a right angle adapter so that the case can have a fairly-low profile. I was looking around for a few years and was almost to the point that I wanted to make one myself. Then Steam announced Steam Machines. The case they had for the beta was what I had been looking for. Then Silverstone came out with the RVZ01 (and later iterations) and Fractal came out with the Node 202.

It is an ideal form factor for a gaming PC for me. I have a NAS that I keep basically everything on. In fact, I have a lot of my Steam library that I run right off the NAS. There are some games with significant load times and can’t do that, but lots of games don’t really care if they are run off the NAS. Because of this, I have very low local storage needs; a single 2.5" mount is plenty.

It’s also an ideal case form factor for me in that it doesn’t take up a bunch of space, both physically and visually. I like minimalism and don’t need or want to see (show off) the inside of a case full of RGB puke. There are those that treat their computers like art pieces…I am not one of those people.


True, most of the space in a case is just air. But should the advancement of technology go into power or efficiency? Do we really need that 5ghz clock speed in our cpu, or can we lower the clock to half and achieve similar performance thru other means…
Maybe we can’t get to the same level but maybe we can get close enough to at least get an alternative. Think mainstream vs. HEDT of today, but with the mainstream moving more towards ITX or smaller form factors.


There, space efficently used.


Yep, it always amuses me how folks use one/two fans to move the heat from the CPU to the air in the case, then add 4/5/6 fans to get the air out of the case. :roll_eyes: Just cut out the middle-man, eliminate the case, and vent directly.

I had a system a long while back that I mounted on some aluminium checkerplate and bolted to a wall. Everything was fully exposed. Worked great (until the dGPU developed coil whine).

BTW: Do you know what (type of) motherboard that is? Nano-ITX?


Looks to be mini-itx
(Asus P8Z77-I Deluxe)


But even lowering frequencies and voltage you still have to take into account the gazillion transistors that are now cut into these pieces of silicon. The instruction general CPU’s have to support continue to grow, that requires more logic gates and more densely packed transistors.

I’m sure if there was a good way to lower clock speed to 2.5GHZ while doing the work of 5GHZ Intel and AMD would have already gone that route, but they have not. XX amount of instructions place per clock cycle, the more clock cycles… the more work that gets done. There are situations where 2.5GHZ is fine… just depends on the use case. For gaming it is going to be a very long before that is going to happen.


Then again, if the software side wasn’t lagging so far behind, maybe we would have better hardware too. Afterall it’s the software side that is basically making us brute force the performance out of a single core or taking minimal advantage of the technology we already have.
Vulkan is the most exciting thing happening in the pc space for me, from purely a gamers point of view, and I really hope it catches on more and takes over from dx11.

But you’re right, it is going to take some time and the software is always going to lag behind, it’s natural. Let’s hope the innovators gon’ continue to innovate on both the hardware and software side of things.


What are you expecting from the software side to magically recover the performance lost from double the instructions that can be processed over a certain amount of time?


Hard to say on that one, thanks to the PS4, XBox and AMD more places and game engines are optimizing for multi-core. Wish I could credit Intel but they seemed to have gotten their design philosophy from Darth Bane, one core to embody power and the other to crave it. But at least they have been moving away from that more in the past few years.


Yeah but if I want STRONG 1440p or real 4K… consoles ain’t gonna cut it. If I want to do iRacing on triple monitors… a console won’t cut it either.