How Expensive Is Gaming as a Hobby? 3 Tips for Gaming on a Budget
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If you’re happy to play free games for your smartphone 7 Free Mobile Games That Offer Tons of Content 7 Free Mobile Games That Offer Tons of Content If you're looking for free mobile games that offer a lot of content, here are some of the best. Read More all day, every day, gaming will barely cost you a cent. However, if you want to step up a level and play on your PC or consoles, the story is very different.

How expensive is gaming as a hobby? This is something worth figuring out before you dive in, or allow your kids to get the gaming bug. So, let’s try and analyze some of the costs associated with playing video games as a hobby…

The Basics

Let’s assume you’re starting from scratch. What are the essentials that you need to be able to begin your gaming journey?

Consoles

xbox one x

Two companies dominate the traditional console market—Sony and Microsoft. If you want to play the latest big-budget titles, you’ll inevitably need one of their products.

The latest PlayStation model is the PS4 Pro, while the latest hardware from Microsoft is the Xbox One X Xbox One X vs. Xbox One S vs. Xbox One: What Are the Differences? Xbox One X vs. Xbox One S vs. Xbox One: What Are the Differences? Got your eye on the new Xbox One X? Find out how it's different from the Xbox One S and original Xbox One and see which one is best for you. Read More . Both products are incremental upgrades on the standard PS4 and Xbox One; they offer a few hardware and design improvements, but little else.

The PS4 Pro currently retails for $399.99. The Xbox One X currently retails for $499.99.

TV

There’s little point in splashing out on top-end consoles if you don’t have a screen to enjoy their glorious 4K output, multiple teraflops of GPU power, and high-quality audio.

At the very least, you’ll need a well-sized 4K TV. When we reviewed some of the cheapest 4K HDR TVs The Best Affordable 4K HDR Smart TVs You Can Buy The Best Affordable 4K HDR Smart TVs You Can Buy Those in the market for a new Smart TV have a tough choice to make. It's not a gadget that you upgrade often, so you want something future-proof. So, what do you get? Read More , we established that the 55-inch Sony XBR55X900E and the 55-inch LG 55SJ8500 were good picks for gamers. So, if you don’t already own one, you’re looking at another $500 to $1,500 for a good TV.

PC

Of course, lots of hardcore gamers insist that playing on a dedicated desktop computer is the best way to enjoy your hobby.

If you’re just getting into the world of gaming, you probably don’t need a console and a computer, so pick whichever works best for you.

But beware—buying a gaming computer The Specifications To Look For When Buying A Gaming Computer The Specifications To Look For When Buying A Gaming Computer Read More isn’t as straightforward as buying a regular machine. If you don’t want to invest in a new machine, you could try tweaking your current PC for gaming Optimize Your PC for Gaming With These 5 Vital Tweaks Optimize Your PC for Gaming With These 5 Vital Tweaks If your computer doesn't handle games like it used to, it might just need some quick maintenance. Here are five ways any PC gamer can improve their machine's performance. Read More instead.

For a top-of-the-range gaming computer, you can expect to pay upwards of $1,500.

Games

You can’t be a gamer if you don’t have any games to play. New AAA games typically cost around $60. However, if you’re happy to play games that are more than a year old—especially annual-release franchises—you can spend considerably less.

The Extras

While the things we’ve listed above might be enough to get you started, other costs will soon begin to rack up.

Peripherals

It doesn’t matter whether you’ve taken the console or PC approach to gaming, there are lots of add-ons that make gaming more fun.

The list of gaming peripherals you can buy The Most Essential PC Gaming Accessories for All Budgets The Most Essential PC Gaming Accessories for All Budgets Getting started with PC gaming but don't know what to buy? We've got you covered. No matter how much you have to spend, here are the most important accessories. Read More is almost endless: racing wheels, headsets, cameras, console stands, gaming keyboards—each of which has the potential to set you back $100 or more.

Extra Controllers

Consoles usually only ship with one controller, so you’ll want to pick up a second one almost immediately. After all, gaming is more fun when you do it with friends.

