Is going retro the solution to the cost of modern gaming during the cost of living crisis?
Written by Ben Boyd on 14th April 2023
The world of gaming is one that is constantly looking for the next best thing, whether that be graphics, gameplay or inventions that are still experiencing growing pains such as VR (Virtual Reality), retro gaming could provide a cheaper and simpler way to play games.
Steven Cole, a game collector and the creator of the gaming Instagram account @8bits_high, has mixed opinions on how his hobby has been affected by these trying times.
‘”I’ve been gaming for about 24 years, when I went to my uncle’s house he would let me play on his gaming PC, on a game called Road Rage or something like that.
“Looking back on it now, it was probably the worst game of all time! But, I was four years old at the time and my mam always says that was what got me into gaming. I got my original PlayStation not long after that,” Steven says.
Steven created his Instagram account to connect with like-minded people on games, as a lot of people he is friends with simply don’t share his passion and enthusiasm on gaming.
“I don’t think any of my mates care or talk about games as much as I do, they’re happy just having a PS3 for the rest of their lives.
“There’s nothing wrong with that, but there’s just no one [I know] to talk to about next-gen games,” he explains.
This may be down to sheer reluctance to part with their beloved older console, or the fact that these days consoles and games are more expensive than they have ever been.
Gamesindustry.biz writer Christopher Dring has pulled data from DfK & Entertainment Retailer’s Association Yearbook, which says that the Average selling price of games rose nearly 7% in the UK last year.
The next-gen games Steven was referencing are games that release on the next-generation of consoles, namely PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series S & X.
Next-generation titles such as FIFA 23, Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, God Of War Ragnarok, and Horizon Forbidden West are all titles that retailed at the time of release, at £69.99.
That price is consistent with Sony’s announcement on September 16 in 2020 that a lot of their titles will retail for an increased price, jumping almost 17% from their former price of £59.99.
Programme Leader & Senior Lecturer in Animation and Games Art at the University of Sunderland Chris McQuillan has admitted he understands consumers’ point of view regarding the price of games increasing, but also sympathises with game developers who work hard to create products people will love.
“£69.99 is a huge sum of money for anyone during these times. While it’s disappointing to see prices rise during the cost of living crisis, costs are largely relative across the sector.
“The increase in running costs, the requirement of further staffing and personnel as well as overall development time to make these fantastic user experiences [are also relevant],” Chris says.
Invention and experimentation requires an investment from the market leaders; PlayStation, Microsoft, Nintendo and in doing so also affects the way consumers are impacted by things like the current cost of living crisis is now affecting the whole industry.
“Costs of console hardware and software are increasing and so is the cost to develop them. Unfortunately, it’s the end user that pays the price.
“It has long been a tradition for hardware manufacturers to make a loss on hardware sales on release and then make profits on software and subscription services thereafter,” Chris explains.
Steven and his friends are just a handful of end users who are affected. Online focus group PickFu ran a poll last month on how 754 U.S. based gamers’ behaviours have been changed due to the rising costs.
They have found that 64% of gamers polled are spending less on games due to the increased cost of living, 90% are planning on spending less on gaming in the future and 25% are spending smarter and using subscription services (such as Xbox Game Pass), buying second-hand games and limiting in-app purchases.
A solution Steven, among many others, has found to counteract the rising cost of games during these difficult times is to go retro. Buying games from the original PlayStation, the PS2 and PS3 as well as original Xbox as well as the Xbox 360.
“I don’t think it’s the quality of modern games that has turned me towards retro gaming, because I still feel like there’s a million amazing games coming out at the minute but, they’re expensive and retro gaming for the most part is always so cheap.
“Take games on the PS3, you can get some for 50p or £1. I’ve made a huge collection of PS3 games for less than £100 and it could take me years to play through them and I’ll never get bored.”
Popular YouTube channels such as Metal Jesus Rocks are part of, and some may say the reason why the retro gaming market has exploded over the last few years.
Dean Taylor is the owner of Retromania, a shop based in Team Valley that specialises in retro games, consoles and toys and he believes that social media has impacted not only the popularity of retro gaming, but also the rise in costs of certain retro items.
“I believe the surge in popularity is mainly because of the increase in video content on sites such as YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitch etc. and is bringing back a lot of happy memories for old-school gamers such as myself.”
Dean says that as time goes on, the more rare and expensive certain retro gaming items will become.
“There has definitely been a spike in prices with Pokémon consoles and games. The recent closure of the 3DS store will spike the games even further, physical copies will become even rarer and more desirable, especially for collectors.”