The PlayStation price hike

There’s a phrase that seems to be appearing more and more often these days – at least in the increasingly left-wing social media circles in which I find myself after hours of doomscrolling. The “cost of living crisis” that we’re all feeling biting us in the backside is being reframed as a “cost of greed crisis,” as massive corporations continue to profiteer off the misery of ordinary people. It’s incredibly galling to see a company pleading poverty in public statements, then turning around to its shareholders and boasting of record-setting profits, but it’s something that we see more and more often these days. Corporations will claim they’re “suffering” through this crisis just like the rest of us – but they still seem to find the money to pay massive shareholder dividends and furnish their executives with eye-watering bonuses.

It’s through this lens that I view Sony’s PlayStation price hike. If you’ve missed the news, Sony is jacking up the price of PlayStation 5 consoles around the world from a recommended retail price of £449 to £470 here in the UK, and from €499 to €549 in the European Union. Similar price hikes are taking place in Australia, Canada, China, Japan, and Latin America – although the USA seems to have escaped, at least for now.

PlayStation 5 consoles are about to get a lot more expensive.

This is unprecedented for a games console. As time goes by, consoles have always seen price reductions, not price increases, and as each generation of home consoles wears on there’s an expectation that manufacturers will lower the price, enabling more and more people to pick up the latest machines. Sony is bucking this trend in the worst way possible and at the worst time possible, throwing into chaos plans many folks will have had to pick up a PlayStation 5 in the run-up to the holidays.

At a time when many of us are suffering as a result of inflation, excessive bills, and other financial pressures, it’s incumbent upon corporations like Sony to try to minimise the damage. Sony doesn’t need to jack up the price of PlayStation 5 consoles now; doing so is pure greed and a desire to make already-excessive profits look positively gluttonous. It’s a reminder, if one were needed, that no corporation is ever a friend. Corporations’ loyalties lie with those who are already wealthy: the 1% who own massive stock portfolios and for whom there will never be a choice between going cold or going hungry. Sony has nailed its colours to the mast with this decision – but it’s hardly the only corporation to be using the current cost of living and inflation crises as a paper-thin excuse for profiteering.

Sony is jacking up the price of PlayStation 5s all over the world.

Sony has already demonstrated how anti-consumer it can be with the piss-poor launch of the PlayStation 5, one of the worst console launches ever. By failing to produce enough machines, Sony played right into the hands of touts and scalpers, ensuring that many players – and many children – were left disappointed and unable to acquire a console. Those who did either had to be exceptionally lucky to find a shop that had a console in stock or pay ridiculously-inflated rates to a scalper. Sony took no action whatsoever to prevent this, and for months after the console launched it wasn’t uncommon to see units on auction sites and private social media sales where prices were more than double the RRP.

In addition, most new PlayStation 5 games have seen a huge increase in price since the beginning of this new console generation. Games that used to cost $60/£55 now regularly go for $70/£65 – and that’s often just for the “base” or “core” version. Complete games, including pre-order bonuses, special editions, and the like can easily be in excess of £100. So players are being hit and hit again by Sony – and by other greedy companies in the gaming realm.

Different special editions are available for upcoming PlayStation title The Last Of Us Part I.

At the end of July, shortly before this PlayStation price hike was announced, Sony made another announcement. The corporation told investors and shareholders that it was predicting profits for the 2022-23 financial year of $8.4 billion. Let’s repeat that: Sony expects to make $8.4 billion of pure profit over the next few months – and they have the sheer fucking audacity to turn around a couple of weeks later and tell players that it’s getting too expensive to make PlayStation 5 consoles so the price has to go up. Two words for you, Sony: fuck off.

Earlier in the year, Sony also announced record-setting profits in both its film and music divisions, with Sony Pictures making a profit of $394 million in just the first quarter of the year and the corporation’s music division surpassing that, posting a quarterly profit of $471 million. This reminds us of something important, too: Sony is a massive corporation whose reach extends far beyond gaming.

A summary of Sony’s increased profits in the first quarter of this year.
Image Credit: Sony Group Corporation.

Even if we accept Sony’s claim at face-value – that manufacturing PlayStation 5 consoles and buying the required components has become more expensive – then Sony, as a massive corporation, can easily offset any increased costs with the record-breaking profits it’s been making in other fields. Music and cinema are just two examples shown above, but Sony also has many other profitable business divisions and subsidiaries, and by taking a tiny fraction of those record profits, Sony could have avoided passing the price increase on to the rest of us at a time when inflation and the cost of living catastrophe is really hurting a lot of people.

