The lights are on
This week, Ubisoft revealed the PC specs for upcoming open-world action title Watch Dogs. The requirements and recommended settings are higher than some gamers expected. With the next-generation of consoles coming (both of which have eight-core CPUs), we're expecting that developers are going to be freer to demand more power from the PC versions.
Note: The low-cost build below has been updated. It previously contained an ethernet card and sound card (both are unnecessary, though the latter wasn't made clear via PC Part Picker).
First, here are the recommended and required specifications (captured by NeoGAF before Ubisoft removed the page):
Base SpecificationOperating System: Windows Vista (SP2), Windows 7 (SP1), or Windows 8
Note that we only support 64 bit OSs
DVD-ROM: DVD-ROM Dual Layer
Hard Drive Space: 20GB
Sound: DirectX 9.0c Compatible Sound Card with Latest Drivers
Internet: Broadband connection and service required for multiplayer mode
Minimum SpecificationGPU: DirectX 11 graphics card with 1GB Video RAM
CPU: Quad core
example 1GPU: NVidia GTX 460
CPU: Intel Core2 Quad Q6600
example 2GPU: AMD Radeon HD 5770
CPU: AMD Phenom X4 9750
GPU: DirectX 11 graphics card with 2GB Video RAM
CPU: Eight core
example 1GPU: NVidia GTX 560 ti
CPU: Intel Core i7-3770
example 2GPU: AMD Radeon HD 7850
CPU: AMD FX-8350 Eight-Core
Ultra SpecificationGPU: Latest DirectX 11 graphics card with 2GB Video RAM or more
CPU: Latest Eight core or more
RAM: 8GB or more
example 1GPU: Nvidia GTX 670
CPU: Intel Core i7-3930K
GPU: AMD Radeon HD 7970
CPU: AMD FX-9370 Eight-Core
Surprisingly, Watch Dogs requires a quad-core processor. This alone might put some existing PC gamers into upgrade mode. Using popular website PCPartPicker.com, I found components that fulfill the bare minimum specification at the lowest listed prices from a variety of retailers. With the exception of the hard drive, I used the least expensive compatible part. (I picked a 250GB HDD rather than the smallest possible in the name of practicality.)
Click to enlarge part and price list.
After rebates and estimated shipping costs, that system comes out to $556. This does not include a monitor, keyboard, mouse, or game controller. It does include a copy of Windows 7 Home Premium ($85).
Bearing in mind that Watch Dogs is a cross-generation console game and this is a PC that will barely play it, we are left to assume a couple of things. There is a good chance that in a year's time, when developers will be focusing almost exclusively on next-generation consoles, that this build will require upgrading. We also assume that playing Watch Dogs on a PC with these specifications will not result in performance markedly different from a console experience.
There are two takeaways from this exercise. First, we can expect that peak performance for PC versions of multi-platform games will see an uptick in specification requirements. Second, now might not be the best time to buy a PC. Because we don't know where things will settle out in the next six to twelve months, you could find yourself needing to upgrade sooner than you'd like to maintain the same level of performance (whether that's minimum, recommended, or ultra).
There's good news, though. Everyone's going to be experiencing games in higher fidelity than ever before. For console gamers, that evolution starts in six weeks with the launch of the PlayStation 4. For PC gamers, the next year is sure to be an exciting time, as the power race heats up again.
Email the author Mike Futter, or follow on Google+, Twitter, and Game Informer.