Next Gen Consoles: Powerful and Pricey
Even if you don’t play video games, you might be vaguely aware of the absolute chaos that happens when a brand new console hits the shelves. Years of speculation, tech specifications, updates, announcements, and press releases culminate in a brand new shiny piece of hardware on the shelves, snapped up (or scalped) by eager consumers. Last year Playstation and Xbox, two of the biggest competitors since the early 2000s, released their next generation consoles: the PS5 and the Xbox Series X.
Both of these consoles boast exciting new technological advancements as well. According to the official Xbox website, it's “the fastest, most powerful Xbox ever”. It also claims up to 120fps for supported games; that means that every one second you’re playing the game, 120 images go by, resulting in an extremely smooth animation. For reference, your average Pixar movie is about 24fps. From the official PS5, it also boasts 120fps and something called “ray tracing”. According to the website, “Ray tracing is where individual rays of light are simulated, creating true to life shadows and reflections in supported games. Bottom line, these games look really good thanks in part to the technology packed into those shiny boxes.
If you haven’t played games in a while, I urge you to look at the cutscenes in titles like “The Last of Us” or “Metal Gear Solid 5”. I find myself squinting or reaching for my glasses just to figure out if I’m looking at a real person or not. It’s insane. While new technology and beautiful games are very fun, there is a bit of concern surrounding them. These games cost loads of money to produce. Bloomberg reports that “The Last of Us 2” cost somewhere in the ballpark of 100 million to produce. Games earn the title “AAA” (pronounced triple A sometimes) because they are produced by large companies like Bethesda or Sony Interactive Entertainment and have a massive budget, unlike smaller or indie games. Because these games and the hardware needed to play them cost millions to develop and advertise, they could push up the price of an already expensive hobby.
For a decade and a half, $60 games were the standard. Now PS5 and Xbox are pushing their AAA games to up to $70, according to Insider. This could be a problem for people who love to play games, myself included, because something that could have already been expensive to maintain is becoming a borderline luxury. The consoles themselves already go for around $500, PS5’s dualshock controller is $70; trying to get a game and an extra controller could be half or more of someone’s paycheck! Another big issue is that, though the cost is passed on to consumers, the quality isn't always guaranteed with the increased price point.
These days, with games being in a mostly digital format, game developers can now fix them remotely via updates and patches. This can be a good thing, giving game developers a chance to improve the game without having to issue refunds and tweaking the code to a physical copy. However, lately some developers have been using this option as a crutch, opting to release unfinished and almost broken games at full price and promising to fix them later. Cyberpunk 2077 had a disastrous launch in late 2020. The game was filled to the brim with bugs and glitches and it was nearly unplayable depending on which platform you opted to use. People are paying full price for a beta test.
There’s another issue as well: microtransactions. Some game developers attach tiny price tags on things wanted or needed for a game. If you want to craft materials for your survival horror? $1.99 for wood. You want better armor for your character? $9.99. $11.99 if you want the special purple edition. It gets worse. Some companies lock the entire ending of the game behind paywalls or they bill content that would fill out the main story or add body to the gameplay as paid DLC (downloadable content). Taking all of this into account, the $70 price tag doesn’t seem so justifiable. If you are going to charge me the better part of $100 to play, at least give me a complete game.