Razer considering subscription model for modular PC Project Christine

New business model would allow you to keep your PC up-to-date with minimal effort.

Razer made a surprise announcement this week at CES 2014 when it revealed the incredibly modular Project Christine PC, but the company is considering shaking things up even further with its latest idea. CEO Min-Liang Tan told GameSpot this week that the company is thinking about offering a subscription model for the PC, which would allow you to always keep your rig up-to-date with minimal effort.

"Because of the modular nature of this PC, one thing that we could potentially even do is to put this on a subscription model," he said.

Tan explained that a person could sign up for a "top of the line" package that would allow them to receive new components when they come out. These components would be delivered to your door, while you'd be responsible for sending your old modules back to Razer. This package would be offered as a monthly subscription.

"So instead of having to pay thousands of dollars in a single shot, there could be a standard subscription fee and you could have always, at any point of time, the best possible PC," Tan said.

You wouldn't have to worry about compatibility issues, either, as subscription packages would include components tailored specifically for your system. Project Christine itself is only a prototype at the moment, so Razer is not talking about pricing details for the system or potential subscription packages just yet.

Razer announced Project Christine at CES 2014 yesterday. It was designed as a means to allow all users to build and customize a gaming PC, regardless of their previous technical knowledge. The system allows you to install modules whenever they want--including CPUs, GPUs, or memory and storage. Project Christine also features PCI-Express architecture to automatically sync components and can run multiple operating systems.

Razer also announced a new fitness band/smartwatch hybrid called Nabu during CES.

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Eddie Makuch

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and would like to see the Whalers return to Hartford.
79 comments
philly215
philly215

This would be Game Over for XBOX and PLAYSTATION


its basically an Xbox Live Subscription....that covers a PC thats probably 10x more powerful than a console at any given moment


and it could help people have a gaming PC for the Oculus Rift....and the VR revolution thats coming

dgee15
dgee15

@philly215 you seem to not be able to understand that pc gaming will NEVER kill console gaming. It has always been superior to console gaming but people like console cause they are easy to use in the living room. Some Geeks will ditch consoles, some others will keep em, like most normal consumers will

Amaregas
Amaregas

This modular pc is way over steam machines, it's just freaking awesome :D, i hope that they will sell millions (or have millions of subscribers) of this modular pc, the idea of changing you CPU, GPU, RAM etc. only by swapping them with a new one, it's outstanding + it's extremely silent and cool.

WELL DONE RAZER!

rarson
rarson

@Amaregas  

 "the idea of changing you CPU, GPU, RAM etc. only by swapping them with a new one"

Uh, that's how PCs currently work.

RandomAvatar
RandomAvatar

That's just the most beautiful thing I've seen for PC gaming, the subscription would work wonders for me!

Zoza24
Zoza24

This could solve many problems regarding gamedevelopment. Developers don't have to refine their optimization for every graphics card.

So this means that more developers can hop onto the PC bandwagon and actually make powerful graphical games for PC..

deathstream
deathstream

@Zoza24 


It doesn't mean that at all.  These would still just be a fraction of the PC gaming market.

rarson
rarson

@deathstream

Even if every PC were built like this, they're still using a variety of different hardware. All this does is put each component in a modular case. All this is going to affect is hardware sales.

FallenOneX
FallenOneX

I got hyped up about the Steam machines....... I'll just hold my excitement until this is actually released this time.

lozandier
lozandier

Well that is true but the next year or so there will be HUGE new advancements in the Consimer PC marker: PCIe4, DDR4, and SATA Express.

The latter makes sense for this sort of project.

lozandier
lozandier

I honestly would wait till PCIe4 hardware becomes available for the best version of this. That should be Q2 of 2015.

DDR4 should come out late this year, so the timing of an idea like this makes sense.

