If you’ve been gaming long enough, you may remember queueing for hours at a store to pick up a hotly-anticipated video game you’ve reserved. Today, buying a game at launch—or, even worse, pre-ordering it—may actually be the worst time to do it.
Digital Games Are in Infinite Supply
Pre-ordering a game made sense at a time when no one knew how many copies would sell and there was a real chance that you simply could not find a copy of a game until more copies could be pressed, shipped, and placed on shelves.
When it comes to digital games, this is a non-issue. You can be assured that even if physical copies of a game run out you can always pick up a digital copy. Even with physical games, allocations are quite ample these days, thanks to how much the gaming market has grown.
It’s better to wait until a game is in the hands of reviewers and players with less patience to make sure the title is actually worth your money.
Prices Drop Quickly
It’s typical for games to drop in price quickly following launch day. This can happen mere weeks or a few months after the title launches. When sales start to slow down at the launch price, price cuts stimulate more sales.
Effectively, players who buy games at launch are paying for the privilege of playing them as soon as possible. Once those players have all bought their copy, it’s time for a new set of customers who want to play at a lower price.
FOMO Isn’t a Good Reason to Buy
The gaming industry has become adept at building up hype among gamers on social media and in the press. By the time a game launches players want to buy it, play it, and then immediately be part of the discussion around it. FOMO—the fear of missing out—can be a real problem when it comes to making rational decisions with your money.
Objectively, FOMO isn’t a good reason to fork over cash for a game rather than delaying your gratification, but of course, if you really do value being part of that discourse then you can just ignore this point.
Games Are Rough At Launch
The nature of game development usually means that when a game has a hard launch date it’s going into the player’s hands whether it’s finished or not. While most games are playable at launch, there are usually numerous bugs and quality of life issues. If you wait a few weeks (or even longer) subsequent patches will polish the game to a shine.
Even worse, if you pre-order the game, you’re deciding to buy it before you’ve seen any reviews. Is the game any good? Even if the game is good, is it stable? Or will it need a lot of bug fixes before it performs well on your hardware?
When you think about it, buying at launch means getting the worst version of the game at the highest price. Whereas waiting for it to be patched means getting the best version of the game at a lower price. Which sounds like a better deal to you?
Deep Sales Come Often
Digital sales with deep price cuts on games both old and new are now a regular occurrence. Console storefronts such as Sony’s PSN have at least one sale a month. During key times of the year, massive sales are now expected. This means the best strategy is to wishlist the games you are interested in buying and then check your wishlist during major sales. In most cases, you’re likely to get your game at a deep discount within a year of launch.
Don’t forget about physical games either. Add physical games to your wishlist on sites such as Amazon and set up a wishlist alert, so that you’ll be notified when things go on sale.
When Should You Buy at Launch?
These are five reasons why it doesn’t make sense to buy games at launch, but that doesn’t mean it’s never a good idea to pick up a game as soon as it’s available.
Multiplayer games in particular are usually best early in their lifetime before players leave for something new and shiny. If you get in at the start, everyone is still learning to play together, too. If you’re late to the party, you’ll be facing a large skills gap.
Limited edition games that come with goodies that you really want are meant to motivate people to buy the game at launch. However, if you really want that Master Chief helmet or limited edition game character statue, then you’ll have to be quick about it. This is one of the cases where limited supply is actually a factor.
Lastly, if you really, really want to play a new game as soon as possible, then don’t let us (or anyone) tell you otherwise. If you’re going to play it immediately (and not simply pile it on your backlog) then you don’t need any excuses to do it.