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The Debate of a Gamer: Buying a Game at Launch

Take a risk, or play it safe?

An article was very recently published on GrownGaming, discussing the potential for becoming a so-called ‘Patient Gamer’: making the conscious decision to retain your hard-earned money when a game is launched, and wait for any kinks or bugs to be ironed out. This strategy would see a gamer hold off, potentially for a month or two, while any anomalous hiccups are patched. Not only this, it also discussed the apparent plague in modern gaming, taking the form of hefty Day One patches and constant updates.

What I’d like to discuss is the stark opposite of this rhetoric: the reasons why missing out on a launch title in fear of poor performance is a weak concept.

Allow us to consider the notion of modern video gaming for a moment. In the last decade, gaming has become ever more mainstream, with around 2.5 billion people worldwide playing video games in some capacity. The technology has advanced both rapidly and exponentially, and the triple-A titles that are released in this age are nothing short of marvels. We have worlds that take incalculable hours to explore in full, stories with dozens of endings, thriving multiplayer ecosystems, and photorealistic graphics.

With that in mind, it’s hard to imagine why people think everything can run as smooth as glass.

Technology isn’t perfect. I cannot recall playing a game in the last six years that didn’t require some form of Day One patch. As time goes on, bugs are uncovered, glitches discovered, and errors arise. We’re at a point now where – unfortunately – this is considered part and parcel of being a gamer. There is, however, a minority that exists that believes pre-ordering is the devil. They believe these technological marvels should run as seamlessly as possible, that Day One patches should not exist and that gamers shouldn’t be purchasing long-awaited games at launch.

I ask you – is this really anything new?

Day One patches, potentially. Bugs, pre-ordering, updates or poor performance? Absolutely not. These are not newly introduced aspects of the gaming world. Do you recall being booted off Xbox Live because a game would need to run a spontaneous update? How about begging your parents to pre-order the newly-announced titles such as Call of Duty, Pokémon or FIFA?

I’ll put it bluntly: I would rather have a 20GB Day One update that fixes game-breaking bugs, than have no update… and game-breaking bugs. We’ve had the PS4 and Xbox One consoles for almost six years now, and the oversized updates or ‘patches’ are commonplace. You unbox the game, slip it in the drive, and wait for the inevitable update to start rolling. That’s it. It’s a fair argument that if video games go through rigorous testing and years of development, why should there be such a large update?

I believe the answer is simple: that’s just the way it is. It’s the paradoxical limitations of rapidly-advancing technology. Perhaps it’s like the idiom: “it has to get worse before it gets better.”

Have I experienced bugs or glitches on a newly-launched title? Yes, of course. Has this ever put me off playing these games as soon as they are released? No, of course not. There have been some titles notorious for their poor launch performances in recent history: Assassin’s Creed Unity, GTA Online, Mafia 3, Kingdom Come, Fallout 76, etc. I’ve played them all, and I’ve loved them all, bugs or no.

Here’s the concern: is it worth the potential spoilers, missing out on vital discussion, having to wait to experience the game in any capacity, and being left behind in multiplayer, just to avoid a possibly unpolished title? It’s apparent to me that you lose more by waiting than you do by buying a game at launch. Sure, you might miss out on a few bugs, but what else is there, apart from that? You might save a little money, but it’s likely to be single digits, depending on how long you wait. In the meantime, the true gamers that are willing to take the risk are potentially having the time of their lives, while the ‘patient gamers’ play the waiting game. There’s no enjoyment or sense of achievement in the waiting game.

That’s another fair point: are you any ‘less’ of a gamer for choosing to wait? Not necessarily. Some may say you’re playing it smart. However, how big of a fan can you really be, if you’re not willing to invest regardless of the potential risk? These days, so much is revealed ahead of time that you can gather a fair idea of what a game will be like at launch, and there are alternatives to parting ways with hard-earned money, such as rental services.

At the end of it all, what have you gained by waiting? There are titles that exhibit bugs and glitches years after launch that are still enjoyable. You’ll still have to sit through that Day One update, only now it will have compounded with several further updates. You’ll be leagues behind in multiplayer, while everyone else is a much higher level, with better gear. Arguably the most important aspect – if you’re a true gamer – is that you’ll be left out of discussions and debates regarding the game. This would be for risk of spoilers as much as it would you being clueless on the topic. In this age of fashion and trends, is it really worth being left in the dust while you wait?

Personally, I’ll keep picking up the titles at launch. I use a fantastic rental service that ensures I’m not paying top dollar for the games that I want to receive, and I’m not so sensitive that frame rate issues or texture glitches make a game unplayable for me. I understand that other people are more than entitled to their own opinion, but I just couldn’t ever picture myself waiting, when there’s no real benefit to the action.

Roll on Day One, I say.

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  1. I see your points and agree with them to some degree. There is a benefit to buying games day one, kinks and all but I also believe a “that’s the way it is” mentality is not beneficial to the consumption of video games. Day one patches are life savers for developers because it gives them the extra time to work and refine the game while disk production and shipment take place. But when paying top dollar for a game it is our right to want the best possible product. If we stand by and take what we are given it’s only a matter of time before we get taken advantage of. When left unchecked publishers have no problem releasing a game unfinished and broken (Tony Hawk Pro Skater 5 anyone?)

    The Star Wars battlefront 2 argument is a great example of this. We stood idle as micro transaction and pay to win slowly bled into our games and what happened? EA took full advantage of us and implemented the most disgusting micro transaction implementation ever. But what happened next? Gamers everywhere spoke up and fought back and put the big gaming publishers back in check.

    We have more power than you may think definitely more than they want you to think. If we want things to change staying silent won’t help because devs and publishers (mostly publishers) will not change on there own.

    I understand not wanting to stir the pot. And I also understand the love for developers who create what we love but that also doesn’t mean we have to be ok with everything just because.

  2. Day one patches are a gift and a curse. On the one hand, they mean that our games can be fixed for us to play them (versus being broken forever). On the other hand, it seems like developers are actually counting them into development time – the game they’re ‘shipping’ is expected to have issues that they can scramble to fix in the week before release. The reliance on fixing things after the fact means that it can take months – sometimes years – for games to actually reach the state they should have been in when they were released. That’s wrong.

    TL; DR – I’m glad that games can be fixed by patches, I just wish that less developers relied on patching and that more them released ‘finished’ games. A pipe-dream, I know…

    Onto the true subject – to be or not to be a patient gamer? – I’m personally torn. I’m a patient gamer because my backlog is so ridiculous that it doesn’t make sense for me to drop money on a new game that I don’t have the time to play. On the other hand, if I’d completed every game in my backlog, I’d love to pick up some new games on Day One, in part to be involved in the conversations on social media, and in part because I always get a feeling of FOMO when something is released.

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