It's a really interesting idea. A monthly fee is sort of questionable for this though.

fgjnfgh
fgjnfgh

Alright I am confused here. My concern is the latest GPU's. Forget about all other PC's parts so we don't complicate things. I'd pay a monthly sub to get the latest GPU that we only see those GPU's hit the market every like a year or two. It's nothing like we get GPU's or any PC part every month. Would I own the rig at the end? Or do I just pay the monthly sub for the renewable parts? I like the idea of renting the whole rig and you would rent the latest best PC gaming in the market. A Ferrari car is expensive so why not renting it and enjoy the ride for a while?

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

*Gack*.

I much, much prefer to own my own computer, thank you very much. To clarify, I am very skeptical that the subscription agreement would give full ownership to the customer.

WolfgarTheQuiet
WolfgarTheQuiet

@Gelugon_baat They should do that just as an optional thing, i like this but only if i own it.

i rarely get excited about majority of new PC tech but this is cool and so easy to deal with, few times i have damaged minor things when replacing parts, maybe a bit of impetience and clogged space

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@WolfgarTheQuiet 

I have to add here that I do happen to understand the sentiments behind this scheme of Razer's, namely its attempt to overcome some of the issues of maintaining a computer, as you have mentioned.

However, for me, ideas are not enough. Implementation of them is especially important, and I, for one, am not eager to join a subscription scheme. I suppose you are not too.

aeterna789
aeterna789

"So instead of having to pay thousands of dollars in a single shot, there could be a standard subscription fee and you could have always, at any point of time, the best possible PC," Tan said.

This will potentially be far more expensive than just paying a single shot amount for a new PC.

PCs are an investment, meaning you buy components and those parts (with proper care) will last you a good 3 years (add another 3 years if you know how to overclock). Some "new" hardware that comes out are just re-branded stuff from last year or just have small marginal improvements from the old.

rarson
rarson

@aeterna789

I spent about $1200 building my computer back in 2007. Since then, I've spent maybe $400 in upgrades, and I can run most games at 2560x1440. If I were to build a similar type rig today, it'd probably cost $600 instead of the initial $1200. So for about $1000, you can easily game in high detail for a good 7 or 8 years, at least. Choosing the right hardware is practically an art; you definitely don't need to buy the most expensive parts. People complain about how hard it is to build a PC or how many hardware choices there are, but if you're really that concerned about cost, a couple of hours of research will net you very smart, cost-effective purchasing options.

I'm certainly biased towards the PC, although I love my consoles as well. I just get tired of hearing about how difficult or expensive PC gaming is. To somebody else, building a PC is a hassle. To me, it's a benefit because I can choose my own hardware. I'd much rather spend a couple hundred more initially to get a rig that can run high settings and can be upgraded down the road (and can also do lots of other things, too, and play older software) than buy a console at launch that only has a few games.


Again, I love my consoles. And I'm excited about these new ones, too. I lust a little bit for them, really! But I always seem to end up buying a console years after release, after deep price cuts, while enjoying all the cutting edge stuff on my PC, because my PC tends to offer me the best experience anyway. And I do lots of other things with it.


To me, this whole idea is an answer to a problem that doesn't really exist. Modular parts make it easy to upgrade? Okay, but if you can build a computer, you can upgrade it easily. It's still plug-and-play! You just have to take the side panel off! And these modules are obviously going to cost more than the standard parts will, since the market is going to be smaller. Perhaps that's why Razer is entertaining the subscription idea, to try to hide the high cost of the individual modules.


I agree with everything you said. This is going to cost more than building a PC. The idea that you "have to" pay "thousands of dollars" for a good gaming PC is laughable.

Zoza24
Zoza24

So in the future PC hardware will be modular components to easily put in without any addition to installs and such?.


Sounds good to be true, Put some Steam OS in this bitch and I'm good to go :P

WolfgarTheQuiet
WolfgarTheQuiet

@Zoza24 Why would you need Steam OS, if you are a gamer its Windows, not saying because im liking it but so many older games wont work on it or if they were never on steam. If you only play latest steam games ok its understandable :)

Zoza24
Zoza24

@WolfgarTheQuiet@Zoza24  Don't forget that Steam OS is in its baby steps. So its only a matter of time when Linux fully supports several game titles and other functions.

