Buying Video Games On Release Day Makes Me Feel Like An Idiot

Buying Video Games on Release Day Makes me Feel Like an Idiot

I like to buy games on day one. I'm not a fan of pre-owned, because I'd rather see my money go to the people who made a video game than the retailer that's selling it, and also when I've been looking forward to a game for months or years I quite often don't want to wait any longer because I have extremely poor self-control. You know how it is.

Problem is, for the past year or few, I've felt like a total idiot for buying brand new games, because the same game a few months after release is now not only cheaper, but significantly better. It's got to the point where recommending that people buy something on day one has started to feel disingenuous. I'm a lifelong early adopter, but for the past few years I've felt like a sucker.

Buying Video Games on Release Day Makes me Feel Like an Idiot

The issue is not wasted money: it's wasted time. Anyone who wants to save money on games knows to wait a few months, at which point the price often pretty much halves from £50 to £30 (or 56p in a Steam sale). I don't mind paying full price to get the thing earlier. What I mind is spending tens of hours playing a game that's fundamentally not as good as it would be if I played it six months after release.

Case in point: The Witcher 3.I downloaded the latest patch for that yesterday morning, which makes a lot of small but significant changes. The two most noticeable adjustments are a fix for the inventory system that puts books in their own separate tab, and a fix for how both Geralt and his horse Roach move across the landscape. These are good improvements; I spend a lot of time exploring in The Witcher 3, and it's now a lot less fiddly to control.

Thing is, I've already played this game for 60 hours with Geralt skating all over the scenery and Roach getting stuck on rocks, and I would not be surprised if at least 5 of those hours were spent paging through the endless books in the badly-organised inventory system. Why did I spend so much of my life dealing with those problems? If I'd waited a few months I wouldn't have had to tolerate them AND it'd have been a lot cheaper. Meanwhile I have spent almost three entire days of my life playing a game with niggling problems that now do not exist.

Buying Video Games on Release Day Makes me Feel Like an Idiot

This is the new reality for video games: nobody expects a game to be completely finished at the time of its release any more. Anyone who suffered through a great many broken 90s/early 00s video games is surely pleased that developers now have the capacity to put out post-release patches that tidy things up, fix previously unknown bugs, or provide graphical fixes. But it's at the point now where these patches — MONTHS down the line — make very significant changes to how the game works.

Another recent example is Bloodborne: I would have loved to have played some of that with several of my friends, but until a relatively recent update the game's co-op was restricted by level, which scuppered us even in the Chalice Dungeons. None of us has the time to play it again.

It feels like the assumption is that anyone who's sufficiently passionate about video games to buy something on release day will be happy to play it again later down the line. Our critic Kirk called this patch "a welcome piece of post-release support from a developer that was already doing a great job of it", which is absolutely true, but then he spent 60 hours on The Witcher 3 when he was reviewing it and has since spent another 90 on the PC version. That's completely out of the realms of possibility for me and for probably 90% of the other people who bought it. Happy as the rest of us are that these improvements are being made, I can't be the only one wondering why I've already spent so long playing it in an imperfect state.

Buying Video Games on Release Day Makes me Feel Like an Idiot

I expect this from an MMO or Early Access. I spent a lot of time with Rust in 2014 and it doesn't bother me that it's now an almost entirely different game, because that was part of the deal. I was, God help me, tasked with "reviewing" GTA Online back when it launched, at which point it was a complete broken mess. Lobbies didn't work, your character would get randomly deleted, balancing was off… its problems were numerous and fundamental. But the difference is that GTA Online was a) arguably a free add-on for GTA V and b) an online-centric game that was always going to evolve, even if the state of it at launch really was appalling. (At least it's pretty great now.)

It might seem petty to complain about free improvements to a game I'm enjoying, but it's part of a prevailing attitude that's been seeping into mainstream gaming for years, which is treating your most loyal and enthusiastic players as paying QA people. Everyone has noticed this. At the worst end of it, we've had Battlefield 4, the Halo Master Chief Collection, Drive Club and Batman: Arkham Knight on PC, which didn't work at all when they launched. Further down the scale we have things like Assassin's Creed Unity, which was buggy but worked, and then Bloodborne, which was great when it launched but is even better now.

