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.