Don’t buy a console on launch day. Don’t buy a game on launch day. Don’t wait in line like these fools. It’s not worth it and I’ll tell you why.
New computer hardware is inevitably overpriced, underpowered, and often riddled with errors. If the new electronics are successful financially, the company that produces them will release an updated model with more features, better reliability, and a lower price.
The early models of the Xbox 360 suffered from a horrifically bad failure rate as well as other issues. Early buyers were stuck with perpetually breaking game consoles that had to be sent back to Microsoft for repairs, often multiple times. Microsoft increased the warranty length to three years, but the damage was done; the Xbox 360 was synonymous with the Red Ring of Death.
But the newer (Post-2010) models don’t have any of that. The soldering and fans are superior to the earlier models. You can buy one without its insides shattering on you. Now, what benefit was there to buying the launch day models with their laughable hardware failures? You got to play new games, but you spent more money for inferior product.
A more extreme example would be Nintendo’s failed Virtual Boy machine, which was $180 when first released. I bought one for $30 a few months later after word of mouth had (Deservedly, I might add) completely destroyed its chances in the marketplace. I waited and was rewarded for my caution. The downside was that I still had a Virtual Boy.
And consoles aren’t the only gaming item affected by this trend. The newest entry in the inevitably mediocre Call of Duty series sold over 6.5 million units (Many of them pre-orders from franchise loyalists) immediately after release. This beat the previous record, held by 2010’s Call of Duty: Black Ops, which in turn superseded 2009’s record, held by Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Each one of those first-day purchases were for $60.00 plus tax, and even more for special editions with no meaningful additions and yet even more for extra downloadable content (More maps to play on and such). And what do they cost today?
If you’re the type of consumer who absolutely must have the latest frivolous electronic gizmos, feel free to ignore this article. Yet time has repeatedly shown that early adopters in the world of gaming rarely see any benefits other than being one of the first to play the “hottest” new thing. If playing a game immediately is that important to you, then go ahead. Your unquestioning purchases are helping fuel the industry I love and I am grateful for that. I just wish your money went towards wiser purchases.
When it comes to video games, I almost always buy used unless I’m trying to support small developers. The creators of Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception will not miss your $60 ($30 if you waited until now, four months after it was first released) amongst the giant piles of cash they are swimming in within their Uncle Scrooge-style money vault.
I do, however, go out of my way to help struggling independent game makers like Asymmetric Productions, ZUN, anything available on the Humble Bundle, and most of the stuff featured on The AV Club’s Sawbuck Gamer. As with the music industry, I feel more obligated to throw some crumbs to the starving orphans rather than to the towering giant that already has devoured a flock of sheep.
This isn’t to say, however, that the popular is always bad. My favorite game is probably Super Mario Bros. 3. It is not wrong to buy things made by rich companies as long as those products are still useful. But that’s a topic for another time.