The hidden costs of next-gen gaming

The price of your PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X is just the beginning, even if you opt for the more affordable PlayStation 5 Digital Edition or Xbox Series S.
Australian money in a jar

Next-gen is finally here. While both Microsoft and Sony are pushing towards backwards-compatibility support that will mean most Xbox games and pretty much every PlayStation 4 game will be playable on your shiny new console, the truth is you are likely buying in early to get a true taste of next-gen gaming. But that won’t come cheap if you want to tap into the full array of next-gen features and fidelity.

Check out our reviews for the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5, then scroll on for the full next-gen cost breakdown. Where relevant, the pricing is calculated at an annual rate for relevant subtotals.

How much do the next-gen consoles cost?

From $499

Outside of games, one of the cheapest investments is the actual console itself, despite the pricing for the flagship models being more expensive than previous console generations. For an Xbox Series X, you’re looking at a $749 asking price, and it’s $749.95 for the PlayStation 5.

If you opt to go disc-less, it’s $599.95 for the PlayStation 5 Digital Edition and $499 for the Xbox Series S. It’s worth flagging that the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S have more differences than just a disc drive, whereas the only difference between the PlayStation 5 and the PlayStation 5 Digital Edition is the former has a disc drive and the latter does not.

Xbox Series S subtotal: $499
Xbox Series X subtotal: $749
PlayStation 5 Digital Edition subtotal: $599.95
PlayStation 5 subtotal: $749

How much does the average gamer spend on games per year?

Around $240

In this area, we’re working in estimated totals only. If we take the Digital Australia 2020: The Power of Games finding that two-thirds of Australians are gamers, and that $4.03 billion was spent on games in 2018, we can use a UN estimate of Australia’s population as at mid-2020 and the power of maths. This gets us an even split across the Australian gaming population of around $240, which effectively works out to two games per year.

Xbox Series S subtotal: $739
Xbox Series X subtotal: $989
PlayStation 5 Digital Edition subtotal: $839.95
PlayStation 5 subtotal: $989
(Console + average cost of games)

How much do next-gen games cost?

Up to $124.95

Assuming the parity pricing trend between digital and physical continues in next-gen, opting for a digital-edition console won’t result in game savings. In terms of the PS5, Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales Ultimate Edition – which includes the Miles Morales game and the remastered Marvel’s Spider-Man – is priced at $124.95RRP for physical and digital, which is consistent with tentative $124.95RRP Australian pricing for first-party Sony titles, as reported by Stevivor.

This means it’ll be important to shop around or price match, with retailers like JB Hi-Fi and Amazon Australia both listing the price at $109, whereas EB Games is sticking to the $124.95RRP.

Xbox Series S and X price changes are up in the air at the moment but mostly because there isn’t any first-party AAA launch titles for the next-gen Xbox consoles. Third-party games are a better indication of pricing, though Godfall is exclusive to PS5 (also available on PC) and follows the $124.95RRP approach.

Games that are available on both consoles are priced the same. For instance, Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs Legion and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla are both priced at $99.95RRP, 2K’s NBA 2K21 costs $109.95RRP across platforms, and it’s the same story for the $119.95 asking price for Activision’s Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War.

How much does next-gen multiplayer cost?

$79.95

If you want to play multiplayer, you have to fork out extra for PlayStation Plus on PlayStation 5, and Xbox Live Gold on Xbox Series X/S. Both PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Gold cost $79.95 per year.

Xbox Series S subtotal: $818.95
Xbox Series X subtotal: $1,068.95
PlayStation 5 Digital Edition subtotal: $919.90
PlayStation 5 subtotal: $1,068.95
(Console + average cost of games + multiplayer subscription)

What about Xbox Game Pass Ultimate?

Instead of just paying for Xbox Live Gold for multiplayer, it’s worth considering bundling it with Xbox Game Pass for Xbox consoles and Windows 10 PCs in the form of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, which costs $176.45 per year (factoring in an ongoing first-month price of $1 instead of the usual $15.95 monthly fee). At the time of writing, this includes more than 264 Game Pass games. Add another $96.50 to the running subtotals below if you want to include this in the pricing estimates.

How much does next-gen storage cost?

This is a big consideration that we cover in more depth in our dedicated Digital Edition feature. The long and short of it, though, is whether you opt for a flagship model or digital-edition next-gen console, internal storage is a limiting factor.

You can attach a compatible external hard drive to play supported backwards-compatible games on your next-gen console, but next-gen games require next-gen storage to play. This means you’re initially at the mercy of the internal drives. It may say 825GB on the box, but with no games installed, the PlayStation 5 has 667.2GB of available internal storage, which isn’t a lot considering Spider-Man: Miles Morales, for instance, is a 38.96GB installation.

