I was cleaning up the other day (it happens occasionally) and stumbled upon the receipt for my first Windows PC back in 1997. It got me thinking about prices then and now.
This was a very modest PC and CRT monitor setup, likely with less processing oomph than a modern cheapo mobile phone. It cost $2,498. I seriously paid that much?! I had to, it was basically the cheapest option, and I couldn’t keep doing my writing on my very patient housemate’s PC.
Nowadays, of course, you can get an i7-infused superpowered beast of a machine for that sort of money – or just drop a few hundred dollars to get something that’s perfectly good enough for writing and a bit of internet faffing.
Yet both online and from friends I hear constant whinges about how expensive stuff is nowadays – and, in particular, video games. But are they really that exxy?
The average big new release game costs around $79, and often less at launch. The A-listers – God of War, Assassin’s Creed, Call of Duty etc – are created over several years by teams as big as (sometimes bigger) than those which make feature films. Unlike a movie though, for which you’ll pay around $20 for two hours of entertainment, you’ll often get literally days – sometimes weeks – of gameplay out of these games. Is $79 really that much to pay for such an experience?
Here’s some perspective. When it hit the Super Nintendo in Australia back in 1992, the much-craved Street Fighter II retailed at $159.95. That isn’t a typo. Sure, it was a cartridge rather than a disc, but it was half the price of a console for just one relatively simple game. Luckily when the Mega Drive version hit it was more affordable – it was only $129.95!
Even with economies of scale – there are many more consoles and gamers out there now than there were in the early 1990s – that’s still a whopperous price point. Yet the game – on both formats – sold like crazy. Worldwide, we’re talking 10 million-plus crazy.
Most non-Street Fighter II releases on both SNES and Mega Drive were more affordable… averaging around the $79.95 mark. That was 25 years ago, so it could be argued that the cost of games at retail hasn’t gone up at all (while development costs have snowballed).
So, do we really have it so bad?
Not when it comes to home entertainment, as games, consoles, TVs, movies, computers etc all offer much more bang for buck than they did in the past. It’s a veritable shopper’s paradise. The only downer is other cost of living increases over those 25 years, with rent/house prices skyrocketing ridiculously along with the costs of essentials like food, water, phone/internet, gas and electricity (the world of the latter two becoming some sort of new price-gouging wild west).
So, complain all you like about the general cost of living – we’ll join in – but not the price of entertainment. In most every way we’ve never had it so good.