The cost of console gaming is “too damn high.”

For the price of freedom to play any game release, you could buy two used cars-or one, and a decent computer (and still play a lot of games).

For the first 22 years of home gaming consoles, up to the Nintendo Entertainment System, rarely did a console breach the $200 mark (give or take ~10 percent). Outliers existed with prices as high as $700, but who do you know that had a 3DO Interactive Multiplayer in 1993?

Sega (Saturn) and Sony (Playstation) were the first major companies to breach this benchmark, at $399 and $299.99, respectively. With this fissure, the cost of gaming erupted into a geyser of money hemorrhaged from gamers’ collective wallets.

The Playstation 2 and Xbox marked the sixth generation of video game consoles releasing for $299.99, while Nintendo clung to its historical price point, around $200, until the release of the Wii ($249.99) seven years ago.

With the PS3, prices climbed to $499.99, dwarfing competitors, with little to show for the price.

With time, prices drop, and the Wii can now be bought for $99.99, and a basic Xbox 360 could be $199.99. But these systems are on their way out. The PS3 still costs $299.99, after being on the market for seven years. If not for my intense love of the bloody, blasphemous, deicidal Kratos and the God of War series, I wouldn’t even countenance buying the soon-to-be glorified space heater.

Honestly, to an extent, one can almost understand why prices have risen so high. Technology quickly reduces in price, but new technology is always costly.

But here’s the thing. I can buy a good desktop computer for less than $1000. If I wanted to play any given game of the current generation, and not worry about system exclusivity, I would need to drop at least $600 at this point. If I’d wanted that freedom from the start, it would be over $1,000 for three separate pieces of hardware with limited functionality. It is difficult to find emulator programs for seventh-generation systems, such as the Xbox 360, but I know they’re out there.

Even putting aside piracy, I may not be able to play God of War III on my PC, but I can buy Saints Row the Third or Tomb Raider on Steam and play it on the upgradable box already in my room, without shelling out several hundred dollars for a dedicated game machine. You can even buy a gaming PC, and then use the same box for surfing the Internet or typing a report.

Just this month, a Linux-based “Steam-box” was announced for $999.99. The Valve-backed Xi3 is, however, upgradable, and boasts 1 TB of storage and a high-end video card, making it a more game-tailored PC than game-dedicated box.

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5 Comments on "The cost of console gaming is “too damn high.”"

  1. First, I’m not sure I’m understanding your opening very well

    “For the price of freedom to play any game release, you could buy two used cars-or one, and a decent computer (and still play a lot of games).” Is “game release” some unknown noun to me? you can play a game on release and you can play any game… I think there may be some kind of language barrier you’re hurdling so I digress.

    I’m not sure I get it, I’ve checked the price on some used cars and they are all well over $300 so unless you have access to the black market, I think you are making things up.

    Are you really suggesting that seven years ago the PS3 had nothing to show for itself? That is by far the most uninformed thing anyone could say about it, one of the first market blu-ray players, playing in the highest definition at the time, and having an upgrade-able removable harddrive that didn’t have to be a Sony brand.

    Just because you are mad about it, doesn’t mean you have to spout lies.

    So are you really suggesting, like your headline says that “dropping >$1000 on a good desktop” plus the cost of games (unless you are endorsing piracy which you clearly seem to be an advocate of) is more expensive than dropping around $300 for any particular console and some games?

    Last time I checked $1000 for your elitist PC attitude was less than the ~$360 you’d pay for a PS3 and the God of War HD collection, #3, and Ascenscion.

  2. Keep in mind that this is an opinion column, and you don’t have to agree with things written in an editorial. It’s just one person’s perspective.

  3. Hi Lance, the beauty of comment fields is that I don’t have a word count to stick to, so I am able to spell some things out for you. First, “game release,” yes, is a noun of which you are apparently unaware. I’m fairly certain that professional game journalism does in fact use the term as well. Specifically I mean “games as they come out.” I’m sorry that I construct complex sentences and occasionally turn phrases. I will try to keep in mind the level of my apparent audience.
    Second, yes, there are used cars out there which are cheap enough that you could afford a moderate computer and still pay less total cash than the $1050 that buying every system of the last generation at release prices would cost. I believe you are actually over estimating the price of a decent computer.
    Third, I am suggesting that the PS3 did not have any assets compelling enough to justify $500 for a box dedicated to playing video games. I am a gamer, but I am one of limited income. Were I rich, or had parents who bought me everything I wanted, or had no responsibilities, then perhaps I would regard the price differently.
    Fourth, I believe you have transposed some items. I am advocating paying <$1000 (less than $1000) for a decent computer. As much as I would like to own an Alienware PC, it is similarly outside of my price range. The computer I use now is a five year old Gateway (I believe). I happened to have not paid for it, instead earning it through helping an employer whose store was closing. I have had to upgrade it all of once, so that it could run Civilizations V, spending $80 to upgrade the graphic card.
    What I am suggesting is that consoles cost too much. I have no great preference for console or pc, but for my circumstances, it makes a great deal more sense to play games on the PC (and in fact the PC games I play are fairly few, because, again, I cannot afford them). If you have money to spare, then maybe it makes sense to have all three consoles, but I simply don't. If you want to truly know my position on piracy, I wrote a piece about DRM which is in our Opinion/Perspectives section.

  4. Wow, real powerful belligerent attitude coming from you, you shouldn’t go around acting like you’re better than other people. You might enjoy life a bit more.

    But certainly not more if you are such a smug elitist to suggest that a shitty PC you buy can only be comperable to buying 3 7th gen consoles at release price. That doesn’t make any sense. In terms of gaming a PC is one console. Why do you need all 3? I certainly don’t have all 3.

    The price of a game on release (to phrase the term in an appropriate way) is the same on all consoles and generally on PC (unless you get a steam sale but then you aren’t playing on release anyway.)

    And yes, I could see this is riddled with opinion, but some of the atrocity in this article is falsely represented. The only way console gaming is more expensive than PC gaming is if you act like the PC is a megabox that can only be matched by someone owning all three current consoles. That’s bullshit.

    Most people don’t have the means to connect their computer to a television set for gaming, so the separate system is even a greater convenience for them.

    The price of owning an Xbox and playing a game on release, is no greater than owning a computer and playing a game on release (though you can probably get an Xbox cheaper than a PC that can play something like Skyrim or Tomb Raider.) And if money is that tight, you can’t play any games on release since games are pretty much priced equally across the board.

    Your DRM piece covers less about the current trouble in the industry with used games which is a real issue worth talking about.

  5. I compare owning a computer to owning all three systems because 1) a computer with emulators can run games from all three systems, and 2) because many people, save for system fanboys, will want to own all three so that they do not miss a game due to system exclusivity.
    There is also the fact that PCs are inherently more powerful and versatile machines. Granted, consoles are tailored to gaming, and so will perform better than a PC in areas such as graphics. I still maintain that PC gaming, in general, is better than at least any one console, because a PC can be upgraded between generations of games more cheaply than upgrading one’s system.

    Admittedly, my lack of current gen consoles has left my slightly ill-informed about them. Referencing your previous comment, I was unaware that the PS3 had an upgradable hard drive and that a replacement did not need to be Sony brand.

    However, I did research the specific facts which I reference in my column. I did not falsify anything. You may disagree with my statements, or conclusions, or contend that “for the price of owning all three systems, you could get a computer and a car” is an exaggeration (it’s really not, depending on the car and computer you look at). The facts are indisputable, however. For what they are, and how frequently you are expected by the companies to buy entirely new boxes, consoles are over priced, and a PC is a better buy.

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