Fuck windows and their NSA collaboration.We don't need that shit, we need real privacy..

1wikkid1
1wikkid1

Ok, that's an interesting concept... but again, how will they manage to keep their pieces top of the line? By the time Razer gets the new stuff, makes new boxes for it and ships it chances are it won't be top of the line any more. If they get the big boys to sign up for this (Intel, NVidia and the like) then it may something I'd be interested in... depending on the price of course. If it's 10-15 bucks a month then it may well be worth it, not having to build a new machine every couple of years would be nice... and not having to even look at sys reqs and just set everything at "ultra" would be even better... Basically it's too early to discuss this thing in any depth because so few details are available... 

sol_invictus55
sol_invictus55

Sounds like a money pit. Technology does change pretty fast but still you shouldnt need to upgrade but every 5 years or so, its not like you need to change out your GPU every few weeks.

Zoza24
Zoza24

@sol_invictus55Like the guy said, he wants to avoid obsolescence, so the subscription model could work for a reasonable subscription price..


So its on them eventually if they don't fuck up with their consumers indeed.


This could go many ways.

rarson
rarson

@Zoza24 

A five-year-old PC isn't obsolete, it's just a bit slow (at worst). Unless you buy total crap.

I tend to upgrade about every four years. I usually spend about $200 on a GPU, which is enough to play most games just fine. My CPU is now 7 years old and still doesn't need replacing. Most of these components really don't need to be replaced as frequently as they used to. CPU power is abundant. RAM capacity is huge and easily upgradeable. Build a rig right now and all you'll have to replace in the next decade is the GPU. And maybe $60 for some extra RAM.

 So figure maybe an initial investment of $800, plus an extra $500 over the next ten years. That's $130 per year. I can't fathom Razer offering you a cutting edge PC for only $11 a month.

ZeroFallout1
ZeroFallout1

I like the concept of a modular PC, it could lend a new shape to the PC than the same old rectangular case. For those who say its for lazy people or the layman return your screwless case and modular PSU. You dont need those twist lock for drives or rails for HDD or SSD. 

bouchart
bouchart

This looks like a boondoggle to me.


I've had my current PC for over a decade.  Granted my PC is very out of date these days, but over its lifetime I've replaced parts and have opened it up to clean it out and that sort of thing.  It's simple to do as long as you aren't careless.

rarson
rarson

@bouchart 

My PC is 7 years old, and is damn near fire-breathing. An SSD goes a long way! Plus, I recently upgrade my graphics card. But the upgrades were relatively cheap. In the PC world, you only have to wait a year or two before what was once cutting-edge becomes bargain-priced.

kinobee
kinobee

What about the Mobo. How do you upgrade it. What about new chipsets, Processors...etc This ain't futur proof. 666 oups sorry I meant Razer wants to have their hands in your pocket. Beware. Building your own rig is much more rewarding and pretty much limitless.

rarson
rarson

@kinobee 

Exactly. The motherboard and features are going to be determined by the main module, whatever it is that you're plugging all these upgrade boxes into. That's not to say that you'll absolutely need the latest mobo features, but if you want them, you're going to have to upgrade the main box. This is no more future-proof than any other PC. It's just "easier" to upgrade (as if it's really that hard to perform a common upgrade like a graphics card).

Wej_accept_it
Wej_accept_it

I've been waiting years for gaming to get a hold of this concept. I keep hearing about smart phone gaming taking business away from consoles (I'm not convinced by that though, I seriously doubt anyone purchases a phone thinking, "this is going to be way better then a PS3 to play games on") and I've offered wondered why getting a console on a payment plan wouldn't be such a bad idea.
The hardware could be much more powerful and even if costs double the average person can still afford monthly payments, after a 12-18month contact is fulfilled the customer keeps their console and might keep paying $X amount for their online service.

GhoX
GhoX

This will probably only appeal to the incredibly lazy and rich, who has tons of money and always want their PC to be "top of the line".