When even an amazing single-player game like The Witcher will be better a few months down the line, it's hard to recommend to anyone that they buy it as soon as it's out. We've been pretty vocal at Kotaku on the nonsense that is game pre-orders and the havoc that they wreak upon the industry, but are we going to have to start advising people never to buy a game at launch at all? (Unless it's a Nintendo game. Why is this stuff never a problem for Nintendo? I suspect because they still adhere to what is fast becoming an old-school philosophy: perfect a game before releasing it.)

I'm sick of paying more for a worse experience. Sort it out.

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This post originally appeared on Kotaku UK, bringing you original reporting, game culture and humour from the British isles.


    Remember when most games didn't require a few months of patch downloads to make it good?

      To be fair games were a LOT less complicated then, but yeah I get your point.

      I think right now developers are still struggling to find that sweet spot between getting a game out the door, reasonably patching games and not pissing off your customers by releasing a broken piece of shit, but I do think a few of them have learnt hard lessons in the past 2 years that they got it wrong and seriously damaged their brands.

      EA seems to have genuinely learnt from Battlefield 4, for example. Ditto MS with the Master Chief Collection.

      We’ve been slowly sliding towards that point where games would be released so broken that they damage the brand over the past 6 years or so, but I think developers know where that line is now having pushed it too far on a few very public occasions. It’ll still happen, but I’m hoping that it’ll happen less and not more going forward.

      That could be overly optimistic though, lots of people still pre-order Ubisoft games…. So there’ll always be a profit to make selling overhyped, broken shit to impressionable morons.

      Remember when problems with games couldn't be fixed at all?

    I have to admit I'm doing my best now to stop buying Day One. It's very hard, but I'm getting better at it. The next test for me comes August 25th. If I wait 2 or 3 months, I'm pretty sure even digitally there'll be a sale on Gears Ultimate.

      I find it helps to have a staggered backlog. I have some games that were released years ago, some that were released months ago, and some that were just released. It is like nicotine patches. When a new game comes out I'll go and play a recent-ish game from my backlog, preferably an RPG, which will hold me over until the new game comes down in price (or is fixed). When there's nothing on the horizon I can go for some of my older backlog.

        Totally agree. I can't really justify buying anything day 1 with the backlog I have
        There's always something to keep me occupied until the majority of a game's flaws have been ironed out.

          HA ha, yeah, that's the only real downside. I can generally avoid spoilers, but partaking in the community reaction to a game is really cool, as is participating in the multiplayer while it isn't a graveyard (looking at Uncharted 2 here, which I finished last year).

      Yep I'm the same. Hit me yesterday when I saw FF Type 0 HD for $39 in JB, when I bought it for full price online and have only played about 1 hour of it so far.

        Let's be honest though, you only paid for that game to play the FFXV demo :P I know I did.

    The only thing I'm buying day 1 in the near future is Fallout 4 and I'm ok with that. Everything else I don't need to have straight away. Also, after Destiny left a bitter taste in my mouth of not delivering what was promised, I'm waiting to see proper reviews (consumer reviews and not those by websites afraid to give bad reviews in case the publisher blacklists them) before I make any purchase

      Same here. Fallout 4 and nothing else...unless it's a day 1 digital game purchase

      Which funnily enough, Fallout 4 is probably the last game you should be buying day 1 given Bethesda's track record.

      I still totes buying it day 1 however.

      I am a consumer whore.

        I didn't run into too many bugs tbh and that was on PS3. Hopefully with the consoles being PC-like, the amount of game crashing bugs is minimal this time around.

        I think everyone's whoring themselves out to Bethesda and they're well aware of that so release will be awesome... It WILL be awesome... It will... awesome...

          It will be awesome. I will tell myself it will be awesome even if it isn't. Plus I haven't had a good case of Stockholm Syndrome for a while when it comes to games :P

        We know its going to be glitchy so there's no disappointment.

        And the mod community will be huge so unofficial patches won't take long if Bethesda drag their feet

        If it is a collector's edition, I'm totally with you.

        Totally. But it's Fallout plus and ALL DEM COLLECTABLE SHINIES THEY TEASED US WITH!

        At least Bethesda are mod friendly, so player made patches and console command workarounds will have the game in a functional state after the first week.

        Skyrim was hilariously bad though, Im not sure what they were thinking releasing a game with a badly bugged main questline ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

        Fallout 3 Day One was more stable for me than the GOTY edition I got 2 years later for $7.50 just to get the DLC...
        Relative terms there though, they were both buggy, just the extra content in the second one seemed to make it crash more for me.

        You say that, but maybe I'm lucky or too tolerant.

