Gaming has always been an expensive hobby, even since its earliest days. In fact, the price of a computer or a gaming system back then was ludicrous compared to what we pay today. When the Commodore 64 launched, it cost $595 which doesn’t sound that bad until you realise that with inflation, that price would be $1,509 today. But people still bought it because it was the latest piece of tech and they wanted the best thing on the market in order to work and, perhaps more importantly, play games. This has been a trend amongst gamers since forever where you can choose to shell out ridiculous amounts of money in order to gain the best experience possible. However, these days, you have a plethora of options available to you if you choose to make it rain.
This question was inspired by the PC I’ve recently built that is insanely expensive and filled with some of the latest, potentially longest lasting hardware. I did it more to future-proof myself, but I won’t lie that a part of the objective was to run games at 4K 60+ fps and experience the true majesty of visuals that games can offer. After playing a couple of those games, it suddenly clicked in my mind why PC gamers go to such extremes in order to have their rigs be so capable. You can easily build a budget rig for a fraction of the price that can handle most games on High or Medium settings, but why would you want to do that if you can go Ultra and still have your game be buttery smooth?
The difference between usable and the best isn’t that wide, but the price most definitely is. After a while, you do start hitting diminishing returns and you just do things for the sake of opulence, but that’s usually reserved for the very rich. However, top-tier gaming isn’t just reserved for the insane rigs that you can potentially build anymore, even the consoles have started giving you options in order to have the best experience. The PS4 Pro and the Xbox One X are both options that were given to us during the halfway mark of the current console generation and even though you can game on the base models just fine, for some extra money you can have improved visuals, framerates, HDR capabilities and so on.
This development is certainly a new one within the gaming world since in the past you’d buy a console and that was the extent of it until the newest one came along. There may be updated versions that are smaller or have a couple of new features, but they never really beefed up the hardware capabilities as dramatically as the options of this generation do. It’s your choice if you want to maybe sell off your old console and buy the updated version for that increased power, but it’s most definitely not a necessity. Some newer games might struggle with the older hardware, but they’ll still run perfectly fine.
There’s also the myriad peripherals you can get that can improve your experience. Expensive headphones that allow you to hear a mouse fart on the southwestern corner of the map. Gigantic televisions with quantum dot capabilities that can let you see the pieces of sand on the ground in front of you. Pro controllers that have twice as many buttons as the standard editions and look like Transformers. Keyboards that can display any colour of the rainbow that click and clank like a stylish typewriter and mice that can allow you to aim in front of you and behind you at the same time. Sound systems that make your living room sound like the first World War and can make your neighbours call the cops because they think there’s a shootout in your house. Even comfortable chairs that look like they were ripped out of McLaren or a couch that can massage your toes can be considered an improvement. The possibilities to improve your game are endless if you have enough disposable income.
This isn’t just reserved for physical things that you can buy, but games also now give options to have the “best experience”. Each major game that releases these days has at least three digital editions of various incremental prices that can include simple things like extra resource packs and missions to including the season pass that will net you all future expansions and DLC for the game. This one has a little contention going for it because it’s feeding into the greedy practices of the industry where they segment their offerings in order to get more revenue generation. Microtransactions are included in this too, with premium skins and extra resources being offered for a pretty penny.
Buying the “complete edition” of a game is certainly your best course of action if you want to experience all there is to offer from a specific title. All the DLC is included, all the characters are unlocked, all the bonuses are yours, all the multiplayer weapons are there, all the premium maps are unlocked and you get to be fully invested in the totality of the game. It hurts that all these things weren’t included in the launch version that you often need to pay more for, but that’s the nature of the beast.
Buying skins, or rather gambling for them, is an entirely superfluous thing to pursue, but if you’re fully invested in a title and dedicate a lot of your free time into it, the proposition to buy pretty things for your character is not out of the realm of reasonability. It doesn’t improve your game, per se, but it does enhance your experience in its own personal way by giving you some identity within this world.
As you can see, if you have money, the world is wide open to you. It’s totally fine if you play on a base PS4 on a 19-inch monitor on a wooden chair and only buying secondhand or when games are on special (I’ve been there) since you’re still getting a solid gaming experience, but you can buy a bunch of fundamentally unnecessary things in order to up your game. So the question is, do you? What do you spend your hard-earned money on in order to have a better gaming experience? What have you bought recently that you didn’t necessarily need, but really wanted in order to have the best? Are you perfectly fine with just the basics?