Could you save money by subscribing to an addictive game?

By Xin Lu on 16 January 2009 35 comments

During the Christmas break my husband and I went to dinner with some of his friends from high school.  One couple we spoke with told us that they are trying to save money for a down payment on a home and one thing they did was that  they canceled their subscription to a massively multiplayer online role playing game called  World of Warcraft. My husband then  responded that he actually saved money when he was playing World of Warcraft, and here are the reasons why.

1.  He did not buy other games - Since World of Warcraft was so addictive, that was the only game he played.   Each month he spent less than $15 on gaming and that was the end of it.  Considering that each new game costs $50 to $60 and he could finish a game in a week or two, World of Warcraft was a lot cheaper. 

2. He did not need any other forms of entertainment -  This means no DVDs, books, or anything else.  He was focused on one game only. 

3. He did not go outside often - World of Warcraft and other games like it  has a good amount of  social play within the game where groups of people get together to fight monsters and other players.  So for some people their entire social circle is in the game.  This means there is no need to spend money on social gatherings.

4. The subscription fee made him play more -  Since he was paying a monthly fee whether he played or not, he felt compelled to put in more hours to get more value out of his money.  This simply created a feedback loop of addiction that made him play the game more and do less of other things.

It is no wonder that in some circles World of Warcraft is known as Warcrack.  Anyway, my husband quit the game shortly before we started dating so I  do not know how he was like in the height of his addiction.  He says that he quit because he wanted to play all the other games out there, and I am thankful for that.  I definitely do not recommend acquiring an addiction or obsession to save money, but I am wondering if anyone else have had a similar experience.  Could a subscription based entertainment service be so attractive and sticky that you save money on everything else?

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Guest's picture

I do see how you could save money. I don't play as much as my husband so I still have my Netflix but we don't have a subscription with as many dvd's because he doesn't watch them as much and I did just cut back on my cable and I will probably be playing more now that I don't have as many cable options. We do save money on social outings and things with my brother and a few other friends that also play, we just gather in game. We still have a Wii and XBox 360 but are probably going to be selling the Xbox since it doesn't get played very much.

I would think that a lot of people would actually spend more money on take-out because they could go out for a quick bite or have something delivered a lot easier than making it and taking themselves out of the game for that long.

Guest's picture

My husband and I are WoW players and yep, if it's the only game you play and you don't spend much on entertainment besides your WoW subscription fee, it is certainly one of the cheaper options out there, considering the huge amount of content to play through. It's the same principle as subscribing to cable TV instead of going out to the movies every weekend.

WoW isn't usually an addiction though, I have to say. It's just a game.

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I don't play WoW, but I am an avid Wii player. It was an expensive initial investment, but I haven't spent money on other forms of entertainment in a LONG time!

My husband plays all sorts of games, and they do get pricey! It is frustrating when we spend 60 bucks for a game, then 3-4 days later he declares "I'm Done!".

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I find that Netflix is a good service to keep because it cuts down on buying DVDs that we'll only watch once or twice and cuts back on going to the movies because we know that it'll be out on DVD in a few months and we'll get it through Netflix. (plus we can pop our own popcorn and save!). Occasionally we'll buy something we saw via Netflix because we liked it a lot, but before Netflix we were always picking up DVDs of new releases just because we wanted to watch the movie...we'd watch it maybe once or twice and then it gathers dust.

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Just like there's "good debt" (mortgage, student loans) and "bad debt" (credit cards, etc.), there's good savings and bad savings.

Saving money on social gatherings because all your friends are in WoW is pretty pathetic.

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Anyway in which you can save or make money is a great thing to do, an addiction that saves you money that doesn't happen very often ;O)

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To Ultima Online :) I played for hours and I saved a LOT of money, and spent none. Of course, I was a kid and didn't realize how great of a money saver it was but.... *shrug* It was a real drug

Fabulously Broke in the City

"Just a girl trying to find a balance between being a Shopaholic and a Saver."

Guest's picture

Those persons in my life who have actually been addicted to this game used some reasons very similar to those listed to continue playing. They played obsessively, often late into the night, which led to them being late to work or unproductive at work the next day. As this behavior continued, many subsequently ended up unemployed; this was a state that was greeted with pleasure because they then had more uninterrupted play time. Few sought to find jobs with any vigor because they had a more interesting occupation now.

This is not money-saving behavior, to say the least.

Of course, most people can play this game more casually and sensibly, without becoming addicted. I apparently just don't know anyone who can be sensible about it.

Guest's picture

I have found spending more time on the computer has saved me money. The time I spend online now was formerly used to either watch TV or go out. Since I'm finding blogs and online games and all kinds of tutorials and downloads, I am spending less these days.

