Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, June 17, 2020
Timing game purchases

If I wanted to buy a hammer, I wouldn't need to worry about the timing. The hardware store is unlikely to hold tool sales all that often, the price of a hammer is pretty constant over the year, and there is little risk that the hammer I buy today is outdated by tomorrow's model. Timing the purchase of games is a lot more tricky. Not only does the price change a lot over time, but also the product itself.

For example I bought Pathfinder: Kingmaker during a sale on Steam last year for €19.99. Currently the regular price is €29.99, but the release price was €39.99. Nobody knows how much the game is going to cost at the next Steam sale (rumored to start next week on June 25th). I haven't played the game yet, haven't found the time, but I recently read that on August 18 we will get the "definitive edition" of the game, which will add a feature that I would want to wait for: Actual turn-based combat. I just have to hope that I don't have to pay to update my "explorer edition" to the "definitive edition" in order to access the new feature.

In general, games get both cheaper and better over time. Like all general rules, there are lots of exceptions. Nintendo will happily sell you a Switch port of a ten year old game for a full €60. XCOM: Chimera Squad was sold for half price on release and is now more expensive. For some games you can get the early access version cheaper than the release price, and the updates are free. For other games the improvements come via DLCs, and in some cases all DLCs together are more expensive than the original game. For The Sims 4, buying all DLCs would cost over $500!

Given the fact that I already have more games than I can play, I don't rush out anymore when I hear of a new game that would interest me. Instead I put it on my Steam Wishlist, which has over 50 games on it now. Then, when there is a sale, I get a notification from Steam, and that gives me the opportunity to rethink. This week I got a notification that Pax Nova was on sale, 40% off. So I went to Steam and had another look at the game. I noticed that the Steam reviews were not very good, people were complaining that the game felt unfinished and wasn't updated anymore. So instead of buying the game, I removed it from my wishlist. You never know how a game will evolve after release, so I am happy that I didn't rush and bought that game on release. On the other hand I am happy that I bought XCOM: Chimera Squad on release, because that one was quite a good game for €10.

To make things even more complicated, I never had access to so many triple-A games for free than this year. After some reluctance I finally made an account on the Epic Game Store, and they are giving out free games every week, some of the games that I might have bought. I also still have a subscription for the Xbox Game Pass for PC, giving me free access to quite a lot of good games. I just noticed they added No Man's Sky, which I bought (during a Steam sale) and played in 2017. Now this is a game that improved a lot over time, so playing it for free in 2020 would probably have been a better option. But then, you never know which games you will be able to play for free, and you don't want to completely miss out on some games because you waited forever.

Of course all this depends on how strong your urge is to play a game at the earliest possible moment, and how much money you have to spend on games. On the PC, you can get quite a lot of stuff for free or cheap, if you are willing to wait. Somehow I understand the Nintendo pricing policy, because it makes me want to buy Switch games on release, knowing that discounts in the future are unlikely. On the PC, timing is everything.

Like you I am subscribed to Xbox for PC, I also have Humble choice and Epic. This means that if ever I just need another game to play because I am bored I have a ridiculous number to choose from at no extra cost to me. Therefore I no longer buy games because they are cheap and I don't follow Steam sales any more except indirectly. Instead if there is a game that I really want to play that isn't included in one of my ongoing subscriptions then I go to isthereanydeal to find the best current price from non grey market retailers. If the price is within my comfort zone (usually €10 to €30 depending on the game) I buy it immediately without waiting for a sale. If the price is too high at present I add it to my isthereanydeal wishlist with a price point to notify me.
Pathfinder Kingmaker has a mod for turn based combat. No need to wait for or buy that new edition coming out.

Yeah I rarely buy games on release these days. Patient gamers always get the better version of the game and usually cheaper just for waiting a bit.
Indeed, I have dozens of mildly interesting games on bundles that I haven't even downloaded. (It helps that my tastes are mostly retro and indie.)
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