Xbox

Don't Buy New Video Game Hardware. Not Now.

With fantastic games on offer across just about every platform, with libraries that grow more accomplished with each passing day, you might think it’s always a good time to buy new video game hardware, should you still be without one of the major systems. Mostly, you would be correct. But not this month.

There’s one time of the year where you’d be a sucker for spending cash on a video game system, and that time is upon us.

Beginning on June 11 is the 2013 Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3. It’s the biggest industry event of the year for the video game business, the place where all the big guns get up on stage and talk about their plans for the holiday season, unveil new games and make headlines with important announcements.

It’s an even bigger event than usual this year, because both Sony and Microsoft have new consoles out this holiday season, the first true “next generation” systems since the Xbox 360 and PS3 were released all the way back in 2005-06. The stakes are high, and the announcements will come thick and fast.

So how does this affect you, potential video game console purchaser? In a number of ways.

Price Cuts Are Coming

With the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 only a few months away, the current generation of home consoles is about to become outdated tech. Unlike other industries, though, video games aren’t so quick to cast out old models; with huge install bases and developers having experience working with the systems, there’ll be games coming for the Xbox 360 and PS3 for years to come.

Not to mention the fact that, while hardcore gamers will be lining up at launch for new systems, they’re likely to be priced far too high for massmarket adoption.

What you can expect to come at E3, then, are probable price cuts to these old systems to help them stay competitive, lure in more customers (especially mainstream consumers) previously put off by higher prices. Even Nintendo, which only launched its latest console last year, seems to already be in on the action. Call it a fire sale, call it savvy business, it’s highly unlikely either the PS3 or 360 will escape E3 without a price cut.

So wait for those to kick in.

As for handhelds, it’s a similar story. Sony’s faltering Vita must surely in line for a price cut to revive its flagging fortunes, and there’s no better place for that to be announced than at E3. Hopefully alongside word of new games for the system.

We Might Get New Models

Sony pioneered the idea of cheaper, smaller models of old hardware with the PSOne, and did it again with the slimmer PSTwo, iterations which extended the lives of both consoles considerably even when they’d been “replaced” with newer machines. Nintendo have likewise dabbled with the idea recently with the Wii Mini.

There’s every chance that at some stage during E3 we get to see smaller, cheaper versions of existing machines, at least from Microsoft. Since Sony only just redesigned the PS3 last year, they might not, but who knows, with the Xbox One not backwards compatible and the Xbox 360 a capable media player, rumours of Microsoft releasing a cheap, download-only Xbox 360 console/media device aren’t the craziest we’ve heard this year.

If new models are announced, you’re going to want to get one over the consoles currently available. They’re usually smaller, cheaper and use more modern components.

THE UNKNOWN

In terms of everything from backwards compatibility to upcoming releases to the specifics of DRM, there’s still a lot of stuff we don’t know about the video game landscape, for both new systems and old. So it makes sense to wait until after E3, see how things are shaping up.

Sure, you might be excited for a PS4 or Xbox One now, enough to place a preorder right now, but if the games shown for those systems underwhelm or appear to be simply upscaled ports of current-gen games, will you bother? Also, remember, there will probably be new games announced for the Xbox 360 and PS3 at E3, maybe even important ones, which could lessen the need to upgrade. Or cause you to buy one of those systems. Which you shouldn’t. Not until after E3.

Please Wait

In short, then, be patient. Wait it out. The video game console marketplace is about to get its biggest shake-up in over six years. Rushing in to buy a system now would be throwing your money away. Best to wait a month or two, see how the dust settles, see which consoles are cheaper, which have earned your investment and which look destined for a swift and painful death.

Then buy something. And, if you do, you might want to check these out.

Note: I’ve exempted the 3DS from this article, because really, in 2013, it looks like any time is a good time to buy a 3DS. Ditto for the PC, because purchasing decisions for that platform are normally tied to new generations of CPU and graphics hardware (which is a whole different story) than specific announcements at E3.