Guest's picture

Sure, you could save money being addicted to WoW.. there are people who got so addicted and saved so much money on food and other such expenses that they ended up hospitalized because they couldn't get themselves off the computer.

And sure, maybe you're saving money, but do you really want to look back on your life and realize you wasted god knows how many hours/days/months/YEARS of it on one game?

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Remember the young couple whose kids were completely malnourished and filthy because the parents couldn't stop playing World of Warcraft?

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Maybe if you have no other commitments. When my husband and I were in college and just out we were thoroughly into mmo's. We began with UO (my favorite, too, Fabulous) and went through EQ, AO, AC, AC2, SWG, etc... It was okay when we could work all day, party all night and then hit the computer when the bars closed, but now that we're new homeowners, new parents (and old!) it just doesn't make sense. We actually -need- sleep. We agreed to only play 30 min-1 hr daily (to decompress) only in winter. When it's nice out again and our babies are older we'll be participating in the real world more.

Guest's picture

Absolutely! I'll use WoW and Netflix as two examples.

I just bought the Roku play ($100) and subscribe to the one-at-a-time-unlimited $9 monthly netflix plan. Since I can watch hd tv shows (and new episodes) on my tv now plus an enormous selection of movies, I no longer need cable (saving me at least $50/mo) and I rarely go to the movies (just wait for the dvd). Plus, I always have movies to watch if I have people over, rather than spending $5 for a movie at a rental store for the instant gratification.

As for WoW, I did used to play. That was definitely the most affordable choice of entertainment I have ever engaged in. At the most, it will cost you $15/mo. Now, if you're really into the game and in a raiding guild, you will be home 4-5 days a week raiding. This means no spending money on dinner with friends or Wednesday bar nights. I still had a pretty active weekend but if nothing was going on, I would play the game and not care so much about not spending $10+ at the bar that night. I did not buy any other video game during this time either.

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I can see the twisted thinking that WoW would save someone some money. How does that compare to say..... the cost of a divorce?

Guest's picture

As an WoW player, I definitely agree that it can help you save money. Just deciding to eat in one night a month because you want to play can cover the cost of the monthly subscription.

Playing in moderation is fine.

But the longterm cost of an addiction to the game is going to outweigh any kind of immediate costs. I've seen kids do poorly or drop out of high school or college because of MMOs. People lose their jobs, not get promotions, or just simply lose any type of ambition because of MMOs.

Those types of effects are the true cost of games like WoW. An addition to WoW is most like an addiction to marijuana. It's not that bad, pot's not too expensive or dangerous. But it's escapist and makes you not care as much about the rest of your life.

Guest's picture

...a similar game was, if not the absolute cause, then at least one of the MAJOR factors in my divorce. Ex would not stop playing, to the exclusion of virtually all else in his life, including children and sleep. Everything not game-related was an unwelcome intrusion. (Incidentally, he's now with a person he "played" with all the time, and I have reason to believe they were "involved" - if not physically, certainly emotionally - before I dropped the D-bomb.)

I'm not saying all these games are bad - just take this type of advice with a grain (er, shaker) of salt.

Guest's picture

I can attest first hand that World of Warcraft (WoW) is an extremely addictive game. Most gamers take it even a step further by rarely drinking or eating. In the event that I did eat, I would eat Kraft Mac and Cheese, cheap fast food, and other quick cheap items so that I could get back to playing.

The problem with being addicted to an massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG) is that you lose the drive to work. Since your expenses are minimal, you also cut back on the amount of work you do, thus lowering everything.

I wouldn't recommend this as a solution to entertainment, but I can see the logic on saving money if you can control it. Most people, however, have a hard time controlling their addiction to MMORPG's.

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Let's just say that maintaining physical and mental health is a heck of a lot more important than saving money.

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Folks everyone that plays a MMO doesn't end up a hopeless addict. Most people I know who have played MMO's had no problems it. Yes certainly people can and do go to far and end up damaging their lives because they play too much. However true addiction problems are only seen in a minority (5-20%) of players.

All things in moderation.

Guest's picture

My husband is a WoW fiend (I can't get into it) and from personal experience, it's hit or miss.

Yes, he's saving money because that is the only game he plays, he can interact with other players online and strategize or go to work and strategize with some of his co-workers (they are responsible for this new addiction). He plays when I'm at work, so it's not so bothersome to me in terms of quality time (see below). In addition, the hours he plays on WoW prevents him from being sucked into the world of TV advertising or boredom, where he could potentially spend money on stuff he doesn't need.

The downside to this is while he does play when I'm at work, sometimes the game playing spills over into our quality time. I'm not a needy person, however, we do work different shifts so any time we spend together is precious. In addition, this lack of time with non-WoW players (i.e. social gatherings) puts a strain on outside relationships. We used to do a lot more before the game and I've seen it dwindle quite dramatically.

