Tuesday, May 17, 2011

LA Noire and the "DAY 1!" problem.

When you are in the videogame press, as I was for about 400 years, you get kinda spoiled. I'm not even talking about the ridiculous wining and dining such as is happening with the "E3 Judges" this week, but really just the day-to-day mundane aspect of getting every single game free. I used to always remind myself, and other editors, to keep in mind that most people actually had to pay, and pay a LOT, for the games we were reviewing, and to never take that for granted--both when writing, and also just in appreciation for how good we had it.

Now that I'm a "civilian, " I'm like everyone I used to talk about. I have to pay for my games. This means I have to pick and choose what I'm going to buy, and when I'm going to buy it. Most of my press friends already have LA Noire, released to the public today, and have played a bunch of it, because they got it for free. Me? I don't have it yet, and I have to decide, like you, whether it's worth spending $60 for, or not.

The old me--and the part that still likes to stay current with everything--wanted to rush out and get it ASAP this morning. It's today's big deal, after all, and I want to chime in with my know-it-all perspective, dammit! But the old me didn't have to think about where this factored in with, ya know, every other fiscal commitment I have. Sixty dollars is a lot of freakin' money. iPhone games or Amazon MP3 deals are one thing. I can justify those impulse buys all the time. A full-price brand new console game is something else entirely.

And then when I really start thinking about it rationally, I remember the huge backlog of games I haven't finished yet--or even started. (Like Dead Space 2, still waiting for me, even though I "needed" that one Day 1 as well. ) My backlog, like many gamers, is ridiculous. I couldn't even tell you--especially because of all those free games the old me got--how many unfinished/unplayed games I have. 50? More? Plus, there's the fact that, at some point, there's going to be a price drop. Because there's always a price drop. I could easily, happily play all the games I haven't played yet (like "Bully," another Rockstar game!) for a long time and just wait for LA Noire to hit a more reasonable price point, at a time when I actually have the time to play it. Totally reasonable, right?

And yet--that DAY ONE impulse remains. You want to be part of the phenomenon, the zeitgeist. You think you have to play it because everyone else is. You get worked up and hyped up, and everyone who participates amps it up a little more, encouraging and validating your own "need" to have the game RIGHT NOW.

But time has told me that if I try to just resist that, I (and my bank account) won't regret it. That first wave of hype only lasts so long, and is usually followed either by an "err, wait, this isn't actually THAT great" buyer's remorse, or, more often, "this is pretty good but I have 1000 other things to do and games to play so maybe I'll put this down for awhile"--after which it gets neglected while the next bright new shiny DAY ONE game grabs everyone's attention, yet again.

That hype machine is, of course, what all the game companies want and need and count on. They NEED you to buy those DAY ONE games on DAY ONE. Their stockholders need you to, too. But, ya know, the games aren't going anywhere, and they'll just get cheaper. And now that I'm a civilian, this matters to me way more than the hype.


Vi said...

I must confess that I too have fallen victim to the Day 1 Impulse. However, given how crowded this time of the year seems to be for new releases I had decided to buy only one game a month. However, I also saw the price drop after I got my copy of MK. Now with LA Noire out, and Infamous 2 on the way I realize that I can't buy them all the first week.

If this part of the year is this bad just wait until the holiday season.

Also quick side note, isn't it bad for Popcap for you to be voicing these ideas to people who are probably your company's potential customers? Not that I'm not grateful, but...

feitclub said...

It's funny how the Day One urge is not generated by any real advertising effort by publishers but simply by peer pressure from stuff I read on Facebook/Twitter. I suppose the game publishers in part control that via embargoes, ensuring that everyone who's played L.A. Noire before release suddenly starts talking about it once the time is right, but ultimately the messages I receive are not ad copy but actual impressions from real people.

In my case, I'm lucky to be living in another country so no matter the hype I have to wait a few days for import copies to arrive in stores. That cooling period helps control my spending to some extent.

Graduate School Gamer said...

I had pre-ordered LA Noire for a good couple of weeks, prior. My DAY ONE impulse buy was actually the Witcher 2. Around 5pm on Sunday, I was beginning to second guess my pre-order for LA Noire but by that time Amazon had prepared the game for packaging and I could no longer cancel the item.

Now, even though I don't have the game in my hands yet, I am starting to get the feeling of buyer's remorse for LA Noire. However, as for my impulse purchase for the Witcher 2 I am still extraordinarily hyped for.

You never know how your investments will change or how suddenly. I've been hyped for months over LA Noire, but just yesterday I started to have second thoughts. Though I knew the Witcher 2 was coming, the hype didn't get to me until yesterday and I currently have no regrets.

Marty Runyon said...

Wait, you haven't played Bully? You can put LA Noire on hold, but go play Bully now! It is my favorite Rockstar game (along with RDR).

Anonymous said...

Good post Green. I have two little ones and my gaming window is very finite, usually between the 4am-8am hours on Saturday morning. I might as well wait a few weeks and get a deal.

M. H. Mason said...

I can't remember exactly when it happened, but the point where I gave up on day one purchases felt like growing up. A gaming bar mitzvah of sorts.

