Skip to main content

I love watching movies, but games are a better value – here's why

How to get the best picture from your PS5
(Image credit: Sony)

Video games can seem like an expensive hobby. Consoles cost hundreds, while a nice TV can cost thousands, and then you need a sound system, maybe a headset, and, of course, you need games. And new AAA blockbuster games will run you $70 / £70 a pop, at the minimum, in the modern-day. The numbers start adding up quickly.

But games are far better value than they seem. In fact, playing games is much more economical than watching movies, and it’s not even a particularly close comparison. Pound-for-pound, when it comes to your hard-earned cash, playing a game is always going to make more sense than watching a movie.

If you’re frustrated, like me, with the nightly Netflix search for something to watch and you are done being extorted at the movie theatre for some popcorn and a drink, maybe it’s time to work playing some games into your entertainment routine…

Buying games vs buying movies 

Sony PS5

(Image credit: Future)

If you want to pick up a 4K Blu-ray, that will set you back around $25 to $35 (£25 to £35) for between one and a half, and two and a half hours of entertainment on average. If you opt for a 1080p Blu-ray, you'll pay about half as much for the same amount of entertainment. If you want to buy a movie digitally (or rent it), you’re looking at prices similar to 1080p Blu-rays.

Let’s assume you buy only 1080p Blu-rays (or spend about the same money for the digital equivalent), and you manage to find every movie you want for $5 / £5 – not unreasonable for plenty of older movies. That will get you, roughly, two hours of entertainment per $5 you spend, and that’s being generous as not every movie will be $5.

$5 for two hours of entertainment, to me, is fairly horrifying value if you’re talking about video games. It’s easy to find a host of free-to-play games you can spend hundreds (even thousands for the truly hardcore) of hours with without spending a dime. Beyond that, there are thousands of older games (whether it’s secondhand console games on a disc or a digital PC game on sale) that you can spend $5, $10, or $20 on for those same hundreds or even thousands of hours.

This is a pretty far cry from that $5-for-two-hours rate you get with Blu-rays and digital downloads. Spend $20 on a game and get 50 hours of gameplay out of it, and it will set you back a miraculous $4 for 10 hours of entertainment. 

Of course, you won’t get hundreds of hours of gameplay out of every game you buy, just as you probably won't enjoy every movie you buy. Stuff happens, as they say. But the numbers are not close. Every time, the ceiling for how much time you can get out of even a short game will vastly outstrip the time you’ll spend watching a movie you buy, even if you rewatch the movie over and over.

Don’t even think about trying to save money by going to the movies. That is, undoubtedly, the worst possible value when it comes to getting the most entertainment for your money, especially when compared to playing a game.

Game subscriptions vs movie subscriptions 

Game Pass

(Image credit: Best Buy)

No, not streaming – I’ll get to that. In many parts of the world, you can pay a monthly fee (usually directly to a chain of cinemas) to enjoy a certain number of movies (or sometimes unlimited movies) at the cinema a month. Usually, these will come with other benefits too, such as discounts and special offers.

Take AMC’s Stubs program in the U.S. This subscription service allows customers to spend $20 a month to see up to three movies a week, including Dolby Cinema, IMAX, and 3D movies. This comes in addition to your familiar offers and discounts, and makes going to the movies a much, much cheaper thing to do regularly. 

Odeon in the U.K. offers a similar deal with its myLIMITLESS subscription, where you pay £15 a month for unlimited viewings at Odeon theatres alongside other familiar benefits.

Let’s assume you see all the movies a week you can, and don’t spend anything extra on popcorn or drinks or anything else. Heck, let’s assume you’re seeing huge, epic films every week too, clocking in at three hours per movie. That comes out to around 36 hours of entertainment a month for $20 (or £15). Of course, this won’t factor in the time or money you spend transporting yourself to the cinema.

But spending $20 (or £15) on a game and getting more than 36 hours of entertainment out of it is an extremely realistic goal, even for an exceedingly casual gamer.

The margins are a bit closer here than they are between buying a game and buying a movie, but still, on average, this isn’t an especially close fight. If value is what you are looking for, games are the clear winner. Spend less time traveling, less money, and get even more entertainment, too – the definition of a win-win if you care about value when it comes to art.

Game streaming vs movie streaming 

Netflix

(Image credit: Netflix)

Okay, so what about Netflix? It’s a cheap monthly fee, you don’t have to wait for shipping or go outside, and you can watch hour after hour after hour of content. There’s no denying that Netflix’s massive catalog of stuff to watch will take you quite the eternity to get through. 

If you’ve got an unlimited selection of movies and shows to watch, there’s a lot to see; but the more you watch, the harder it will be to find worthwhile stuff to watch. Maybe if you are hopping between long TV shows this won’t be a big deal, but for movies, it’s certainly a concern – and even for epic TV shows, eventually you’ll run out. 

The proposition is very different with a service such as Xbox’s Game Pass. There are many, many games to choose from for a low monthly fee; new games are added all the time (often as they release); and each game could give you dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of hours of entertainment. Yes, the list is finite, too, so you can eventually run out of games, but you could work your way through the Game Pass catalog for years without ever feeling as though you are lost in the weeds, spending more time searching for something to do than actually doing things. Which is not the case with a service such as Netflix. 

Sure, you can bounce between streaming services, perhaps, forever, and if all you want to do is watch movies and TV shows, well, live your truth. 

But if you’re like many of us out there and hate the endless searching for something new to consume and you wish you could just finish work and load up your preferred form of entertainment and get immediately into it, video games are an unbelievably time and cost-effective way to be entertained.

MORE:

This is why some hope 8K gaming never happens

And why 4K gaming is still a myth, even today

Plus, why the death of Blu-ray is bad for gamers

Ruben Circelli
Staff Writer

Ruben is a Staff Writer at What Hi-Fi? and longtime consumer technology and gaming journalist. Since 2014, Ruben has written news, reviews, features, guides, and everything in-between at a huge variety of outlets that include Lifewire, PCGamesN, GamesRadar+, TheGamer, Twinfinite, and many more. Ruben's a dedicated gamer, tech nerd, and the kind of person who misses physical media. In his spare time, you can find Ruben cooking something delicious or, more likely, lying in bed consuming content.