        I buy every game I really want on release day and enjoy playing it. I go onto the internet and it is exploding with people complaining (a lot of the time about things that don't matter) yet it's working fine for me. If I was a batman fan, I would daresay it would have run perfectly for me even though the internet was demanding peoples heads.

        Until it makes a difference to me, I won't change. It's almost like making a stand against the internet for being jerks rather than against developers for releasing unfinished games. Because really, it's never as bad as you or anyone else makes it out to be.

        Game franchises I will always buy on release...
        Elder Scrolls, Fallout, Diablo, Borderlands, GTA.

        I haven't played through Fallout 3 or New Vegas yet, so I'm going to play them before I even touch Fallout 4, otherwise I'll spoil myself :P

      Weirdly enough I haven't pre-ordered Fallout 4, but I have pre-ordered Just Cause 3.

      Possibly because Fallout 4 might have a plot...

    Yep the most 'broken at release' game I have purchased day 1 recently was the abysmal Total War: Rome 2, it was in such a shoddy state at release.
    12 patches later and it's better, but still far from great.
    Because of this, I am now extemely sceptical of their upcoming Warhammer total war.
    To me at least, devs/pubs that do this (release now, patch later) really shoot themselves in the foot as far as me purchasing later games from them goes.
    Basically they lose the trust, and that is something that is extremely hard to win back.

    Relevant xkcd

      Love that one. It sums up my PC gaming habits to a T.

      E3 announces new South Park game and new Dishonored.
      I just finished playing both those games within the last 6 months lol

    Fully on the no day 1 wagon now.
    Only wrench in the idea is multiplayer games - if you wait 6 months the servers will have a far lower population and those still around will be miles ahead of you.

      If multiplayer is dead in the water after 6 months it might be a good indicator as to whether you should purchase the game or not.

      Obviously not always going to work, but it's something to consider.

        It might not be dead, but certainly not the same experience as playing day 1.
        Consider Destiny - Way fun and easy up with peeps on launch when everyone else was and was at the same level ect. Now? Not so much.
        Or WoW - try getting into a raid group when you are even a month behind the curve.
        And even your cods and such - there will still be peeps playing in 6 months, but no-one your skill and experience level, only.the dedicated with all the fancy toys and tricks.

      Battlefront might stick around for a while, but it's something I'm considering picking up earlier. Possibly not day 1 though, will wait to see if there's any server issues for us in down under land

    The primary reason I don't tend to buy day one is because I found that because I usually have a backlog or am in the middle of something, by the time I actually played the games they'd been marked down or could have been had on sale. I got sick of wasting money and resolved to stop buying games I didn't have to to play unless the bargain was irresistable - and even then I would pass it over in most instances.

    My first day one purchase this year will be Fallout 4, because I know that's all my wife and I will be doing come November 10th.

    Last edited 24/07/15 11:28 am

      I bought Thief and Tomb Raider when they were released early last year, but was delayed playing them by something else. Then they both got a 50% discount sale weekend within a month. The rage was real.

    I think this is the first time in a long time I'm thinking day 1 purchases for halo, SW and F4. These days you also need 24 hr install time too :(

    Is getting the game 4 days before official launch day a day one purchase? That is what i am doing for NBA2k16 other than that i usually wait to see if i find a game i like cheap.

    I'm a collector's edition guy so sucks to be me I'm always there day one/two if I'm busy. Learnt to stay away fro mass produced stuff. I usually unpack it, take the game out and store the rest of the stuff and put the game aside and continue my backlog :P I only play new games if it is some game that I really like, Witcher being one of them. I really need to finish the game :(

    I haven't bought day 1 for years now - I just don't see the point in it any more - especially with the slew of GOTY eds that come out. Better yet, these editions are normally cheaper than the day 1s.
    Add to that they everything is so much more playable....

    For a note - I don't play games online much if at all, so I really have 0 need for day ones...

    I try and keep my day 1 purchases down - but games with serious multiplayer are always easier (even with the bugs) if you jump in early. So BF4, Hardline and later this year Battlefront, are day 1 purchases. But most everything else I wait for patches, GOTY edition with DLC included or simply the bargain bin.

    I buy Nintendo games (not consoles) on release day.

    Take Pokemon for example, it's gonna be +3 years before it goes on a 15% sale, not to mention I'll miss out on all of the online tournaments and special events if I waited for a sale.