Usually, if you can't wait even just a month, you can usually get some killer deals. Wait an entire year and then you get partake in the "Game of the Year" phenomenon.

Both are far better alternatives to having a game day one.

CallMeSarge said...

I am a bad gamer, in 20 years of gaming I do not think I have ever made a day one purchase. 1st month purchase, sure, but not day 1. That being said, I cannot wait to get LA Noir. James Ellroy's LA quartet (The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, LA Confidential, White Jazz) are some of my favorite novels of all time. Red Dead Redemption was probably my favorite game of last year. These 2 factors have got me quite excited about LA Noir.

Jeff, the blog output is awesome, I hope you keep it up, because we appreciate the time.

Dick said...

I too used to have to have the latest game, but the great sales on Steam got me used to waiting for better deals. Although I still buy more games than I have time to play. Plus the latest great MMO always seems to get my money at launch.

Ryan C. Finley said...

This is a really nice post, thanks for the support it provides. :)

I've never been in the press, but did enjoy a brief time period where I made enough money to buy every game I could want, mostly in my early marriage, before we got our REALLY expensive toys, 2 kids.

Now, I can rarely spare $40 to take everyone out to dinner, much less $60 for a game on day one. I had pre-ordered LA Noire, since it fell right after my mid-month paycheck. I cancelled that pre-order because I couldn't jive it with my financial situation, payday or no. It's just a game, and I'll likely be able to snag it for 30 or 40 bucks sometime in the next few months anyhow.

Scott said...

Gamefly is the way to go for day 1 releases. Stack your queue with only to-be-released titles, sort them in order of release date, and be sure to return or buy from GF whatever title you have at home a few days before the next release. This method has worked for me and I almost always receive the new game on "day 1".

Granted, this is the kind of gamesmanship that hurts the bottom line for developers. But when developers and publishers whole-heartedly embrace digital distribution and market-driven pricing, this gaming of the system will be made obsolete.

Joe said...

I agree with Anjin. Maybe you can trick yourself into thinking Bully is a new release and PLAY IT NOW. It is by far my favorite Rockstar game, also the only one I'd openly recommend to a girl. In conclusion, you are a girl and you should play Bully.

Unknown said...

Thankfully I only have that problem with games I really like, though it's not so much as the Day 1 problem as the "I want that game and I want it now!" problem, (Yeah that was when Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood came out). Just think about it this way, 60 bucks to have the game now, or play the 50+ games you have currently, and then buy the game months later when you can buy for $40-$50.

Tristessa said...

I get a good number of games on day one. But I also tend to preorder them far in advance, at a time when I have 1/3 or 1/2 of the price on hand. With the cost spread out a little, it makes it less of a burden on release date. It's rare that I drop the 60 bucks all at once on a game.

John said...

I'm about halfway through, and honestly, you can wait. It's a good game, but it doesn't have anything that you need to play say one. Catch it for $30 sometime and be just as happy.

Jim d said...

It's funny how our perception of things lags so far behind reality. I act as though I still have the same number of obligations as my 20-year-old self.

Of course I got the game, but the question is whether I'll get to playing it before it goes on discount.

Unknown said...

For the last 8 years I’ve tried to have the discipline to NOT make day one purchases because I always feel the grip of the Looney Tunes SUCKER sign in my hands all the time I’m playing said regretted game. Slowly did I learn my hard lessons from Master of Orion 3 and other less prominent gaming scars. That being said, I felt the pull of this game. I love Noir, I love James Ellroy, I like Rockstar open world games......and the hype was getting to me.
The problem is that we are so saturated in media here that we reinforce any add messages just by opening our favourite folders or going onto Facebook. Even with a game that we would like on its own merits Skinner Box advertising can leave a bad taste in your mouth when your rational mind tells you that you have been manipulated after the fact. I think I’ll go brush my teeth now.

Ally Hay said...

You've made me feel so much better about not being able to afford L.A. Noire at the moment.

Also, great to see you blogging regularly again. Gives me something to do in between reading your tweets,

Anonymous said...

Wait, people actually buy games? I thought I was the only one who did that.

Honestly, I'm a day one guy myself. Love the excitement generated at the forums - especially when the game doesn't work. I feel a genuine sense of community from getting ripped off along with tens of thousands of people from around the globe.

"This POS is buggy as hell. That's 3 f'ing CTDs in a half an hour."

"Dude, you've got it good - cause I can't even get this thing to launch."

"Does anybody know how to get Games For Windows Live to work?"

"Huh? I just downloaded this from Steam, and when I went to install it the whole thing started to download again right from the beginning."

"Fuck EA."

"Guys, don't even pirate this. We need to send a message to EA by showing them that their title isn't even worthy of being pirated."

"Does the developer even visit this forum?"

"We need a patch. Now."

"SLI isn't working. Fuuuuuuuuuuuuck."

It's just not the same when you buy the game six months later and there's a patch available. By the way, as I write this, I'm downloading Brian Fargo's new game, Hunted The Demon's Forge, quite possibly THE least talked about title of the year, but also, quite possibly, one of THE best titles of the year.

And yup, I'm day one on this.