5 Reasons You Should Never Buy a Video Game at Launch

November is a huge month for the video game market. There have been ton of big title releases over the last few weeks, and video gamers everywhere are both rejoicing and lamenting. Rejoicing as fantastic Triple A titles are released, and lamenting because their wallets are empty. Good news for the financially struggling gamer, however, as there is hardly any good reason to buy a video game at launch anymore. Sure, you get access to all the new content ahead of everyone else, and sure, there’s plenty of inside jokes you may miss out on. However, buying a video game at launch is nothing but trouble these days, and here’s why.

The Game Is Broken

It’s become normal for a game to launch with bugs. I mean, it’s understandable that with a huge, global launch in a gigantic game, there’s bound to be bugs here and there. Differing PC hardware isn’t recognized properly, and perhaps a few side-quests or graphics are a bit off. These things are to be expected. What’s not expected is that the game is completely broken. Multiple video games were launched on without the necessary hardware testing ahead of time, meaning that if you happened to be trying to play the game with the wrong hardware, you’re just going to have to wait until they patch the game to actually play it.

The Game is Expensive

Unlike some commodities, you can always count on the price of a video game to go down. Sure, some of the big name titles will stay at its launch price for a year or two. Other, incredible rare games, like old NES games that are no longer in production, will actually go up in value. With the advent of PC games being launched almost entirely digitally, though, you never have to worry about the retailers running out of copies or the game going out of print. As technology and games move along, the price of older games will invariably drop, letting you get the same content for less – just a little bit later. Some games drop in price within weeks, like the fabled game Duke Nukem Forever, which dropped 1/3 in price in 3 months, and to half price in 4.

The Content is Missing

DLC is a hot topic in the gaming market today. Now publishers don’t release the full game just once. They release the main game, and then they offer downloadable content to add pieces bit by bit over the game’s lifespan. This extends the life of the game, as well as increases the bank account of the publisher. By waiting until after launch, you can usually purchase a version of the game that comes with the DLC included for a far more reasonable price. To further add to the issue, there is always user generated content that is missing at the launch of the game. I purchased Little Big Plant near its launch day, for example, but I quickly beat the game and grew bored. 2 years later, I picked it up and played it again for hours upon hours using solely user generated maps and content – something that was obviously absent at launch. If I had waited a few months, I wouldn’t have had such a poor first impression of the game, and I would have gotten it for cheaper too!

The Content is Disappointing

Big game publishers have gigantic marketing budgets. It’s their job to pump you up about the game, get your mouth salivating over what you expect the game will be like. You wait in anticipation, you check the net daily for updates,  you stare at each detail of preview footage. When the game comes out you camp outside Best Buy waiting to get it, excitedly bring it home, but when you play the game, you get a little sad. The next day, you’re even sadder, as the emotion and the feeling that you were expecting to be there just isn’t, and you’re not sure why. The game might be good, sure, but it’s not great, and that’s what you had been lead to believe would be true. A famous example, Dead Island, released a fantastic emotional trailer – that completely mislead gamers as to how the game would actually be. As a result, thousands of people were dissappointed with Dead Island, as the content let them down. Waiting for the game to come out lets you find out how the game is actually going to be played and presented, and lets you save money only purchasing the games you know you’re going to like.

The Service is Down

With so many games being tied to an online service, it’s only a matter of time before a game launches and while the game is fine, the online service prevents the game from being played. Oh wait, it’s already happened – numerous times. Assassin’s Creed 2 was tied to an online authentication server that had a hard time staying online – meaning that you can’t play your game until they figure out how to get their servers up and running consistently. Battlefield 3 was launched with their online service – Origin, which has had plenty of problems running on people’s systems, not to mention charging people multiple times for the same game. Even Steam, back when it was launched with HL2, was completely broken upon launch. Games that launch with a new online service are almost always going to have issues upon launch, and are just one more reason to never purchase a game at launch.

Do you buy video games at launch? Why or why not?

Written by Alan Schram

Alan Schram writes about personal finance and his encounters with it in his everyday life. Alan is recently married and is looking to save money on expenses and reduce his debts.

11 Responses to 5 Reasons You Should Never Buy a Video Game at Launch

  1. Paul Salmon says:

    I don’t usually buy many games, so I don’t worry about buying them at launch. With that being said, I did buy one game recently when it was first launched. Depending on the game I really don’t mind the issues that can come up, as long as I enjoy the game. If I can enjoy the game, then I feel the purchase was justified. Then again, I also had a $30 gift card to help with the purchase.

  2. Peter says:

    I just bought the most recent Call of Duty game at launch. I hardly ever buy video games anymore, so while the launch price is more, I don’t worry about it too much. I still try to find a good deal though – sometimes you can find special deals when you pre-order the game. For example, at Amazon.com they had a $20 credit when you pre-ordered the game. So far – beyond the price – I haven’t had any real issues with the game.

  3. Ryan says:

    Only when it is Pokémon. :)

  4. Anguille says:

    Good article,

    I buy games from companies i trust, that make a lot of testing and know they support their products (Matrix Games for instance). I just bought Unity of Command…good and stable.