This is pure greed, there’s no two ways about it. Sony has demonstrated, in truly callous and uncaring fashion, just how little respect or care it has for practically everyone. And if you’re an American thinking that this isn’t coming your way: I wouldn’t bet on it. Sooner or later Sony – and perhaps other corporations in the gaming space, too – will increase your prices just like they have in the rest of the world.

Different PS5 editions.

We could talk at length about where inflation has come from, what’s causing all of these problems (and spoiler alert, it isn’t all Putin’s fault), and maybe one day we should. But for now, I think it’s enough to say that this price hike from Sony is about greed. Sony is a greedy, money-grubbing corporation that has chosen to screw over its own fans and players at a time when it’s already making more money than it’s ever made before. Sony will soon be paying out some of that money – your money – to shareholders in the form of dividends and to executives in the form of massive bonuses, all while the rest of us are barely keeping our heads above water with a huge storm heading our way this winter.

For some folks, a PlayStation 5 was something that, despite shortages, they were still hoping to pick up in the months ahead. For some parents, a PlayStation 5 seemed like a great Christmas gift. Sony is doing everything it can to hurt those people, forcing them to pay more unnecessarily at a time when people simply can’t afford it.

Profiteering is absolutely disgusting and Sony should be ashamed of itself.

PlayStation and PlayStation 5 are the copyright of Sony/Sony Interactive Entertainment. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence (except to corporate profiteers).

Paramount+ versus the cost of living

I’m trying to get my thoughts in order with June just around the corner. Here in the UK we’re just over three weeks away from the (alleged) launch date of Paramount+, and despite my criticisms of Paramount Global and the jokes I’ve made on social media, I truly want to be able to sign up for the platform and give my financial backing to the renewed Star Trek franchise. But I’m not sure that I can, at least not at the moment.

As a disabled person on a fixed income, the current inflation and cost of living crisis is hitting me particularly hard. Since the start of this year I’ve cancelled my plans for an upgrade to my slow internet connection and also let go of my Netflix subscription. I’d originally signed up for Netflix in order to be able to watch Star Trek: Discovery in 2017, and although there are still Netflix projects that interest me, the removal of the Star Trek franchise from the platform was a big factor in choosing to cancel that subscription.

I originally signed up for Netflix to be able to watch Star Trek: Discovery.

Right now I have two subscriptions that I pay for: Xbox Game Pass and Disney+. In order to be able to afford Paramount+, realistically I’d have to cancel one or the other. And the problem there is simple: I regularly use and enjoy both. Subscribing to Game Pass has meant that I’ve only had to buy one game since the start of the year (Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga, in case you were wondering). It’s a good service – for now, at least – that offers a decent number of games, and although I don’t spend as much time gaming as I did say a decade ago, Game Pass still has a lot to offer.

Disney+ has a few new shows that I’m interested in, like the current Obi-Wan Kenobi series, but more than that it’s a service that carries a lot of shows that I’ve enjoyed in years past. The likes of Futurama or Scubs make great background viewing; light entertainment that I don’t need to think too deeply about. Kids’ cartoon Phineas and Ferb is one of my comfort shows that I turn to on days when my mental health is poor, and Disney+ even carries shows like Lost and a diverse array of documentaries and films.

I watch quite a lot of things on Disney+ these days.

I feel like the debate I’m currently having internally about streaming kind of encapsulates a broader issue with the oversaturated streaming market, but more significantly for Paramount Global and the Star Trek franchise, it shows how being too late to the party can be incredibly costly. I’m not trying to decide between Paramount+ and Disney+ in a vacuum with both services on an equal footing; I already have Disney+, so in order to be able to afford Paramount+, Paramount needs to convince me to give up what I already have.

Perhaps the cost of living crisis of 2022 has blown the lid off things – it certainly has for me, at least – but these kinds of conflicts were inevitable, and not every streaming service currently on the market can survive. Perhaps current events will accelerate the decline of some of the lesser ones – such as CNN+, which cost parent company Time Warner over $300 million and lasted barely one month – but with the market having become so crowded and so anti-consumer, there simply isn’t room for everyone.

There have been some high-profile streaming failures already.

