Kieran McClung
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6 min read

Is gaming still affordable?

Originally posted on

The UK is in a bit of a state. A state preventing even the most avid flagshagger from mustering up a semi. We're heading full-speed into an energy crisis. Bills are rising by 80% next month, with a further increase to happen early next year. The only things distracting us from wondering how we can pay our bills are the news reports giving a celebratory pat on the back of the energy companies for making record-breaking profits. Supermarkets are offering loans to help people afford their weekly shopping, the elderly are riding buses to keep warm, and the government has given the a-okay to dump literal human shit into the sea. Rule Britannia.

The government could help, but it's currently preoccupied with the season finale of the most dreadful reality TV show. It’s the televised equal of choosing between having your foreskin or ballsack stapled to a piece of wood. I’d rather neither, but because Ed ate a bacon sandwich a bit weird, we're forced to choose. I am, of course, talking about the appointment of the new prime minister and leader of a party that's had so many votes of no confidence in itself it makes me look body confident. And the best of all? We don’t even get to choose! So, what’s it going to be, cock or ball?

While this popularity contest of ghouls is taking place, the current prime minister is bumbling around the world, attempting to pass as an actual functioning human. His façade seems to be working too, hiding the fact that he’s really a mass of matted bollock hair punched into a shape that vaguely resembles a human man. A man that, if he was a pet, would be put down as it’s the most humane thing for him.

The world ain’t great, and for many of us, video games help to distract us from the fact. It’s either that or crying and playing games is often more fun.

The cost of gaming

Video games have always been a means to escape real-world problems and the mundanity of life. Whether that’s by washing a shed in PowerWash Simulator, cleaning a house in House Flipper, or cooking a meal in Cooking Simulator, there‘s always somewhere to retreat. But ready access to video games is at serious risk.

In the same week that Ofgem said: "bend over, winter is coming", Sony thought it apt to announce a price increase on its PS5. You’ll now need to part with £480 for the privilege of owning the monolithic PS5 console, or if you’re not a lover of discs, £390 will get you the trimmer PS5 Digital Edition. Comparatively, you can buy a similarly-specced Xbox Series X for £450 or the smaller, less-powerful, digital Xbox Series S for £250. You’ll want at least one game with your new console, and this is where it stings a little more if you opt for the PS5. Its £70 (RRP) games sit you at an all-in-price of £550 for the full-fat PS5 or £460 for the PS5 Digital Edition. Again, comparatively, you’re looking at £505 for the Xbox Series X and a £55 (RRP) game, or £305 for an Xbox Series S. There's an obvious outlier here when it comes to affordability, but, regardless of your choice, these aren’t unsubstantial sums.

I’ve used RRP prices rounded up to the nearest pound for consistency and readability. You can buy games, and indeed consoles, at less than RRP. Please don’t @ me for trying to overstate my point, Gamer!

There are, of course, more affordable options if you’re looking to jump into the world of "next-gen". PS+ Extra and PS+ Premium join Xbox Game Pass as monthly services that give you full access to a library of 100s of games. Subscribing to these services means that you don't need to buy a game with your new console, contradicting what I said. I lied to you. Get used to it when the newly appointed leader reigns supreme.

But what of the costs? PS+ Premium will set you back £13.49/month with PS+ Extra coming in at a lower price of £10.99/month. Xbox Game Pass offers an entry-level price of £7.99/month, with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate matching that of PS+ Extra at £10.99/month. PS+ Extra is the most value for money out of the PS+ subscriptions, with Premium offering only access to classic games, demos, and cloud streaming. Conversely, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate offers the best value out of the Game Passes, with access to Cloud Gaming, Game Pass PC, Xbox Live Gold, and EA Play. The clincher here is that first-party Xbox titles release straight onto the service, so you’ll rarely if ever, need to buy another Xbox exclusive game again. But should you dive in with either console, there's an extra cost to consider -- the cost of running it.

Rising energy prices mean it's significantly more expensive to use these consoles. It's a cost that's likely never registered on your radar before, but it will be more noticeable going forward.

Hourly cost of playing games

| Console | kWh (cost pence) | | ------------- | -------------------- | | PS5 (Disc) | 10.45p | | PS5 (Digital) | 10.85p | | Xbox Series X | 7.95p | | Xbox Series S | 3.84p |

Calculations based on the current kWh price (52p) as outlined in Ofgem's recent report [1] using power output provided by Sony [2] and Xbox [3] at the time of writing

Cost to complete Elden Ring*

| Console | Cost to complete | | ------------- | -------------------- | | PS5 (Disc) | £10.65 | | PS5 (Digital) | £11.06 | | Xbox Series X | £8.10 | | Xbox Series S | £3.91 |

*console running cost only.

Based on the median "all-styles" playtime (102 hours) at the time of writing [4]

There are other energy costs to consider when playing games too. There's the standby console power usage, cost of running the TV and sound system, and controller charging docks. These costs tend to go unnoticed, but if you told me that I need to pay an extra tenner to complete Elden Ring, I'd tell you "fuck right off". Although it is an excellent game, so maybe not.

It's clear from the above that the most affordable way to play "next-gen" console games is to go for the Xbox Series S with Xbox Game Pass. But that doesn't mean it's still an affordable option for common households in the UK. Gaming will be far from the minds of the thousands of vulnerable people worrying about how they will pay their bills over the coming months. Is gaming a higher priority than keeping your house warm? No, it isn't. And it's a choice that some will be forced to make.

What If...?

When budgeting finances, the easy wins are dispensing of the nice-to-haves. Subscriptions to services like Spotify, Apple Music, Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Disney + are the first to go. These subscription services rely on the volume of subscribers, and Xbox Game Pass and PS+ are no different. If that volume of subscribers decreases, the service begins to degrade, causing subscriber volumes to drop further due to the cut in quality. It's an endless loop, leading to a slippery slope that ends with a service that's no longer sustainable. When it stops making money, it’s taken out back and sent the way of Old Yeller.

Extravagant spending also meets the chop, and what’s more extravagant than spunking £70 on a video game? People will wait for a price drop, if their budget allows, borrow from a friend, grab a second-hand copy, or resort to piracy. None of these options supports the studios that develop the games, affecting the top line. Multimillion-dollar budget AAA games will no longer be workable if the uptake isn’t there. We’d start to see first-party developers shift their focus on sequels for established IPs or latching onto the current trend of the moment. Battle Royale, anyone? The market becomes stagnated. Creativity gone. Gaming is dead.

It’s all hyperbolic, and while gaming is unlikely to collapse any time soon, these fantasies are rooted in reality. The UK makes up only a small percentage of the gaming market, but the world feels the impact of the increased living costs. The aftermath of the pandemic and the ongoing Russian attack on Ukraine are contributing to that. The UK has the added boon of Brexit, although the Tories have brushed that under the carpet, blaming all problems on Covid and Ukraine. The cost of living, unfortunately, impacts everything.

I can write about how much I hate the current government and how the thought of not being able to play games makes me sad, but there's a serious side to all this. A lot of people in the UK are currently standing on a knife's edge staring into a vast chasm of uncertainty. It's a situation we're not familiar with and nothing is being done to help. All we have is the knowledge that we’re all going through this shit together. Does that make it better? No, but it's all we've got. Be kind to one another, look after one another, seek advice, or take to the streets and make your voice heard. Or you could buy yourself a new kettle.

Featured Image by Jr Korpa on Unsplash