DomZeal
DomZeal

Highly inspired by Thermaltake Level 10 chassis

bignick217
bignick217

@DomZeal Lol, I thought that as well... And that's a damned expensive case too.  Glad I wasn't the only one to think that.

mkdewidar
mkdewidar

The problem is there stuff is always overpriced and often doesn't work, I think they said that the problem is they are a small company and they don't even manufacture they're own products. I hope they get bigger quickly and drop they're prices and improve they're quality. They would be awesome then!!!

mkdewidar
mkdewidar

Personally this looks like a good deal and a smart business model ONLY if the subscribtion and base price aren't overpriced, maybe the base price should be about $500-$1000 depending on which components you want to get from the box, then the subscribtion could be... I dunno... I don't know what the subscribtions will actually contain.

Maybe they could have a sort of installments thingy were you get the computer for lower base price but forcing the buyer to participate in the subscribtion at a little higher cost to get the price back.

Many possiblities really, this could either be a big fail or a unmatchable success.

We'll just have to wait and see, they'll probably release it next year or so. But what happened to the switchblade.

bignick217
bignick217

As a PC builder of 15 or so years, this isn't for me.  It's an intriguing idea for people who don't know and don't want to learn how to build their own gaming PC's, but I can't see how they could do this without making the initial purchase extortionately expensive nor make the subscription too expensive.  Not only that, it would limit choice of parts to only parts Razer chooses to support leaving you permanently in their pocket.  This would as a result take an open platform and make it proprietary.  Also, how would this work years down the line.  How does the central column work.  Is it a motherboard, or is it just a hub.  If a new CPU series comes out (which in turn requires a different socket set and chipset), do you need to replace the central column and the CPU module, or is the chipset that supports the CPU included in the CPU module.  Or do you need another module specifically for the supporting chipset?  Which again makes future upgrading a very restrictive endeavor.  You'd be locked to whatever Razer chooses to charge.  No shopping around for the parts and prices that best suite you.


Plus, if you don't have a subscription, what about warranties.  One of the benefits to building your own PC is awesome warranties when compared to prebuilt computers.  Most prebuilt computers mostly have 1 warranties.  Where as a custom built computer, you would have 5 years for your CPU, Lifetime for your memory, 3-7 years for your power supply (5 now being the norm), 5 years for your hard disk drives, 2-4 years for GPU and so on.  So I still run into the question of just how far are you willing to support Christine, both with and without a subscription.  If something fails, you are going to be very limited in options for repair.  You probably won't be able to take it in to the local computer shop and have them repair it.  They'll likely just send you away not wanting to risk damaging the module and having to pay you for damaging the module.  So again, you'll be restricted to getting it repaired via Razer in which case they could charge you whatever they want due to the proprietary nature of this system.  Think Apple here people.


And PC building is not as hard as many make it out to be.  Most people get scared because they see so many wires, when really all of the wires only go to one thing and can only plug in one way.  They're specifically designed like that to ensure you can't plug the wrong cable in the wrong port or device.  Hell even my dad, who knows nothing about computers replaced a PSU on his computer himself 2 months ago and a hard drive the year before on another computer.  Both times he was worried about getting it wrong, and both times he was surprised how easy it actually was to do.  The only thing he needed from me was to tell him which part he needed to buy.  Which illustrates a really good point.  The hard part about working on or building a computer is not the actual building nor work.  But the background knowledge to know what parts to buy, what they do and what you need them for.  That's the hardest part.  The building itself is easy.


And I have a lot more concerns about this proposal.  And the subscription model just screams red flags to me.  Like I said, it's an intriguing idea.  But it throws far more concerns, risks, potential restrictions and expenses in the air than benefits, as it's currently being presented.

rarson
rarson

@bignick217

"How does the central column work.  Is it a motherboard, or is it just a hub."

