There really is little point buying a game at launch when you think about it.
For a start, you’ll be paying a premium for the privilege of owning a game on day one – up to £60 if you’re paying the RRP for a new Xbox One or PS4 game (although realistically it will probably be more like £50 or less if you shop around). And what are you getting for that money? Well, probably something that’s a bit broken. Patching a game after it’s been launched is now the norm, so the version you play at launch might be radically different – and probably worse – than the version you’d play if you waited a couple of months. The broken – and now partially fixed – loot system in Destiny is a case in point. And speaking of Destiny, I’ve no doubt that the game will be utterly transformed over the next few months as more patches and game modes are added, and it will be all the better for it. Plus in six months’ time it will be at least half the price, and probably cheap as chips secondhand.
So why on Earth would you buy a game at launch? Logically, it makes no sense. But logic has no place in the gaming bubble.
And in fact, the premium you’re paying for that day one game is to be part of that gaming bubble – the bubble of hype and fanfare that heralds the launch of a shiny new gaming experience. Of course, this is mostly down to the marketing – the steady drip feed of information on a new game that sets hearts and minds racing on the road the launch day, whipping potential purchasers into a frenzy of excitement, ready to hand over their credit card details to gain access to the Next Big Thing in gaming. So if you pay full price for a game at launch you’re being duped by advertising, right?
Well, perhaps not. You could argue that you’re falling into the advertisers’ and publishers’ grubby hands by succumbing to the hype, but you could also argue that all the promotion and advertisng actually makes the game experience better. Picking up a few cheap, old, secondhand games is nowhere near as exciting as getting a shiny new game that almost no-one else in the world has played, and that excitement carries over into the playing experience itself. I came sorely close to buying the just-launched Alien: Isolation today, but in the end my logical mind won out and told me to wait until it comes down in price. Yet I also know that if I’d bought and played it today, I would enjoy it more than if I bought it a year from now. That’s simply because of the added excitement of being part of the bubble – and that includes all of the excited blog posts, tweets and Twitch videos being created about the game as other people play it for the first time along with you. Playing a game at launch is paying a premium to be part of a shared experience, an exclusive club that consists of you and everyone else who’s paid to be in the bubble.
There’s even more of a case to be made for massively multiplayer online games like Destiny. Yes, it was a bit broken at launch, but the multiplayer aspect means that the feeling of a shared experience was even more prominent. The people playing at launch enjoyed the thrill of discovering a new world together, but anyone joining the game a year from now will be met with probably a much-diminished and somewhat disinterested group of veteran players.
A year from now, Destiny will be a better game. But for anyone joining in for the first time, long after the bubble has burst, it will arguably be much less enjoyable.