    I do not buy any game tied to an online service…that’s just a no-go for me.

  5. The DLC is what punishes launch day purchases. Take the games “LA Noire” and “Fallout 3″ for example. If you purchase it at launch AND intend to collect the DLC afterwards, the game’s total cost of ownership will be somewhere around 100$ (even with newer games offering these “Subscriptions” to future DLC). Both of these games were re-released months after launch as either “Game of the Year” or “Complete Collection” editions with ALL the DLC in it, at the 50-60$ price point.

  6. Alejandro says:

    Alan,

    Great article. My only counter-argument to that would be that not purchasing a game at the beginning can sometimes mean missing out on collector’s or limited editions of games. I know not all of us care about that, but with fantastic games like Mass Effect, Mass Effect 2 and with a collector’s edition on the way for Mass Effect 3 it’s almost compelling to get the game at launch.

    However, I must say that Mass Effect & Mass Effect 2 did not have any problems at launch so I suppose the situation varies from game to game. I waited on Battlefield 3 and now I can purchase the game on Black Friday for $34.99 the same goes for Call of Duty: MW3 … even Arkham City is drastically discounted.

    If gamers could simply hold off on purchases and let the reviews come in we could save anywhere from $10-$20 a game. Also, you hit then nail RIGHT on the HEAD with Dead Island. I was fooled and moved by the emotional trailer that we all saw online and I thought to myself, “This is going to be a great game. *click reserve*” … received it on launch day. Only to realize that the trailer really had nothing to do with the game. A definite let down and a $59.99 lesson that I learned the hard way.

    Great article.

  7. Ramuel says:

    Good article, but if there wasn´t for first buyers, or if hipotetically we all took your advice, there was no way that the second hand market was so good, I apply most of your common sense by the way.

    I think the only real solution could be that the games were cheaper, they are friggin dvd or blu rays or downloadable, its way to much to chargue even 20 bucks for a piece of plastic or sofware, remeber when the old games were a real piece of hardware and the games were 60 dlls maximum, so why now they chargue that much if the production has improved drastically, just my opinion.

  8. Joshua says:

    5 years ago this would have been only valid for PC games. Now that DLC has become rampant on most consoles, the plagues of post-release patches and DLC held back from consumers is almost everywhere.

    I say ‘almost’ because Nintendo has been pretty consistent about not allowing these types of tactics on the Wii. Say what you will about their console’s lack of graphical prowess and the mediocre online capabilities. But because they have erred on the side of little-to-no DLC, their games are generally well prepared for release and they don’t try and squeeze every last penny out of you afterwards in order to increase their profit margins down the road.

  9. AJ says:

    1) Not if you don’t buy from publishers who don’t jerk you around. E.g. Valve. Don’t support publishers who are underhanded jerks, and they go out of business. Capitalism. That’s how it works. You vote with your dollars. Don’t vote for people again who have screwed you in the past. Simple.
    2) I can give you this, some times, not all the time. Oh and Duke Nukem dropped like that because it was a crap game. Games are basically priced in reverse to the demand model. More demand = higher price, low demand = lower price. Hence Super Mario Galaxy was still $50 when Galaxy 2 was out, and remained that way for another full year. People still wanted that game. because it was GOOD.
    3-5) see point #1, and additionally on point 5 I can see this model going very, VERY quickly. Because people aren’t going to buy the games that require online connection. Yes, there’s steam. Except *clicks offline mode*… huh… all my games STILL WORK.

  10. Torrent ;) says:

    I never buy games,therefore i look for torrent and download them within few hours or so.

  11. Donovan Charles says:

    Very useful article. More recently than not, I’ve been disappointed in the quality of a newly released game.

    I’ve made the mistake a few times now in becoming an early adopter of games. The result is far too much time spent on gaming forums trying to find a workaround until the game is properly patched.
    Also, it can take a fair amount of time until a game is well supported by the graphics card manufacturers. The result is a stuttering mess or graphic anomalies that just don’t create a satisfying experience.

    Here’s an example: I bought Lord of the Rings: War in the North on release day Nov.1/2011, for PC. It didn’t take long for the War in the North forums to fill up with comments upon broken quests or completely unplayable characters. Problems were rampant on all systems: Xbox,Playstation and PC. In addition, up until about 3+ weeks ago, ATI did not put out a driver for War in the North, resulting in any ATI graphic card user experiencing a stuttering unplayable mess. By this time, I had given up on the game, noted those directly involved with developing the game and have decided never to purchase another product released by these individuals. They had of course changed their studio name, but noting whom was responsible will allow me to do my research before purchasing my next game.

    Lesson learned: don’t purchase newly released games. The aggravation is not worth it. I really don’t care what excuses or explanations the developer tries to explain to the community. It doesn’t help.
    There are exceptions of course, but more often than not, a new game will have minor to major flaws.

    Makes we want to give up games entirely and just read a good book instead.

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