      Nintendo games on sale now are the same price that I paid for the Target / Big Dubya undercutting on release day price match. (For instance, a lot of 3DS titles now on sale for 47, but I got them on release for 44)

    I fully agree with the article, although it was on the TL;DR side (bit hypocritical of me).

    There are several reasons why it's best not to buy on day one.

    - Cost of the game will fall over time.

    Personally I prefer to spend $20 on a game. Last gen I bought about a dozen (maybe two dozen) day one games (all through JB Hifis 3 for 1 offer) and mostly with the intent of playing the game quickly (which essentially means rushing through it) and then trading it back in for a high amount of credit.

    That strategy is best avoided as playing feels like work and that you're obliged to play the game.

    Sometimes I bought games around the $40 mark when the quality of the game was high and I just couldn't wait any longer. Many of those games have gone unplayed. I valued them at the time but seemingly not enough to invest my time into them.

    Those games that I spend around $20 with I generally have a lot better time with. Firstly, all the expectation is gone - perhaps because the money invested in the game is so low, and justifiable, and recoverable should the game be sold or traded, but also because the hype train has well and truly passed once the game gets down to this price level. Often there will have been a better game within the genre that has been released, perhaps even a sequel.

    With these games I find that I can just relax with the game - and even if the game has faults, or did not live up to original expectations, that's cool. I would have seen some reviews and known roughly what I was up for. I'll allow myself to be distracted from the game, knowing that I can return to it when I feel like it. I was really enjoying Black Flag, then Ghosts got in the way, the Drive Club and a few other games. Currently Rocket League is stuffing it up for Second Son. But no need to panic, I can get back to Second Son when I feel like it,and Black Flag can sit on my shelf for a few more months - it's not losing any monetary value as I picked it up pre-owned for $24.

    I guess the distance from the hype train takes a lot of the pent up energy out of the experience and unless the game is absolutely awesome and benefits from that expectation, then it's a good thing to approach the game in a more calm manner. I guess the distance from the hype train gives us perspective.

    Also, I personally enjoy getting a bargain. It somehow gives me additional satisfaction. I bought Second Son for $17 on ebay - in perfect condition. Loving it. I got Wolfenstein The Old Blood for $29 from Target (everyone else sells it for $39) - not my favourite game but I got value out of it. I made a good purchase. Well done me. Fifa 14 for $12. Not bad. Even if I have only played it once.

    - Games are re-released with DLC and bonuses

    Case in point Dirt 3. I bought it for $60, from DSE, and they decided to give me a copy which was in less than perfect condition. Not a good start. I loved the game though - best driving games to date at the time IMO. But unfortunately I didn't get much time to spend with it due to life commitments that we all face. So, low and behold, a few months later, before I had played Dirt 3 more than twice, the game is re-released with all kinds of DLC bundled and is sold everywhere for $40 or less. I felt ripped off. How come I supported the game close to release date, I spent more but I get less. That's just not right.

    - Patches

    There's probably endless examples, but for me it was Crysis 2. I was mega hyped for that game. Got it day 1. Played it and felt disappointed. The game just didn't click for me. Traded it in for a decent amount as planned, but did not enjoy the game. Several months later I read that they had released a patch for Crysis 2 which significantly improved the AI which had a direct impact on gameplay.

    Well hang on. You mean to say that if I invest my energy in getting excited for a game, and I watch all of the surrounding media, and buy into your Day 1 bull shit, and buy the game at the maximum possible price, then i'll end up with the inferior product. That's no good at all.

    - Playstation Plus Free games, MS equivalent, Steam Sales, Humble Bundles

    Again this is cost related, but I think it's relevant.

    It seems that the low end of the market is extremely well served nowadays, and I think it's quite possible to watch game price reductions and sales and identify trends.

    For me, if I see an ageing AAA game on sale on PSN for sub $20 then it alerts me that it is a potential PS+ free game. This happened with multiple games on the PS3 - Dishonored, Crysis 3, LBP karting, many more. Its happened with a few PS4 games - Ground Zeroes springs to mind.

    I've seen LBP 3 and Need for Speed Rivals on sale within PSN in the sub $20 area a couple of times over the last couple of months, so I now know that those games will continue to be subject to regular sales and I suspect are likely suspects for being an upcoming PS+ free game. Could be wrong, but either way for me it takes the urgency out of buying those games.

    And it's the same for the other services. We know that ageing AAA games can be subject to significant discounting and that it can be worthwhile waiting for such a price drop.

