Nvidia's study linking hardware to competitiveness is peak PC gamer elitism

Nvidia RTX
Image Credit: TechRadar

Nvidia has published a study in which it links the quality of a PC gamer’s hardware to his or her performance in battle royale games, like Fortnite and Apex Legends.

Through a series of graphs to display data sourced anonymously through Nvidia's GeForce Experience app, it appears that, unless you’re using one of Nvidia's latest GeForce RTX or GTX graphics cards and a 144Hz monitor (preferably with Nvidia G-Sync), you’re playing these games at a disadvantage.

[Editor's Note: a previous version of this article contained language implying that Nvidia is directly stating that its hardware is required for competitive play. The article has been updated to better reflect that this is our interpretation and editorial opinion.]

So much so, in fact, that Nvidia's data directly links higher kill-death ratios – a figure measuring how many times you kill players versus how many times you’re killed – to more powerful (and considerably more expensive) gaming hardware.

What's the worst thing about this?

Nvidia's claims are grounded in reality. To avoid the obvious conclusion that better gamers generally buy better hardware, Nvidia provides a look at gamer performance over time across various Nvidia graphics cards (seen below) to show the impact on PC gamers of all levels of commitment. 

Image Credit: Nvidia (Image credit: Nvidia)

The problem with Nvidia’s negative advertising

But, whether Nvidia is right is not the point. The point is that this kind of study, which we would more accurately call “negative advertising,” is exactly the kind of exclusivity that causes would-be newcomers to the incredibly diverse world of PC gaming to do a 180 and never come back.

Negative advertising was the gaming industry’s primary mode of communicating with would-be customers throughout the ‘90s, with companies publicly attacking one another and even their target audiences’ dissenting choices. (Remember “Sega does what Nintendon’t?”)

There’s a reason the industry moved on from this kind of dialog with fans and customers: because negative reinforcement is not a good motivator for pretty much anything.

In the same breath that Nvidia is telling readers who can afford its RTX hardware that it will give them a competitive edge, the company is (hopefully inadvertently) telling readers who cannot afford it that they will never be as good as those players more flush with cash.

The whole study reeks of pandering to the toxic, elitist subculture of PC gaming. At best, this study is a bad idea, and at worst it fosters a gaming culture that judges you based on what hardware you can afford.

This isn’t a great look for a company that, days ago at the time of writing, launched a line of more affordable, 16 series GTX graphics cards. Granted, Nvidia mentions these cards within the study as ideal for this competitive edge, they’re still clearly dwarfed in performance by the astronomically-priced RTX cards.

Considering that these games draw hundreds of millions of players, it’s safe to assume that a large number of them – if not a majority – cannot afford one of these new Nvidia graphics cards. Should those less fortunate masses just pack up and move on, then?

Regardless of what the answer is, the fact that this study even raises the question is why PC gaming is often generalized as elitist. With all of the hard work that’s been done to democratize access to PC gaming over the past 10 years, communications like this are just deflating.

Joe Osborne

Joe Osborne is the Senior Technology Editor at Insider Inc. His role is to leads the technology coverage team for the Business Insider Shopping team, facilitating expert reviews, comprehensive buying guides, snap deals news and more. Previously, Joe was TechRadar's US computing editor, leading reviews of everything from gaming PCs to internal components and accessories. In his spare time, Joe is a renowned Dungeons and Dragons dungeon master – and arguably the nicest man in tech.