Unless you are fabulously wealthy, you probably maintain some sort of budget for your discretionary expenses, and if MMOs had their way, they’d claim all of it. You’d be spending all your cash on sparkleponies, cosmetic outfits, boosters, and video game furniture instead of gas, clothes, food, and actual furniture.
For this week’s Massively Overthinking, we’re going to imagine that everyone reading is a super responsible adult who isn’t gambling everything away on lockboxes (or scratch-off cards). We want to know whether you have an MMO or gaming budget: What would you say you spend on MMOs every month, taking into account expansions and subs and currency? What do you budget for it, and how often do you go over that budget? How much of your gaming and fun budget goes to MMOs specifically vs. other gaming genres? And does your answer to any of these question make you reconsider the value you get out of MMORPGs?
Andy McAdams: I don’t really budget, honestly. I loosely try to keep to two active MMO subscriptions at one time maximum. I might want to subscribe to more, but I know realistically I’ll have a primary MMO and an MMO I play when I’m bored with the primary. Most of the time I don’t spring for ultimate-mega-super-extra-bodacious-Beyonce-priced expansion bundles, but I will get a lower/middle tier, and I get those only if I’m actively playing the game. Like, I’m excited for Necrom, but I’m not playing Elder Scrolls Online and probably won’t for a while yet, so I’m not worried about jumping on the bandwagon quickly there.
So my MMO budget probably averages out to maybe $35-40 a month? I rarely buy currency, and rarely more than I would pay for a month sub for a comparable game. So that impact to my monthly gaming spend is non-zero, but negligible.
As for other games, I’m either playing on computer or Switch, though we do have a PS5 in the house that gets depressingly little usage. I try to be intentional when I’m buying games because I don’t want to drop $40-60 on a game only to play it for an hour and then see it collect dust in my Steam library (because that’s definitely never happened before *cough*). So I have the new Zelda game earmarked for the future, but with Diablo IV also coming out soon and my recent foray in LOTRO and off-gaming in Satisfactory, I know I won’t actually be playing it on launch. I recently bought Fire Emblem Engage because I love the Fire Emblem games, but I’ve only played a few hours into that because… again… Satisfactory. So for my non-MMO gaming budget, I’m going to say its averages out to a little less than my MMO – maybe $25-30.
So in total, in an average month I would maybe $60-70 a month ballpark.
When I tell people that gaming is my primary leisure activity, I will invariably get the “oh you waste your time in video games,” right before said people go-off about some random sports or reality TV thing they spent hours on. No judgment there; everyone has a passion. But when I think about the amount spent vs. fulfillment ratio, for me I’m getting way more fulfillment per dollar spent in my two or three hours of gaming a day than I would spending two or three hours watching TV. Plus, gaming is engaging, it’s a “hot” medium, and it constantly presents me with new problems to solve which keeps me thinking. So that’s a really long way of saying… no, I don’t think I spend too much on gaming.
Ben Griggs (@braxwolf): I got this nifty little gig writing opinion pieces for an MMO games site. Whatever I make on this job is typically put right back into games that I can then write about for the site. It’s a nice little circle of life! I’ll admit, the accounting is mostly done in my head, so it’s entirely possible that I’ve gone over “budget” on occasion, though!
Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): I actually have a somewhat strict budget for my personal discretionary fun, and it’s supposed to include things that are purely wants instead of needs. In this job, though, sometimes the games are needs, and my line bleeds over. But in a normal month lately, I’m usually just paying a LOTRO sub. I do try not to have more than one sub going at a time, although I bent the rules in the last few years for Albion Online (where subs are per character, and I wanted more than one island because I am hopeless). My other main MMORPGs are rogue servers and don’t cost more than a donation here and there, though I would gladly pay for them if they were officially alive, but the world is not a fair and just place. So I don’t worry too much when a game drops an expansion or something goes up cheap on Steam because I know I don’t have a steady flow of huge piles of cash going out the door on MMOs already. And then if I really have to have the noodle chair or hobbit pony or something new that just popped on Steam, I can just do it.
Even if I discount the rogue servers, MMOs are stupidly cheap for how much time and fun I can squeeze out of them. I mean, $10 a month for access to almost everything in LOTRO (plus VIP perks and a stipend) is a steal if you actually play.
Carlo Lacsina (@UltraMudkipEX, YouTube, Twitch): Gaming-related purchases have slowed down for me recently. But I did pick up a copy of Age of Wonders 4 at $49.99 when it came out last week. But that’s an anomaly; I just had to play it. I usually won’t pick up a game unless it’s ultra-cheap these days.
I don’t spend too much on Black Desert Online either. In the five years I’ve played, I’ve dropped only about $550 total on the game. The game gives plenty of its free value packs (the equivalent to a subscription), and none of the cosmetics have really jumped out at me lately either, so there’s that too. I plan on dropping $100 in June on the game, but it’s meant to last the next six months. I like having a supply of the premium currency on hand at any given time.
Ironically, I probably have spent more on FFXIV. I’ve been subbing since 2.0 came out in 2013. I don’t usually cancel the sub, even when I’m not playing, because in my experience, when I do cancel it, I end up resubbing within the next two weeks because a friend wants to get into it or I just wanna play the game. Go figure!
Chris Neal (@wolfyseyes, blog): I don’t really have a budget set aside for MMO purchases honestly, since I mentally approach them as impulse buys and act accordingly: by checking my funds and seeing if I have the padding to treat myself. And often that answer is a big fat “no.”
To that point, this question doesn’t really make me consider my overall spend so much as make me realize how broke I am.
Eliot Lefebvre (@Eliot_Lefebvre, blog): I don’t really have a gaming budget because, well, in my budget video games go wholly into the “discretionary spending” pile, and MMOs exist there too. That means that in order to justify spending money on any given MMO, I have to in turn justify spending that money on a game – and a $15 outfit is thus weighted against a $15 entirely brand-new game. Surprising no one, I don’t actually spend all that much on outfits!
Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): I’m a generally frugal person, which is one of the reasons I play MMOs — you get a whole lot of game for your buck (or even no buck). I only occasionally spring for a single monthly sub here and there as a result. I will buy a new title that I genuinely want (especially if it’s buy-to-play) or an expansion on a game that I love, but it’s extremely rare that I’ll break out my credit card for an extra in a game (say, housing or cosmetics).
So having said that, I really don’t know how much I spend on gaming every month. I have a sub to Xbox Game Pass, so there’s about $18. I don’t end up buying many games in that case. But I do buy a few here and there – usually just older games or smaller indie titles. So maybe there’s another $30. I don’t have any other subs, and I don’t buy many gems or the like.
So that’s not too bad. On the other hand, I’ve become pretty obsessed with board games lately. I’ve been buying at least one or a few every month. That’s probably a couple hundred bucks. There’s really no telling.
Overall, my MMO budget is low, my digital gaming expenditures are pretty low, and my boardgames expenses are stupid. Let’s just let the card companies handle the details.
Generally speaking, I don’t spend that much. Part of the reason I got into MMOs in the first place is because they’re such an incredibly inexpensive source of entertainment now that subscriptions have largely gone the way of the dodo. My very rough rule of thumb is that I feel I’ve gotten good value if I’ve gotten at least one hour of entertainment per dollar spent on a game (exceptions made for very good games), so I usually treat my time /played as my upper limit for spending on a specific MMO.