There's a lot of cash pumping through the enthusiast hardware market -- about $9.5 billion last year alone, according to Jon Peddie Research. In 2009, 46% of the money spent on "gaming-motivated PC hardware" went toward enthusiast-grade parts, which it defines as boutique PCs, high-end processors and graphics cards, SSDs, specialized gaming mice, keyboards, speakers, monitors and so forth.

The firm predicts that spending on upper-tier parts will continue to grow, but interestingly, it will represent a smaller portion of the overall gaming PC market. By 2013, the enthusiast sector will lose share to the performance and mainstream segments, from 46% to 35% of dollars spent. However, JPR notes that the "shrink" will occur in an expanding market and the enthusiast class will grow from $9.5 billion to nearly $12.5 billion.

Video game analyst Ted Pollak believes the phenomenon is the result of PC hardware catching up to software. In other words, more people are turning to performance-grade hardware because it is able to cope with demanding games. Despite that shift, JPR says enthusiast components will always be a good market, as there is a style element to high-end parts, and some people just enjoy maxing out their systems.