eSports Bar Might Be Too High For Gamers on a Budget

A PlayStation 4 Pro clocks in at $399.99. Microsoft's Xbox One X will drop for $499.99 on November 7. A decent PC setup, assuming you don't build the thing, but even then, is roughly $800 and up. None of that takes into consideration the cost of capture cards, microphones, lighting, your Internet bill, and all the other expenses that come along with competitive online gaming and/or streaming. In short, gaming, particularly on the bleeding edge, is expensive.

By Robert Marrujo:: Of course, video games have always been expensive. The average video game console dating back to the Nintendo Entertainment System and Sega Genesis were all $200 and up, with games going for anywhere between $50 to $70. Keep in mind that this isn't even factoring in inflation, which makes the price of a $50 NES cartridge in the early '90s shoot somewhere closer to $70 in 2017 currency. As fun and uniting as video games can be, they've never been all that inclusive from an economic perspective.

Nothing is free, of course, and given the high costs associated with game development, manufacturing and distribution of said games, marketing, and a myriad of other factors, there's a reason fans pay so much for software. Still, there's no denying that gaming isn't cheap. As such, there are always going to be fans left out in the cold. Fans who'd love to jump in and participate but who can't afford to, for a variety of different reasons.

Mobile gaming has helped to close this gap, somewhat, along with the free-to-play model (which isn't perfect, but I digress). Both iOS and Android gamers are able to enjoy games that come in at under $10, sometimes even under $5 a pop, and the aforementioned free-to-play titles further open the door to gamers who might otherwise not have the cash to partake. The quality can be hit or miss, and touch-only experiences can be rather limiting, but the point is that more people are playing video games than ever and that's a good thing.

Still, for those wanting a slice of the eSports pie, mobile isn't where the money is. Competition focuses on titles tethered to top tier video game consoles like PS4 and One, along with powerful PCs. As such, the world of eSports might seem like a distant dream to a lot of players who'd love to aspire to reach the top. It's a problem that developers like Blizzard and Activision might want to take into consideration as they continue to aggressively push their products into the competitive gaming scene.

eSports are still relatively new, but that doesn't mean that they can't learn from problems that other sports leagues have grappled with. The Professional Golf Association (PGA) has been seeing a massive decline in interest over the years, owed in no small part to the fact that it isn't cheap to get into golfing. Clubs and balls are expensive, not to mention the cost of actually hitting the links, and combined together it can all be quite daunting to many prospective players. The PGA has essentially priced itself out of range of most working-class families with kids who potentially might have been interested in pursuing the sport.

I don't want to seem like I'm not giving the industry credit here. There are generally always some kinds of bundles on the market that bring consoles down to more reasonable prices, often with games in tow. Nintendo has been very pragmatic about keeping costs down so as to lure in young and budget-minded gamers. Yet, for all these inroads that the industry tries to create, there's no getting around the $300, $400, and even $500 price tags just to get a foot through the door of the world of gaming.

How the video game industry adjust its course in order to shorten the gap between the haves and the have nots of its customers is a question that needs answering. Phone manufacturers have long sought the help of data carriers to subsidize the price of their products. Perhaps tethering the sale of a console to sales of Internet and phone services could pave the way for gamers with less money to get in on the fun. Ultimately, what can't happen is that the little guy is muscled out of the chance to play competitively because the cost of gaming is too high to surmount. Let's hope that as eSports continue to grow in popularity that console manufacturers and software publishers find alternative ways to lure in players that doesn't hurt their bottom lines or their customers' wallets.

About Robert Marrujo: A Senior Editor for and an Editor for San Leandro News. A lifelong Bay Area resident, you can usually find him puttering around writing, drawing, or playing video games. Check him out on Instagram @robert_marrujo!

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