The Xbox Series X fares slightly better with 802GB of available internal storage (from a 1TB drive), but the Xbox Series S advertises 512GB of internal storage, which equates to 364GB. Bear in mind that game installations on the Xbox Series S are estimated to be around 30 percent smaller than those on the Xbox Series X because of the fidelity differences.

Unless you’re content with only having a few games installed or are okay with deleting and redownloading next-gen games (or transferring between hard drives), there are two options: more storage or faster internet.

How much does Xbox Series X and S storage cost?

$359.95 for 1TB

At the moment, there’s only one option available for storage expansion on the Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X, and that’s the Seagate 1TB Expansion Storage Card, which costs $359.95RRP. There’s only one proprietary expansion slot on the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S, which means you’ll either have to opt for multiple Expansion Storage Cards that you swap in and out, or hold off for larger capacity (which will, assumedly, be more expensive). It’s worth noting that the Seagate drive has 931.5GB of useable storage space.

Xbox Series S subtotal: $1,178.90 (1.525GB)
Xbox Series X subtotal: $1,428.90 (2TB)
(Console + average cost of games + Xbox Live Gold + Seagate 1TB Expansion Storage Card)

How much does PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 5 Digital Edition storage cost?

$419 for 1TB

Things are still murky on this front as internal storage upgrades for the PlayStation 5 are handled differently to the Xbox Series X and S. Instead of connecting a card to a proprietary expansion slot, PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 5 Digital Edition owners will pop a specific slot on their next-gen console to install a Sony-approved M.2 solid-state drive (SSD).

This is basically identical to how you’d install one of these speedy drives in a PC. According to Push Square, Western Digital has dubbed its SN850 drive as PS5 compatible, which PC parts provider Mwave has listed at $419 for the 1TB version.

PlayStation 5 Digital Edition subtotal: $1,338.90 (1.825TB)
PlayStation 5 subtotal: $1,487.95 (1.825TB)
(Console + average cost of games + PlayStation Plus + Western Digital SN850)

Seagate 1TB Expansion Storage Card

How much does backup storage cost?

From $69 for 1TB

If you have a lot of backwards-compatible games that you want to play but don’t want to take up precious internal storage on your next-gen console, you can opt for a cheap external drive. These external drives can also be used to back up next-gen games you don’t want to redownload, but you won’t be able to play them from external storage. Kogan has WD Element SE 1TB drives for $69.

Xbox Series S subtotal: $1,247.90
Xbox Series X subtotal: $1,497.90
PlayStation 5 Digital Edition subtotal: $1,407.90
PlayStation 5 subtotal: $1,556.95
(Console + average cost of games + multiplayer pass + next-gen storage expansion + external hard drive)

How much does next-gen internet cost?

Whether you don’t want to spend money on additional storage or simply want your games to download and update as fast as possible, your best bet is to opt for faster internet. In this respect, you have a couple of options.

Whether you don’t want to spend money on additional storage or simply want your games to download and update as fast as possible, your best bet is to opt for faster internet. In this respect, you have a couple of options.

How much does Superfast NBN cost per year?

From $1,378.80 per year

Superfast NBN has the potential to hit download speeds of 250Mbps, which is more than double that of the more common Fast NBN 100Mbps speed. Practically speaking, though, Aussie Broadband has bragging rights to the fastest typical evening download speeds of 222Mbps on its 250/25 Unlimited Power User nbn™ plan. Meanwhile, Tangerine has the most affordable with its XXXL Speed Boost UNLIMITED plan, which costs $109.90 for the first six months, before reverting to a $119.90 monthly fee (with 205Mbps typical evening download speeds).

If you were able to download at the full 250Mbps, assuming no-one else is using bandwidth while you’re downloading a game, a 60GB next-gen game would download in 32 minutes, compared to the hour and 20 minutes it would take to download on full-speed NBN 100. The main limitation here is that Superfast NBN is currently only supported on Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) and some Hybrid Fibre Coaxial (HFC) connections.

Xbox Series S subtotal: $2,197.75
Xbox Series X subtotal: $2,447.75
PlayStation 5 Digital Edition subtotal: $2,298.70
PlayStation 5 subtotal: $2,447.75
(Console + average cost of games + multiplayer subscription + Superfast NBN)

You can see the most popular Superfast NBN plans below.

How much does Ultrafast NBN cost per year?

From $1,702.80 per year

Ultrafast NBN can theoretically hit download speeds of 1Gbps, which is ten times faster than the more ubiquitous Fast NBN 100Mbps download speeds. The catch is that the providers that offer gigabit NBN plans only guarantee typical evening download speeds of 250Mbps. Still, the cheapest plan is Kogan’s nbn1000 Diamond Unlimited offering for $134.90 a month for the first six months, then $148.90 thereafter.

