Friday, 7 June 2013

The Xbox One and the cost of modern gaming,

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Gina here! So tell me, how many of you like gaming?

Gaming isn't so accessible when you're down on cash. Actually, gaming isn't really so accessible for anyone who doesn't have a lot of spare money. Period. As gaming gains constant popularity, particularly in regards to the use of consoles, more and more young people are getting involved. With the upcoming release of the Xbox One console, I'm asking whether the gaming industry is cheating itself, and its followers.

As someone who held her first controller at around the age of 5, I've been privileged enough to keep up with the release of new consoles as I've grown up. The Sega Megadrive, the PlayStation 1, 2 and an Xbox 360 were (and some still are) fixtures of my living room, but it seems that the more advanced the technology becomes, the more expensive it gets, and the more publishers and hardware companies find new ways to increase their profits. My first brush with the competitive world of the online gaming community was after I received a month's free Xbox Live subscription with my console. I enjoyed the wonders of being able to connect and play against gamers around the world; it was like something my young 8 year old self would have idly dreamed up while wishing I had a constant friend who would take up their post in controller port number 2. I vastly enjoyed the experience and the challenge of Live gaming, and after the free subscription finished I purchased another year of it for around £50. It's true, I did grit my teeth as I handed over my hard-won allowance money, and after that year was up, I didn't subscribe again.

As a young person, employed or not, you're not going to have a whole heap of cash available to throw at your chosen console company. I found that the expenses encompassed in owning an Xbox 360 and buying regular games were on the less-manageable side of my budget spectrum, though I could manage if I only bought new games occasionally, very rarely buying games at their new-to-the-shelves retail price of around the £40 mark. Now however, with the soon to be released Xbox One console, I find myself for the first time at a crossroads; I'm unsure of where my gaming future will take me, or even if it will continue to be, as it always has been, on consoles. With the inevitability that my 360 console will one day become completely obsolete and the publishing of new games for it will cease, (possibly at an increasingly fast pace as the new console is not backwards compatible) the likelihood of me purchasing an Xbox One console seems to be slim-to-none.

When the Xbox 360 Arcade console was released in October 2007 as the most affordable model of the 360 system, its asking price was around £183. It had several other, more expensive predecessors , the most expensive of all being originally priced at around £260. So way back when it was released and in high demand, the most advanced Xbox 360 console with the most capabilities and memory cost £260. To pre-order the new Xbox One on Amazon, complete with the Kinnect sensor will set you back £599.

Now, I'm well aware that as technology advances, so too must the complexity of the systems and thus the price increases – at least for the first year or so -, but the people at Microsoft clearly saw that their premium 360 console was out of a lot of gamers budgets, and so created another two, more modestly priced options for those with less cash. Will this happen for the Xbox One? Well, we don't know yet, but since this is the most expensive Xbox console bundle to date, it's doubtful that any possible future options will be as affordable.

There are ways that gamers try to cut down on spending, and a primary option for many of us that has exploded in the last several years is the second-hand gaming market. Here, gamers can purchase second-hand, traded-in games for a fraction of the retail price, but they likely won't be doing that for much longer if they're avid followers of the Xbox console evolution. Why? Because it's been heavily hinted at that the Xbox One will include a software that detects when you load an already-played disk into the drive, and will charge you an additional fee for its usage. Will it be a small fee, or the full retail price of the game? We don't know yet, as little information has been released about the gaming aspect of the console, but it's an action that, if taken, will alienate and possibly completely prevent gamers from buying Microsoft's new Xbox One consoles. Let's say you pay that £600 for the new console: you then have to purchase some games to play, and if it doesn't cost any less buying used games, that will be £30-£40 per game, and then you get an Xbox live subscription. That will be a minimum of £50 for a year. So a rough estimate of your total costs would bring you to around the £690 mark for a console and kinnect, a year of live and a single game retailing around the £40 mark. Wow.

Obviously there's a lot that we still don't know about the console, and there are a lot of cool features that will surely be integrated into the system (I think the whole 'snap' idea is pretty cool, assuming it isn't laggy and difficult to initiate), but what I do know is that a lot of people are going to be put off, if not literally unable to afford buying the new console and any additional accessories and games. And that sucks. It truly does. I've never been in the position of not knowing how I'll be able to play games in the future, and it's not a fun position to be in. My faint hope is that the console giants will take a moment to think about their younger players, and their players who don't have a large chunk of disposable income that they can afford to spend on video games. 

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