The Lifetime Cost of a Gaming Console

Our study analyses some of the most popular consoles that will cost you most over their lifetime. Whether you are an avid gamer, just starting out, or assessing making that big purchase for your children, here's everything you need to know.

John Ellmore Published on 11 January 2021. Last updated on 09 March 2021.
The Lifetime Cost of a Gaming Console

The world of gaming has come a long way from Nintendo 64, the Game Boy, and the PlayStation 2 – the most sold console of all time. With the number of gamers expected to top a staggering 3 billion by 2023, and as millions of avid gamers happily fork out another few hundred pounds for the long-awaited PS5 and Xbox Series X consoles, it raises the questions:

How much do gaming consoles truly cost, and how much does it cost to be a gaming enthusiast?

As one console is just never enough, the team at NerdWallet has analysed the lifetime cost of a gaming console, to reveal how much gamers can expect to pay, not only for the device and games, but also over its lifetime.

Combining the cost of the console, controller, headset, average game, and additional membership costs, with the average hours gamers spend playing per week to determine overall energy costs, we have analysed just how much it costs to be an avid gamer on each of these devices. For this analysis we assumed the average person upgrades to a new model around one year after a new model has been released.

Here are the consoles that will cost you the most:

1. PlayStation 5 (Disc version)

Lifetime cost = £1,717.91

One of the most hyped consoles, the disc version of the PlayStation 5 tops the list as the most expensive, costing an average of £1,717.91 over its lifetime. With the most expensive additional controller of all PlayStation consoles at £59.99, Sony promises “a deeper gaming experience" for gamers. A PS5 branded headset will also cost you a further £89.99.

But it’s not just controllers that need to be considered, the average cost of a game has increased too from previous models, setting you back £59.94 on average. With PS5 gamers expected to buy nine games, this amasses a total of £539.46. However, those wanting to make use of Sony’s multiplayer features must also consider the cost of a PlayStation Plus membership. At an annual rate of £49.99, the total lifetime cost for the membership is £399.92 – which may not be all that much, considering you’re able to play your favourite games with your friends.

2. Xbox Series X

Lifetime cost = £1,635.51

Also one of the latest models on the market, the Xbox Series X ranks second in our study, at £1,635.51. The new Xbox controller will cost you £54.99 - compared to £59.99 for a PS5 controller. Despite this, a brand headset costs a staggering £169.99, which is almost double that of an official PS5 headset (£89.99).

Xbox gamers must also factor in additional membership costs, for the ability to play online with their friends. At an annual rate of £49.99, an Xbox Live Gold membership will cost £399.92 over the console’s average lifetime. Xbox Series X gamers are expected to buy slightly less games than PS5 players at seven, with each costing an average of £53.23.

3.PlayStation 5 (Digital version)


Lifetime cost = £1,627.91

For many, the digital version of the PlayStation 5 is a cost-efficient option, as at £359 it is priced slightly lower than the disc version. With an active gaming power of 157.1 watts, energy costs for the PS5 are low at 6p per day. For a year that’s just £20.72, based on the average gamer being expected to spend on average 890 hours per year (or 17 hours per week) gaming.

As with the disc version of Sony’s newest console generation, users will need to fork out £399.92 over the course of their console’s lifetime for the PlayStation Plus membership.

4. Xbox One

Lifetime cost = £1,484.91

At £1,484.91 Microsoft’s previous-generation console takes the fourth spot. With the highest standby power (15.7 watts) of all examined devices, the Xbox One also has the highest total energy costs, at £257.11 over its lifetime. In comparison, Microsoft’s newest models out-perform the Xbox One in terms of standby power, which is just 2 watts, compared to 15.7 watts for the Xbox One. So while the Xbox Series X/S might be more energy consuming during active gaming, the drastically lower standby power helps secure the new Xbox Series X/S third place energy costs (£200.24).

With an average of seven games bought for this device, the total spend on video games is £314.93, only minimally less than for the next-gen console (£372.61). On the plus side, owners of this console could enjoy cheaper prices for the Xbox Live Gold membership, at just £39.99 per year, as Microsoft increased the annual subscription cost to £49.99 in 2019.

5. Xbox Series S

Lifetime cost = £1,435.51

The digital version of the new Xbox console completes our list of the most expensive consoles to own and play. With the cost of an additional controller sitting at £54.99, the average cost of a video game £53.23, and the lifetime cost for an Xbox Live Gold membership £399.92, the total lifetime cost for this device tops in at £1,435.51.

6. PlayStation 4

Lifetime cost = £1,374.51

With over 113 million units sold, the PlayStation 4 is one of the most best-selling consoles in the world. Although the lifetime cost of the PS4 is cheaper than that of its next-gen model, £1,627,91 (digital) and £1,717.91 (disc) for the PS5, users opting for the newer model will be able to save on energy costs.

While the active gaming power is slightly lower for the PlayStation 4 at 137 watts, compared to 157.1 watts for the PS5, the real difference lies in the standby power, which is 8.5 watts for the PS4 compared to just 0.5 watts for the PS5. So while the new generation is more powerful during active gaming, users will be able to save on electricity while the console is not in use.

