Why You Should Never Buy A Console At Launch

I've decided that I don't want to buy new consoles at launch anymore for a variety of reasons. Many of them are highlighted in this wonderful School House Rock style video. How about you?

Game Launch Rock! [[email protected]]

To contact the author of this post, write to bashcraftATkotaku.com or find him on Twitter @Brian_Ashcraft.


    The business world these days needs to see a quick return on investment in order to validate continued investment in those fields. This applies to more industries than gaming.

    By encouraging people to wait a year or two to buy into a product (especially under the perception half-pricing will occur on consoles that are *already* sold as loss leaders), not only will it doom that console, it will scupper any chance of third parties providing large, ongoing support for that console as they, too, need to see return on investment in order to keep employing and paying their staff, as well as pushing their developments forward and diversifying.

    In truth, if many people were to follow the advice of this gaming blogger, the industry would start a downward spiral of non hardware revisions (ie: sequential "gen" hardware) and only greenlight the development of "safe" games that return profit on an every shrinking install base.

    A large base and good return on profit from these "safe" games actually gives headroom for non-standard, innovative games and gameplay options to be developed, as companies do not need to survive "hand to mouth" on the same generic, mass-appeal genres.

    In short: extremely damage the gaming ecosystem for everyone.

    Case in point: see the WiiU, and Vita.

      The WiiU and Vita damned themselves by being dogshit, it wasn't the fault of consumers.

        Do you own either one? If you did you'd realise they're both good systems that are lacking software.

          The WiiU just isn't my kettle of fish.

          The Vita's hardware is great as long as you're near a power source, which ruins the usefulness as a portable gaming system.

            I own a vita and I have to say the battery life is excellent, much better than either 3ds model I have owned.

              How much actual game time do you get?

                The longest session I've had is playing Uncharted: Golden Abyss non-stop on a 4-hour flight (plus about 15-30 minutes in the departure lounge). I had the wireless off, of course, but even so, there was still life in the battery by the time I arrived.

        Your right that it isn't the fault of the consumers but those consoles are hardly dogshit.

          The WiiU is a gimmick and has no content.

          The Vita is a portable system that gets horrible battery life, thereby making it barely portable. Echos of my Game Gear.

            Your the first person I have heard complain about Vita's battery life. Curious, do you own a 3DS?

            As for WiiU, I don't own one but plan to in the future but I could list a few things right now that make up this 'content' it seems to be lacking. Games both ones out now and upcoming titles, a virtual store, a tablet-esque control pad that also serves as a tv for certain games, backwards compatability with the previous console. Just a few things...

              No, the last portable console I bought was the PSP.

              I really want a Vita but the lack of good games and the fact that it gets at best 3-4 hours of game time before needing a charge kills it for me. When I want to play on a portable console it's because I'm stuck somewhere I can't do anything else, and that's insufficient. A swappable battery would have helped (I have 3 for my PSP), but… sigh.

                It gets minimum 6 hrs, which I still think is a bit short.

        The VIta is a brilliant piece of hardware, try using it sometime

          I really liked it when I tried it, but the battery life is a joke and ruins it.

            It's interesting you say that.

            I regularly get days and days without recharging.

            How are you using it to gobble so much bat?

              If you sit down and start playing a game, how long will you get until the battery dies? I killed it in about 4 hours.

                Four hours? Wow, that was an extensive "tried it" session!

                  It didn't play as long as I need on a single charge, and you can't swap the battery. Why would I bother continuing?

          It is, but handhelds are such a pointless industry.. I always think the same way like, oh some games to play on the train would be good.. .. Then I end up getting on the train and not playing them anyway because i'm busy talking to someone or thinking about something (etc etc)..

          To me, realistically, I just don't see serious games like there are for the Vita especially, having a really valid place in anyone's life except the most hardcore of devotee gamers.

          Besides that, phone hardware is so rapidly approaching their capabilities that realistically it doesn't NEED to be a dedicated device, but obviously it does have one major advantage for Sony/Nintendo - more money because it creates a whole economy rather than a single entry into a larger market. Once people buy a device, they're forced into that ecosystem, where as with a phone - you could have games from Sony AND Nintendo on you. (though other advantages are obviously inherent too - like giving developers exact system specs to work with).

