We all know how much a console costs. We're all aware of how much it'd take to put a gaming PC together. We all know how expensive games can be, even though Steam offers some fan-freakin-tastic deals. And to some, this is what constitutes the entire gaming cost. Some people, especially those who don't really pay the bills around the house, often neglect some of these very simple factors.
This post isn't made to dissuade you or your family from gaming. Quite the opposite, actually. I want you to be more aware of what comes out of your pocket so you can play more to your budget, and for you to plan accordingly. A cost-efficient gamer is a happy gamer, not to mention a less guilty one!
This is definitely the most obvious factor. You need juice to run your games. And that juice ain't cheap, especially here in the Philippines.
I found a very informative infographic from this website, and while the values are in GBP, you can see costs in terms of ratios between systems and games.
I can somewhat attest to the PS3 being a real power guzzler. Around this house, we normally pay upwards of Php 3,000 for electricity. Sounds pretty standard for a household of this size with as many gadget-obsessed people (just me.) I got obsessed with Marvel Heroes, and I didn't show my PS3 any love last month, and our electricity bill went down significantly. It's crazy - my old, rickety PC consumes less power than a PS3.
To put in perspective - playing a game can use from 120W to 380W, depending on your system. That means if you play an average of 3 hours a day (less on weekdays, more on weekends) on a slim PS3, you generate about 18 - 22 kWh per month. At Meralco's current rate, that's already an extra Php 188.14 to Php 235.18 on your bill. A 32" LCD TV will run you up 11.6 kWh per month, which amounts to another Php 117.59. And that doesn't even include your speakers, your airconditioning/electic fan to keep cool while gaming, other peripherals, or your modem and router.
Speaking of modems and routers...
Gaming these days is so inherently connected to the Internet. Patches are released for game updates, DLC is delivered digitally most of the time, game titles are being offered on digital download on the same day the disc-based copies hit the streets, and Steam is making a metric ton of money. I foresee a move to digital download only in the next few years.
Though PC gamers have been at it for years.
Unfortunately, the Philippines doesn't seem to be keeping up with the global demand of the Internet lately. Our speeds are still lagging behind our Asian neighbors'. Singapore has a 1Gbps connection that goes for SGD 59.99 (Php 2,130.88). Can you even believe that?! For the same price that gets us a 5Mbps connection here in the Philippines (Thank you, PLDT), Singapore gets 1000Mbps. Sure, it comes with a 1GB volume cap, but for that price and that speed, it may be worth it. It's marketed towards gamers, and with digital downloads being as big as 9GB, Singaporeans are gonna have to fork over some cash for that extra volume.
In the Philippines, you're looking to pay Php 1995.00 for a 5Mbps connection on PLDT. On Globe, you can get 2Mbps for Php 1099.00, but you know that's not nearly enough, so you go up to 5Mbps for Php 1599.00.
I understand the Internet can be used for other things such as productivity and communication, but if you wanna play games, you're almost definitely gonna have to get an Internet connection.
I cannot tell you how many times I've gone and said "Oh, I want to buy another HDMI cable." Then I ask myself "why do i want one?" and I cannot give myself an answer other than "it exists." I also play my PS3 alone, but I have FOUR controllers. I love them death; they're my babies. But yeah, I have four and only use one at a time. I just alternate their use so they all get equal loving. That's to show you how quickly buying peripherals can add up.
For example, a PS3 comes with the unit, one controller, sometimes a game, an AC cable, an ethernet cable, a mini-USB cable, and an AV cable. What you don't have is a good audio solution, an HDMI cable to connect to your LED/LCD monitor, a 2nd controller for couch co-op, a way to communicate in-game, and a way to type, or alternative control methods. These are all sold separately.
Don't be fooled. The cheap ones are just as good as the expensive ones.
An HDMI cable can go for as low as Php 200, which isn't bad. A good audio solution can range somewhere from Php 6,000 for simulated 7.1 headphones all the way to Php 80,000 for crazy 7.1 home entertainment set-ups. I guess you can just go for the cheaper options if you're on a budget. A second controller for the PS3 goes for Php 2,100 or Php3,300 for PS4. Communications in-game may be addressed by your audio solution or you could pony up and buy some bluetooth headsets for the PS3, which costs another Php 2,000+. Thankfully, the PS4 comes with a mono headset for talking.
Don't even get me started on gaming mice and keyboards like Razers, because their price ranges go from the ceiling to the roof.
For alternative controls, like the Xbox 360 Kinect and the PS Move, you'd have to fork over some cash for those if you wanna get your motion game on (you don't), as well. I think the Move Bundle went for Php 5,900 or something like that.
Freemium and F2P
Of all the pitfalls of gaming, the one I seem to fall for the most is free-to-play. The way they hook you in is with interesting gameplay, giving you just enough for you to have a blast. Then if you want more, they'll charge you. And they sometimes offer tiny bits like an extra hat or outfit worth $0.99 - $15.99 so you don't feel bad for buying. You buy a little bit here and a little here, and before you know it, you've paid full price for the game. And then some.
Sometimes, they charge you quite a hefty price for an extra character or story missions, sort of like DLC. These can go anywhere from $5 to $40, or even as high as $199 for full bundles.
What's great about the really good F2P games is that you can play the entire game without spending a cent. However, for those like me who have no EQ, then you're gonna start spending little by little until you end up paying a large sum.
A fantastic example of this would be my very recent experience with both Mass Effect 3 and Marvel Heroes. They are going to start offering sales that are just too good to pass up, and you only realize later on that your compulsion to just collect things costs you a hefty amount. On Marvel Heroes alone, I have spent way more on a single game than I normally would on any other game. And this started from buying a hero and costume for $20. And another $20 next month, and then a BOGO event pops up and I drop another $10, and finally a pre-sale pack of $39.99 You're welcome, Gazillion.
Time and Health
These are the two least obvious ones. In the last two weeks, I had already spent 97 hours on Marvel Heroes alone. That is 97 hours I could've (but probably wouldn't have) spent on a treadmill or something. I'll leave you to compute your own time spent, just so you have an idea. For health concerns, I think that's an entirely different article altogether so we won't really be talking about it here, but you should know that just sitting down for extended periods of time is bad for you. That goes for all you office workers out there, too.
So what am I trying to say here? Yes, I love playing games and I understand that comes with a lot of costs. What I want you to take away from this is to get a sense of how much it takes to be a responsible gamer. The more people who understand what they're getting into, the better it is for everybody. Just manage your time and your costs, and you'll be a much happier gamer.