Gamers: Think You’re Paying Too Much? Meet Latin American Inflation
Welcome to another edition of the now-weekly Hispanics in Games. After touching on dictator-built bootleg gaming empires and hand-made, city-wide LAN parties, today we’ll talk about money. The gaming market is going bananas with price inflation due to the scarcity of parts. People in North America and Europe are having to pay way above MSRP for the latest and greatest from Sony, Microsoft, NVidia, AMD and Intel. But paying MSRP is rarely an option for people who live in countries where inflation is the order of the day. Don’t believe me? Here are some examples of Latin American inflation at work.
VENEZUELAN GAMERS HAVE IT WORST
Inflation on imported goods is nuts in Venezuela. For the past couple of decades, a series of governments have put the country under constant financial strain. The price of the US Dollar skyrocketed. And you can see this directly reflected in the price of gaming gear.
For PC gamers wanting to upgrade their boot drive to a 240GB SATA SSD, they are looking at around 114 million Venezuelan Bolivares. Yep, you read that number right. The eye-watering amount comes to US$75, which while lower than 100 million, is still 3 times what North American PC enthusiasts will need to shell out for a comparable drive.
People who want to get in on the latest Sony offering can look to pay over 1.6 billion Bolívares (over US$ 1.000) for the privilege. Though of course, PS5 scalping is also a sad reality everywhere else in the world, you don’t need Latin American inflation to get shafted on eBay.
However, one must take inflation into consideration. For example, the average minimum wage in Venezuela (part of which is subsidized by the government) comes to a generous 2.4 million Bolívares. Or just over US$1 (one US Dollar). Ouch. If you wanted to buy an SSD based purely off of a Venezuela-earned minimum wage, you’d need to work for over 6 years to save up for it. Without spending on food or shelter.
ARGENTINIANS ARE STRUGGLING, TOO
This one hits close to home, in large part because Argentina is literally close to my home. I live about 50KM from the Argentinian border, in gorgeous South East Paraguay. But also, my mom is Argentinian. Half of my family is Argentinian. So, I know more than I’d like about the Argentinian struggle against inflation. When I was a kid, the Argentinian peso was worth the same as a US Dollar. Right now, US$1 (one US Dollar) is worth 86 Pesos. The guaranteed minimum wage is much better than in Venezuela, though: a whole 16,000 pesos, which comes to US$ 186. A month.
So, then you start looking at console prices. Unlike Venezuela, there is a bit more free commerce in Argentina. Do you want to buy dollars, though? You’ll need to explain to the government why, and where you got the moolah. So, when you try to buy a Playstation 4 Slim at the non-trivial price of 58,000 Argentine pesos, the resulting US$673 bill will require you to save your minimum wage for 4 months. No eating, no shelter.
IS LATIN AMERICAN INFLATION WIDESPREAD?
Well, yes and no. It’s certainly not something that only Venezuelan gamers need to contend with. Gaming fans in most of South America fight a losing battle against the dollar. But it’s not as bad as that everywhere. Cubans, of course, have another reality they have to exist within. But most of the Caribbean is in dire straits when it comes to their currency vs. the dollar.
How do people cope, then? Well, a lot of it comes down to remote work. People either working with international companies or getting money sent to them from family members working in places where the currency is strong. Grey-market goods also come in handy. As we saw with Cuba’s SNET, people who want to get together and play World of Warcraft will find a way, come hell or high water.
So, next time you think you’re getting a raw deal by low GTX 3090 availability, just remember: it’d take a Venezuelan laborer earning minimum wage 150 years to save up for one.