            I agree that the introduction of smartphones and tablets has made handheld gaming devices a very niche market.
            But I still think they offer a better "gaming" experience then those other things.
            Especially for newer games. Although KOTOR on the ipad is all sorts of awesome.
            And for me personally handheld gaming device makes sense. I am on a train for nearly 3 hours a day and don't get much of a chance to game at any other time.
            But it is a catch 22 situation with developers not buying in until there is a user base and consumers not buying in until there are more games.

        I, too, disagree here mate.

        The Vita is a good bit of kit. It's failed because Sony jacked up the price on memory cards.

        If the cards were cheap or generic, it would have sold like hotcakes, and had a lot more titles built for it.

        I think the poor marketing of both would be more of a factor to poor sales than how good they are. I didn't even know the Wii U had come out until just now, and I still know very little about the Vita.

      If you identified that the console launch push is a quick return on investment but also say at the same time its sold as a loss-leader isn't it contradictory to not sell more games with it to harness the loss-leader business model.

      Sounds counter-intuitive.

      Not saying that I disagree, just sounds off.

        Yup, that's a fair point. It's more like this:

        WiiU's are sold at a loss, with the intention that if everyone who picks one up buys two games, the game profits at scale exceed the loss-lead and make a net profit. The issues are: scale, having enough good games that people but a lot of them, and having the right games that a large base buy the console initially.

        ROI with consoles isn't so much monetary profit, it's quick capture of significant market share that would then promote further profits. AKA: If the WiiU had been able to net 10M users or x% of market, then publishers think "This is big enough to publish games on and incur the cost for development". Then the profits roll in from there - if two games made break-even, for example, and then five, six, seven must-have big publisher games come along in the next 12-18 months, the console is a success.

        So my original point was that if everyone waits a year or two to buy (or enough of that x% wait), then publishers don't bother getting dev kits, or developing future games, as their own profits are at risk if they do.

        Another case in point here: ZombieU went so badly, Ubi held back Rayman to make it multi-plat because they could see they would not make a profit launching it on WiiU exclusively, or first.

      Keep drinkin' the Kapitalism Kool Aid!

        We're talking about market-based systems and big dollar investments from companies that have shareholders (public and private) that demand dividends. Of course this is capitalism.

        I'd point out the irony of stating "Kapitalism *kool aid*", but....

      well boo hoo, thats their problem

      as a consumer I shouldnt be shamed for making the best choice for ME

      Last edited 09/08/13 4:10 pm

        Of course not. It's not about you doing what you're going to do - it's about a trend in games journalism/blogging telling gamers "don't buy stuff in the gaming ecosystem, guys!".

      If you view it as a game theory problem (i.e. only looking out for yourself) the video is strictly correct.

      If the console succeeds, you're better off waiting, because the console will be cheaper, you'll have a better idea of which games to avoid, and there will be more games available.

      If the console fails, you're better off waiting, because you won't have purchased a shiny black doorstop.

      Of course if everybody does this, the console will fail, and the "best" payoff won't happen. It's essentially the Prisoner's Dilemma writ large.

      However, as the market power of any single individual is insufficient to determine the success of the console, the social utility for any single person of buying at launch is pretty minimal. As such, even if you want to be "socially aware" in terms of doing the "right" thing in boosting the success of a new console, there's not a lot of reason to do so.

        Prisoner's Dilemma, indeed.

        The video makes the assumption that if a large enough section of the people who were going to buy the consoles hold out long enough, prices will drop - which they may (but likely won't, as further discounts erode already non-existent profits). But then there'll be no games for those systems.

      Was about to post this very same point, the more people that buy it, the more games they'll make for it.

      I bought an N64, Dreamcast and GameCube at launch...

      The Game Boy speaks the truth.

    I might buy a PS4, but if I do, it won't be until The Division comes out.

    If The Division comes out for PC, I have zero reason to buy a PS4, which would save me a lot of money and I Would be happy.

      That game was the most interesting thing to come out of E3 in my opinion - can't wait for it!

      Keeping an eye on this one too - though I think I'm going to be grabbing mine on XBOne.

    I always feel that you should wait at least a year into the new cycle. What are you losing? Nothing. The games will still be there. You're saving money, you're better able to pick the console that most suits you and you can spend the intervening time playing whichever console you didn't choose in the previous generation for dirt cheap. Win win win.

      So what's keeping the console manufacturers from abandoning it as a dead end when no one buys it in the first year?

        Nothing. But who cares?

        Last edited 09/08/13 5:09 pm

          You should, because then you'd have nothing to play. Your whole idea is relying on everyone else to do it all for you.