Perhaps it could be some kind of proprietary hub, but I don't see how it would work. For instance, how would you support a spec like PCI-e 4.0 if it's electrically different than PCI-e 3.0? You'd have to have some sort of super advanced bus in place that could route those electrical signals at least at the rate of the future hardware without actually knowing what that future hardware is going to require. Or consider memory controllers. Different CPU generations have different memory controllers (older CPUs having none at all). So how could you compensate for changes in memory controllers without having widespread requirements for memory modules (module A doesn't work with CPU module B, which doesn't work with memory module C, etc)? It would be a mess.

The other thing is, there is no way that these modules will be cheaper, or even cost-competitive, with standard PC parts. You're talking about proprietary packaging (that apparently includes water-cooling) and potentially even proprietary parts (PCBs, water cooling). The total amount of Razer module buyers is surely going to be significantly smaller than the number of people buying a traditional parts. You can't put a Razer module into a standard PC.

I agree, on the surface it sounds good but as a long-time PC builder, there are a ton of concerns. The subscription idea only seems to mask the cost issue. We'll have to see what the actual product looks like. I certainly don't see a PC revolution here.

bignick217
bignick217

@rarson Completely agree on all points.  And I did think about the memory controller issue for supported memory as well, but couldn't think of a way of adding it to my original post without it detracting from my original point.  I'm glad you highlighted it in your post.  And in regards to the subscription.  I honestly don't see how they will be able to do it without:

A: Extortionate monthly costs.

and

B: Minimum contracts.


I mean we're talking about expensive parts here.  It's one thing to call it a subscription that can be cancelled at any time, but realistically this would never be the case.  They would either have to have minimum contract lengths to ensure a reasonable return for the cost of parts.  Or they would have to have lead times.  In other words, minimum amounts of time being subscribed before you "qualify" for receiving new parts.  Backward subscription or forward, they would have to have restrictions, otherwise they would risk leaving the subscription model open to abuse.  Such as someone starting a subscription to get the latest parts, then once received, cancel the subscription.  But if they did have restrictions, then it wouldn't be a subscription any more, would it.  It would be a contract, end of.  Like when you get a contract mobile phone that you have to keep for 2 years or pay an early cancellation charge if you don't honor it.  That's a contract, not a subscription.  No matter how they try to sugar coat that concept.


And one other point of contention, just who exactly determines the top of the line.  The "subscribers" or Razer?  Is the supposed "top end" system actually top end parts or just the highest end parts Razer "chooses" to support?  This particular point is more nit-picking than anything, but it's still a fair question.

And what about the subscription model sending out new parts.  Supposedly, they send you the newest parts as part of the cost of subscription with them paying for the shipping to you, but they way they made it sound, you would have to foot the bill to send the old module back.  Well your already paying for the subscription and new parts hit the market every month to a few weeks.  So just how often would you receive new modules.  Just how many times are you the subscriber going to have to take into account setting money aside to pay to ship modules back just in case you get a new module that month.  Because god forbid you don't send in the old module and risk getting another charge for the cost of the module you didn't send back to them (such as if you had a bad month and couldn't afford to ship the old module back within the time limit.  Which further increases the cost of this so called convenient subscription so you always have the latest parts.

And here's the real kicker.  The kicker that nobodies bothered to ask yet.... WHAT ABOUT WINDOWS?.. In case anybody forgot, if you change enough components on your computer enough times, windows requires reactivation, even if you didn't need to reinstall the OS.  So if say, you did get that new CPU module and let's say that new CPU uses a new chipset and in turn a whole bunch of components and controllers and drivers change in windows as a result, you now have to reactivate.  Do that enough times in quick succession and you now have to call Microsoft and reactivate over the phone if there wasn't enough time in between triggers.  This happens more often than you might think.  Oh, but now that you've changed so many components and drivers so many times (most likely without properly uninstalling the old no longer needed drivers and we all know just how friendly bad/conflicting drivers are), you might as well reformat and reinstall your entire OS, because now your OS is a cluttered mess.  Further increasing the headaches caused by this so called "convenient" subscription model.


