Opinion: Buying a game at launch has become pointless, mostly

Just a generation ago there was a lot of excitement around the purchase of a game at launch. You too could avoid the FOMO and enjoy the latest and greatest games with your buddies. Whether it was a single-player experience to share with friends or online multiplayer – launch really mattered. Move on a decade or so and the launch day of a game is nowhere near as important as it’s been in the past, though publishers would love you to think otherwise.

I’m sure right now some of our local distributors or a publisher might be reading it and cringing. After all, their task is to sell games at launch. The first week is the most important part for a game to succeed or be considered a failure, though someone should give GTA V that memo. A lot has changed over the last five years in this generation. The uptake in digital purchases have thrown the previous business model on its head. With that comes sales and new services, such as Xbox Game Pass. Instead of waiting for retailers to drop the price of a physical game, you merely need to wait for the publisher to drop the cost on a game you’ve been waiting for in the digital store and click a button to download it instantly. It’s never been easier. So, why buy anything at launch?

Have a look at any of the big games that launched in the last six months. Resident Evil 2 has already reached the R550 mark – it launched in January at R899. Far Cry New Dawn will now set you back to just over R350. Devil May Cry V has dropped from R899 to R550 and Metro Exodus has been added to Xbox Game Pass altogether. If you’re willing to wait just two to three months you’ll either receive the games at no additional cost on Xbox Game Pass or it’ll go on sale. I’m not just talking digital sales either. Look at our sales post today and you’ll see that the physical copies of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey are going for R450 on the Xbox One and that Metro Exodus is retailing for R580. On the Epic Store they are literally giving top quality games away every week. Never mind buying games at launch, on PC you don’t have to spend a cent if you don’t want to. 

In the last generation most games, digital or physical copies, took close to a year to drop in price. This meant that buying it at launch made way more sense. You wouldn’t want to miss out on some online multiplayer with your friends as after 12 months they would move on to the next annual update of *insert shooter or sports title*. The only exception is Nintendo games. These take forever to drop in price and if they do it’s not going to set the world of fire with exciting discounts. The old school model still applies here, for now.

If you’re buying physical games there is one particular reason to consider the game at launch– quantities are limited. Buying something like the Yakuza series is a good idea. It might drop in price at some point, but once the stock has sold out it won’t be replaced and you won’t see it on our retail shelves ever again. The digital space kills that altogether. There is as much stock available as long as your credit card has money in it.

Unless you’re a mega fan of a game and can’t wait past midnight to play the game, the reasons to invest in a new title at launch is diminishing and it’s no one’s fault but the publishers themselves. If they mark the games down as they do then the gamers are going to fall in place and not break their piggy bank. For example, there is no two ways in hell I’ll miss out on the launch date of Final Fantasy VII Remake – I live for that game. I do, however, love the Dying Light series too… but I’ll probably wait several months for the game price to be slashed in half for the sequel next year. Buying a Collector’s Edition at launch might be a consideration, but you often see those dropping in price too. Unless quantities are limited there is no reason to spend your cash right away. 

Want to hear something out there? If you’re willing to be patient then games are cheaper today than it’s ever been in the history of this industry. You’ve never had so many options at your fingertips for the price you’re getting it at. The launch day of a game has become real pointless.

How do you feel about buying games at launch these days? Do you think it’s still worth it?

Married to a gamer and she kicks my ass at most shooters. If the game is enjoyable I'll play it, no matter the format.

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