Using those full 1Gbps download speeds as an example, a 60GB next-gen game could be downloaded in just eight minutes (if no-one else is using any download bandwidth). Depending on the provider, these plans are only available to FTTP connections and/or a small number of HFC connections.

Xbox Series S subtotal: $2,521.75
Xbox Series X subtotal: $2,771.75
PlayStation 5 Digital Edition subtotal: $2,622.70
PlayStation 5 subtotal: $2,771.75
(Console + average cost of games + multiplayer subscription + Ultrafast NBN)

Check out the most popular Ultrafast NBN plans below.

How much does next-gen networking cost?

From $159

While the next-gen Xbox console are using WiFi 5, the next-gen PlayStations sport WiFi 6. To tap into those extra speeds – particularly if you are using gigabit internet – you’ll need a WiFi 6 router. One of the most affordable options out there is a TP-Link Archer AX10, which you can nab for $199 RRP (and for $159 from Kogan). Comboing Ultrafast NBN with a WiFi 6 router will reap the most noticeable results when it comes to wireless download speeds on the PlayStation 5.

PlayStation 5 Digital Edition subtotal: $2,781.70
PlayStation 5 subtotal: $2,930.75
(Console + average cost of games + multiplayer subscription + Ultrafast NBN + TP-Link Archer AX10)

How much does a next-gen 4K TV cost?

From $1,795

While your old-faithful Full HD or 4K TV set should connect to a next-gen console and be able to play games, one of the bigger selling points for both Microsoft and Sony is HDMI 2.1 support for their next-gen consoles. HDMI 2.1 offers more bandwidth, which means that it can support 4K resolutions at up to 120Hz. In gaming terms, this means prettier games that can run at a silky-smooth frame rate of 120 frames per second (fps).

At the time of writing, there are only around 20 or so teles that support HDMI 2.1, and some of those only offer one HDMI 2.1 port, which means you’re limited to one of the next-gen consoles or you’ll have to switch cables depending on which one you want to use. Because of this, we’re recommending the 55-inch Sony X9000H as an affordable HDMI 2.1-capable TV because it has two HDMI 2.1 ports, which means you can easily connect two next-gen consoles to the same TV. You can grab it from JB Hi-Fi or Bing Lee for $1,795.

Xbox Series S subtotal: $2,613.95
Xbox Series X subtotal: $2,863.95
PlayStation 5 Digital Edition subtotal: $2,714.90
PlayStation 5 subtotal: $2,863.95
(Console + average cost of games + multiplayer subscription + HDMI 2.1 4K TV)

How much does a next-gen 8K TV cost?

From $3,995

HDMI 2.1 compatibility is also important for 8K TVs as it’s required to play back content at 8K resolution (up to 60Hz), while also giving you the option of playing games at 4K at 120Hz. Because 8K TVs are still the new tech on the block, expect to pay for the pleasure of the upgrade to 8K gaming. It’s worth noting that there aren’t any 8K console games yet, but that both consoles can support up to 8K resolution for games.

The LG Nano95 is comparatively cheap at $3,995 from JB Hi-Fi, Bing Lee, or The Good Guys.

Xbox Series S subtotal: $4,813.95
Xbox Series X subtotal: $5,063.95
PlayStation 5 Digital Edition subtotal: $4,914.90
PlayStation 5 subtotal: $5,063.95
(Console + average cost of games + multiplayer subscription + 8K TV)

Any other hidden costs?

There are two other costs that are worth mentioning. For the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S, you need to factor in the cost of AA batteries. Battery life is rated to about 40 hours, which means you won’t really notice replacing them or will get frustrated with it, depending on how much you play. The PlayStation 5’s DualSense controller comes with a rechargeable internal battery.

While you can make do with batteries, we recommend getting the Xbox Rechargeable Battery + USB-C Cable bundle for $29.95 to save on battery swaps, and so you can also charge and play.

Xbox Series S subtotal: $848.90
Xbox Series X subtotal: $1,098.90
(Console + average cost of games + multiplayer subscription + rechargeable battery)

As for the other consideration, the PlayStation 5 boasts Tempest 3D AudioTech, which is best experienced with a compatible headset. While third-party options will doubtlessly become available, the Sony PlayStation 5 Pulse 3D Wireless Headset is built for the PS5 and costs $159.

PlayStation 5 Digital Edition subtotal: $1,078.90
PlayStation 5 subtotal: $1,227.95
(Console + average cost of games + multiplayer subscription + Tempest 3D headset)

The real cost of next-gen gaming

No matter what way you cut it, full-fledged next-gen ain’t cheap. Even some of these conservative combinations above start to break the $1K barrier, and if you’re eager to future-proof yourself with an HDMI 2.1-capable TV, that figure automatically becomes multiple thousands of dollars. While there’s no need to rush out and buy all of these optional extras at once, it’s clear that the hidden costs of next-gen gaming can quickly stack up.