Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, February 20, 2024
A change in game-buying strategy

I have been on Steam for 16 years, since 2008. And I have frequently bought games that had not been released recently. It seemed like a no-brainer: Wait some time, and you get the same game for cheaper in a Steam sale or Humble Bundle. You save money, and chances are that the game has already gotten a few patches and is actually in a better state than on release. Last year, I began more and more to deviate from that pattern and bought more games on release. And yes, I probably paid a bit more, and had more problems with bugs or unfinished content. But I did realize that buying on release has other advantages.

Buying games later, for example at a Steam sale, dissociates the act of buying a game from the moment where I actually want to play the game. A game has been on my wishlist for a while, I buy it because it is 50% off, but plan to play it "sometimes", because right now I am playing something else, or am not in the mood for that particular game or genre. My large library of unplayed Steam games shows the fundamental flaw of that plan: If I don't want to play that game *now*, then maybe I never will.

I used to work a 50+ hours per week job, *and* write a blog, *and* play games, including real time-eaters like World of Warcraft. The more obvious consequence of early retirement is that I have a lot more time now than before. But any plans I had to use that time to tackle the unplayed games in my Steam library didn't really work out. I'm still not spending much more time actually playing games than before. Instead I spend the additional time in game-related activities, like watching Twitch streams or YouTube videos about games. And of course those content creators are frequently playing the latest games. Which is great, because watching a game played is the best kind of review you can get. But of course it leads to "oh, I want to play this" moments, and by that I mean I want to play the game *now*, not in half a year at a discount. Plus I have the impression that Steam sales discounts are less generous than they used to be, it is hard to get more than 30% off the original price these days.

The big advantage of this "buy now" strategy is that I only buy games which I then immediately play. I'm not adding to my library of unplayed games anymore. Also, by buying and playing a game right after having watched a streamer play it, I also directly get a video tutorial on how to play. I recently bought Deep Rock Galactic: Survivor, which is outside my usual zone of comfort for game genres. I never played Vampire Survivors. But after seeing the game played, it looked a lot of fun, and at $10 it is rather cheap. Even a bullet hell game turns out to have some strategy, and isn't totally mindless. Nice game for shorter gaming sessions.

I think I will buy fewer games at sales in the future. In the end, paying a bit more for a game I actually play right then is the better deal.

I don't have any hard-and-fast rules on it but yes, generally, I agree it's better to buy the game you want to play, when you want to play it, at whatever price that happens to be. I'll be buying Nightingale today, as soon as it launches, and I'll be playing it immediately (Assuming there aren't any unsurmountable issues with servers crashing and so on, which is always a very big assumption.)

It's Early Access, so of course it will be far more fleshed-out and bug free a year or two from now but as is becoming increasingly obvious, most games don't get some magical second wind when they come out of EA and declare themselves ready for business. Mostly, by then, no-one much cares because the game is old news. Everyone interested has played it already and probably finished with it and moved on.

It's very much the same as seeing movies at the cinema on release as opposed to waiting for them to reach the streaming service you happen to subscribe to or turn up on free-to-air TV. Of course the movie is as good or bad as it was on release but the buzz around it has died and you probably know far more about the movie than you would have if you'd seen it when it was fresh. If you don't care about being part of the zeitgeist then it makes sense to wait for a bargain but for me and obviously for a lot of people, a big part of what you're paying for is to feel part of something vital. That's really what the full-price ticket represents.
For me personally while I do own a fair amount of games on Steam I've played almost all of them. I didn't have much disposable income growing up and in my 20s so I couldn't splurge on games unless it was during sales. I went through a period where I pirated games I was iffy about and only legitimately bought 2-3 full priced games a year. Everything else was sales purchases or through key resellers.

Now that I have more disposable income I no longer pirate games like I used to but still only buy a handful of games a year, although that number can be 3-4 now. If it's not a game I must play at launch I'll often wait for a discount.

I also don't buy a game unless I'm fairly certain I will enjoy playing it. I don't really take "risks" on games I'm on the fence about.
Why not still wait for a discount (unless you really have to keep up with the Joneses - and I agree that there are spoilers and a zeitgeist aspect to it but it can be the next Cyberpunk) and then use the sale to re-evaluate if you really want to play the game? Otherwise you trade "wasting money on a game you won't play any more" for "playing a game you are hyped about but discard in a week because it's bad".

I have a couple of things on different wish lists that I'm not certain about but I don't need them right now, so I just wait.
Nightingale is one of those games where I will be watching some streams before buying the game. I liked Palworld, but didn’t like Enshrouded, so I need to see a bit more of this game before deciding.
I've moved to a similar strategy a few years ago, with one tweak: I still don't buy at launch. I find I _very_ much prefer fewer bugs and if possible, a better price as well.
But if I want to play something right now, and it's been out for at least 6 months, I'll go for it.

This is also made easier by the fact that I rarely _want_ to play games at release. In the past couple years the only game I was tempted to buy right away is Palworld. (This is also helped by the fact that I don't watch game streams, so I miss all the hype.)
When I first saw Vampire survivor I didn't think it would be a game I enjoyed much. I prefer turn based strategy, something slow for my slow reflexes. I also like easy games because game time is for relaxing.

Somehow I underestimated how much content is in this game and I love getting weapons evolved and overpowered. For the most part the difficulty is perfect, I rarely have to try anything more than 3 times to get it.

I've been checking the Wiki and there's so much more stuff I've yet to unlock. I haven't gotten the DLCs yet because I'm not sure if this will be something I'm playing a ton of. I paid $5 for the game and so far have played over 30 hours, way over the $1/hour cost I borrowed from you.
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