            I understand your perspective but there will always be games to play, and I'm not going to lose any sleep over a multinational corporation losing millions of dollars. The race for new tech is not an essential one, in fact there's an argument to be made that it's detrimental to the longevity of gaming as an artform - which is why I would be perfectly happy spending a year or two getting a PS3 and playing all the great games that I missed out on as a 360 owner. It's what I did for the last 2 generations and they seemed to get on fine without me. But each to their own.

            Last edited 09/08/13 5:24 pm

              Yeah. Screw economies. There will always be games to buy, even when its unprofitable to do so.

              An example would be - you speak to someone you've done some kind of large scale business with in the past and suggest to them a product you had in mind... Given you seem like a bit of a self centred ass, we will say this is a statue of yourself made of solid gold. It costs you 10 million dollars to make and a year of your time..

              Once complete, you go to that guy and say "hey! your statue is ready!" to which he replies, "oh, maybe i'll buy that in a year, or when it's only 5 million dollars".. Over 6 months, you tear the statue down, but find you can only sell each piece for 2/3rds what you intended, or indeed what it cost you, meaning you barely break even, or you perhaps make a few dollars "profit" over the materials cost.. Perhaps enough to retroactively pay yourself a salary for that year. How grand.

              Would you continue making statues (AAA games, aka Crysis), or would you perhaps make figurines (casual game instead that have a lower risk associated, aka, Candy Crush)?

                I'm a man who likes analogies, but that one didn't quite work.

            Except on the PC. Master race! Bring about the death of the consoles everyone, so publishers will start moving back to PC as primary platform, saving us all from SHITTY PORTS. :)

    I don't make a specific point to buy consoles at launch, but if there's a game I really want to play I will. Case-in-point: Damned if I was gonna miss out on Mario U, so I got a WiiU on day one.

    I'm not sorry I did. Sure, the lack of games is appalling, but meh, I've just played other things while I wait for the software to pick up. And hey, the Virtual Console releases have been pretty good!

    But I still love my fat launch-PS3 that plays PS2 games

    I'm actually considering getting a 360. Markets going to be flooded with cheap 2nd hand games shortly... now seems like a good time to play the stuff that never made it to PC.

      They allready are, I stopped in to my local crime-converters...sorry cash-converters and all 360/PS3 games were $12, excect a few new releases that were $20.

    What a stupid video, it gave not a single good reason. Prices will not half in 1 or even 2 years. "there are no games", subjective. By the same token No one should ever update their phone, computer, tv, or literally any piece of electronics in their house because in 1 -2 years what they bought will be worth far less.

    The only single, legitimate complaint could be hardware problems (which was a 1/10th second flash in the vid). Even then You are always covered under warranty for a number of years.

    On the flip side there are many reasons to get a launch console. Mainly and the key point here is NEW DAMN STUFF. The current gen, for those already using it, is old. There is nothing new to be gained, no more grunt left in the engine to be squeezed out, things are as good as they are ever going to be.

    The next gen, has new possibilities, new games, new features ontop of more grunt. It means sharper visuals, better FPS. New possible game mechanics, being able to switch games on the fly and endless other things.

    So In the worst case scenario you get the 3ds debarkle of 100$ shave in a few months (but everyone new it was over priced anyway ).

    On the other hand the Xbox 1 and PS4 are well priced and at the very best will drop $100 by christmas next year. So Basically the author is too cheap to effectively "rent" a brand new console at $100 for an entire year, Its like 28c a day or something.

    Last edited 09/08/13 4:49 pm

      The updating reason was VERY valid. The 360 and PS3 were functionally the same OS/game platform but with significantly improved hardware versions after the first couple years (hard-drives, better bundles, smaller form factors), with no real further iterations in their damn-near-decade lifespan. That's nothing at all like the running game of catch-up that PC/mobile plays.

      Also, 'new damn stuff' is an incredibly niche argument for anyone who runs a high-end gaming PC, when you consider that a major chunk (and in my opinion, the only decent stuff with a couple exceptions) of the launch titles will be available on PC.

        Trans, the only niche here is people with high end gaming pcs. Everyone else either has a shitty one and their console games look better. The majority and by that i mean 90% or more (high pcs are what 1% of all worldwide pcs last i read?) do not have a high end gaming pc and to those people yes getting a new console is a good thing.