Both a new Xbox controller and PS4 controller cost about $60, though retailers sometimes offer a discount if you buy one at the same time as you buy the console.

ps4 controllers

Online Gaming

If you play on PC, you can play against other gamers online for free using apps like Steam.

Unfortunately, Sony and Microsoft aren’t so generous. They both force you to pay for a subscription in order to play online via Xbox Live or PlayStation Plus Xbox Live vs. PlayStation Plus: What Do You Get With Each? Xbox Live vs. PlayStation Plus: What Do You Get With Each? If you're got a PS4 or Xbox One, you've probably thought about subscribing to PlayStation Plus or Xbox Live Gold. Let's see what they offer gamers for the price. Read More . The most cost-efficient way to sign up is to buy an annual plan. Sony’s PlayStation Plus subscription is $50/year; Microsoft’s Xbox Live Gold is $60/year.

Downloadable Content and Microtransactions

steam dlc

Microtransactions and downloadable content (DLC) DLC: The Story of Gaming's Three Most Expensive Letters DLC: The Story of Gaming's Three Most Expensive Letters Downloadable Content (DLC) is a core part of modern video games. But where did it come from, and how has it affected the video game industry? Let's find out. Read More are now commonplace throughout the gaming world. Players don’t like them—there are endless stories of expensive games locking some of the best content behind a paywall—but they are here to stay regardless.

The cost of DLC varies considerably. Some content can cost almost as much as the original game, while lesser items can be picked up for a couple of dollars apiece.

Similarly, microtransactions have become almost necessary if you want to keep pace with the top players online. They can cost anything from a few cents to tens of dollars.

Virtual Reality

Right now, the cutting edge of consumer gaming is virtual reality. Perhaps surprisingly, the entry cost is not as high as you might expect.

For example, when we reviewed the standalone Oculus Go VR headset, we gave it a score of 10/10 and called it a “must buy.” Best of all, the headset costs a mere $200. It’s an absolute steal. On the downside, it only has access to the games from the Oculus Store, and they cost a few dollars each.

For a more extensive selection of games, you will need to pay a bit more. The HTC Vive costs around $500, and the Oculus Rift is about $400. The Rift has access to the SteamVR library. Check out our article if you need help deciding between the Vive and the Rift Oculus Rift vs. HTC Vive: Which Is Better for You? Oculus Rift vs. HTC Vive: Which Is Better for You? The HTC Vive and Oculus Rift have been available for over a year. Both provide amazing VR experiences, but which one is right for you? We break down all the differences. Read More .

And, before you head to the shops, you need to make sure you’ve got a suitable space in which to use your headset. If you don’t, you might be wasting your money.

How to Start Gaming on a Budget

The price of all these elements add up to a tidy sum, but there are a few ways you can eat away at the total.

Subscribe to PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Gold

Yes, we just listed the two consoles’ subscriptions as an expense. We didn’t mention, however, the impressive number of free games that the two plans give you.

In the last 12 months, both services have given their users around $700-worth of free titles. And these aren’t junk games that you’d never want to play. Example freebies include Mafia III, Assassin’s Creed IV, Halo 3, and Gears of War 3.

If you’re a casual gamer who doesn’t play for more than a few hours a week, you might never need to buy another game again.

Note: The two plans also offer up to 50% discounts on games.

Buy Cheaper Consoles

Although Sony and Microsoft might dominate the world of big-ticket consoles, there are plenty of other choices out there.

If you spend a lot of time on the road, you might find the portable Nintendo Switch or 3DS XL Nintendo Switch vs. New 3DS XL: What Should You Buy? Nintendo Switch vs. New 3DS XL: What Should You Buy? Looking at buying a Nintendo portable? We're here to help you decide between the Nintendo Switch and the New 3DS XL -- here's what you need to know. Read More to be a good option. Those looking for family fun could even pick up a Nintendo Wii on the cheap. And if you’re looking for retro fun, you could even grab the recently re-released Super NES Classic Nintendo Launches the Super NES Classic Edition Nintendo Launches the Super NES Classic Edition Retro gamers will soon be able to get their hands on a brand new Super Nintendo Entertainment System. This is thanks to Nintendo launching the Super NES Classic Edition. Read More .

