Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Cost of Console Gaming Hardware

Having written on the cost of PC gaming hardware in the past, I feel it's only fair to give console gaming hardware equal time.

I've been keeping an eye on the price of the PS3 over the Black Friday weekend. The new sleeker version of the console retails for $300 and includes one controller and a component video cable. If you want a remote control for the machine's much-touted Blu-ray playing capacity, that will cost you an extra $20. If you need an HDMI cable to plug into your HDTV, that's going to be an extra $10 (if you get a generic one, $40 if you buy the official one from Sony, or from most retailers).

In short, you can expect to sink two years' worth of MMORPG subscription fees into hardware, which is a very expensive hood ornament for your entertainment center until you spend more money on something to actually use with the system. Games retail for $60 and often can't be counted on to last more than 10-20 hours. Is it any wonder that, at those prices, gamers are renting or re-selling games in greater and greater numbers?

Console gaming has numerous advantages. Players don't have to worry about their system specs, because every game was designed to play on the same device. The variety of gaming experiences you can expect with a console and an all-you-can-rent plan is far greater than you're going to get out of 1-2 MMORPG subscriptions. I'm just saying that the cost is nothing to sneeze at, even before you get into expensive peripherals (hello, Rock Band) and not-so-microtransactions (which gaming publishers have somehow managed to brand as "DLC - downloadable content", an acronym that deliberately does not mention cost).


  1. Renting and reselling games has been going on for ages - long before this generation of consoles, for sure. I used to rent NES games decades ago, so this is really nothing new, and the resale market has been booming since the PS One roared onto the market, if not before.

    I'm not saying that consoles aren't expensive.... I'm just saying that the cause & effect relationship that you're trying to set up with the current generation of consoles is not valid - the consumer behaviors that you reference have been in effect for more than a decade.

  2. Sure, but what about the cost of a PC? Or a gaming PC?

  3. most people have to buy a computer for their home office. It's nothing to slap in a cheap graphics card and have fun.

  4. I enjoy first person shooters and other similar games in addition to mmos. Those games require alot of processing power and computing heft that an office computer simply can't cover.
    My graphics card alone costs more than an average xbox and the new ps3. So add that with the rest of the computer and compare that with the cost of buying a console and perphials and the console actually can be quite cost effective. Even the games don't really count because the prices are similar whether you buy it for the pc or a console.
    The computer does have the advantage, I can do more stuff with it, such as schoolwork and internet surfing, but then again the ps3 can boot into linux so we'll see.

  5. First: please please please don't buy branded wires. The cheapest wire is equal to the branded wire, except for the price. It's wire wrapped in polymer with a connector on the end.

    Like Jormundgard alludes to, it's an upfront cost similar to a gaming PC. I've owned my PS3 for over two years; it's a tank. Furthermore, every month lowers my monthly rate of ownership.

    Also, if you're buying new games at $60 for 10 hours of gameplay, you should choose better. The best current counterexample is Dragon Age, which has >60 hours of playtime thus far on my first playthrough. And it's fun enough that I'm going to play through again. Excellent value.

    One point you didn't mention is that PC doesn't have local multiplayer, which is a big feature for us gamer families. If my wife and I want to play WoW together, that's 2x gaming PC, 2x $150/yr subscription. Console gets a lot more attractive at that price.

  6. "Furthermore, every month lowers my monthly rate of ownership."

    That's the clincher in my house. I don't have to keep paying for games that I want to play, and I can pick up a game that I haven't played for months without incurring another monetary cost.

    Just like I buy clunker vehicles with cash and don't lease new ones that depreciate like mad, I buy old but great games (or newer ones on sale), and don't subscribe to games.


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