        Can't say i know anyone who wants this current generation to continue its stifling the industry and holding back games from their full potential (because of the huge power leaps between now and 7 years go).

        Also last gen was the only time we had significant form factor changes so frequently and to me for the 360 that was because of RROD, Kinect and the fact that hard drives never used to be needed so this time they greatly underestimated them.

        All of those are gone this time around, HDD are norm, Kinect comes bundled, I don't see anything on the ps4 that needs changing. So I do not see that as a realistic reason.

          Thing is, holding games back from their full potential and stifling the industry is entirely the fault of the current generation of consoles. If the market was driven by PC gamers, we'd have much better more visually impressive games out. We've started to see a resurgence in titles making it to PC on release, or even exclusively/first, in the last year or so, and I wouldn't be surprised if that was developers sick and tired of waiting around. PC gaming as the norm for AAA titles is the 'should have', rather than the reality... but I'd be surprised if the next gen console goes on a 4yr update cycle (which is STILL too long) at half the current gen's reign, let alone anything even faster-updating than that.

          And given that all games have to be installed now, I'm pretty confident the existing hard drives are too small, and will go through another upgrade in the 12 months after launch. Depending on how sales go and any particular incidents/lawsuits/actual new laws, we may yet see a kinect-less xbone version, too, either for compatibility or to meet a 'budget' gamer demand which can shave a hundred bucks off the price. Interesting to see what kind of metrics get fed back to Microsoft for that decision to be made. PS4 seems to be sitting pretty, with at least one cost-ineffective price drop 6-12 months in; new financial year next July, existing boxes will be written off already, and if they don't do it then, they'll probably do it in time for next year's holiday rush.

          I think the best thing they could do would be to announce their intentions, if not plans, for the console generation after the next one. (I mean, come on, there have to be some plans in place. A hot-on-the-heels iteration of the xbone named the 'Xbox Two' is one of the only sane reasons I can think of for calling the new one 'Xbox One'.)

    That was awesome! Reminded me of that old Simpsons episode when Itchy and Scratchy gets replaced by that educational cartoon about amending the US constitution.

    While it's cheaper to wait, sometimes part of the experience of playing a game is playing it at the same time that everyone else is and sharing the experience. Talking about it online with friends or playing the multiplayer component while there's actually people to play multiplayer with.

    I bought the WiiU at launch even though it's currently a dust collector I have enjoyed every game (all 5 of them!) that I have bought for it so far and there's some good looking games coming up in the future.

    Both the PS4 and Xbone launch prices aren't too shabby. The PS3 $1000 launch price was disgraceful and I would have recommended waiting that one out purely on principal, but $550 for a new PS4 is more than reasonable considering people can spend more money than that on a new phone. I'm buying at launch even though my first game will probably be Watch Dogs (which I could buy on other formats) but I really want it for inFamous and I don't see any console price reductions in the couple of months it will take for inFamous to come out.

    Well I got a PS2 and PS3 in the launch window period and have no regrets. Hell I still have both of those consoles to this day and never had any problems (apart from needing to upgrade the PS3 harddrive as it only launched with a 60GBHDD).

    Looking forward to my PS4 on launch day.

    I never understood this, if they would just release great games everyone would win, instead of trying to trick the consumer with marketing campaigns, useless multimedia features and average over priced games, and then blaming it all on piracy and used games when things don’t sell well.

    What’s that? Support the console now and it’ll pick up later? Tell that to the people who bought the kinect! Most of the industry seems to only be interested in screwing us over to make money instead of earning it.

    Nope. Still buying PS4 at launch. Kthnx

      Me too. Why? Price. Finally, as a man with a family, I can afford a launch console.

    So basically, buy whatever hardware is losing its company the most money per sale because that company is going to be motivated to release more than 5 decent games for it as fast as possible.

    Quite the catchy song. However my main issue is that it pretends like the NES and SNES had all their classic titles available at launch unlike modern consoles, which we all know isn't true. It's not like the Genesis launched with Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles, right?

    No launch console for me anymore. Did that with the 360 and the PS3 - not immediately on launch, but a few months later... and only a tiny bit before each of them re-released their fucking console with better hardware, lower price, and better bundled games. Motherfuckers.

    So yeah, I'm gonna hold out until the PS4 gets re-released with better hardware and awesome bundled games. Xbone has improved its policies dramatically but still gets 2nd place on the priority list from me on account of the shit they tried to pull when they thought they could get away with it.

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