Is the Future of Gaming Only for Rich Kids?
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New technology is expensive. That's a given. Just like when solar panels were first invented, you had to either be a billionaire or know someone who was to afford them. Now they're practically giving them away. It's the same with new gaming tech. The HTC Vive is the most expensive virtual reality headset out there right now, but it has competitors (most specifically the PSVR) that are selling for around $400. That's still far too rich for my journalist behind, but it's a start right? The price will only drop as time continues its crawl onward.

There comes a time when we have to talk about the rising cost of things, though. The best example I can give is as someone who is in the midst of the video game industry. I'm sure many expect that I have all the latest consoles and handhelds and a behemoth of a gaming PC. The truth is, I scrimped and saved for years to be able to build a low-budget (by comparison) gaming PC on my own. I'm using the GeForce GTX 970, which isn't too shabby of course, but it's the most expensive thing in my rig. The latest console that I own is an Xbox 360. I couldn't, and still can't, afford a 3DS, but I bought the 2DS during a super sale at Walmart.

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In my case specifically, people assume I have the latest and greatest because it's my job to have the latest and greatest. But at the prices things run for right now, it's just not feasible. I'm not saying that developers and console creators are overpricing their products. I understand that new tech is expensive. I don't have any issues waiting years down the line to get a new system. It's just the name of the game if you don't make a ton of money. What I am saying is that society bends under the pressure to keep up. With new technologies being created every single day, we feel the need to sacrifice just to own the next best thing.

I remember when I was younger and my dad felt like he had to buy every single iteration of Windows to keep up with PC technology advances. I can't even imagine what he was sacrificing to do so, since my tiny child brain couldn't comprehend budgets or money management back then. But now as an adult I applaud him. I've not been able to do that. I skip a few generations and think nothing of it for lack of money means.

Today, I ran into an example of the growing effects expensive video game hardware has on society. There's a child in Japan whose parents couldn't afford to buy him a Nintendo Switch. Considering 500,000 Switches sold in Japan in the first week of its availability, it's no wonder this kid is feeling left out. To make himself feel better he created a Nintendo Switch out of cardboard. He even made the connector for the Joy Cons so he can swap them out from “gaming” with the screen or the controllers on their own. If children are creating consoles out of cardboard just to fit in, I think we might be reaching that plateau where video gaming is becoming an upper class thing.

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It's possible that the child's mother couldn't in fact buy a Switch because they've been really difficult to get a hold of. But I have another example of the growing disparity between video games for the public and video games for the uber rich. Microsoft's Project Scorpio is planning to release during the 2017 holiday season. Xbox head Phil Spencer has even said outwardly that the console will be marketed towards those that can afford brand new tech, “Scorpio will be a premium console. It will cost more than S, obviously, that's how we are building it. We have not announced the pricing yet, but I want to make sure that the investment we are putting into the product of Scorpio meets the demands of the higher-end consumer and that will be a higher price.”

That statement automatically leaves me out, I don't know about you! In my head I might be a “higher-end consumer” but my wallet certainly doesn't agree. Project Scorpio will and should release whether or not the general public can immediately afford it. We need new technologies to be invented, created, and released. It's the only way we'll be able to continue to experience newer and better things. However, developers need to remember the little guy. Theories are running that Project Scorpio will probably cost around $800-900. Middle class families simply cannot afford this. I'd wager even upper middle class families wouldn't want to spring that kind of cash on one piece of tech.

Are we headed towards a reality where only richy-riches can afford video games and the technologies that run them? Are we all destined to create sad cardboard versions of the newest consoles to help deal with our depression of not being able to own the real thing? Where is that happy medium between new technology and affordability? It seems Microsoft will be throwing caution to the wind on that one. As someone who could barely afford a new computer for work, I can say that Project Scorpio will be well out of my reach for years to come. What about you? Struggling to keep up? Sacrificing food to buy new video game hardware? Let me know in the comments. Let's cry together over our Xbox 360s and 2DSs. It's okay to cry, no matter what they try to tell you.

April Marie
April Marie
@Legiodith

Contributing Writer
Date: 04/03/2017

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