I’ve argued this point before – in an article that you can find by clicking or tapping here – but I really think it makes a lot of sense for some of the lesser companies to get out of the streaming game and focus instead on making content, not trying to make their own platform. The Star Trek franchise could be a good example of how this could work; Discovery was sold to Netflix, but Picard and Lower Decks were sold to Amazon Prime Video. Other media companies could take a similar approach, selling their shows and films to the highest-bidding streaming platform without making a cast-iron commitment to always work exclusively with a single platform.

That has to be the future, doesn’t it? It isn’t affordable for most households to pay for four, five, or six different streaming subscriptions even at the best of times, so something’s got to give sooner or later. As inflation and the cost of living continue to bite around the world – and with no sign of things improving at least in the short-term – I’d expect similar conversations to be happening in a lot of households. It’s possible that we’ll even start to see the impact of this on the streaming market pretty soon.

It’s increasingly unaffordable for folks to keep adding new streaming subscriptions.

I’ve written about piracy here on the website on more than one occasion. Although it can be hard to explain how I feel in just a few words, I’ll give it a shot: when a series, film, or video game is made available, I’m firmly in the camp that says “pay for it.” If everyone turned to piracy there’d be no future for entertainment; it wouldn’t be possible to keep creating new films, games, or shows if no one was paying for and supporting the creation of those projects. So with Paramount+ slowly stumbling its way towards its UK launch, almost by default I felt sure that I’d be signing up.

As a big Trekkie and someone who loves the Star Trek franchise, I want to be in a position of contributing to its success, even when Paramount Global as a corporation has misbehaved when it comes to international fans. The reason for that is pretty simple: I want Star Trek to be financially successful so that it’ll continue to be produced for many years to come. I don’t want to be a pirate, especially not when it comes to Star Trek. The fact that Paramount forced fans like me into piracy with their decisions over Discovery Season 4, Prodigy, and Strange New Worlds remains a source of disappointment.

I want to see Star Trek succeed.

But now, with the cost of living and inflation biting me in the backside, I’m left wondering whether my best option in the short-term is to rely on my DVDs and Blu-rays for older shows and pirate the final few episodes of Strange New Worlds. By the time Paramount+ lands in the UK there will only be three weeks left in the first season of Strange New Worlds – and even if Prodigy or Lower Decks are going to be hot on its heels, it hardly seems worth signing up for a new subscription to get three episodes of a single series.

Perhaps I’m clutching at straws trying to justify accessing media that I can’t afford. Maybe it’s the curse of those of us on low and fixed incomes that, in a world of dozens of streaming subscriptions, it’s too expensive to be able to afford to watch everything. Do the cost of living crisis and inflation justify piracy? Is piracy, as some like to claim, a form of theft? If I can’t afford Paramount+, shouldn’t I find ways to cut other things out of my budget so that I can – and if I’m unable or unwilling to do that, shouldn’t I then stick to that commitment and stop watching these new Star Trek shows?

Piracy remains a tempting option.

These are some of the questions rolling around in my head at the moment! Maybe I should just shut up, review new episodes of Star Trek and whatever else, and let everyone reading assume that I paid for everything completely legitimately. But this website is my only real outlet for talking about some of these issues, and with the cost of living and inflation being big worries at the moment and weighing on my mind, I wanted to talk about it and not just cover it up and pretend like everything is fine.

This is far from the worst financial crisis I’ve personally had to deal with. Ever been so broke that you had “sleep for dinner?” I’ve been there. I’ve been to the supermarket with only a bunch of coins that I managed to scrounge up from pockets and down the back of the sofa, buying food for a couple of days without knowing when or how I’d be able to afford the next shop. And I’ve been in a position of turning off the heat and wearing a coat, gloves, and three pairs of socks in the living room in order to save money. Compared to that – and compared to what many folks are going through right now, too – having to choose between different streaming services because I can’t afford all of them… well it doesn’t exactly matter, does it?

I’ve been in worse financial positions at other points in my life…

But at the same time, there is a broader point here. Paramount+ is about to launch in an incredibly difficult market, one in which some of the biggest fans of the corporation’s most popular franchises are going to struggle to afford the service. The longer-term prospects of Paramount+, and whether it will ever be able to break into the top tier of streaming platforms alongside Netflix and Disney+, remains very much in question – and with that question comes fears for the longer-term sustainability of Star Trek. As a fan, that concerns me.

