The hefty price of being a gamer in Turkey

Shortly after the onset of curfew and lockdowns, the Turkish government introduced a 50 percent customs tax on gaming consoles in April 2020, which has now been decreased to 20 percent as of Jan. 1, but gamers are still unhappy.

K. Murat Yıldız / Duvar English

After a long day of work at home in front of his computer Gürcan Gündüz (33), a business consultant from Istanbul, grabs a quick bite with his family and returns to his home office. This time not for work but to spend hours playing the video game League of Legends.

“I got my first gaming console, an Atari, when I was 7, my first computer when I was 11, and started online gaming when I was 13 years old. Games back then were pirated and we paid 3 to 5 liras (0.40 to 0.60 dollars) for each game. Today depending on the game and the platform, a game costs 450 to 500 liras (60 to 70 dollars). If you want to buy a collector’s edition of a game it can go for up to 4000 liras (540 dollars),” Gündüz told Duvar English.

Gamers come together to buy expensive games

“It is not right to compare prices with the EU and U.S. in terms of games because there is a huge gap between our income and theirs. Even still, for games, we usually pay more money than them.”

In the past with a computer chip, which was about 100 dollars, installed in their console, gamers could play pirated games. However, after online gaming became the trend this was no longer a sufficient solution.

“You cannot play a pirated game online anymore. Especially now that games, PCs, and consoles connect to servers for verification. You will not get the same performance from a pirated game which will affect your gaming experience negatively,” Gündüz added.

“Sometimes several friends come together to buy a game. They share the password among themselves and each of them plays the game online during certain hours. Some providers have family accounts where multiple players can be online at the same time. We prefer those as well,” he said.

Over 92 percent price hike for computers

According to official data from the Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜİK), the annual price increase for computers is 92 percent while handheld devices saw an increase of over 50 percent and gaming consoles over 30 percent.

“If my 7-year-old child would ask me to get him a basic PC for gaming it would cost me 4 to 5,000 liras (540 to 680 dollars), but if he were a teenager and asked for a computer that will enable him to play more competitive games, the price tag would be around 15,000 liras (more than 2,000 dollars). If we were looking for a true gaming machine the cost would be above 35,000 liras (4,750 dollars)” Gündüz noted.

Gamers quit due to high cost of gaming

“Many gamers I know quit because of the heavy cost. Even I retired from my favorite game, World of Warcraft which I played regularly for 8 years. Like me, many switched to free online games.”

“A new niche was born because of this. There are several platforms such as twitch where people watch gamers with up to date systems playing games that the average Turkish game enthusiast cannot afford. They are watching it like they are watching porn. Some of those streamers even have become celebrities.”

Regarding how the government has capitalized on online gaming he said, “Because the government does not have money, they saw the pandemic as an opportunity to heavily tax gamers. If people would start to use vinegar more than usual they would also increase the taxes on vinegar.”

Gaming has become a luxury in Turkey

“We are playing old games that easily run our systems and free online ones. There were times when I couldn’t afford a new graphic card and I put a ventilator next to my PC blowing fresh air into it to cool it down. Professional gaming is a luxury today in Turkey that only a few can afford.”

“I bought my notebook for 2300 liras (311 dollars) 2-3 years ago now the same one costs double,” Gündüz concluded.

Lower subscription fees

While Turks are among the top countries that pay the most for a gaming console and PC due to heavy taxation and dollarization, gaming companies and related services know this and offer lower subscription fees to their Turkish members.

There is a price for gaming

“During the pandemic, when people were forced to stay at home, there was an increase in Turkey in the sales of games and gaming consoles like everywhere else. People needed to have fun at home. Online games also allowed people to socialize under pandemic conditions,” video game journalist and academic Dr. Süngü from Bahçeşehir University told Duvar English.

“A moderate and acceptable gaming PC will cost you more than 12,000 liras (1,625 dollars) while a proper one will cost around 20,000 liras (2,705 dollars) today. The problem with increasing prices is also a result of dollarization and taxes.”

“New products and technologies are introduced every day by the gaming industry. Keeping up with such changes has a cost if you want to stay up to date,” Süngü pointed out.

Government saw an opportunity

“The government took it as an opportunity to increase taxes on items such as games and gaming consoles, which people were increasingly buying under pandemic conditions. They considered it a ‘luxury,’ which it was not,” Associate Professor of Financial Law Murat Batı told Duvar English. He warned that “the price of computers and handheld devices could further increase with some additional taxes” in the near future.