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New and shiny - the cost of casual console gaming

With the official release of next gen consoles the gaming community is faced with the decision on whether to upgrade to the latest tech or to sit and wait for all the kinks to be ironed out of the new ecosystems. Unless of course you did not pre-order a PS4, which means you are going to be waiting until April anyway.

When deciding if the jump up is currently worth it the first thing that needs to be addressed is whether the dollar value for the new consoles provide the pay off. When the 360 launched so long ago the graphics were substantially better than the PS2 or Xbox (if you had a good HD TV), however the launch titles were not that spectacular, and aside from NBA Live 06 the ports of games were a very poorly ported making it a better option to wait for the software to catch up to the hardware. For this launch it appears that the games such as AC4, BF4 and FIFA 14 have had a significant amount of work put into them so they offer more than the current gen versions, and if you are leaning towards an XB1 Forza seems to be a system seller in it's own right.

Subsequent to the games, the last generation of consoles became a media hub, and for someone who relies heavily on their PS3 or 360 to stream content from their PC to TV, the lack of day one DLNA provides a somber reminder that next gen is still not as polished as current gen for non-gaming aspects (This is from an Australian perspective where the Xbone is not heavily supported with the additional content available to U.S and Europe, and PS4... well...). In addition to the lack of DLNA (also include XB1 in this as it is a push service through windows 8, not an awesome Playstation Media Server), if you are moving from PS3 to next gen there is also the financial cost to play online that was never present. For a casual gamer not interested in the + service this adds a disincentive for buying the new systems, and this is where I have found the cost of next gen can really become not just a dollar value but also a decision point on how to spend your time.

When paying for a new system it will set a person back $550 - $600 + Cost of games (lets assume 3 * $80 for a launch), now the consumer needs to pay out for an online service, either $50 (PS+) or $100 (XBG) per year. Going down an XB1 route the start up cost is around $940 (approx annual iphone update) to be able to be setup and play online. To see those hard earned figures diminish from your bank account means you need a return on that investment, so you better be prepared to play the thing.

The financial outlay creates a time obligation to get a return. With so many things competing for attention (work, some exercise, after work drinks, spending time in a relationship, eating fancy cheese) the decision quickly moves from... yes I can afford it to... do I actually have the time to enjoy my new toy? And if I do, i am now committing to a year of online play, where I might spend a very small amount... well if I pay for it I need to make the most of it. That being said if it encourages a couple of nights in, instead of drinking every weekend to excess you will quickly save your money.

Next gen is new, it is shiny and after a long life the PS3 and 360 have performed admirably. Unfortunately the next gen cannot offer the streaming service, and for the financial cost and time required (depending on how much you game), casual gamers may see this barrier to entry. I personally saw the time available to play the console, against the cost and struggled to vindicate the reason to buy one (until I had a few The Kraken and coke's, and just gave into temptation and bought an Xbone on the way home from the bar, as PS4 was sold out until April).

Whats everyone's thoughts, are we upgrading now from impulse and graphics, is it the want to be an early adopter / bored with the long cycle life of the old consoles, or are there any other gamers struggling to rationalise the time and cost investment, when considering the best games and software features are all on the horizon?