Decisions going back a decade or more on the part of big entertainment corporations have led to this point, and while the current jump in inflation and rise in the cost of living may have exposed some of these issues of affordability sooner than expected, it was inevitable that we’d reach this point in such an oversaturated marketplace. As a Star Trek fan I want to support Star Trek and I want the company that owns it and the platform on which it’s available to be financially successful – but I can’t commit to backing Paramount+ with a long-term subscription at the moment. If the cost of living crisis worsens in the months ahead – and with energy bills set to rise significantly in October, just in time for the winter, it very well may – I’ll be needing to cut back even more on the few services I already pay for, and there’ll be absolutely no place for anything new.

It’s a tough market, and Paramount Global’s many mistakes and offensive decisions have not endeared the corporation or its latest venture to the people who should be its biggest supporters. I wish Paramount+ well as a Star Trek fan who wants the franchise to succeed… but I’m unsure whether I’ll be able to make a long-term commitment to it right now.

Paramount+ is available in the United States, Scandinavia, Australia, and parts of Latin America now, with launches in the UK and South Korea in June 2022. Further international launch dates are yet to be announced. Paramount+ and the Star Trek franchise are owned by Paramount Global. Some stock images used above are courtesy of Pixabay. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Balancing the cost of living in 2022

If you’ve been a regular reader since last year, you might remember that I pre-ordered Starlink – Elon Musk’s satellite internet. I did so in large part because I live in a rural part of the UK that has been overlooked by fibre broadband, 4G, and basically every other improvement to the country’s ageing, decrepit communications infrastructure. I have broadband, which some rural dwellers still don’t, so in that sense I’m lucky – but my download speed at the best of times caps out at around 7 megabits/second, and at bad times I can barely get online at all.

Starlink originally promised to be available in “mid to late 2021,” before revising that to “early to mid 2022.” I would say, as an aside, that Starlink was very poor at communicating that change to me, and for much of 2021 I was holding out hope that I’d hear something from the company, especially because I’d paid a fairly hefty deposit. Better communication with customers may be something for Starlink to work on, at least from my limited experience with the company!

Starlink is a satellite internet company.

But I’m no longer going to be enjoying ultra-fast space-age internet. I recently cancelled my pre-order – and not because of any complaints about the company or the slowness of their rollout. I can understand that things get delayed, that the queue was long, and when you’re dealing with something as complex as literally launching rockets full of satellites into space, there are going to be bumps in the road sometimes! I’m not a “Karen,” feeling a sense of entitlement, and I want to make that clear.

Unfortunately, though, in 2022 I’m no longer in a position to be able to afford Starlink. The service would cost a little over three times the price of my current internet package, and with rising bills across the board, I can no longer guarantee that I could afford to pay that amount. I certainly wouldn’t want to sign myself up to a contract, committing to pay that money for twelve or eighteen months.

I definitely won’t be signing up for any long-term contracts right now!

Since mid-2020, my electricity bill has already risen by over 25%. That isn’t because I’m using any more electricity – in fact, thanks to things like LED lightbulbs and a better, more efficient heater, I’m probably using less. But the UK’s privatised electricity industry has been jacking up prices left, right, and centre. And that was before the current increase in oil and gas prices internationally sent energy prices skyrocketing.

In addition to the 25% rise that I’ve had to absorb over the last few months, my electricity bill will soon rise by another 50%-60% on top of what I’m currently paying, wiping out a huge chunk of my already meagre disposable income. Inflation is also biting me in the backside, with food prices having risen already in the last few months, and prices for some of my essential toiletries and other goods also shooting up. As a disabled person on a fixed income, there’s very limited room for manoeuvre, and as such I’m having to make decisions like the Starlink one in order to remain financially solvent in the months ahead.

The price of electricity is going up by a lot.

With all of that in mind, I’ve also decided to cancel my Netflix subscription. With Star Trek: Discovery being withdrawn from the service, and relatively few other projects that excited me coming up in the short term, it’s a significant chunk of change saved every month. Because I can’t really get out to the shops very often, and can’t lift anything heavy, I rely on Amazon for a lot of deliveries, and the cost of Amazon Prime per month is more than worth it when I stack it up next to the delivery charges I don’t have to pay, so keeping that one makes more sense. Netflix is a great service and I don’t dislike it, but something had to go, and when it came to a choice between Netflix and Amazon, Amazon won that particular fight.

In the late 2000s and early 2010s, I got into a lot of financial trouble. Suffering undiagnosed mental health issues, working through a divorce, and other pressures in my life saw my spending get out-of-control, and with the abundance of cheap credit that was given out far too readily by misbehaving banks, I found myself in quite a financial pickle after a few years of mismanaged finances and a difficult period of my life. It got so bad that I had bailiffs show up several times and was even threatened with prison at one point.