Social interaction is a whole different currency.

Guest's picture

While WoW is a relatively cheap investment for gamers, there are other ways one can subsidize their gaming habits:

1. Buy used games. Stores like GameStop often have used copies of games they sell at a lower price. The challenge is to find the "hot" new games, but if you're patient, you can find plenty of good ones.

2., which is like Netflix for video games. $16 a month gets you one game at a time for as long as you like it. If you decide you like it enough to own it, you pay a bit extra and they'll send the next game in your queue. This is good if you like to "try before you buy", not to mention knowing you've only spent $16 all month on gaming, and you get to play more than just WoW.

3. Sell off your old games. Places like GameStop will also buy your used games and give you either cash or store credit. If you join their Gamer Advantage club (I think it's like a $5 annual membership fee), you get even more for your trade-ins, and they keep an account of your store credit on file for future use. My husband games a lot (he runs a couple of websites), and blows through games very quickly. When he's ready to trade them in, he goes in and gets top dollar for them because they're still new and in high demand. He paid for most of the purchase of his Xbox 360 by trading in games he already finished and wouldn't play again.

Just a few other ways you can enjoy video games for less!

Guest's picture

If you are addicted to an MMO and all you do is play the game and go to work (or school) you'll definitely save money. The game takes the place of all the other things you used to do for entertainment. There was a time when all I did was sit and play Everquest 2 all day every day. I spent money on food, rent, internet, and the game subscription. That was pretty much it. You won't be accomplishing things in real life, but you will definitely be saving lots of money.

Guest's picture

I understand the difficulty of dealing with objectivity vs a personal anecdote (like an ex), but honestly people, WoW has something like 11 million subscribers.

Do you honestly think that WoW is destroying ELEVEN MILLION people's lives? That's just stupid and illogical.

The vast majority of people who play this game have jobs (some of them highly successful jobs - c.f. ). The average player age is 30+ and many of them have marriages and mortgages and manage to get along just fine.

Saying that Warcraft is evil is like saying that credit cards or alcohol are evil - both are the source of many a family's ruin, but when you get down to it you have no one to blame but the person who lets himself (or herself) get addicted.

Guest's picture

It amazes me that people are still willing to blame a mere video game for things like lateness, poor eating choices, even divorce. I've been an avid WoW player for nearly four years now. My husband also plays, and we enjoy playing WoW together just as much as we enjoy games like Scrabble or Trivial Pursuit or Risk. We continue to cook dinner together and spend time with friends outside the game (in fact, we have weekly get-togethers on Tuesdays and Fridays, and spend Saturdays with my husband's family). It really does save money, though, to have a way to hang out with friends and each other without going to a fancy restaurant or driving twenty or thirty minutes. We canceled our cable television and don't spend nearly as much money on going out every night. My husband works 60+ hours a week at his job while I work about 30-40, and sometimes it's very nice to come home and just spend a night in. He'll chop vegetables, I'll make a nice pasta, and we set our bowls in front of the keyboard and eat while we play. There's no excuse for being "addicted" to a computer game.

I will admit that there are raiding guilds out there who demand that you play a certain amount of time each week to be in their guild and that you accompany them on lengthy dungeon delving expeditions. IF you have time in your weekly schedule, IF you enjoy that sort of thing, and IF you can be responsible about it, then by all means, you have my blessings. But it's up to the person, not the game, how seriously you take your little cartoon character. So, none of my characters (I have seven on different servers) has the absolute best gear. So what? You don't need to have the very best in order to play the game, or even to do well. My husband plays a lot of PvP, and has killed many players who out-gear him. I tend to focus on questing and world exploration and have no problems as long as I'm in level appropriate gear. I've never gone on a high level raid.

Finally, I'd also like to point out that my mother and father both play. My mom didn't play at first, but as she watched my dad play (he's been playing WoW for five years, and he played UO for ... forever before that) she started to get interested in what was going on. She enjoys it and plays alongside my dad now in their PvP guild. But for a long time it put strain on their relationship but they worked their problems out and never considered divorce because it wasn't the game that was the problem, it was that she felt that dad wasn't paying enough attention to her. Once she was able to voice what was really the matter, they worked things out because they're a loving couple who have been together for nearly 40 years. My dad cut back on his game time to spend more time with mom, and, eventually, she decided she might like to try playing. It's also a lot of fun to spend time with my parents in the game world since we live several states away from each other.

So, please, don't blame World of Warcraft for causing problems in people's lives. As someone above mentioned, 11 million people aren't struggling with addiction. If you can't psychologically handle playing the game and continue to act responsibly, then perhaps you should cancel your subscription, and maybe even seek some therapy. It's not the game's fault; it's yours.

