Gaming is a hobby for billions of us worldwide. The multi-billion-dollar industry encompasses a neat array of platforms, genres, and business models that keep our attention. But, while gaming provides hours of entertainment and social interaction, for us, the consumer, it’s not always a cheap pastime.
Here, we’ll look into the various expenses associated with gaming, from buying games and gaming devices to the often-overlooked world of in-game purchases and quite a bit more.
But first, here are some stats showing just how big and lucrative the gaming sphere really is:
One study in 2021 found that over 80% of net users aged up to 44 play games on at least one device. The survey revealed that over 68% of internet users played video games on their smartphones, establishing them as the preferred gaming platform. PCs emerged as the second most popular choice, with 36.8% of gamers using them for gaming. Lastly came the humble gaming console. This equates to 2.5 billion global players using mobile, 1.3 billion playing on PC, and 800 million using a console.
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It’s not, however, just younger people who play games. 68% of gamers belong to Gen X and older, so what we can see is a massive market of consumers all willing to part with their hard-earned cash to sustain their gaming hobby.
In 2022, the global gaming community was estimated to consist of approximately three billion individuals, a slight decrease from the 3.2 billion gamers recorded in 2021. However, this number dip is expected to be merely – hopefully – transitory, as audiences are projected to expand steadily, surpassing previous figures by this year.
So, let’s see how the costs of gaming break down.
The first cost is the hardware, which is, naturally, the foundation of any gaming setup. The latest console or gaming PC is not cheap, and therefore, it’s a significant investment for many gamers. And, even if you can afford the latest device, sometimes getting your hands on them can prove to be tricky. We only need to look at gaming giant Sony for evidence of this: 2 years after the PlayStation 5 hit the shelves, the global shortage of consoles only officially ended back in January of 2023. To date, over 30 million of them have been sold worldwide.
This upfront expenditure can put off some potential gamers, especially those on a tight budget. And there are, of course, the added extras to consider, too, like controllers, gaming mice, and high-quality headsets, which can quickly add to the overall initial cost.
Then, there are the games themselves. The retail price of a brand-shiny-new video game can range from $60 to $70 for a standard edition. But, if you are pining for that most-coveted of editions, such as special editions or collector’s items, you’re looking at prices of $80 upwards, often into the hundreds. While some games are accessible for free or at a reduced cost through subscription services (such as Xbox Game Pass), buying a couple of games or purchasing a season pass will all add to your monthly output.
One of the most significant contributors to the true cost of gaming is in-game purchases, or to give them their official name, “microtransactions”. This is where players buy virtual items, cosmetics, or in-game currency using real money, and they are used in pretty much every gaming method these days. In 2023, gamers worldwide spent a whopping $54 billion on add-on in-game content. But, the projections for coming years are even bigger. In 2025, the market value of said purchases is predicted to go beyond $74.4 billion. Did your eyes water reading that? Ours did.
While favored by the gaming audience, sometimes these purchases can do more harm than good when it comes to gameplay. They can, and have, led to what is known as “whale spending,” where a small percentage of players spend disproportionately large amounts. This creates a financial disparity among players and, what’s more, has led to some tech commentators concluding a loss of fairness in multiplayer games.
Paying to Play
Beyond traditional video gaming, online casino gaming represents another fun facet of the gaming industry. While traditional video games might have in-game purchases, as shown above, according to B2C, casino gaming revolves around real-money gambling and fair payouts, where players wager their funds for a chance to win each time.
Many online casinos are now upping the ante by successfully utilizing AI and cutting-edge graphics in their games, making them more immersive and exciting than ever. Often, you’ll get a free game or two on the house when you sign up, and the best online casinos will often offer free bonuses, too. As of 2021, the online casino and gambling industry was worth a cool $207 billion and rising.
Subscription services are part and parcel of 21st-century life. From beauty boxes straight to your door to the latest films and series right at your fingertips via the likes of Amazon Prime and Netflix, it’s safe to say that subscriptions are very much here to stay.
When it comes to gaming and being able to access exclusive content, multiplayer features, and a library of games, many gamers opt for subscription services like the aforementioned Xbox Game Pass, PlayStation Now, or Apple Arcade, which cost up to $15, depending on which you use.
While they can be cost-effective for avid gamers who play a wide variety of titles, they are an ongoing financial commitment if you want the full benefit of them. Moreover, the subscription model has also extended to mobile gaming, where players can subscribe to special “VIP” or “premium” packages to get their gaming hands on additional content or to progress faster through a game with less heartache, and lessens the chance of any controllers/mobiles being launched through the air when you hit a snag point.
Esports and Competitive Gaming
If you haven’t heard of eSports, where have you been? The competitive side of gaming has grown massively over the last 10 years. Professional players and leagues have completely changed something that was at one time a niche hobby into a mainstream, not to mention a lucrative industry. The costs associated with competitive gaming include the equipment and games and expenses related to training, travel, and tournament fees.
While all this certainly adds up and dents the wallet, the financial hit is worth it for many when you consider that the live-streaming audience is on track to reach 920.3 million viewers in 2024, and maybe eSports events have massive prize purses for the winning teams and players.
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