And another question regarding the central column, if it is a hub.  If it is only a hub, wouldn't this system run worse than a normal PC with the same specs because theoretically, this would create another layer in between each of the hardware components creating an extra layer of latencies you wouldn't have to worry about with a traditional PC where all the components are connected directly to the motherboard.  I'm not saying the difference would be huge, but there would be a difference.  And if anything goes wrong with the system, it adds a whole other troubleshooting path to consider when problem solving.  Just how do you determine an issue from a component is actually coming from the component itself, or a faulty connection on the hub interconnects.  What means would we have for testing that.  With a traditional PC, there's almost never such a thing as a catastrophic failure.  At least I've never encountered one.  An issue can (at least in my experience) always be narrowed down to single component.  Sometimes two.  Whether it's the motherboard, a memory module or 2, the power supply, the CPU etc.  And all of these (bar maybe the CPU and motherboard... long story) usually have a clear way of conclusively determining the cause of the issue.  I don't know, like I said, it's a novel idea, but it's a whole extra layer that doesn't need to be there and has the potential of cause more issues than it solves.


Now, I need to point out that I'm not bashing this system.  I'm really not.  Like I've said repeatedly, it's a novel idea.  It really is.  But it creates far too many concerns, potential issues, potential restrictions, and considerable potential costs (especially when considering how expensive Razers products usually are).  These are talking points that should not be ignored while this concept is rolling around in the hype machine.  And any long time PC builder would tell you the same thing.  If they can pull this off and address these issues competently, then they will have my sincere congratulations.  But I would advise anyone looking at this concept.  For your own good.  Stick to traditional PC building for the meantime.  And if and when this concept hits the market.  Give it at least a year or 2 to see what happens and see how this concept and subscription model stacks up to actual practical applications before even considering buying into it.  That's the best advice I could give.

Stiler
Stiler

If this thing is reasonably priced and the "subscription" is actually worth while (like Evgas "step up" program but without a 90-day limit) I could see it working. 


However if they actually do make this and charge an extreme price I won't see it taking off at all. 


I mean the target audience for this seems to be the people that don't know much about pc's or how to build one, so pricing it higher then normal pc'[s would be a huge turn off for them.

atopp399
atopp399

Ok, I will pay if the subscription is no more than 20% over the cost of building it myself.

Fabian85
Fabian85

Best possible pc at any time what a joke. New hardware is released all the time and cost is heavy. That sub fee would be equal to lease on a new mercedes. Sure a sub for updated pc can be done but best pc at any given time..that will never happen big ass lie.

Random_Matt
Random_Matt

PC is the best, although this ugly thing can stay in Taiwan.

mkeezay22
mkeezay22

@Random_Matt but don't you think it's curvy and sexy, a bunch of ovals on top of each other with some that fill the front and back and some that just fill the front side, don't you want that thing in your house so people can think it's a dehumidifier.

Poison-tooth
Poison-tooth

Maybe an option for a rich pc gamer without the knowlegde or the motivation to build his own pc.

dfuknb
dfuknb

@Poison-tooth Not true. If it is Windows based and im sure the creative sector could use this as an easy way do design, create. Imagine someone renting a machine for $60 a month and using it to edit videos, make music.... etc.... its a great idea and would obviously require good credit scores lol. Basically a good way to start a business

mkeezay22
mkeezay22

@dfuknb Well it is true because anyone with the knowledge isn't going to pay a premium for a rig that has to unusable cpus.

barrybarryk
barrybarryk

@dfuknb Except that's generally how small and medium sized business PCs are already sold (and have been for years), with service contracts.  

It's a prototype rig, it'll probably never see the light of day again let alone come to market.

zerofrust
zerofrust

Like i often say it's about giving people options,people who can afford it and are willing spend money on...this...will do it.The others will just skip it.Some people are reacting like this device is going to be mandatory lol.

n3cw4rr10r
n3cw4rr10r

Sounds Cool but I am not sold on the idea, especially the part about the "subscription" model.