    Thing is, I’ve already played this game for 60 hours with Geralt skating all over the scenery and Roach getting stuck on rocks, and I would not be surprised if at least 5 of those hours were spent paging through the endless books in the badly-organised inventory system. Why did I spend so much of my life dealing with those problems? If I’d waited a few months I wouldn’t have had to tolerate them AND it’d have been a lot cheaper. Meanwhile I have spent almost three entire days of my life playing a game with niggling problems that now do not exist.

    I feel like Witcher 3 is a bit of an inappropriate example. The game wasn't broken, it's not like you couldn't go online or there was a glaring glitch in a specific area that erased your save. They improved the game when they didn't really have a reason to, the game was already good. This just sounds like someone complaining because CD Projekt Red cared about their consumers. Kind of silly to reward this with what seems to be such an arbitrary response. Instead of trying to get people to try whatever new trend an ignorant perspective promotes, how about we just let people get excited for games? Is it weird that I determine my purchases based upon a number of factors and variables and not to make some arbitrary statement and funnelling myself into an extremely narrow perspective? Why do so many people need a "point" to buy a game? It's a few hours of fun or interesting stuff, why do you need a "point" to enjoy something?

    Just seems weird how locked-in people seem to be to their perspectives, you never saw the value of maybe considering anew perspective from time to time?

    Last edited 24/07/15 12:33 pm

    I go sometimes to Midnight launches for bigger games. I usually walk away with more than just my game... Plus it's a good excuse to hit the cinemas on a quiet night to kill some time.

    For example: Batman Arkham Knight had a midnight launch. I arrived at 8:30pm to pay off the game and get an early spot in the midnight line. I then went to the cinemas to see Jurassic World in Gold Class. When I arrived back at the store at 11:50pm, I was just in time for the midnight giveaways. First guy got the promotional poster from the store, and then I won a Batman Pop Vinyl. Then obviously, I got my game at 12:00am and was home by 12:15am. Not a bad night.

    Arkham Knight has done it for me, but it was the straw that broke me camel's back. I'm not buying anything else on day one from any dev any more.

    I only preorder or buy day 1 games if I -firstly- really want to play the game, and then only if it fills one of these quotas:
    A) I trust the company not to release the game in a broken state. (Bethesda, Valve, Nintendo)
    b) Actually believe there to be a risk of selling out on day 1. (Tales games being the biggest offender)
    c) Is a multiplayer game that I will be playing with friends. (Diablo, WoW)
    d) Has a collector's edition worth buying. (Blizzard CEs, Fallout 4, (hopefully)Final Fantasy 7)

    I buy day 1 if I'm really keen for the game, Fallout 4 is a definate for example, whereas all the other games I'm happy to wait. Thankfully, I'm behind on my games, so I don't want to buy them when I'm not actually going to play them for another month.
    Gone are the days where I buy every game the day it comes out.

    only ever done day one for wow launches. everything else i will wait till it works.

    I only ever pre-order ce's but even then they have to be pretty amazing. Everything else I get from big w/jb hifi. I only ever try to buy day one if I don't have any games on my pile of to play.

    A game being completely unplayable is inexcusable and (in Australia at least) grounds for a refund under consumer law. But games being improved is an entirely different story. Many games in the past have had awfully broken parts and glitches that dampened the experience, others were made with bad design choices that were set in stone.

    Now games can ship and devs can change and refine the game with player feedback. The change in the level restriction in regards to Bloodborne was no doubt due to player demand, same with the inventory in Witcher 3.

    I think there is some truth to both 'devs are releasing broken games' and 'devs can provide a better experience after release with the broader feedback of players'. I just think we hear people complain about the former so much that we don't realise how lucky we are.

    Either way I feel that I have so many games to play already that splurging on a new title is only justified by me playing it while it's still fashionable.

    If you buy at launch, you're absorbing the risk that the publisher didn't want to take. In essence, you're a tool for their revenue structure,

    I don't mind patching, even 7gb worth of patching to get the game running better. What I can't stand is "rebalancing" or "lets nerf all the existing gear to make DLC more appealing because we want more money". Thats just shit.

    What saddens me though is when I buy a game on release day, then something gets in the way and by the time I get around to playing it, theres a "goty" with all DLC at half the price I paid.

    Day One incentives for ALL games should include a "season pass" for free. You're already giving them full-price monies early, you should reward your early adopters with free content for the life of the game, instead of punishing them by putting out bundles later.

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