Xbox Series SSource: Matt Brown | Windows Central

The global semiconductor crisis has put PC gaming in a tough spot. Components, especially graphics cards, have seen exponential price hikes and shortages spanning entire years at this point. Even though analysts predict the worst of said shortages will wrap up for consumer tech by the end of 2022, there's no guarantee that'll pan out. And every day you wait is another day great games pass you by, going unplayed. In short, it's time to cut your losses, buy a cheap (relative to other tech) console like the Xbox Series S, and get playing.

That's not to say you should give up on PC gaming entirely. It's just not worth missing out on modern games in an attempt to outlast an unpredictable, ongoing situation.

The phantom of NVIDIA's opera

NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 reviewNVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 reviewSource: Harish Jonnalagadda / Windows Central

The original impetus for this article was the news that, supposedly, the RTX 3090 Ti launch is nigh. Here's the issue: Virtually every single GPU launch in recent memory has been a case of "if a graphics card launches but no units exist anywhere on planet Earth, did it really release?" For examples of this, look no further than the RTX 3080 12GB, RTX 2060 12GB, or if you're feeling really masochistic, just go to any major retailer (Newegg, Best Buy, etc.) and try to buy a GPU. You'll either be confronted with "out of stock" or see MSRPs so inflated they could power an armada of blimps.

And that's not even the worst part for PC gamers. While every facet of the tech industry is getting hit by the chip shortage, DIY PC builders have it the toughest since they don't get component priority (unlike, say, a major corporation such as Microsoft), and they have to compete with PC-specific issues like cryptocurrency miners exacerbating supply problems. These factors have combined to produce an environment where ancient GPUs barely capable of outclassing an Xbox 360's processing power are still managing to command substantial sums on sites like eBay. The market's out of control.

Meanwhile, friendlier options such as the Xbox Series S are trickling onto shelves more and more regularly. Sure, getting a PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X is still a tall order, but the Series S? That's a $300 temporary solution to keep you playing modern games while you wait for the PC market to stabilize. Time is money, and waiting months, if not years, for the best graphics cards, CPUs, and memory to return to normalcy in the marketplace is likely to cost you more than $300 worth of fun in the long run.

Alternatives to consoles

Steam Deck Vs PugSource: Windows Central/Miles Dompier

In the event you absolutely cannot stomach consoles under any circumstance, there are still options — sort of. One is going the prebuilt PC route. This used to be more expensive than buying your own parts and doing the hard work firsthand, but now, what used to be the "premium expense" option is typically a lot cheaper than trying to procure parts a la carte. Not to mention, sites like Newegg have taken to giving component priority to those going the prebuilt route.

In other words, even if you don't want a whole system's worth of spare parts and a machine that comes preassembled in the mail, it may actually be as (or less) expensive as buying the one part you care about by itself. Even then, prebuilts aren't avoiding the realities of the chip shortage, meaning PC gaming as a whole is just a bit more expensive than usual at present. Consoles could still be the cheapest route for those with an outdated rig who are desperate to get back in the game.

But wait, there is one more option on tap: Steam Deck. Sure, this product is suffering from massive demand and limited supply, but at least it has the power of Valve behind it, just like how Xboxes are able to power through the shortage thanks to Microsoft's industry weight. If you're fine with a Switch-like setup for your PC gaming endeavors, this is a wallet-friendly option that may even be your ticket to a handheld Windows experience.

You can also go with less orthodox solutions such as GeForce Now if you're not hesitant about harnessing the power of the cloud to power your PC gaming goals, Just note that any non-local solution comes with potential networking drawbacks that many would say make for an unacceptable substitute to proper hardware ownership.

PC gaming will rise again, someday, hopefully

Rich's Gaming PCSource: Windows Central

It's time to stop the suffering. Ignore those "NVIDIA launches new GPU that no one can actually procure" posts. Tune out the sour news that crypto miners are hogging all the best parts for themselves and scalping online marketplaces dry.

Even I, as a PC diehard who will probably never buy an Xbox again, have to admit that for those who missed the cutoff to get into PC gaming at a decent price, it may be time to consider alternatives. Especially when you consider a scary hypothetical: What if NVIDIA, AMD, Intel, and co. decide to keep prices permanently spiked going forward since consumers have proven they're willing to pay through the roof? There's no guarantee the sky-high prices are going to come down in the near future, even if shortages taper off by the end of 2022.

Don't wait for a better tomorrow that may never come, just make the best of today. The PC waiting game has proven to be one of diminishing returns, and you deserve better than that.