This is how much each console will cost over 6 to 9 years:

  1. PlayStation 5 (Disc version) - lifetime cost = £1,717.91
  2. Xbox Series X - lifetime cost = £1,635.51
  3. PlayStation 5 (Digital version) - lifetime cost = £1,627.91
  4. Xbox One - lifetime cost = £1,493.48
  5. Xbox Series S - lifetime cost = £1,484.91
  6. PlayStation 4 - lifetime cost = £1,374.51

PlayStation

Console PlayStation 3 PlayStation 4 PlayStation 5 (Digital) PlayStation 5 (Disc)
Cost at Release £ 425.00 £ 349.00 £ 359.00 £ 449.00
Controller Cost at Release £ 44.02 £ 41.81 £ 59.99 £ 59.99
Video Games Bought 9 9 9 9
Average Cost of a Game at Release (£) £ 44.99 £ 44.99 £ 59.94 £ 59.94
Playstation Plus membership (Lifetime cost / £) £ 159.96 £ 319.92 £ 399.92 £ 399.92
Brand Headset Cost £ 66.04 £ 62.72 £ 62.72 £ 89.99
Year of Release 2006 2013 2020 2020
Lifetime (Years) 8 8 8 8
Average Gaming Hours per year 697.84 819 890.24 890.24
Total Lifetime Energy Cost £ 162.23 £ 206.92 £ 165.77 £ 165.77
Total Console Lifetime Cost £ 1,258.58 £ 1,374.51 £ 1,627.91 £ 1,717.91

Xbox

Console Xbox 360 Xbox One Xbox Series S (Digital) Xbox Series X (Disc)
Cost at Release £ 244.99 £ 429.00 £ 249.00 £ 449.00
Controller Cost at Release £ 18.66 £ 38.55 £ 54.99 £ 54.99
Video Games Bought 8 7 7 7
Average Cost of a Game at Release (£) £ 44.99 £ 44.99 £ 53.23 £ 53.23
Xbox Live Gold membership (Lifetime cost / £) £ 359.91 £ 319.92 £ 399.92 £ 399.92
Brand Headset Cost £ 70.51 £ 145.64 £ 169.99 £ 169.99
Year of Release 2005 2013 2020 2020
Lifetime (Years) 9 8 8 8
Average Gaming Hours per year 716.04 891.80 1001.52 1001.52
Total Lifetime Energy Cost £ 182.60 £ 257.11 £ 200.24 £ 200.24
Total Console Lifetime Cost £ 1,214.12 £ 1,484.91 £ 1,435.51 £ 1,635.51

Nintendo

Console Nintendo Wii Nintendo Wii U Nintendo Switch
Cost at Release £ 179.00 £ 275.00 £ 279.99
Controller Cost at Release £ 32.21 £ 56.54 £ 64.99
Video Games Bought 9 8 7
Average Cost of a Game at Release (£) £ 37.49 £ 44.99 £ 44.99
Nintendo Switch online membership (Lifetime cost / £) £ - £ - £ 107.94
Brand Headset Cost £ 12.39 £ 21.74 £ 24.99
Year of Release 2006 2012 2017
Lifetime (Years) 7 6 6
Average Gaming Hours per year 570.44 885.56 1131.00
Total Lifetime Energy Cost £ 83.33 £ 28.75 *£ 101.43
Total Console Lifetime Cost £ 646.24 £ 720.37 £ 880.05

Interestingly the Nintendo Wii performs best in this study - costing just £646.24 over its lifetime. But even the Nintendo Wii U and the Nintendo Switch all cost less than £900 over the course of their lifetime. However, it is worth mentioning, that there is no membership fee to be able to play online, except for the Nintendo Switch, but even this comes in at just £107.94 overall.

While the Nintendo consoles offer a different gaming experience to the PlayStation or Xbox, it is still interesting to see how each of these perform. The new Xbox and PlayStation models both have sold out rapidly and millions of people around the world are waiting to get their hands on one of the new consoles.

Whether you’re an avid gamer or new to the scene, this study has given you an overview of all the costs you can expect with your console.

Methodology and sources:

The research was carried out between 2/12/2020 – 4/01/2021. This study examines the lifetime cost of a gaming console, where ‘lifetime’ is defined as the expected time a person keeps and uses their console before upgrading to a new model. Lifetime is defined as 6 to 9 years depending on the model. This is based on the assumption a person buys a new console roughly one year after a new model has been released.

  • TechRaptor.net - was used to identify the average cost of a video game for each console and converted from $ to £ on 2/12/2020 at a rate of 0.75.
  • VGSales - was used to determine the average number of games bought per console.
  • Statista - this study to determine the average amount of time spent playing video games, broken down by type of console.
  • To determine the energy use for each console we used an Active Gaming Power usage and a Standby Power Usage.
  • We considered membership costs for each console, where applicable, for multiplayer availability and to be able to play online

The overall lifetime cost assumes all constituent parts have been purchased, including one brand headset and one controller, even if it was otherwise included with the console.

Disclaimer: Information in this article was correct at the time of publication.

* NerdWallet was unable to obtain a 'standby/sleep mode' power usage value for the Nintendo Switch, so our calculations for the Nintendo Switch substitute the 'charging' power usage with 'standby' as used on all other consoles we looked at. This resulted in our figure for the Nintendo Switch being slightly higher than it is likely to be in typical real world usage. Nintendo has now confirmed that the Nintendo Switch consumes less energy when fully charged or in sleep mode, compared to active mode or when charging

Image credits/source: photographer -Tom Werner, collection - DigitalVision, Getty Images

About the author:

John Ellmore is a director of NerdWallet UK and is a company spokesperson for consumer finance issues. John is committed to providing clear, accurate and transparent financial information. Read more

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