I faced money problems earlier in my life.

It took a long time to crawl out of the financial hole I’d dug for myself, and even now my credit rating is still so poor that I can’t access anything but the most expensive, high-interest loans and cards. So when I say I can feel my back getting closer and closer to the wall, I really mean it. If the current rate of price rises and cost increases continues, I’m very quickly going to have nowhere left to go!

During the pandemic, the government had provided a small increase to the benefits they pay out to people like me who are disabled, as well as to jobseekers and other low-income folks. This extra money was withdrawn back in the autumn, despite a public outcry, and that’s another reason why I’m left with fewer options at the moment. The current government has proven itself to be far too inflexible, unwilling to make changes to policies even as the situation in the real world has changed (and deteriorated). Even in the autumn, when this policy was still being debated, there were many economists, politicians, and other such folks who had the foresight to see price rises and inflation pressures coming. They warned the government not to go down this road – but their voices were ignored, sadly.

The UK government (Palace of Westminster pictured) is not handling the cost of living crisis particularly well.

The way the government calculates its figures also allows them to manipulate things so they can get away with paying out less than they should. There will be a very modest rise in my income in April, but the rate of this rise was calculated months ago and thus doesn’t account for the current rate of inflation – meaning it will be more than eaten up by the aforementioned electricity bill rise and other price rises.

It’s sad to be starting 2022 with such a bleak forecast and having to scale things back, but this is the reality of our pandemic-riddled world. I fear that we’ve only seen the very beginnings of some of these problems, and that things like electricity and food prices will rise, rise, and rise again before the end of the year. There’s already talk of another significant rise in energy bills in October.

There’s already talk of more inflation and more price rises to come.

I’m not yet in a position of having to choose whether to “heat or eat,” as the current anti-slogan suggests. But because I’d already scaled back as many of my costs as possible over the years, I don’t have a lot more room to make cutbacks. I usually only heat the living room, even in the depths of winter. It’s -3°C outside as I write this early on a February morning, but I find that the one heater I have in the living room is usually adequate.

There are two remaining subscriptions that I could potentially cull, depending on how much worse the financial outlook gets. I currently subscribe to both Disney+ and Xbox Game Pass for PC – though the latter is currently paid for for the next few months thanks to a Christmas present from my sister! But in theory I could save another few pounds a month by cutting those. But once those are gone, that’s all the wiggle-room I have! Those are my only remaining non-essential bills, and as a disabled person for whom leaving the house is a challenge at the best of times, I feel that it’s important to have things like this so I can access entertainment and keep the old brain cells from decaying!

I’m sticking with Game Pass… at least for now.

I’m not in imminent danger of freezing nor of starving… but the fact that, in the UK in 2022, that statement should need to be made at all is pretty telling. I don’t like to get political here on the website at all – but I’m definitely upset with the current government and its inflexibility when it comes to solving these problems.

That’s not to say that I have all the answers, not by any stretch. But in the next few months, and certainly by the end of 2022, something’s got to change. I know I’m not the only one in this position of having to make cutbacks to be able to continue to afford the essentials, and as a disabled person who relies on certain mobility and toileting products, there’s more than just food that I have to buy every month. It isn’t possible to cut back on those things!

There are essentials – like food – that we can’t live without!

So this was a bit of an update, really. I guess you won’t see many Netflix reviews here on the website for the next few weeks and months – but I’ll continue my usual output of Star Trek content, I’ll definitely take a look at anything new from Star Wars, and I’ll keep up my regular commentary on the ins and outs of the video games industry – even if I may not be in a position to play any of the games that don’t come to Game Pass this year!

I try to avoid piracy – except in specific circumstances. If a film, TV show, or video game is available here in the UK lawfully, I’ll either pay for it or skip it. It’s only when greedy, moronic corporations refuse to broadcast their latest shows or make their films available here in the UK that I’ll sail the high seas! And as I’ve said before, I think that’s a pretty fair way to approach it.

If you’re suffering as a result of inflation or any of the other financial issues we’ve talked about today, there is help available. Here in the UK you can talk to organisations like Citizens Advice, and they definitely helped me during the period when I was struggling with debt. I can’t make any further recommendations other than to check what’s available in your local area. I hope that, if you find yourself in choppy financial waters, things settle down quickly – for all of us!

This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.