Games on other consoles are also cheaper than on the Xbox and PS4.

Cut the Cord and Play More Games

You could offset some of the cost of your new hobby by cutting the cord. These days, it’s possible to save a lot of money on your cable bill without losing access to your favorite TV shows and live channels.

But why not kill two birds with one stone? The Nvidia Shield is one of the best devices for cord cutters 7 Reasons the Nvidia Shield Is the Ultimate Device for Cord-Cutters 7 Reasons the Nvidia Shield Is the Ultimate Device for Cord-Cutters The Nvidia Shield may just be the ultimate device for cord-cutters everywhere. Here are seven reasons why it beats the competition without much effort. Read More , but it also has excellent gaming potential.

The GeForce Now beta gives you access to a massive library of high-quality free games, including NBA 2K18, Call of Duty, Bioshock, Sonic, Civilization VI, Overwatch, and many more.

A new Nvidia Shield even comes with a gaming controller in the box.

And the Total Cost Is…

Gaming isn’t cheap. Gone are the days when a Gameboy and two games could keep you entertained for six months. If you want to truly experience what the world of gaming has to offer, you need to get your wallet out.

And as for how much gaming costs? There’s no easy answer; no two people are the same. However, we estimate an average family household might look something like this:

  • Xbox One X: $500
  • 5 x AAA games: $300
  • Other games: $100
  • 2 x extra controllers: $120
  • Other peripherals: $150
  • Xbox Live Gold: $60
  • Total: $1,230

This should be enough to get you started gaming, but you’ll inevitably spend more as the years pass. Especially when Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo release their next must-have consoles.

If you’d like to learn more about gaming, check out our article about the best websites for gaming news and reviews The 7 Best Gaming News Sites and Game Review Sites The 7 Best Gaming News Sites and Game Review Sites Looking for the best video game news website and game review sites? These trusted gaming sites provide great coverage of all sorts of video games. Read More .

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  1. ZeroG
    September 4, 2018 at 7:54 pm

    You don’t really need to spent nearly as much as this! It’s possible to enjoy some full on gaming on much more of a shoestring budget (caveat is you need to be content not to be playing the very latest titles). Here is my gaming investment...

    - 2nd hand PS3 or Xbox console = $100
    - The solitary controller that comes with these is just fine (online opponents will be using their own hardware anyway)
    - PS3 / xbox games (i.e. top titles from between 2009-2015) are real cheap e.g. $4-8 a pop... so you could get 10 awesome games for under $60 (eBay)
    - if you want online multiplayer then add the relevant Sony or Microsoft subscription (personally I prefer single player story campaigns)
    - there are a TON of PS3 and Xbox titles out there (any genres), enough to keep a newcomer busy for several years of regular gaming! Each time you’re ready to play a new game be prepared to drop a whopping $8 max!! Bear in mind some games (such as Skyrim) will keep you engaged for well over 100 hours
    - so that’s it, $160 (+ any online multiplayer subs) will keep you gaming very happily for a long time

  2. Stephen
    September 4, 2018 at 1:40 pm

    PC is by far the cheapest way to go. Sure you will spend more on the PC itself but in the end with Steam sales and the fact that online gaming is free, the savings pile up

  3. Cindy
    September 4, 2018 at 12:05 pm

    Why pay retail? Go to Rewards1 earn points and get xbox codes, psn codes, steam codes and pretty much any game.

    I never buy games it is too expensive!

    Don’t waste your money when you can get it free.

  4. RightSaidFred
    September 4, 2018 at 5:21 am

    First, you can buy a year of Xbox Live for around $40.
    Second, you don't talk about the best controller out there, the Xbox Elite Controller.
    Third, you talk about VR but then said nothing on PSVR.