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Opinion – The High Barrier To Entry Of Video Games

by Matthew Kato on Jun 03, 2013 at 10:53 AM

I can't believe that more people don't play video games. When I think of all the fun times I've had playing games, I'm surprised that more people don't want to join our ranks. Then I think about the high barrier to entry for home console gaming, and I realize it's no wonder more people don't pick up the controller.

I'm not complaining about being a gamer, but in comparison with the other hobbies I partake in, it requires a relatively high amount of dedication. First, there is the cost of buying a home system. Depending on when in a particular system's lifecycle you purchase it, it can run you several hundreds of dollars. You may have even purchased more than one if you were interested in playing a game that was console exclusive or if one broke at some point. There are also various peripherals (a Kinect for the Xbox 360, PlayStation Move, a second controller, etc.) you can spend money on.

The games themselves are $60 new, and might not even be that cheap used depending on the title and when you buy it. But there are other considerations once you leave the store. If it's a used game, you probably have to buy a new online pass if you want to play multiplayer, and later on the servers might be shut down, closing off that portion of the game entirely. Questions of ownership – whether you're talking about backwards compatibility, used games, or how much of a future your software has – are murkier with the next-gen systems where backwards compatibility does not exist and the used game landscape will likely be different than it is now.

Having a fast, stable online connection will also be important for the next home consoles. The Xbox One needs to check in to Microsoft's servers at certain intervals, and although Sony is saying the PlayStation 4 doesn't require an Internet connection, PS4 features like video sharing and cloud functionality necessitate one.

There is also the incurred cost that isn't related to your wallet. Frankly, some people may not be interested in games because of the social stigma to being called a gamer or the reverse – the fear of being judged for the games you like to play or that you might not be good at playing them, period.

Time is another non-monetary cost to consider. Apart from the time it takes to become proficient as a gamer or with a particular genre or specific title, there is simply the amount of time it takes to get into your average game. Between the obligatory opening tutorial, side missions, filler levels, collect-a-thons, secret areas, and more, it can take a significant portion of time to play a game to completion or to your satisfaction. For those of us with precious little time, sometimes the notion of playing a game for hours without any guarantee of payoff is its own barrier to gaming at that particular moment.

Even with all these things getting in the way of a solid, satisfying gaming session, I'm not going to turn in my gamer card. Perhaps cheaper, easier-to-consume mobile/tablet experiences are where I should turn my attention. Or maybe free-to-play will be more of a force in the future. Regardless, companies should reward gamers' long-standing dedication with practices that are not meant to gouge our wallets, exclude us from easily accessing the content we've purchased, and in general make it easier for us to want to hand over our hard-earned cash. We quite willingly put up with a lot for our hobby, but that doesn't mean we should be abused for it.