Guest's picture

This kind of discussion (article) arose because someone trying to cut costs looked at easily identifiable costs (such as a fixed monthly amount on a credit card) but not at all the entertainment costs that do/would arise without it (some which may be cash and harder to track).

Cutting out a $20 monthly service doesn't help if it leads to expenses that are more than that.

This is a good lesson that if you're going to cut anything you have to carefully consider what expenses may arise from may not be worthwhile after all.

Guest's picture

I think like drinking alcoholic beverages, it's going to come down to the individual: some people genuinely are "light sippers" who drink to relax, whereas others have addictive tendencies and become unproductive drunks. :(

My wife's played World of Warcraft quite a bit. I've never gotten into it, but we're both looking forward to Stargate Worlds (we are watching SG-1 with much interest).

There are of course free MMOs and such which don't have any subscription fees, or they charge micropayments for upgraded equipment and other benefits.

I was attracted to the lure of virtual world Second Life in late 2004, which was $10 (one-time) for a Basic account. Now they're free, and along the way I ended up getting so addicted I worked for Linden Lab, the company behind it. Still a gladdict (glad + addict = healthy addiction). :-)

Guest's picture

I believe games, like drinking, eating, shopping, etc. etc., are great if done moderately. I would not say it is a great way to save money since you cannot really learn anything new from just about all the games out there and thus they do nothing for you in terms of social or professional life (sorry Xin Lu, I love your posts). I am speaking as a person who was playing games more than 7 hours a day on average and paid dearly for it. People who are just looking for ways to save money would have better bets if they would just head to a local library and borrow some books. If games are your thing then it is great and all. However I've seen many around me who rather live in the virtual world than face their realities (I used to be one) so I guess it is yet another case of self-control.

Guest's picture

I've been playing WoW for a little over two years. It's what I do for fun. My husband's fun is playing music, and together we watch DVDs from Netflix or free Internet TV.

So, with that set, we've cut way back on entertainment expenses in our lives.

It's well worth the subscription money for me -- I get a Mom's night off, I hang with family that live far away, and I don't spend money on new computer games or new computers to keep up with the games or other entertainment.

We still socialize, we still have date night, church activities, and all of this with a 8-month old.

On the flip side, those WoW gurus out there will probably laugh when I say my highest character after 2+ years is level 51. :)

In other words, I play on Tuesday nights (Mom's night off) and sometimes either Sunday afternoons or Friday evenings.

Oh, and from my first-hand experience with WoW, the people I interact with in WoW are typically grandmothers, grandfathers, and 30-somethings. I've never run into addictive behavior where people would skip meals and other stuff.

Although when I was single, I did try to eat spaghetti and play WoW at the same time, but I'm a girl who really likes her food. And, no, it didn't work all that well!

Knowing how people are with anything entertaining, I'm sure some people are addicted to WoW, just like some are addicted to TV, gambling, etc.

Guest's picture

xin lu,

just a note to let you know that i recently added this article to my blog love roundup.

thank you for the great entry!

Guest's picture

Good Idea: Trying to save money on flexible entertainment costs.

Bad Idea: Developing an addiction to any thing for any purpose. Addiction, by nature, reduces the ability of the victim to make rational choices. Debt reduces your choices of how to manage your money; addiction reduces your choices of how to spend your time. Addiction is a form of revolving debt that demands payment in time, which, as we all know, IS money.

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Nycole Armon

My husband plays WoW a lot and he does spend less on video games and other entertainment; however you have to be careful with excessive use. He's getting close to level 80 now and because of that he's been playing more often. This month our electricity bill was $50 higher than normal. So, yes it can save you money but it's like any other addiction - it can have hidden costs.

Guest's picture

dont waste ur time making one for 2 years if ur that addicted

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if ur a master just make a account sell it a great way to make money

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A few years back, wow + ventrillo was one of the cheapest and most fun ways of keeping up with long distance friendships. Certainly, it was better than long aimless conversations on traditional long distance plans. It changed my food costs a little (less eating out, but more chinese).

I knew a guy who only had to work half the year because all of his hobbies were as cheap as wow. His roommates and significant other had the same hobbies, so there wasn't a lot of need for any of them to spend money on bars, cars or fashion. Eventually, he found the job he really wanted, and it was worthwhile to work year round, but partially due to wow, his lifestyle was affordable enough that it was really a choice.

In the end, the fact is that budgeting time well is as important as budgeting money, if not more so. For some of my friends, time there is still worthwhile. For me, I eventually realized that it isn't, at least not this year.

I played for a while, but once I finished up all the solo adventuring areas, it became a different game, with more demanding scheduling (raiding requires committee style scheduling.) I decided it didn't fit my schedule at the time. Other friends chose differently. One moved across the country for a great job, and was able to keep spending lots of time with his girlfriend and friends via wow and other games run on skype.